By David Brand
Despite a statewide eviction moratorium, judges in New York City Housing Court will begin conducting virtual conferences in pending cases where both parties have a lawyer, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said Tuesday.
The state resumed scheduling virtual conferences Tuesday to reduce the backlog and “facilitate settlements,” Marks said.
“This is an important step forward, as we work, in today’s highly challenging environment, to facilitate the resolution of these critical Housing Court matters and promote a fair process for all litigants,” he said.
Either party represented by an attorney in a pending eviction case may request a settlement conference, Marks said, adding that landlords may seek to schedule a conference without a tenants’ consent.
The resumption of Housing Court conferences amid the state eviction moratorium raises a number of questions, tenants’ rights advocates say.
In a letter to top city and state judges who oversee New York City Housing Court, a coalition of legal assistance organizations urged courts to conduct conferences only with the consent of both the landlord and the tenant.
“We’re very nervous because a lot of people will get caught up and they may not understand what’s happening and they might give up their rights,” said attorney Sateesh Nori, the head of the Legal Aid’s Queens Housing Unit. “Our clients still have nowhere to go.”
He said tenants lawyers worry the virtual conferences and resolutions could set the stage for mass evictions on the first day the moratorium is lifted.
“It’s like an early bird special for landlords,” Nori said.
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