Courts to allow new cases to proceed, possibly including some evictions

Chief administrative judge said new evictions in housing court are still on hold

New York /
May.May 20, 2020 05:10 PM
NY State Supreme Courthouse (Credit: iStock, Wikipedia Commons)

NY State Supreme Courthouse (Credit: iStock, Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATED, May 22, 10:51 a.m.:For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, New York City litigants can file new cases in court, including evictions.

As of the beginning of this week, litigants were already allowed to file new lawsuits in counties that have already met the state’s standards for reopening. But in a memo issued Wednesday afternoon by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, new non-essential cases can now be e-filed in New York City and Nassau, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties — even though they haven’t yet met the state’s reopening requirements.

New lawsuits have been on hold since Marks’s March 15 order.

Wednesday’s order also allows new commercial eviction cases to be filed, in part because Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest executive order extended the scope of the moratorium on evictions, albeit with some limits. New commercial evictions can now be filed, as long as they are not in the categories protected by Cuomo’s eviction moratorium: those eligible for government unemployment assistance, those who are facing financial hardship due to the pandemic or evictions for non-payment.

“My interpretation is that I can foreclose or evict any residential or commercial owner or tenant that is not on government assistance, receiving unemployment, or has a Covid-19 financial hardship,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, an attorney at his eponymous firm.

Although the memorandum does not allow the e-filing of new eviction cases in housing court, where residential evictions are generally filed, the order does not prevent evictions from being filed in other courts. So at least in theory, new residential evictions can now be brought, in the state Supreme Court, because it has co-jurisdiction with the housing court.

“Because the courts have co-jurisdiction, this theoretically opens the door for a floodgate of housing court cases to be started in the state Supreme Court,” said Bailey. “I do not know how the administration will address this.”

Not all attorneys agree with that interpretation, though — Nativ Winiarsky, an attorney at Kucker Marino Winiarsky and Bittens said that he doubted any eviction could be filed before at least June 20.

“The new executive order opened the door a little bit — now you can pursue those actions against residential and commercial tenants who haven’t been impacted by Covid-19,” Winiarsky said. “But the first executive order stays all eviction orders through June 20 — no evictions can take place until then.”

A court spokesperson said that residential evictions cannot be filed in the Supreme Court. But that may not stop attorneys from trying.

The spokesperson later said that residential evictions can be filed in the Supreme Court.

“However, it just doesn’t work that way in the real world,” said Lucian Chalfen, the court spokesperson. “If you tried to start an eviction case in Supreme Court chances are they would tell you to go Housing Court.”

Note: The article has been updated to include additional statements from the court spokesperson.


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