As In-Person Court Appearances Resume, ALAA Condemns OCA and City Over Deplorable Courthouse Conditions
The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys - UAW Local 2325 (ALAA) this week condemned the NY State Office of Court Administration (OCA), the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), the NYC Department of Correction (DOC), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for failing to address deplorable courthouse conditions as in-person court arraignments and appearances begin to resume citywide.
For over a year, ALAA has sought information from OCA and City agencies about the health and safety conditions of nonpublic courthouse spaces, including jail cell areas or “pens”—places where New Yorkers accused of a crime are held while waiting to see a judge—and other areas where attorneys meet with clients to discuss case details. Prior to the pandemic, the conditions in these areas were filthy and unhealthy. Attorneys who worked in these areas routinely became ill shortly after a shift in arraignment.
As ALAA members returned to “in person” arraignments, they found that OCA and the City had not only failed to remediate the dangerous and unsanitary conditions, they had failed to take a single measure to clean or upgrade these areas from their pre-pandemic levels to meet even minimum standards of health and safety.
“The working conditions inside the courthouse have always been abysmal and unsanitary. We all have stories about the barbaric conditions of the arraignment interview areas including watching rats scurry over our feet and roaches crawl across our files as we were writing. We have always known that working arraignments meant we’d likely be sick soon after our shift. We have been fighting to improve these conditions for years,” said Julie Sender, Manhattan Criminal Defense Practice Vice President of ALAA. “We had hoped that OCA and the courts would take the opportunity presented by the pandemic to actually do something to upgrade the ventilation system and clean the areas where we meet with our clients. Instead, we found the same stained desks, soiled chairs, broken doors, and inoperable and dirty ventilation system from before the pandemic. We are sick of getting sick.” Read more here.