Brooklyn Bar Association News

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Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on May 24, 2021

As of May 24, all judges and court employees have returned to their respective courthouses across New York State, but that does not mean a return to normal. The court will continue screening people as they enter buildings, requiring the use of face masks, and other protocols.

Here are a list of guidelines issued by the courts:

All visitors to courthouses and other facilities in the New York State Unified Court System are required to submit to temperature screening and a COVID-19 risk assessment inquiry before being granted entrance. This includes parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, spectators, law enforcement officers, prisoners, vendors, and all other non-court system personnel.

You are required to wear your mask, maintain social distancing, and follow the health and safety instructions of court personnel.

You Should Not Enter the Courthouse if you:

  • Have flu-like symptoms; or
  • Have recently tested positive for COVID, or have been directed to quarantine, isolate or self-monitor at home for the coronavirus by any doctor, hospital, or health agency; or
  • Have recently had close contact with a person testing positive for COVID (unless you are fully vaccinated or have yourself recently recovered from COVID*); or
  • Have returned from international travel within the last 10 days (unless you returned 8-10 days ago and took a viral COVID test 3-5 days after your return**).

* If you are covered by this close contact exemption, please be prepared to provide proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID.

** If you are covered by this exemption, please be prepared to provide proof of your test results.

Please Note: The guidelines listed here are subject to amendment in accordance with changing directives of State and federal health authorities. Check back here for updates.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on May 24, 2021

People looking for financial assistance for COVID-19 related funerals can turn to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the agency began processing applications last month.

Any COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after Jan. 20, 2020 fall under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Resue Plan Act of 2021. Anyone who thinks they might qualify is asked to apply by calling 844-684-6333 from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Eastern, Monday through Friday. There is no deadline to apply.

To be eligible for funeral assistance, applicants must meet these conditions:

  • The death must have occurred in the United States. The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020.
  • The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
  • There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national or qualified alien.

For the fastest service, after you have called to apply, submit documentation online through, or by fax 855-261-3452. Documents may also be mailed to: COVID-19 Funeral Assistance P.O. Box 10001 Hyattsville, MD 20782.

Applicants can also visit Information is provided in several languages both by telephone and the website.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on May 19, 2021


Consider it a, "New and Better Normal."

All New York State court employees, including all judges, will return to their respective buildings on May 24, but as Chief Judge Janet DiFiore pointed out during her recent address to the legal community that doesn't mean a full in-person return to the courts. Instead, Chief Judge DiFiore explained that the court will continue to implement COVID safety measures and will still rely on its virtual court model in many instances.

"I’m pleased to report that our plan for the return of all judges and court staff to their assigned courthouses by May 24th is going smoothly," Chief Judge DiFiore said. "Staffing levels are increasing incrementally with each passing week as our Administrative Judges and court managers work through the different safety, operational and logistical issues in all of our courthouses. Obviously, the physical return of our judges and professional staff will enable us to responsibly expand in-court operations and services, and conduct more jury trials -- 65 of which are scheduled for this coming week -- while giving judges the ability to schedule additional in-person proceedings where doing so would serve important interests of access to justice or court operations."

The courts will continue COVID screening and temperature checks at entrances, face masks, PPE and social distancing will still be required and the strict cleaning and sanitizing standards will remain. Overall, the Chief Judge said that they don't expect, at least in the immediate future, to have a large increase in the number of lawyers, litigants, and court users into the buildings.

"In the majority of cases that come before us, we have the option of continuing to rely on our virtual court model where appropriate,' Chief Judge DiFiore said. "Fifteen months after COVID-19 compelled us to transform court operations overnight, virtual proceedings are no longer an “experiment” but have proven to be an effective method of moving cases closer to resolution while ensuring that litigants and lawyers can have their matters heard in a convenient, timely and cost-effective manner. As we move forward into our 'new and better normal,' there is no doubt that many types of virtual proceedings and services will become permanent features of our court operations, even after the pandemic subsides. As part of our commitment to incorporate the delivery of virtual services where appropriate, we are providing targeted technology training to our judges and court staff on a regular basis, both at the local and statewide levels."

