Coronavirus Triggers Partial Judicial Shutdown

coronavirus judicial shutdown

The coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic triggers partial judicial shutdown via scheduling changes throughout the Empire State.

Apart from criminal trials if the defendant is in custody, until further notice, there will be no jury trials in New York except for those already underway.

The partial judicial shutdown due to the coronavirus also applies to most grand jury proceedings, as well as to eviction and perhaps foreclosure proceedings.

Other activities, such as hearings on warrant applications and protective orders, are unaffected.

Some observers are concerned that the changes might have gone too far.

Prosecutors worry that the lack of grand juries might hamstring their ability to prosecute criminals. And, some civil liberty groups said that restricting judicial access could imperil the Constitutional right to a speedy trial.

The Civil Justice Process

Overall, fewer than 3 percent of the civil claims in New York, including injury claims, are resolved at trial.

So, contrary to popular myth, New York courts are not closed. They are very much open for business. Once legal paperwork is filed, most civil claims never see the inside of a courthouse. And, online portals handle most court filings.

The two major portions of most injury cases, discovery and mediation, occur outside the courtroom.

During discovery, the parties exchange information about their claims and defenses.

New York personal injury attorneys have a chance to collect evidence to support their claims. At the same time, insurance company lawyers must put their cards on the table.

So, it’s easier to tell if a potential defense is valid or just talk.

Most judges refer contested cases to mediation. Typically, a neutral mediator meets with both sides outside the courtroom.

After each side gives a brief opening argument, the mediator works to facilitate a settlement between the two sides.

Assuming everyone negotiates in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful.

So, in most cases, mediation is an outstanding way to resolve disputes. It saves time and money.

Furthermore, mediation gives the parties more control over the outcome and more flexibility as to the approach. Typically, parties choose their own mediator.

The judge very rarely forces a New York personal injury lawyer to act as a mediator against the parties’ will.

Other Litigation Alternatives

Flexibility is also a key benefit of arbitration and the mini-trial, two of the other most common litigation alternatives in New York.

Arbitration is a lot like a trial without a jury. However, an arbiter, as opposed to a judge, presides at the trial and decides the outcome.

There are some other differences as well. Generally, arbitration decisions are final. They may be appealable in some cases. Additionally, arbitration is private. There is no court reporter and the hearings are usually off-limits to the public.

Jurors are not supposed to form opinions until they hear all the evidence in a case. In fact, they take an oath to that effect.

Nevertheless, as many as 95 percent of jurors make up their minds after the opening statements. That figure is widely disputed.

Mini-trials take full advantage of this statistic. Lawyers pick a jury, give their opening statements, and then the jury votes. In many cases, the trial is over in a few hours as opposed to a few weeks. Mini-trials also have the advantage of direct judicial oversight. The judge controls the whole thing.

Hiring the RIGHT New York Personal Injury Attorney

The dispute resolution process might be changing, partial due to coronavirus and partially due to technology.

However, for the most part, the criteria you should use to pick a New York personal injury lawyer has not changed.

Following a familiar theme of this blog, flexibility might be the major addition to this list.

The law is not a matter of painting by the numbers or following a flowchart. Major changes should not throw your lawyer off balance.

How do you know if your lawyer is flexible? If your lawyer recently changed careers or relocated his/her practice, that usually means the attorney is flexible.

Dedication is important as well. The late Grant Cooper, who defended convicted Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, is a good example.

Cooper was an experienced lawyer when he represented Sirhan.

But Cooper was a celebrity lawyer, as opposed to a criminal lawyer. He was Shirley Temple’s divorce attorney when she split from John Agar, star of B-movie classics like Attack of the Puppet People, The Brain from Planet Arous, and Journey to the Seventh Planet.

Anyhoo, there were some holes in the state’s case against Sirhan. But Cooper did not aggressively attack the state’s evidence. If he had been more assertive, Sirhan might not still be behind bars.

If you have a legal problem, like an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can count on the experienced New York personal injury lawyers at Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC, to solve it. Call us today for a free consultation.