The Appellate Division, Fourth Department has successfully launched a fully-flexible protocol for oral argument that accommodates in-person and remote oral argument appearances by both Justices and litigants. During its eight-day September term, the Court heard oral arguments from both in-person litigants and litigants appearing virtually on a monitor in the Courtroom, and on two different days, one of the Justices hearing oral argument did so remotely.
The new protocol is an evolution from the fully-remote arguments successfully held by the Court in June and early July, and allows for scheduled arguments to avoid postponement should unexpected circumstances arise. Although remote arguments have long been considered by the Court as part of its strategic planning, and a limited pilot had been envisioned for implementation this fall, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an acceleration and enhancement of those plans.
“Spurred by the tremendous efforts of our outstanding Technical Services Unit and our administrative staff, the Court is able to continue uninterrupted its important work of hearing and deciding appeals while providing both litigants and our Justices the flexibility and safety precautions necessary in these uncertain times,” said Presiding Justice Gerald J. Whalen. “I am extremely proud of our staff and judges, and we are grateful to be able to do the work of our Court in a safe and efficient manner, and to move forward with strength and confidence in this next iteration of court operations.”
Under the Court’s new protocol, when a matter is calendared for appeal, parties who properly request argument are required to choose whether to appear in person or remotely and inform the Court of that choice as soon as possible, but no later than two days before the term of oral argument commences. If a party chooses to appear in person, she or he will be subject to a health screening upon entry into the courthouse, and must wear an appropriate mask – even while arguing -- and maintain social distance within the courthouse. The Justices also wear masks while hearing argument, and the parties and the Justices are seated distantly during argument. If a party chooses to appear remotely, she or he is provided with unique information to sign in and wait in a virtual “courtroom gallery” where she or he can monitor the progression of arguments and prepare until her or his matter is called. All parties are able to check in remotely via their mobile device or personal computer on the day of argument.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, only parties arguing before the Court are allowed into the courthouse on argument days, although all interested parties may view the oral arguments live via the Court’s website (the arguments are also archived and available for later viewing).
The Supreme Court of the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department hears appeals from the state's trial courts located in the 22 Central and Western New York counties assigned to the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth Judicial Districts. More »
Dedicated on January 22, 1999, the courthouse is located in the East End community in downtown Rochester, New York. More »
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