Over the last 22 months, the Bench and Bar have traveled a long and arduous road together. We have transformed and reinvented the ways in which we deliver our services in order to safely manage our workloads and ensure access to justice for all New Yorkers. In the New York State Courts, we have established a productive “new normal” that relies on our hybrid model of in-person and virtual court operations to deliver justice services to lawyers and litigants during the ongoing public health crisis. Furthermore, our court system has led the state in implementing important COVID preventative policies, such as the mandatory vaccination program for all judges and court staff that took effect last September. As a result, our court system is well-positioned to meet the evolving challenges of the pandemic and resume the forward progress of the “Excellence Initiative.”

Notwithstanding the relentless day-to-day operational pressures of the pandemic, our judges, staff and court leaders have never stopped working to improve the administration of justice, including working to eliminate systemic racism and bias from the courts. In June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd, a watershed moment on issues of race in our nation, I asked Jeh Johnson, a prominent New York attorney and former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, to conduct an independent, no-holds barred review of our court system’s policies and practices as they relate to issues of racism, bias and disparate treatment.

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