OSWEGO — The Oswego County Sheriff and District Attorney say per an order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, courts will be operating on a limited basis but the justice system will not let defendants off the hook.
Cuomo’s order covers a wide range of civil and criminal matters: eviction proceedings and pending eviction orders are suspended, and civil papers, payments and pistol permit applications will be received only through the mail until further notice.
According to Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes, town and village courts across the county have been closed, but a combined court has been established at the Oswego County Justice Center.
Oakes said despite the coronavirus-related changes, for anyone believing they can “do whatever they want,” that’s “absolutely not the case.”
“We’re working out a system with the court where we can keep communicating with the defense, provide discovery and keep working on cases for when court officially resumes,” according to Oakes, acknowledging there is “a lot of uncertainty with the courts right now.”
Some lower level defendants, such as misdemeanors and violations, will not receive dispositions from the court until further notice, Oakes said.
Oswego County Sheriff Don Hilton told The Palladium-Times Wednesday that essential court proceedings include “arraignments, mental health cases, and anything with domestic cases.”
Court dates are tentatively postponed 60 days, but more orders could come from the New York court systems that will cause further delays. Some “very minor” warrants will not be processed for now as long as interaction with police is “civil and cordial,” according to Hilton. The more combative a person is, the more likely it is they will be processed immediately, the sheriff said, but he would not create a blanket policy for which arrest warrants are delayed and which are not.
“We’re making contingency plans in case it gets worse and hoping it doesn’t,” Hilton said.
According to Johns Hopkins University, New York state’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 2,480 as of Wednesday afternoon. Health officials have not announced any confirmed cases in Oswego County.
According to the New York State Unified Court System, child protection proceedings, juvenile delinquency proceedings and emergency support orders will qualify as essential functions in family court.
Those called for jury duty after March 16 should not appear, and they will be summoned to a different date and time, officials said. Those already serving on a jury must continue to appear. The status of grand juries will vary at a county level.
Cuomo’s executive order also suspends debt collection, but only for debtors who owe the state itself or have taken loans through the state.