Weekly Round-Up October 20th, 2014

Court of Appeals Nomination:

  • Governor Cuomo announced that he is nominating Justice Leslie Stein to the NY Court of Appeals. Justice Stein currently serves as Associate Justice of the Appellate Division (Third Department) of the New York State Supreme Court and has seventeen years experience on the bench in New York.
  • Justice Stein began her legal career in private practice as an attorney specializing in matrimonial and family law. In 2001, she served as acting Albany County Family Court Judge. She also served as Presiding Judge of the Rensselaer County Integrated Domestic Violence Part from 2006-2008. She has served on the New York State Association of Women Judges, the Capital District Women’s Bar Association, and the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, as well as, the co-chair of the New York State Unified Court System Family Violence Task Force.
  • On his nomination of Justice Stein, Governor Cuomo said “Justice Leslie Stein has extensive judicial experience and has worked throughout her career to help ensure that women, families, victims of domestic violence, and vulnerable New Yorkers have a voice in our legal system. She has also sought to advance the cause of women and diversity in the legal profession,” The next step is Senate approval after the November elections.

 

Flu Vaccines Mandated for Pre-Schoolers:

  • The Board of Health has approved mandatory flu vaccinations for children in city licensed day cares and preschools. This will affect children from six months to five years old, totaling around 150,000 children. The rule requires children to be vaccinated by December 31, 2014.
  • The vaccinations are covered under Medicaid and come in the form of a shot and a spray. There are exemptions to this requirement for health and religious reasons. Health officials hope that this vaccination requirement will prevent 20,000-25,000 children from getting sick each year. New York joins New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring the flu vaccine.

 

New York’s Safe Act:  Mental Health and Firearms:

  • Following the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the Safe Act was passed in New York under Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration.
  • The Safe Act imposes stricter gun control laws. One of the ways it does this is that it requires mental health professionals in New York to report to the appropriate authorities when a patient is, “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” Under the Safe Act, county officials are responsible for reviewing the reports from mental health professionals before names are added to the statewide database. However, many officials have stated that it is difficult for them to closely examine each case before sending the names to Albany.  This is because, so little can be determined from the reports since they did not get to personally see the patients. Also, about 500 cases come through the system per week, so they are not likely to review each case carefully, and instead have become, “clerical workers, rubber-stamping the decisions.” Once a patient is deemed to be too mentally unstable, their name is placed in a database that would prevent them from obtaining a firearm.
  • It has been reported that the database currently contains at least 34,000 names. Some mental health professionals believe that this number is too high, and that it stigmatizes people with mental illnesses. Also, the names in the database are private and so are the circumstances of their cases, so it is hard to tell if the patients are truly a danger to themselves or others.  Mental health professionals have also stated that many patients with mental illnesses are not violent, and that deciding if a patient is violent is a process that does not always lead to definitive results.
  • Gun control advocates believe that the consequences of a gun being placed in the wrong person’s hands make the strict laws worth being enforced. As one gun control advocate, Brian Malte, expressed, preventing even one potentially dangerous person from possessing a gun is a step in the right direction. “That’s a good thing,” he stated.
  • Several caveats remain: outside of New York City, a shotgun can be obtained without a permit; it is difficult to determine how many guns an individual may have in his or her possession; and the means that law enforcement personnel have used to confiscate guns is not always the same.
  • State officials recognize that the system is not perfect and there is a risk that the wrong names may be entered into the database, but a spokeswoman for the governor, Melissa DeRosa, stated that the Safe Act is, “common sense and saves lives.”
  • New York’s laws regarding mental health and firearms are some of the strictest in the United States. For more information, please click here. (New York Times)