Like other government institutions, New York State Surrogate’s Courts are figuring out how to function during the coronavirus pandemic. The first notice came on Friday, March 13, 2020. Lawrence K. Marks, the Chief Administrative Judge of the State of New York’s Unified Court system released a memorandum addressing the pandemic and outlining the procedures that were being put in place to reduce courthouse traffic. The March 13 memorandum was silent as to the Surrogate’s Courts. Just two days later an updated protocol memorandum was released announcing that effective as of 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 16, the Courts would be “postponing all non-essential functions of the courts until further notice.” As the effects of the pandemic continue to materialize, court closures have become more extensive. Below is some useful information pertaining to the Surrogate’s Courts across the State.
Announcement pertaining to NYC Surrogate’s Courts
In light of recent developments in the coronavirus public health emergency in New York State, ESSENTIAL APPLICATIONS ONLY will be considered by the Court. Please call the phone number or e-mail below before coming to Court:
Bronx County – 718-618-1894; email@example.com
Kings County – 347-404-9720; firstname.lastname@example.org
New York County – 917-509-7218; email@example.com
Queens County – 718-298-0777; firstname.lastname@example.org
Richmond County – 718-675-8504; email@example.com
New York County Surrogate’s Court –http://ww2.nycourts.gov/courts/1jd/surrogates/index.shtml
As part of the measures adopted by the NYS Unified Court System to combat the spread of COVID-19, the following actions are being implemented by the New York County Surrogate’s Court:
- All matters scheduled to be heard at calendars from March 17, 2020 through April 10, 2020 are being adjourned administratively. Parties must not appear in court. Notices of future dates for court appearances will be sent by regular mail.
- No trials or hearings will commence until further notice. This includes 17-A Guardianships and finalizations of adoptions. Trials or hearings that have been adjourned to a date in March or April will be adjourned again.
- Until further notice, all papers must be filed by regular mail. If papers are brought to the courthouse in person, they are to be left in a box outside room 303. Court staff will contact petitioners or their counsel with directions once papers are reviewed.
- Only essential personnel will be at work at the courthouse and delays should be expected in the review, processing and scheduling of matters.
- Effective immediately, the court will no longer issue citations returnable before the court in March, April or May, 2020.
- Parties with urgent matters may contact the Chief Clerk’s Office at (917) 509-7218. Meetings and conferences in urgent matters may be arranged and will take place by conference call or via Skype with the proper court personnel.
- The terms of this notice are subject to modification as the need arises
The Queens County Surrogate’s Court issued a March 16, 2020 memorandum in furtherance of the Chief Administrative Judge’s highlighting specific procedures being taken by the Court. A copy of the memorandum can be found by clicking on the following link on the Court’s website – COVID-19 New Procedure – March 16, 2020
The Bronx County Surrogate’s Court issued a notice laying out the actions being implemented by the Court to combat the spread of the coronavirus. A copy of the notice can be found by clicking on the following link on the Court’s website – Covid-19 Information, March 17
Nassau County issued an emergency notice postponing all non-essential functions until further notice. A copy of the emergency notice can be found on the Court’s website – http://ww2.nycourts.gov/doc/29321
Although the Nassau County courts previously planned to use the District Court building for filings during the period in which the courts are closed for non-essential functions, the Nassau County courts will be using the County Court building in Mineola (instead of the District Court building). For the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court, there will be one employee who is on premises and will sit at the Surrogate’s Court’s cashier’s window. New filings will not be accepted, except for true emergency applications (i.e., the alleged need for a temporary restraining order when a fiduciary has allegedly acted badly). The courts are attempting to limit traffic to a bare minimum in compliance with the government’s request.
C. Randall Hinrichs, the District Administrative Judge of Suffolk County issued Amended Order No. 22-20 on March 17, 2020. Pursuant to the order, all non-essential matter are administratively adjourned until a date on or after April 30, 2020. A copy of the Order can be found on the Court’s website by clicking on the following link – Administrative Orders, Operational Changes due to Coronavirus Crisis.
Please note that the Chief Judge’s memorandum states that in addressing essential applications, judges will exercise judicial discretion in a manner designed to minimize court appearance and traffic in the courts. The latest news related to the New York State Court System can be found by clicking on the following link – http://www.nycourts.gov/index.shtml
On 3/22/20 the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts, issued an updated directive addressing the New York Court’s ever evolving response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Per the directive, only “essential matters”, which are more fully described on Exhibit “A” of the Administrative Order may be accepted for filing by the courts. As previously noted, in addressing these essential applications, judges will exercise judicial discretion in a manner designed to minimize court appearances and traffic in the courts. The list of essential proceedings is subject to ongoing review and amendment as necessary.
Section E of the list of essential proceedings includes “any other matter that the court deems essential. Consistent with the goal of the administrative order to limit new filings, this catch-all provision is designed to address the very rare cases where individual facts necessitate an immediate hearing notwithstanding current public health concerns; it will be interpreted restrictively. Persons who believe that a specific pending or new matter should be included in this highly restrictive group should apply to the court for this designation by emergency application, including a detailed explanation of the applicant’s rationale” (www.ny courts.gov/limited-filings.shtml). Given the ongoing public health concerns, people should use the utmost discretion prior to bringing an emergency application.
For further guidance on these issues please review the Chief Administrative Judge’s directive, AO/78/20, at www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew/pdf/AO-78-2020.pdf, along with the interpretive guidance at www.nycourts.gov/limited-filings.shtml.