BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–For the past two months, several industries have had to adapt to greater restrictions, including court systems statewide. Here in Western New York, our two most populated county courts have seen major changes in how they operate.
“Everything eventually went to complete remote proceedings. At first, we limited the number of people in the courtroom, we had closed every court pretty much across the county,” said Niagara County district attorney Caroline Wojtaszek.
“We’ve pretty much been shut down for the past two months. The entire court system has been closed. Arraignments are really the only thing that have been occurring on a regular day to day basis in the past two months,” said John Flynn, Erie county district attorney.
But now that Western New York has received the green light to slowly start reopening, the courts are also starting to prepare for what that will mean in how they operate.
“We need to get going quite frankly. You have a situation where you have defendants who are innocent until proven guilty who are being held in the holding center and they’re being held there just waiting for proceedings to occur,” said Flynn.”Everyone has to now prepare to come back into the building here. That’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take planning and we just have to ensure that everyone is safe and that we don’t bring in hundreds of people into the building here and spread the virus.”
County government is in phase two of New York Forward, which means in two weeks we could see area courts start functioning once again.
Both district attorneys say certain cases will take precedent once the court systems are fully operational including murders, rape cases, and cases involving special victims.
Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.