The Office of Court Administration is hosting a "Live Technology Training Series" each Wednesday from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM during May and June. These sessions are a response to feedback by judges and chambers staff and will focus on using Microsoft Teams for all aspects of virtual proceedings, how to leverage Court Research Reporting and Dashboard resources, working with laptops 101, and editing PDF documents.

"With regard to our virtual courts, I’m pleased to report that well over 1,100 online bench trials and hearings were commenced last week, and that our judges and staff remotely conferenced more than 24,300 matters; settled or disposed of more than 5,800 of those matters; and issued more than 2,200 written decisions on motions and other undecided matters," the Chief Judge said. "Of course, as we follow through on our commitment to virtual court services, we will take great care not to exacerbate existing inequalities in court access for low-income New Yorkers, especially those who face what we know to be a 'Digital Divide,' a lack of access to what many of us take for granted: digital broadband and Wi-Fi availability, adequate data plans and smartphone minutes, and basic computer equipment."

There is currently a pilot program called "Community Court Access" running in Albany-area courts to provide people who lack home computers or reliable internet service with a space in their neighborhoods where they can access virtual court proceedings, e-file documents, and connect with legal services including pro bono attorneys. These sites are equipped with video cameras, scanners, and technology necessary to fully participate in proceedings. Private space is also available for people to prepare court documents and court employees and community liaisons are on site to offer assistance.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Apr 27, 2021


The Brooklyn Bar Association is committed to promoting the values of diversity and inclusion in order to achieve and sustain excellence in the legal profession and to advance the fair administration of justice. Diversity refers to, among other things, race, age, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. The BBA recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of all people and offers opportunities to serve members of the profession and the public through outreach and educational programs.


Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Apr 19, 2021

After abruptly closing the courts for many in-person operations in March 2020, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced on Monday that all judges and court employees will return to their respective buildings by May 24 for in-person operations.

"Effective Monday, May 24th, all judges and court staff will be required to physically return to work in their assigned courthouses," Chief Judge DiFiore said in her weekly address to the legal community. "It is time to return to our normal and full courthouse staffing levels in order to support the fuller resumption of in-person operations, including jury trials and other proceedings in our courts."

Chief Judge DiFiore cited the availability of vaccinations, the easing of indoor public health restrictions, and the decline in COVID positivity rates and hospitalizations for the reason for sending employees back to in-person work.

"Our plan to restore full staffing is in line with the state’s reopening efforts, and with the latest public health guidance," Chief Judge DiFiore said. "The extensive safety measures that we have implemented to protect the health of everyone working in and entering our buildings, including: COVID screening and temperature checks; disciplined use of face masks and PPE; social distancing protocols; installation of acrylic barriers; and strict cleaning and sanitizing, will continue."

When court employees return to their buildings on May 24, operations will not immediately return to normal. Instead, Chief Judge DiFiore explained that they are coming up with a plan to keep courthouses less crowded and they will physically limit the number of people in the buildings. The goal is to do this by continuing the use of remote technology when appropriate.

Click here to read Chief Judge DiFiore's entire message.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 31, 2021

The Brooklyn Bar Association

deeply mourns the passing of 

Honorable Paul G. Feinman

The following is a statement from Hon. Janet DiFiore, the Chief Judge of the State of New York:

It is with deep sadness that I announce the death today of our beloved colleague, Paul G. Feinman, Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. Judge Feinman was a bright, experienced and knowledgeable jurist who made an extraordinary impact on the Court of Appeals and the law of our state. He was also a kind and gentle man who was loved by many.


Judge Feinman graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1985 and began his legal career as a Staff Attorney with the Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County. In 1989, he entered the court system as Law Clerk to Hon. Angela M. Mazzarelli in Supreme Court, New York County, and later served in the Appellate Division, First Department. Judge Feinman was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 1996, and to the Supreme Court for the First Judicial District in 2007. He was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Appellate Division, First Department, in 2012, and to the Court of Appeals in June 2017. 


