March 27, 2020
By Robert Marchant, Greenwich Times
The Westchester County district attorney announced he is postponing all trials as a public-safety measure during the coronavirus outbreak. The move was carried out as a mandate by NYS Office of Court Administration (NYS Courts).
That means all criminal trials have been put off, according to the statement from Anthony Scarpino.
“This is one memo I never thought I would have to write – that a pandemic is sweeping the country and that our home county has been at its epicenter,” Scarpino said in a statement Thursday morning.
“Every person and every sector of our community are adjusting to the changes brought on by this pandemic and the DA’s Office is no different. While we are public servants, we also have families whose lives are equally affected.”
The operations of the New York State Court System impacts his office, Scarpino said, as it reacts to the changing demands of this public health crisis.
Most of the staff is working from home where possible and making sure every court part is covered, he said. The phones are staffed; and systems are in place to continue serving all county residents.
Due to the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a series of executive orders that impact the administration of justice in Westchester and throughout the state. In response to the Governor’s orders, the Office of Court Administration has modified all judicial operations. Some of the new rules include:
- All criminal trials are postponed until further notice
- No new grand juries shall be empaneled except in exceptional circumstances
- All orders of protection are automatically extended
- All non-essential matters are adjourned until April 15
- All specific time limits for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion or other process are suspended until April 19.
“This stops the clock on discovery, speedy trial, felony hearings, FOIL requests and Notices of Appeal,” he said.
Arraignments and emergency applications continue to be heard as needed, such as temporary orders of protection, essential Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) matters, and resentencing of retained and incarcerated defendants.
Also, all court proceedings will be held on the first floor of the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, not in local courts.
“We are also concerned with how this seismic life change may be affecting our most vulnerable residents, especially as we are forced to stay home,” Scarpino said. “This pandemic is creating a particularly dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, including intimate partner abuse, child or elder abuse. My Office’s Special Prosecutions Division is finely attuned to this sad reality and ready as ever to protect and serve.”