Chief Judge Responds to Mandatory Vaccination Lawsuits

By Christian Nolan

Chief Judge Responds to Mandatory Vaccination Lawsuits

10.4.2021

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, during her coronavirus update today, responded to the pending lawsuits from several unions challenging the state court system’s mandatory vaccination requirement.

“…[W]e look forward to demonstrating that the vaccine requirement is fully within our legal powers as a responsible, appropriate and necessary response to the serious threat that COVID-19 poses to the health and safety of our workforce, and the public we serve,” said DiFiore. “And while we hope that the legal challenges will be resolved shortly, it is important for everyone to know and understand that the employees represented by the unions that have secured temporary relief at this point will continue to undergo COVID testing on a weekly basis, so as to ensure a safe and healthy environment to the best of our ability.”

DiFiore said she was encouraged by the fact that 97% of court staff who are not parties to the lawsuits have submitted proof of vaccination or a request for a medical or religious exemption. She said “almost all” of the state’s judges have submitted proof of vaccination or an exemption request. The court system’s vaccination mandate went into effect last Monday.

“Kudos to every single one of them for setting the example for our entire branch of government and demonstrating their commitment and leadership in doing what is right and responsible to safeguard the health and safety of the folks they work with, and the many thousands of court users and visitors who enter our buildings,” said DiFiore.

DiFiore also had a message for the “small minority” of employees who have refused the vaccination.

“[W]e understand and respect that they may have different views on this issue, but I want to make it absolutely clear that we have exhaustively studied, examined and discussed the vaccination question, and the bottom line is that all of the data and every factor we look at – whether it relates to science and public health or law and ethics – points to the same conclusion: vaccination of our judges and nonjudicial workforce is the responsible, proper and necessary course of action for our institution,” said DiFiore.

New Deputy Chief in NYC
Hon. Deborah A. Kaplan has been appointed as deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City Courts. In her new position, Kaplan will oversee the management and day-to-day operations of New York City’s trial courts, which are among the largest and busiest in the country. Kaplan succeeds Judge George J. Silver, who is retiring from the bench. Kaplan’s appointment is effective Oct. 11.

“Judge Kaplan’s distinguished career is marked by hard work, innovation and a passion for the fair administration of justice,” said Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks in a statement. “As administrative judge of the New York County Supreme Court’s Civil Term for the past three years, she successfully led the court in navigating the many difficulties arising from COVID-19, also working vigorously throughout her tenure to streamline operations and enhance access to justice, addressing inefficiencies in management and other practices and expanding ADR programs, among other efforts. I look forward to working with Judge Kaplan in her new capacity as we continue, in these most challenging of times, to take steps to advance the delivery and quality of justice in New York City’s trial courts.”

Prior to her current role as an administrative judge, she held the title of statewide coordinating judge for family violence cases, a post she assumed in 2015, and also served as interim administrative judge for civil and criminal matters in Richmond County from September 2017 to January 2018.

Kaplan’s judicial career began with her 2001 election to the New York City Civil Court; she was subsequently assigned to the New York City Criminal Court bench in Manhattan. She was designated an acting Supreme Court Justice in 2007 and elected to the state Supreme Court, New York County, in 2012. Prior to taking the bench, she held several non-judicial titles within the court system, including project counsel for treatment programs, and before that was a senior trial counsel for the Legal Aid Society where she received the Orison S. Marden Award for her outstanding work.

Implicit Bias Video for Jurors
The state court system, along with the Perception Institute, has created a new video to instruct jurors at the start of their service about implicit bias, which is unconscious and automatic. The video is titled “Jury Service and Fairness” and describes what implicit bias is, explains why the way our brains work can lead to bias, and discusses strategies that jurors can employ to help ensure they are making decisions without relying on underlying biases or stereotypes.

The video’s release is among the latest steps taken by the court system to advance its Equal Justice Initiative to address racial bias within the courts. All prospective New York jurors will be required to watch the video as part of their orientation process.

Additionally, in furthering the goals of the Equal Justice Initiative, the court system is in the process of adopting judge’s instructions to jurors that explain the concept of implicit bias and remind jurors to be aware of their own underlying biases in their decision-making.

The “Jury Service and Fairness” video and transcript are available at www.nyjuror.gov.

Upcoming CLE Webinars

Tuesday, Oct. 5 – Keeping Up With The PACE: Financing Energy Efficient Improvements.

Wednesday, Oct. 6 – Hot Topics in Sports and Olympic Arbitration.

Wednesday, Oct. 6 – Building Loan Mortgages and the New York Lien Law.

Thursday, Oct. 7 – Introduction to Distressed Company M&A in Bankruptcy – Bankruptcy Code 363 Sales.

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