Judge Feinman served with excellence at every level of our Judiciary, and his broad experience, knowledge and wisdom earned him the respect and warm personal regard of his judicial colleagues. Judge Feinman was a meticulous, disciplined and humble jurist who weighed the legal interests at stake in each case with great integrity in order to arrive at the correct and just result. His scholarly, well-written opinions reflect a deep knowledge of the law balanced with a generous humanity and commitment to justice. Judge Feinman had enormous respect for the Court of Appeals as an institution. Even as his illness progressed, his productivity and the quality of his writings and contributions never suffered. And no one could want for a warmer or more caring colleague than Paul Feinman.


Throughout his career, Judge Feinman was a tireless and resolute champion of LGBTQ rights, a trailblazing pioneer for LGBTQ lawyers and judges and an incredibly dedicated mentor who inspired countless judges, attorneys and law students. Judge Feinman devoted his entire professional life to public service and he gave back generously to our courts and the legal profession in innumerable capacities, including as Chair of the New York State Justice Task Force, Past President of the International Association of LGBT Judges and Past President of the Association of Supreme Court Justices of the State of New York.


Judge Feinman was the essence of personal and professional integrity, decency and civility. No one who knew Judge Feinman could be unmoved by his personal warmth and empathy, good humor and sparkling intelligence. He was a singular human being who has left a proud and enduring legacy for all of us.


We mourn Paul's passing, but we will always be inspired by his life and legacy. On behalf of the Judges and professional staff of the Court of Appeals and the entire New York State Unified Court System, we send our deepest condolences to Judge Feinman's husband, Robert Ostergaard, and his family and friends.


A private funeral service will be held for Judge Feinman's family and friends.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 25, 2021

If you are looking for help navigating the Surrogate's Court there are resources available.


Attend a free e-filing training session with members of the NYSCEF Resource Center staff. These two-hour sessions are FREE worth two CLE credits. It will guide you through your first Surrogate's Court filing, review court rules, and provide helpful tips to avoid problems in the court. 

There are four upcoming sessions — all sessions are online using Microsoft Teams.

  • May 20, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • June 17, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • July 15, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
  • August 19, 2021 @ 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Pre-registration is required and sessions fill up quickly. Go to and click on the "register for training" link.

NYSBA Offer's Mediation of Surrogate's Court Cases CLE

The NYSBA is offering a CLE webinar on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 6:00 PM worth 1.5 credits that will explore mediation in the Surrogate's Court. It will discuss why mediation is good for litigators, how it can be a great tool for trusts and estates planning, it will cover two possible mediation tracks, explain the NYS Presumptive ADR Initiative, and the difference between mediation and arbitration.

You can register for that event on the NYSBA's website by clicking here.


This Friday, March 26 at 1:00 PM, the Brooklyn Bar Association will host a free Surrogate's Court Committee and Trusts & Estates Section meeting that is open to all members. 

In an effort to help attorneys navigate a system that has been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn Bar Association has decided to open its committee meetings to the membership at large. These meetings do not qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit, but instead give members an opportunity to see the concerns of these two committees, hear from Bar Leaders on relevant updates to the law and courts, network, and there will also be an opportunity for questions.

The meeting is open to all members who would like to attend. You do not need to be a member of either committee. Click here to register.

Click here for a copy of the meeting's agenda.

REMINDER: Credit Card Fee Added for All E-Filing Done Through NYSCEF

Beginning April 1, 2021, the Unified Court System will begin adding a service fee of 2.99 percent to all credit card payments submitted through NYSCEF.

Click here to read the announcement.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 22, 2021

The Administrative Board of Courts is seeking public comment on a proposal to adopt ABA Model Rule 8.4(g), which would replace the current rule — Rule 8.4(g) of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 8.4 (g)).

