Motions in Limine involve discussions over excluding testimony away from the presence of jury members. These motions played a prominent role in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020. Respondents moved to dismiss appeals arguing that no legal action lies from an order that determines a Motion in Limine.
In the end, those motions were denied in court.
Confusion during a chaotic time
The Empire State’s most powerful elected official and his multiple executive orders driven by the worldwide health crisis created complexities in not only its application to New Yorkers but also potential legal ramifications. Appeals were expected within a strict statute of limitations (SOL) under what is called a “toll” renewed by continuing executive orders every 30 days, suspending them for an established amount of time.
Tolling eventually came to an end via executive order on November 3, 2020. However, that will not stop the intense debates and legal challenges that started in 2020 and continue today. Some legal experts questioned whether Cuomo even held the authority to toll SOLs related to Executive Law. While it extended the time that plaintiffs had to take legal action, the expiration of the executive order also ended any subsequent challenges based on its specific SOLs.
Undoubtedly, the legal effect of Cuomo’s tolling orders will continue to be both debated and litigated for some time to come. Plaintiffs assert that the orders allowed them extra time to pursue claims. Defendants contended that the executive orders did not affect any period of limitations.
A certain level of clarity came on June 2, 2021, when The Appellate Division, Second Department of the State of New York weighed in, citing the importance of explicitly distinguishing between tolling and suspending statutory time periods.
In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that, according to the language in Executive Law, Cuomo possesses the authority to “alter” or “modify” statutory requirements during state emergencies. Simply put, only the SOL was suspended for a year, not tolling. That ruling means that the SOL started on November 3, 2020, and expires on the same day in November 2021.