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Faculty Spotlight

Coronavirus and the Courts: Professor Patrick Connors Helps New York’s Lawyers Navigate Sea Change

Patrick Connors

By Lauren Mineau

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While New York State is slowly coming off a long pause, Professor Patrick Connors is pressing fast-forward to offer insight on how the current pandemic is affecting the way lawyers get their jobs done.

In his five-part series, “Coronavirus and the Courts,” he dissects the dramatic changes happening with procedure in the courts, as the world—specifically New York State—navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the analysis will provide a reference point for lawyers, as a wave of legal issues is expected to arise in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“My goal is to help guide lawyers to emerge from this, so they know what the effect of various orders were as we navigated in this period of time,” he said. “They need to know how to act not only during the crisis, but when we emerge from this.”

With courts navigating temporary closures, adjusting to video conferencing technology, and determining what’s “essential” and what’s ”nonessential,” many cases live in limbo--and the rules are changing often.

“This is a scene in motion now, and it’s hard to hit a moving target,” he said.

Professor Connors, the Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor of Law and the author of Siegel & Connors, New York Practice (6th ed. Thomson, 2018; available on Westlaw), has hosted live ZOOM presentations on three of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Orders relating to the “COVID-19 Emergency Disaster,” the memoranda of the Chief Administrative Judge, and the Chief Administrative Judge’s Administrative Orders, which have had a dramatic impact on civil practice in New York State courts. The presentations are sponsored by American LegalNet, a litigation software company, and are available for review here.

He expects to continue the series as long as Executive Orders are issued. Right now, many specific inquiries are coming in from the legal community, and each session has been well attended by more than 200 lawyers and Judges. Though the state has not navigated a pandemic in modern times, many of the Governor’s current Executive Orders draw upon orders enacted in response to 9/11 or Superstorm Sandy. During the sessions, Professor Connors gets into specifics on the most current Executive Orders and Administrative Orders, while also offering guidance in anticipation of the next set of orders.

Though things are far from business-as-usual, Professor Connors is encouraging lawyers to act as if things are status quo—to the best of their abilities.

“Lawyers need to leave time for trouble,” he said. “Even though you think you have extra time now, once we emerge from this—leave time for trouble. Act promptly and do things as quickly as possible.”

Connors also hopes to publish information and analysis on COVID-19’s effects on the courts in the July 2020 supplement to New York Practice, the treatise frequently considered "the Bible" for litigation in New York State courts.

“This is my world, my life. I spend a lot of time on it. So, I always think, how can I make it easier for the general practitioner?” he said. “That’s how I see my role in these programs. They let people access everything they need in one place. My goal is to consolidate it and simplify it for the bench and bar.”

Patrick Connors