On Friday, March 19, Eileen D. Millett, Counsel, Office of Court Administration circulated a memo to local bar associations that stated:

"Under New York’s current Rule 8.4(g), it is only considered misconduct if an attorney engages in unlawful employment discrimination and the victim of discrimination exhausts all remedies (e.g., by bringing a timely complaint before a tribunal with jurisdiction to hear the complaint, receiving a certified determination by the tribunal that the lawyer engaged in unlawful discriminatory practice, and where the right to judicial or appellate review has been exhausted).

"In contrast, the ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) states that it is “professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination” on the basis of “race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status,” though it does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with the Rules of Professional Conduct (Ex. A – ABA Formal Opinion 493, p. 5). Under the Model Rule, harassment and discrimination in practice-related settings beyond the courtroom (such as law firm social events or bar association functions) and beyond the employment context (such as interactions between lawyers at different firms) are also prohibited. Some other jurisdictions, such as Vermont, New Mexico, and Maine, have adopted rules similar to ABA Model Rule 8.4(g).

"Attached as Exhibit A is the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility’s formal opinion 493 (“Opinion”) on Model Rule 8.4(g). Attached as Exhibit B is the New York City Bar’s Professional Responsibility Committee’s proposed amendment to New York Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g). The City Bar’s proposal differs from ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) in that, rather than saying that it is “professional 2 misconduct” for a lawyer to engage in harassment or discrimination knowingly on specified bases in conduct related to the practice of law, the City Bar’s rule says that a lawyer or law firm “shall not” engage in conduct related to the practice of law that the lawyer knows or should know is harassment or discrimination on specified bases."

Anyone wishing to comment is asked to email or to write to Eileen D. Millett, Esq., Counsel, Office of Court Administration, 25 Beaver Street, 11th Fl., New York, New York, 10004. All submissions are expected by June 18, 2021.

Click here to read the memorandum in its entirety and to examine the attached exhibits included.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 19, 2021

The legal community has adapted to the use of technology over the past year like in no other time in the professions history, but the NYS Unified Court System wants to make sure that people aren't getting too comfortable during virtual hearings and has issued guidance on suggested decorum.

On Thursday, Hon. George J. Silver and Hon. Vito C. Caruso, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judges for inside and outside New York City, respectively, issued the following statement:

"The COVID-19 pandemic has required all courts across New York State to innovate and adapt in order to continue to provide the effective and efficient administration of justice and Access to Justice for all court users consistent with the highest standards of Chief Judge DiFiore's Excellence Initiative. Our courts have uniformly transitioned to Microsoft Teams as a platform to conduct virtual proceedings. Appropriate decorum/etiquette is a necessity during all virtual court proceedings."

The judges referred to virtual proceedings as a formal appearance and said attorneys should ensure the following:

  1. "Dress in appropriate attire, as if you were appearing in-person in court"
  2. "Display an appropriate and professional background"
  3. "No consumption of food or drink during the proceeding"
  4. "Remain professional and dignified"
  5. "As in ln-Person proceedings, only one person should be speaking at a time"

The memorandum can be read in its entirely here.

Posted by: Robert Abruzzese on Mar 18, 2021

The New York State Courts recently announced that it will begin charging a 2.99 percent service fee along with all credit card payments submitted through the NYS Courts Electronic Filing (NYSCEF) system beginning April 1, 2021.

Here is the announcement in its entirety:

"Commencing April 1, 2021, and due to continuing budgetary concerns, the Unified Court System will no longer pay the service fee for credit card transactions initiated by court users. Consequently, a service fee of 2.99% of the payment amount will be assessed on all credit card payments submitted through NYSCEF.

"Note that neither the Office of Court Administration nor the Unified Court System receives any portion of the service fee.

"When you file electronically and use a credit card, there will be two transaction numbers generated, one for the court fee and one for the service fee.

"The Court System is continuing to explore other technologies for electronic payments that minimize processing fees."

You can also click here to read the announcement.

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