As New York remains in the grip of an escalating coronavirus outbreak, a cohort of state lawmakers are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pause civil and criminal statute of limitations.
The group, composed of state Senators, argued in a letter that the change would allow people time to consult with their attorneys, report crimes and prepare claims.
“Prosecutors, litigants, and attorneys should not have to choose between placing themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 and pursuing civil and criminal justice,” the letter reads.
The lawmakers have urged Cuomo to use his emergency disaster powers to pause statute of limitations for the duration of the coronavirus emergency, adding in the letter that “the court system has shut down for all but the most essential purposes.”
The state’s court system has already postponed all “nonessential” services, which includes suspending all eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders statewide.
Felony matters where the defendant is not in custody have been “administratively adjourned,” according to a memorandum from Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks. Earlier this month, the court system announced no new jury trials will start.
The Thursday letter comes as New York remains under aggressive capacity rules aimed at cutting down large gatherings and reducing close person-to-person interactions that cause the virus to spread.
New York has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and mandated the temporary closure of gyms, movie theaters and casinos. The state mandated that bars and restaurants close their on-premise service too.
At least 16 Democrats in the Legislature’s upper chamber put their name on the letter, including Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, chair of the chamber’s finance committee, and Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, who heads the chamber’s judiciary committee.
“Justice would demand that we pause these statute of limitations,” Hoylman said, adding that the coronavirus is an interruption of monumental proportions.
Henry “Hank” Greenberg, president of the New York State Bar Association, said the organization strongly supports the idea.