Long Island courts continue to operate digitally; trials remain on hold
While restaurants, bars and office buildings have mostly gonna empty across New York, so have the courthouses.
The entire court system statewide had to go digital due to the coronavirus. Emergency proceedings and arraignments on new arrests are the only actions being allowed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's orders.
Both the district attorneys of Nassau and Suffolk say they got on board with the order immediately, and within a short amount of time, they were able to start doing arraignments remotely via video conference.
Nassau was even faced with an additional, unexpected challenge in moving to digital.
"There was a law before that only 27 counties in New York could use virtual capabilities for court proceedings," says Nassau DA Madeline Singas. "Nassau County was not one of them for some surprising reason, Suffolk was, the city was able to do so. The governor did away with that order, and hopefully that will be permanent."
But in the long-term, there are no trials happening, drawing concerns from criminal defense attorneys.
"What they've built so far, is they've built for, they've used the term emergency proceedings, that's fine for a short period of time, but you can't operate a justice system for an extended period of time, these matters have to be attended to," says defense attorney Bruce Barket.
Several Bar associations wrote a letter to the governor asking him to amend the current executive order.
"Look there may be a point when we can start to have additional proceedings, now is not the time, we need to continue to keep proceedings to a minimum," says Suffolk DA Tim Sini.
The DAs for both counties say right now, they are able to do what they need, and that their ADAs are in communication and conducting those video conferences with defense attorneys and judges, when necessary.