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New York Courts Reopen Months Into Lockdown With Rush of Lawsuits

Courthouse News Service

MANHATTAN (CN) — For two months, lawyers in New York City have been unable to file new complaints. When the floodgates opened on Memorial Day, a deluge of new cases flooded an already busy court system.

On March 22, the chief administrative judge of New York state courts barred all new documents in nonessential matters from being accepted for filing by county clerks and courts. The order, which extended the tolling for statute of limitations until June 6, also urged lawyers to seek other jurisdictions to file if possible.

When the state’s e-filing system reopened on Memorial Day for new filings, the typical load of cases tripled and quadrupled in some county courts.

“There has been no pandemic in our offices,” said James Marsh, whose practice handles the recent influx of sexual abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and other institutions. “The pandemic of the CVA has continued sort of unabated for two years for us.”

Short for the Child Victims Act, CVA cases have been filed for more than a year but only began including model discovery and liaison committees in January.

“As soon as those things got into place January, February, March, and we were gearing up for discovery and deposition and records requests and all that, the pandemic hit and closed everything down,” Marsh said. “We’re not even out of the starting gates yet.”

Marsh said his firm has hired new staff and attorneys since the shutdown. “We have new associates who haven’t even met each other, who haven’t even been to the office,” he said, adding that documents and other materials are shipped directly to employees’ homes.

“We are fortunate in that our firm has always operated virtually,” Marsh said. “The pace of the work has not really been affected at all by the pandemic.”

Noting the potential for delays due to Covid-19, the New York state legislature overwhelmingly voted on Wednesday to extend the deadline for new legal claims under the CVA from August 14 of this year until the same date in 2021. 

Much of yeoman’s work under the Child Victims Act will occur when hearings are held later this fall at the earliest, said Marsh, who says he has upwards of 600 clients. 

“Judge [Steven] Jaeger can be working hard out in Nassau County, but if a clerk’s not there to enter the order and issue the order, take the new filings and process the new filings, then the reopening of the e-filing is going to be sort of ineffective,” Marsh said.


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