The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Civil Litigation in New York

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Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the State of New York has enacted a variety of measures impacting civil litigation in New York state courts. Additionally, though cases in the United States District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York are still proceeding as of this date, access to courthouses has been severely restricted. The following summarizes the orders currently in place, though all are subject to modification as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Tolling of Time Limitation

On March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.8, tolling the statutes of limitations and other specific time limits for the commencement, filing or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding under New York law from March 20, 2020 until April 19, 2020. Additionally, Executive Order 202.8 prohibits, for a period of ninety (90) days, the enforcement of evictions of residential and commercial tenants and foreclosures of any residential or commercial property.

Limits to Court Operations and the Suspension of Filing

Executive Order 202.8 also directed Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks to limit New York state court operations to essential matters during the pendency of the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, on March 22, 2020, consistent with Executive Order 202.8, Chief Judge Marks issued Administrative Order AO/78/20, directing that no papers would be accepted by New York state courts for filing in non-essential matters, either in paper or electronic form, until further order. On the Supreme Court level, the limited exception is to matters deemed “essential”, which include certain applications and hearings related to the Mental Hygiene Law, extreme risk protection orders, and temporary orders of protection, in addition to emergency applications related to guardianship matters, the COVID-19 virus, and the Election Law. On the Civil Court and Housing Court level, the applications deemed “essential” are limited to landlord lockouts, serious code violations, serious repair orders, and post-eviction relief. Though there is a provision allowing New York state courts to deem additional unenumerated matters “essential”, these limitations effectively suspend the operation of New York state courts with respect to nearly all civil litigation matters.

Operation of the United States District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York

To date, filings in the United States District Courts for the Eastern and the Southern Districts of New York have not been restricted. However, access to courthouses has been drastically curtailed. In the Eastern District of New York, access to courthouses is restricted to those whose presence is essential, effectively precluding the personal appearance of litigants in civil litigation matters. In the Southern District of New York, effective 9:00 AM on March 23, 2020, civil cases will proceed at the discretion of the individual Judge, and in-court appearances are limited to emergency matters, with teleconference or videoconference preferred to in-court appearances.

For more information, contact Thomas J. McNamara, Esq. at (516) 296-7057 or Joshua Feldman, Esq. at (516) 296-7081.

Mr. McNamara is a Partner in our Litigation Group and Mr. Feldman is an Associate.