(CBS) – Hot Bench is back with all-new episodes starring Tanya Acker, Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. This week’s episodes feature a whole new slate of cases including rent disputes, loans and more.
CBS‘ Matt Weiss spoke to Acker, DiMango and Corriero about this week’s cases as well as the upcoming fallout from the eviction moratoriums from COVID-19.
MW: Hi everyone, nice to see you all today! This year has seen every walk of life be impacted by the pandemic, often in ways people wouldn’t even really think about. How has the legal system been impacted?
PM: COVID has definitely had an impact on the New York state Criminal Court system and Supreme Court criminal term. The cases are taking much longer to get to. They’ve been adjourned at great lengths unless there’s some real potential matter to be resolved. A case they have to advance on the calendar.
We appear as we are doing it right now virtually. We appear with the prosecutor, a DA, the defense attorney, court reporter, a stenographer. Pretty much it’s the same, but much slower. Some parts aren’t working at all just because they’re not essential for immediate action. It’s impacting on an individual’s rights in some way but we’re adapting. We’re adapting as best we can.
MC: This emphasis on everything being virtual out of necessity because of the pandemic is very interesting in terms of the judicial role which very often comes down to establishing who is more credible, the credibility issue. Making that determination virtually is somewhat more complicated than when you actually see the person.
You could hear the intonation of their voice, or clearly you can see the expressions on their face, or dramatically. It makes a little bit more difficult for us to make that assessment. Although I think now that we are also doing our show virtually in terms of the litigants, we’ve become accustomed to focusing and picking up on the virtual intonations that may or may not have an effect on credibility. I don’t think that we’ve failed in making accurate determination of credibility, but we have to be a little bit more focused and aware of the nuances virtually.
TA: You know, Matt, one thing I would add, on Hot Bench we pivoted. There are a lot of courts that are pivoting, but there are some courts that are not pivoting. In Los Angeles for instance there are some courtrooms that are remaining open. There are some judges that are requiring litigants and lawyers to appear in person. I’m on the board of a nonprofit public council, we’re the largest provider of free legal services in the country.
We’re actually suing the court over this process. There are some places that are going online and there are some jurisdictions where litigants and lawyers are still having to brave it, to show up in court. We’re seeing lots of different responses as people try to navigate how we’re going to get through this.
MW: It really has touched every facet of society. Another one that’s really been impacted is the housing and renting market with the eviction moratorium. What will the fallout be there?
TA: I think it really depends on the jurisdiction. In California for instance, what we’re seeing, and some other places as well is a moratorium on eviction. However, what we’re seeing in our courtroom, I think my colleagues would agree, is that sometimes people are confusing the moratorium on evictions with I don’t have to pay rent anymore.
I think there’s going to be a rude awakening when these various moratoriums lift. People are going to then be on the hook for rent that they didn’t pay and maybe still can’t pay. When things get a little more normal, when things become a little safer that doesn’t mean that everybody is going be reversed to comfortable financial position that some of them weren’t even them before. I think that we’re going to be dealing with this and the legal implications of it, or ramifications of it rather, for quite some time.
MW: What does a landlord do in that situation, when they are owed money that the person who owes them just can’t pay?
PM: They sue. Most of the time this is when the tenant has left or just no longer there. They sue them. That’s what we see a great deal of. We see a number of landlord tenant cases with that being an issue raised by the plaintiff and defense being raised by the defendant, is well it’s COVID and I can’t pay.
If the time is correct, there are different rules everywhere. I think that’s where part of the issue lays, individuals are not aware of what their responsibilities are, what they’re going to be, and what they need to do to rectify the situation both from the lender and the landlord and from the tenant.
MW: I know we have a bunch of new episodes this week for Hot Bench as well, I’d love to hear from each of you a little bit about some of the cases that we’re going to hear.
PM: Just on point, what you’re talking about, Friday we have a case involving a relationship. It wasn’t a good relationship. The defendant moved in with the plaintiff who was an on and off boyfriend. He thought he was only going to be there for two weeks, of course COVID took over.
The plaintiff boyfriend said you could stay here and stay with me. Then he said he had started to incur bills and that the defendant was treating him like a sugar daddy. He wasn’t paying him in accordance with this agreement that they had. Of course, he was suing.
The defendant’s position was that listen he was a liar and a cheater. He got rid of me as a tenant because COVID, the lock down, the pandemic lockdown was coming to an end and he wanted to go about his life going on dating apps and all that. He said he had agreed to make either through chores and taking on different obligations or by running fundraisers and then giving the plaintiff all of the money. We had a real issue with credibility as to who was telling the truth.
MW: Tanya, what about you? Any cases you’d like to highlight from this week?
TA: Yes, indeed. Just like there are people who have found COVID really changed their lives, there are also folks who are fighting the same way that they were before the pandemic. Two friends or former friends one of whom own the other one money. Somehow a loan between friends resulted in a keyed car and an allegation that one of the girlfriends is hiding money from her husband.
Sometimes the pandemic will exacerbate already existing problems, sometimes people’s problems just proceed the same way they were even before the world changed so dramatically.
MW: Looking forward to seeing how the three of you sort all this out. Thank you so much for the time, all the best!
TA: Thank you, Matt!
PD: Thanks, Matt!
Check your local listings for more information on Hot Bench.