As NY Courts Go Virtual, Alleged Abuse Victims Still Unable to File
By H. Rose Schneider
April 14, 2020
The New York State Unified Court System announced Monday matters deemed nonessential or non-emergency can now be held virtually in court, as essential matters already had.
Nonessential matters were suspended in court nearly a month ago on March 15 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, only allowing matters such as arraignments and orders of protection to continue. Courts transitioned successfully to holding these matters virtually, according to state courts.
Starting Monday, judges can now hold “virtual chambers” and “virtual courts” to discuss nonessential matters using the program Skype for Business, said state Supreme Court Judge Bernadette Clark.
“Everything I need, I have on my computer,” she said.
The state courts have still banned new filings for nonessential cases, however.
Currently, judges are only working on pending cases, said Clark. She said 200 cases were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in the state’s Fifth Judicial District alone.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said the county’s assistant district attorneys are using Skype for Business on pending criminal cases. County judges began scheduling criminal cases Monday, but the matter has to be one a defendant does not have to be present for, he said.
Child Victims Act
The suspension of nonessential court matters reignited a push by some to pass a bill that would extend the one-year window established by the state’s Child Victims Act last year — in which civil actions alleging child sexual abuse could be filed even if the statute of limitations had expired.
This time period is set to end in August.
“It’s kind of slowed down the process for everything,” said attorney Richard Serbin of the law firm Janet, Janet & Suggs. He represents Warren Curtis, who filed a lawsuit in January alleging sexual abuse from clergy from three churches, including St. Matthew’s Temple Church of God in Christ in Utica.