Monday, May 20, 2019

Schuyler County gives tax-foreclosed property owners another chance

Schuyler County’s annual property tax auction is scheduled for Friday, June 28.   However, county officials are giving foreclosed property owners one last chance to avoid the loss of their land.

On Monday (May 13), the Schuyler County Legislature voted to allow former owners who lost their properties in this year’s foreclosure to submit offers to County Treasurer Holley Sokolowski to buy back the land.  If accepted, County Attorney Steven Getman is authorized to prepare a deed to the former owner, returning the property.

The offer must be accompanied by payment of “the full amount of taxes, penalties, interest and other county expenses involved with the property,” the legislature held. 
County Treasurer Holley Sokolowski and County Attorney Steven Getman
Offers can be accepted up to two weeks prior to the auction, or June 14, Sokolowski said.

“After the deadline, any remaining properties will be sold to the highest bidder at the county’s tax auction,” she explained.  

Prior to the deadline, the county provides written notice of the opportunity to the former owners, Getman noted.  

“The notice reminds them of the foreclosure and provides options to avoid the sale,” Getman said. “Notices are sent by mail and, in addition, copies of the court’s foreclosure judgment are served on the properties by the sheriff’s department.”

The foreclosure order transferring ownership of each property to Schuyler County was entered by County Court Judge Dennis Morris on March 29, Getman said.

The May 13 resolution is the latest step in the county’s efforts to collect overdue taxes while keeping people in their homes, Sokolowski said.

According to Sokolowski, each November, the county mails out Foreclosure Notices and Petitions to properties with back tax liens from the prior year.  Those notices go out by both regular and certified mail to property owners, mortgage holders and others with identified interests in the delinquent properties.  The notice warns that failure to pay the back taxes can result in a court order foreclosing on the property.

The county also publishes a list of the delinquent taxes in two local newspapers and, in certain cases, posts warnings on the properties that they could be sold for back taxes, she noted.

In addition, though not required by law, in February, Sokolowski and Getman sent letters, with handwritten notes on the envelopes, to property owners who still had not paid their back taxes, in an effort to prevent foreclosure.

“That cut the delinquent list by more than half,” Sokolowski said. “A lot of people came in and paid when they got the letters.”

Only after each of those steps occurs, Getman explained, does the court enter a judgment foreclosing on the property.  

“Under the law, after the foreclosure order, the county conducts a tax auction in order to satisfy delinquent property taxes,” Getman said.  “At the auction, the successful bidder must pay the taxes due together with any other lawful charges and fees and is given a quitclaim deed to the property.”

The properties to be auctioned will be posted on the county's website as well as in a binder in the treasurer's office, Sokolowski said.

As County Treasurer, Sokolowski is the chief fiscal officer of county government and enforcement officer for unpaid property tax liens. 

As County Attorney, Getman is the chief legal advisor for county government and responsible for the prosecution and defense of civil actions brought by and against the county, including tax matters.

The current chair of the Schuyler County Legislature is Dennis Fagan.   The resolution to allow the buy-back was introduced by the county’s “Management and Finance” committee, chaired by legislator Phil Barnes. The resolution passed unanimously among the members present.

For more details on the buyback program, the tax auction and other aspects of the foreclosure process, interested persons can contact the county treasurer (607-535-8181) or visit the county’s website (

Monday, May 13, 2019

New York Court of Appeals rules Ohio gun seller not subject to injury lawsuit in New York

A gun dealer from Ohio who sold a firearm that was later trafficked into New York and used illegally in a shooting cannot be sued in state court by the victim of that crime, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled May 9.

The court held that Charles Brown, an Ohio gun dealer, couldn’t face the litigation in New York court because he sold the gun in Ohio and had no control over where it would end up after the sale, even if the buyer alluded that he may bring it to New York.

“Despite (the buyer’s) stated aspiration to open a gun shop in Buffalo, the record is devoid of evidence supporting plaintiffs’ theory that, merely by selling handguns to (the buyer) Brown intended to serve the New York market,” the court ruled.

Brown, in this case, was not part of a scheme to traffic guns into New York, the court held. The judges said there was no way for him to know what would happen to the firearms after they were sold so he did not purposefully enter into the New York market at the time.

The buyer later pleaded guilty to federal gun trafficking charges.

Brown's attorney said that "the case's main significance was that this was the lawful sale of a lawful product."

The complete decision can be found here.

Monday, May 6, 2019

New York expands Shock incarceration eligibility, effective May 12.

New York State lawmakers have expanded eligibility for the Shock incarceration program to include persons convicted of certain forms of second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery.

The Shock program provides selected inmates a special six-month program of shock incarceration, that stresses a highly structured routine of discipline, intensive regimentation, exercise and work therapy, combined with substance abuse treatment, education, pre-release counseling and life skills counseling.

A person becomes eligible for Shock when he or she is within 3 years of parole or conditional release, and eligibility is determined on a rolling basis (i.e., the initial sentence can be longer than 3 years).

The changes apply to judicial Shock orders (where the sentencing judge expressly directs that the defendant be enrolled in Shock) and discretionary Shock placement (where the Department of Corrections selects for participation). Judicial Shock orders are otherwise available only for drug and marijuana offenses.

These changes go into effect on May 12, 2019 and do not depend on the date of the offense.

For more information on New York State's shock incarceration program, click here.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Schuyler County Commemorates May 1 as “Law Day”: Law Day 2019 Will Focus on Free Speech, Free Press.

