Nassau County
Bar Association

March 30, 2020

Dear NCBA Members:

I hope everyone is healthy and doing as well as can be expected as we start this new week of staying at home. I have a few updates to share with you.

1) Susan Mintz and Ellen Pollack of the Family Court Law & Procedure Committee forwarded to me the SKYPE instructions and note below from Rosalie Fitzgerald, Chief Clerk of the Family Court. It is important for matrimonial and family law practitioners:

Dear Panel Attorneys,
I hope this email finds you safe and healthy.
As the Family Court continues to limit in-person appearances in Family Court, in addition to only hearing essential matters and permitting appearances by telephone, the court is now encouraging appearances by SKYPE which we hope to have up and running sometime today. This applies to attorneys and litigants as well as to court personnel.  Please see the attached information about appearing by SKYPE and forward it any other family court attorneys who have not been included in this email. 
We are keeping a list of the email addresses that will be used for the court to arrange SKYPE. I ask that you let me know if you have done the test described in the attached document and the applicable email address and phone number to reach you.
To make arrangements for SKYPE, the court will call you the same day for emergency appearances, and the day before for previously scheduled appearances.
As before, please call 516-493-3850 or 516-493-3900 if you have any questions or concerns about anything during this unprecedented situation.
Rosalie Fitzgerald, Chief Clerk
Nassau County Family Court

2) Of interest to lawyers who practice in the County Court, I received the below list of County Court judge rotations from Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan.

3) I had a conversation with Past President Chris McGrath this weekend about the impact of the pandemic upon civil jury trials in Nassau County. Obviously the impact on both plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury matters will be substantial. Among the issues of concern about which I have been advised: 

a. When the crisis ends and the courts re-open, what impact will the CDC guidelines have for the year that follows, especially because the CDC is expecting the Coronavirus to rebound during the fall/winter of 2020/2021.
b. If that occurs, we will not be able to have jurors sitting next to each other in the big jury room or in a jury box in Supreme. What arrangements can be made?
c. The courtrooms in Supreme are not made for lawyers, litigants, judges or jurors to be 6 feet apart. What arrangements can be made?
d. A court reporter said that she is inches from every witness that testifies in court with absolutely no protection.
e. How can juries be placed in small offices to deliberate with windows that do not open?
f. What will we do if we can no longer hold conferences in chambers, in law secretary offices, or approaching the bench during trial?
g. We expect a backlog of criminal cases and the shifting of judges to handle them. If that occurs, what happens to the civil cases/motions assigned to that judge?

I thank Chris for advising me about this. Accordingly, I am appointing a task force to explore the above issues of concern and will keep you apprised. 

4) Michael Markowitz organized a ZOOM meeting today among the chairs and a past chair of the Surrogate Law and Elder Law committees to discuss the state of the law in New York regarding the execution of Wills and under what circumstances “virtual” executions could be done during this stay at home period. He has advised me as follows:

a. We will create a virtual program concerning estate and Surrogate Court practice management during the pandemic, including will execution, among other things.
b. We are preparing an outline as to issues that will be discussed.
c. The program will be presented online sometime next week.
d. We are attempting to have the Surrogate (either Nassau or Suffolk) attend and comment during the presentation.
I thank Mike and the participants and will keep everyone posted.

Rest assured that the NCBA staff and leadership are working hard to provide for our members. I hope you all stay safe during these challenging times.

Best Regards,
Richard D. Collins
NCBA President