Recent Committee Activity
Disability Housing Rights
People in New York with disabilities are protected against housing discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability by a series of federal, state, and local human rights and civil rights laws. In addition, people with disabilities are also entitled to certain accommodation so that they can use and enjoy their homes. Because so many different laws protect the housing rights of people with disabilities, an individual who believes his or her rights have been violated must look at the various provisions of the different laws and determine which laws apply and what protections are available. The Committee on Legal Issues Affecting People with Disabilities issued a report entitled Disability Housing Rights and Building Codes in New York, which outlines the various human and civil rights laws on the federal, state, and city level, to aid both the practitioner and claimant in understanding and applying the existing laws.
Criminal Convictions a Basis for Teacher Lay-Offs
The Committee on Corrections expressed opposition to A.6150/S.3501-B, which would make a teacher’s conviction for any “qualifying criminal offense in the past five years” dispositive grounds for lay-off priority. The report agues that the proposed legislation is at odds with the due-process rights afforded teachers under the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education and the public-policy aim of New York Correction Law Article 23-A, which is to protect individuals with prior criminal convictions from such blanket discrimination. The report urges that the proposed legislation be amended to strike the provision making an employee’s criminal conviction a sole basis for terminating employment or, alternatively, to provide a meaningful process under which proper consideration may be given in order to retain effective and excellent professionals in the classroom.
Ten-Year Renewal Terms for Housing Court Judges
Housing Court Judges currently serve five-year terms. Requiring these judges to seek office every five years is a burden to the system and an impediment to their independence. A report by the Council on Judicial Administration recommends that Civil Court Act Ħħ 110 be amended to extend the reappointment term of Housing Court Judges from five to ten years after the initial five-year appointment. This, the Council argues, will promote judicial independence while providing sufficient review of judicial performance, and take undue pressure off the Advisory Council (a volunteer body), which must review applicants for both appointment and reappointment to the Housing Court, and monitor and render annual reports on the condition of the Court.
Criminal Penalties for Killing or Injuring a Police Animal
The Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals issued a report in support of S.518 which would increase the criminal penalties for killing or injuring a police animal. Federal law prescribes a sentence of up to ten years in prison for any person who willfully and maliciously harms any police animal, or attempts or conspires to do so. The proposed legislation would amend New York State Law so it is more in line with the federal law.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act
The Labor and Employment Law, Sex and Law and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Committees issued a joint report supporting the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2099 (ENDA), which would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Specifically, ENDA would provide that employers, employment agencies, and labor unions shall not: (1) subject an individual to different standards or treatment on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, or (2) discriminate against an individual in connection with employment or employment opportunities, including hiring, firing, promotion, or compensation, based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of persons with whom such individual is believed to associate or to have associated.
Funding of Civil Legal Services
The Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services has prepared a set of recommendations to the Chief Judge’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, on how best to craft a broad-based policy approach to the delivery of civil legal services in New York. The recommendations set forth a series of principles designed to govern the allocation and distribution of funding to civil legal services providers. An additional $12.5 million was provided in the state 2011-12 Budget to fund civil legal services.
City Bar in the News
The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2011
Chinese Rule of Law: The Rhetoric and the Reality
A dedicated Chinese democracy activist, Liu Xianbin, was sentenced on March 25th by a Beijing court to 10 years in prison for “slandering the Communist Party.”…Liu Xianbin’s conviction is not an isolated matter. Over the past several weeks, numerous advocates of political and legal reform have been arrested or disappeared, including six lawyers named in a letter from the Association of the Bar of New York City. In one extreme case, the wife of the noted activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng said in an op-ed in the New York Times neither she nor anyone in her family has heard from her husband since he disappeared almost a year ago.