Jan 7, 2022 | News Story

ALAA Holds Virtual Rally for Virtual Arraignments

The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 held a virtual rally on Wednesday to demand the New York State Office of Court Administration and Governor Hochul reinstitute virtual arraignments until the rates of COVID-19 positivity have subsided to lower levels. As part of the event, advocates shared first-hand accounts of the constant exposure and proliferation of infections within Arraignments.

“Everyone who is entering these spaces is getting sick,” said Lisa Ohta, ALAA President. “We are inundated with daily notifications from court staff, judges, DAs, and other personnel, who are all testing positive at higher rates than we’ve seen in months. We’re also getting reports from members that they’re testing positive after working a single shift.”

Maintaining in-person arraignments has resulted in a massive shortage of staff because nearly every in-person shift results in significant close contact exposure to COVID-19. Those left find themselves in the impossible position of having to constantly cover shifts, knowing with certainty they will be exposed, due to the court’s insistence on this actively dangerous policy.

Refusing a return to virtual arraignments is to the detriment of all who interact with the court system. The state is gambling with the lives of workers providing the constitutional right to counsel, who now must navigate protecting the health of themselves and their family in addition to the vicarious trauma they experience daily. Read more in the New York Daily News and Queens Eagle, click here to watch the rally, and follow ALAA on Twitter.