New Yorkers with pink tickets due for hearing in cases like turnstile jumping, public urination and other low-level offenses will soon be required to appear in court. In-person hearings for people with desk appearance tickets will resume citywide on Sept. 8 along with bench trials in Manhattan and Queens Housing Court.
Furthermore, authorities at the Office of Court Administration have confirmed that starting Sept. 15, bench trials will resume in Bronx Housing Court. This move comes 7 months after Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks issued a moratorium on non-emergency court matters amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As cases are dwindling in the city after a major wave that lasted for months, Courts have decided to function as per usual, shifting virtual appearances to real-time physical ones. While officials have agreed upon this move, some legal experts seem to have their doubts over this decision.
Taking an objection to the move, Legal Aid union leader Jared Trujillo claimed, “There is no basis for OCA to move away from virtual appearances at this time. Doing so without adequate safety measures is inhumane, haphazard, and a reckless public health policy that will not only impact our members, but it will impact our clients who already come from communities that were disproportionately ravaged by COVID.”
It has also been brought to attention, that not every courthouse in the state has been visited by an epidemiologist, and that air filtration systems are not all up to par. This fact led an arbitrator to state that the city’s courts still present a “high risk” of COVID-19 exposure.
The arbitrator has suggested that New York City public defenders should lobby the state, court officials and the city agency that runs court buildings to find ways to “lower the risk factors in courthouses, including the desirability of utilizing remote hearings to the greatest extent possible.”
In a statement that was aimed at providing a more conducive alternative, OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said that neither people with desk appearance tickets nor their lawyers will be required to appear in-person if they can find a way to appear virtually. He further assured that the OCA, “has and will continue to take all of the necessary safety precautions to ensure that nobody is put at risk”.