On April 30, 2020, the Chief Administrative Judge of the New York State Courts issued a Memorandum lifting some of the prior restrictions put in place concerning court filings and other activities in New York State trial courts, in light of evolving circumstances with respect to the COVID-19 health emergency. The most significant change is that certain electronic filings will now be permitted again.
The Chief Administrative Judge’s prior guidance, issued on March 22, 2020, had essentially prohibited court filings (electronic and paper) in any matter not listed as an “essential matter”—which generally excluded filings in commercial matters, as discussed in our prior post
. The Chief Administrative Judge, on April 13, 2020, had also encouraged trial courts in “non-essential” matters to begin holding conferences remotely. The new memorandum maintains the moratorium on paper filings in all actions, and continues to prohibit the filing of new “non-essential” actions, but allows the following activities effective Monday, May 4, 2020:
- in pending cases, parties may now electronically file motions and applications (including post-judgment applications), as well as respond to previously filed motions;
- notices of appeal may now also be filed electronically; and
- judges may now refer matters for alternative dispute resolution.
Permitting certain electronic filings in pending matters is a significant step toward the resumption of more normal court operations.
The April 30 memorandum further notes that trial courts have conducted conferences or other proceedings in more than 25,000 cases since April 13 and that progress is being made in reducing the backlog of pending matters. The Chief Administrative Judge encourages courts to make continued efforts to clear the backlog of pending matters where possible, in anticipation of a likely “surge” of new litigation once courts return to more normal operations. This may particularly be the case in light of Governor Cuomo’s orders tolling certain statutes of limitation through May 7, 2020, as well as the likelihood that the current economic circumstances are leading to potential commercial disputes that are not yet capable of being filed in New York State courts.