LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County Court Judge Ronald D. Ploetz will conduct County Court via Skype for Business, beginning Monday.
The videoconferencing of court proceedings or telephone conferences between judges and attorneys has been the new normal for the past two weeks.
In these days of the novel coronavirus, Ploetz will view defendants, defense attorneys and District Attorney Lori P. Rieman on a large television screen set up in front of the judge’s bench.
Defendants will appear with their attorneys in the County Jail’s visitor’s center, which hasn’t been used for inmate visits since March 1. A camera and monitor have been set up there in order to reduce the number of people in the courts.
Reiman, who still worked from her third floor office outside the third flood courtroom at the County Center in Little Valley, expects to be in County Court on Monday.
“It’s working well so far,” Rieman told the Olean Times Herald on Friday. “I’m still in the office, so I sometimes go into the courtroom, staying far away from others. Most of my staff is working from home.”
The district attorney said arraignments and conferences between attorneys and the judge can be handled by telephone.
Ploetz said, “All courts have been working out of Little Valley for the past two weeks — County Court, Family Court and Surrogate Court. This is the county’s essential court building.”
Olean City Court Judge Daniel Palumbo is also working out of Little Valley — also via videoconferencing — when needed, and defendants from town courts are also arraigned in Little Valley, often by Ploetz. Family Court and Surrogate Court clerks are still working out of Little Valley.
“Everyone has been cooperating great,” Ploetz said. “We are up and running for essential proceedings. We are all doing things by Skype.”
Ploetz said it is easier for him to work from his Little Valley office even though most of his staff is working from home. Staff has been working remotely for the past week. The judge could work from anywhere via his laptop.
The state Office of Court Administration had issued a list of essential proceedings. Essential cases include a bail application in criminal cases or a sentencing when a defendant is in jail.
Also, in Supreme Court cases, mental hygiene applications, emergency guardianships, orders of protection and election law applications are considered essential.
In Family Court, essential cases include child protection, neglect, removals, show cause orders and juvenile delinquents are essential cases.
A designated judge can also deem something essential.
On March 17, 2020, Eighth Judicial District Administrative Judge Paula Feroleto announced that all non-essential functions of the Eighth Judicial District were postponed until further notice and that the District’s court operations would be consolidated into a centralized court location in each county. Judges, defendants/litigants, attorneys and some court staff are permitted to appear by video-conferencing.
In the event of technical issues, telephonic appearances will be permitted for all essential matters other than criminal cases.
A minimal core team of essential staff will remain at each central courthouse location to ensure the ability to intake papers, operate video conferencing equipment, process orders, keep the court record, answer telephones and conduct other essential court functions.
While the proceedings will be open to the public, uniformed staff will strictly monitor and may limit access to maintain appropriate social distancing and courtroom capacity.