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Meet the Judges
Speaking with Manhattan
BY DEAN MOSES
Schneps Media is sitting down
with judges across the city’s
court systems to discuss their
roles and how they’ve changed in
the age of COVID-19. This week’s
interview is with the Honorable
Deborah Kaplan, who handles civil
matters as an Administrative Judge in
Schneps Media: Could you describe
your duties as an Administrative
Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan: The
New York County Supreme Court
Civil Branch is housed in four buildings
in lower Manhattan. It is one of
the largest courts of original, unlimited
civil jurisdiction in the United
States. It takes ingenuity, innovation,
organization, and team work to make
our court operate effectively and effi
ciently. I am responsible for the performance,
effi ciency, and productivity
of every part in this court.
I am constantly developing programs
and strategies to address case
delays, enhance case management and
improve the administration of justice.
I oversee this court’s budget, all employee
issues, training for judges and
court staff, judges’ vacation schedules
and coverage for ex parteapplications
and mental hygiene hearings which
are conducted each week. I also sit in
both a Matrimonial Part and in our
Judicial Mediation and Trial Assignment
Pre-pandemic, I hosted many
delegations from abroad who are
interested in our court and how we
do things here. In the last year or so,
we hosted groups from Belgium; the
Republic of Georgia; Slovenia; India;
Saudi Arabia; Colombia; China;
Israel. I address these groups along
with other Court staff. We discuss
our jurisprudence, answer lots of
questions and try to convey all that we
do to promote the true administration
SM: How has the position/
proceedings changed during the
Judge Deborah Kaplan
DK: During the pandemic, running
the court was even more of a challenge.
Nothing is more important than
ensuring meaningful access to justice
for all court users. We had to make
sure that essential applications were
addressed expeditiously. We never
stopped handling emergency applications.
And, I was on the ground, in
chambers, every day so I was able to
address any issue that arose.
Shortly after most in-person operations
paused in mid-March, our
judges began to handle an expanding
number of matters remotely, in addition
to emergency applications.
SM: Is there a silver lining that
you can find from the pandemic?
DK: I believe that even when we
increase in-person operations, there
are proceedings that we can do
remotely which will benefi t litigants.
For example, since some older adults
may have diffi culties coming to court,
we could allow more cases involving
older litigants to be addressed remotely,
including applications for Orders
of Protection (beyond those heard
in Family Court) and guardianship
hearings and conferences.
I think that the pandemic has encouraged
lawyers and litigants to try
and settle more matters and they have
actively engaged in settlement conferences
and have shown a willingness
to engage in alternative or appropriate
dispute resolution (ADR) options offered
by this court.
SM: What are some of the most
common problems you deal with at
DK:In addition to my role as
Administrative Judge, I sit in several
parts, including Judicial Mediation
and a Matrimonial Part. Many
litigants who appear in these parts
have never been in court and just
the idea of being in a courtroom is
overwhelming and stress-inducing. I
try to make litigants feel comfortable
in my courtroom. When appropriate, I
sit at the table across from the litigants
and their lawyers and discuss the case
with them. I speak quietly and calmly,
and, more importantly, I listen. I also
make certain that before I conference
a case, I am well-prepared.
More at amny.com.
Schneps Media September 3, 2020 13