Watkins Glen, New York—The Schuyler County Legislature has recognized as the Law Day 2019 theme “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.”

The legislature passed a resolution at its April 8, 2019 meeting, recognizing “Law Day” as an occasion of public acknowledgement of our Nation’s heritage of justice, liberty, and equality under the law. The resolution was submitted to the legislature by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.

“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right to free speech and a free press, along with other rights that recognize the ability of persons to think and communicate how they wish without fear of punishment or oppression,” Getman wrote.

In passing the resolution, the legislature found that “promoting public understanding of the roots of our freedom are an important component in the civic education of the citizens of the United States, the State of New York and the County of Schuyler.”

The American Bar Association selects an annual theme for each Law Day. Law Day is an annual commemoration first held in 1957 when the American Bar Association envisioned a special national day to mark our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. The following year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Law Day Proclamation. Law Day was made official in 1961 when Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.

A copy of Schuyler County’s resolution “Recognizing and Commemorating May 1, 2019 as ‘Law Day’ in Schuyler County is available here.

Schuyler County Legislature: RECOGNIZING AND COMMEMORATING MAY 1, 2019 AS “LAW DAY” IN SCHUYLER COUNTY by Steven Getman on Scribd

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

$20 million federal fine against Rochester-area opioid distributor announced

One of the “big pharma” distributors of prescription opiates being sued by Schuyler County for fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates will pay a $20 million fine under an settlement unveiled in federal court on Tuesday (April 23).

Rochester Drug Cooperative, Inc. (RDC), one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical distributors, was charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy to distribute controlled narcotics — oxycodone and fentanyl — for non-medical reasons and conspiracy to defraud. Prosecutors allege that, from 2012 through March 2017, RDC knowingly and intentionally violated federal narcotics laws by distributing opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly.

According to court documents, the company has agreed to enter into a “consent decree,” under which it accepts responsibility for its conduct by making admissions and stipulating to an extensive "Statement of Facts," paying a $20 million penalty, reforming its controlled substances compliance program, and submitting to supervision by an independent monitor.

RDC is one of the big pharmaceutical companies being sued in state court by various New York municipalities, including Schuyler County. In May of last year, Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint in New York State Supreme Court for damages to the county arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the county.

Getman said his office would be carefully reviewing the statement of facts for evidence that could be used to support the county’s lawsuit.

“Schuyler County’s complaint alleges increased opioid use has fueled an illegal secondary market for opioids and the criminals who support it,” Getman said. “It also alleges that the defendants flooded the county with suspiciously large amounts of opioids.”

“To date, county officials have expended significant resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths,” Getman said. “Schuyler County’s lawsuit is moving forward to seek reimbursement for expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as to provide the county with financial aid to fight addiction, overdoses, drug-related crimes and drug deaths.”

In 2017, the County Legislature voted to retain the firm of Napoli Shkolnik to work with Getman, as special counsel, to bring an action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the county.

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, the lawsuit was filed at no risk to the County, as Napoli Shkolnik will work on contingency basis that will cover all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and hold manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” O’Hearn said.

Schuyler County is one of several New York municipalities filing lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York are suing pharmaceutical companies for what they are claiming are deceptive marketing practices.

The consent decree is subject to final approval by the court. Any charges contained in complaints, indictments and other court documents are merely accusations, and any defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Odessa Mayor endorses Getman for Judge

Schuyler County Court Judge candidate Steven Getman has picked up another endorsement, this time from Odessa Village Mayor Gerry Messmer.

Messmer, who was returned by the voters as Mayor just last month, said "I've known Steve my whole life. I'm proud to call him my friend, and I hope to call him Judge Getman if he is elected as our new County Judge.”

“As our Schuyler County Attorney, Steve has shown a masterful knowledge of the law. I urge all residents of Odessa and throughout Schuyler County to join me in proudly supporting Steve in this year's election for Schuyler County Judge.”

Getman thanked Messmer for his endorsement, stating “Support from someone like Gerry, a public servant and honored veteran, is especially humbling. Prior to taking office, Gerry retired from the Army after 31 years of service so he knows how important it is to have effective and honest leadership from the top. I am extremely proud that a friend with his knowledge and abilities of organization and management, has endorsed my candidacy for Schuyler County Judge.”

Getman, a resident of Watkins Glen, has been the Schuyler County Attorney since 2015. Prior to that, he served as the assistant county attorney. He has practiced law since 1992, in areas including criminal law, family law, and municipal government. He is a graduate of Hofstra University, Ithaca College and Cornell University.

Beyond his service as an accomplished attorney, Getman has helped teach our next generation as an Adjunct Instructor at Keuka College for the past seven years. His courses have focused on criminal justice and constitutional law.

This year’s election is expected to feature this seat for County Court Judge based on the expected retirement of current Judge Dennis Morris. The General Election is slated for Tuesday, November 5.

Schuyler County joins fight against New York gun law

Elmira Star-Gazette:
Schuyler County has joined several other upstate New York counties, including Chemung and Steuben, in supporting a Supreme Court challenge to a New York City law that officials say could have statewide implications.

The county legislature unanimously authorized county attorney Steven Getman to assist in an upcoming case filed by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association against the city and state of New York.

At issue is a New York City law that prohibits licensed handgun owners from carrying their weapons outside the city, even if they are locked and unloaded....

Getman and the other litigants argue the law is unconstitutional in that it violates the right to travel, interstate commerce, and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.