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Blog COVID-19 Surrogate's Court Virtual Appearances

When is Live Court Returning to New York?

{Read in 3 Minutes}  As a Trusts and Estates attorney, I often find myself in the Surrogate’s Court. Whether I am there to answer a Citation in a probate proceeding or dealing with a complicated motion, going to the Courthouse can either be exciting or humdrum routine to an attorney. Me? I’ve always found it exciting. It’s an opportunity to appear directly before the Court, interact with the Court personnel — from the judge to all of the non-judicial staff — and visit the record room to do research on my pending cases. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in early 2020, courts have been largely operating virtually, which means that various court proceedings have been working with attorneys and parties making online appearances before the Surrogate’s Court.

But while I, for one, have been very impressed with everything that the court system has done to continue the practice of law during this pandemic, part of me also wonders at what point things are going to return to the way they were in 2019? What’s the answer to this question? Nobody really knows and certainly I, as someone who is not in the Office of Court Administration or a member of the judiciary, really don’t have a say in the matter. However, we are slowly starting to see court operations returning back to the way they were in 2019. 

For example:

•Almost immediately after the initial shutdown, courts began having at least a part of their judicial and nonjudicial staff in the courthouse every day, to tend to the business of the Court. 

•In Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, some limited live hearings of an urgent/pressing matter came back with a lot of procedural safeguards. 

•In May 2021, almost all of the court staff began working at the courthouse again, as opposed to rotating shifts between home and presence at the courthouse.

As you can see, Courts are slowly getting back to centering their operation at the courthouse. When will attorneys and members of the community be returning to the Court? Well, it depends for what purpose. For example, some courthouses will now allow you in the building simply to drop off papers or, with an appointment, do a search of the record room. Other Surrogate’s Courts still remain partially closed. What the Court is trying to do is balance the safety of everyone, visitors, and employees, against the desire to return entirely to in-person operations.

So, I really can’t say what the answer to this is. However, what I do know is this — so long as things are continuing to operate remotely, I will continue to be impressed with the ability of the court system to meet the needs of the communities it serves, whether it be remotely or in person.