Monday, October 29, 2018

Halloween 2018: Be Safe, Avoid Lawsuits, Have Fun

With the growing popularity of Halloween as a holiday, both children and adults are cautioned to put safety first.

Many law enforcement and public safety agencies are issuing reminders nationwide to follow simple safety tips to ensure a safe Halloween, including:
* Warn children about the dangers of
crossing the street.
* Avoid Trick or Treating on very busy streets.
* Always have your children use a sidewalk when there is one.
* To increase visibility, have your children carry a flashlight or glow sticks.
* Apply reflect tape or stickers to costumes.
* Make sure the costume fits your child properly before they venture out, making sure they can see out of their mask.
* Always chaperone in groups.

The National Law Journal reminds us that holiday celebrations in the workplace can create legal issues for employers and that Halloween is no exception:
With Halloween just around the corner, labor and employment attorneys are warning employers that the annual holiday could get scary — in a legal way — if costumes, or a work party, get out of hand.

Specifically, costumes that carry a political or social message, or are simply too raunchy for the workplace, could lead to a liability nightmare down the road.

[A]nother potential liability with Halloween: personal injury suits.

Above all, simple common sense can do a lot to prevent tragedies--and resulting lawsuits--from happening. Halloween is an enjoyable holiday for the entire family. Stay safe, stay smart and have fun.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Help fight the opioid crisis on October 27: bring unused prescription drugs to a drop-off location on National Drug Takeback Day.

As part of Schuyler County’s multi-leveled approach to tackling the opioid epidemic, Schuyler County officials are encouraging community members to participate in National Drug Take Back Day on Saturday October 27.

According to Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, “the initiative is aimed at helping citizens take one of the simplest steps to prevent addiction: safely disposing of unused drugs at drop-off sites around the nation.”

“Statistics indicate that new heroin users start out by misusing prescription drugs,” Getman noted, “and a majority of abused prescription drugs were obtained from family and friends, often from a home medicine cabinet.”

Schuyler County residents can drop off their expired, unused, or unwanted medications between 10 AM and 2 PM at the Odessa and Tyrone Fire Stations. The Odessa Fire Station is located at 300 East Main Street in Odessa. The Tyrone Fire Station can be found at 3600 State Route 226 in Tyrone. Those drop-in stations are being sponsored by Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman and the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD).

Community members can also dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused prescription drugs year-round by using the 24/7 confidential drop boxes available at the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen or in the foyer at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

Residents of other New York counties can visit to find out where they can safely dispose of medications this Saturday, Getman said. Disposal of unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medication at these locations is "no questions asked" and free of charge.

In addition to advancing efforts for the disposal of unused opioids, Schuyler County’s strategy to attack the national opioid epidemic includes its ongoing lawsuit against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the County. In May of this year, Getman filed a nearly 250-page Summons and Complaint for damages to the County arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in the County. That case was transferred to Suffolk County Courts shortly thereafter, to join other cases brought by various New York state counties. In June, a New York State Supreme Court Judge refused to dismiss lawsuits against several large opioid manufacturers in one of the earliest decisions to come out of the cases brought by local governments over the prescription painkillers.

Recent reports indicate that opioids now kill more than 50,000 Americans a year, 10,000 more than AIDS did at the peak of that epidemic.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is organized by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications. Various national organizations have joined the DEA and local agencies in organizing the event, including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; the American Association of Poison Control Centers; the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; D.A.R.E. America; the Federation of State Medical Boards; the U. S. Health Resources and Services Administration; the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the National Association of Attorneys General; the National Family Partnership; the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy; the National District Attorneys Association; the National Sheriffs’ Association; and The Partnership at

For more information about Schuyler County’s participation in National Drug Take Back Day, click here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

New web platform helps users research meanings of words used in Constitution, Supreme Court opinions

A web platform that provides law-related historic linguistics information was announced recently:
Corpus linguistics involves the use of naturally occurring language in large collections of texts—called corpora—to help determine the meanings of words and phrases, according to a press release about the platform.

The unveiling of the Law and Corpus Linguistics Technology Platform, which is free to use, ties in with Constitution Day, the anniversary of the document’s ratification.

The Corpus of Founding Era American English, which allows users to examine how words from the Constitution were used from 1750 to 1799, is searchable on the platform; as is the Corpus of Early Modern English, which has more than 40,000 texts from 1485 to 1800; and the Corpus of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has more than 32,000 court documents. BYU Dean D. Gordon Smith said in the release that this is “the first corpora featuring all United States Supreme Court rulings (up to the most recent term).”

Georgetown University law professor Lawrence Solum said the new corpora will be helpful to those who want to research the meaning of the Constitution. “The method of corpus linguistics … provides an important tool for the recovery of the original public meaning of the constitutional text.”

The platform is available here. For more on the program, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

“Raise the Age” law takes effect: Schuyler County looks at consortium to address new state mandates for housing juvenile and adolescent criminal defendants.

In response to state mandates changing how teenagers charged with crimes can be tried and detained, the Schuyler County Legislature will consider voting Tuesday (October 9) to join a planned ten-county consortium looking at ways to comply with the new “Raise the Age” law and lessen the burden on local taxpayers.

On Wednesday (October 3) the county’s Legislative Resolution Review Committee tentatively approved authorizing Chair Dennis Fagan to sign an Intermunicipal Cooperation Agreement between the counties to create a not-for-profit local development corporation. That corporation, if formed, would develop and operate a joint detention facility pursuant to the “Raise the Age” law, eliminating the need for the county to create and operate its own facility. The full legislature will now take up the matter October 9.

Under “Raise the Age,” effective October 1, rather than be tried in criminal court, sixteen-year-olds charged with most crimes will have their cases heard in Family Court. In addition, they can no longer be held in local jails. The law will expand to seventeen-year-olds on October 1, 2019.

According to Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, who acts as the Family Court prosecutor, youth who are charged with misdemeanors (other than traffic offenses) and most felonies will have their cases heard in Family Court, except in “extraordinary circumstances.” Cases involving sex offenses, defendants who display a weapon while committing a crime or cause a significant physical injury can still be tried in criminal court, Getman said.

“The teenagers who have their cases heard in Family Court, will have their sentences capped at 18 months in a juvenile detention facility,” Getman noted. “They also will no longer be held in jails, regardless of the seriousness of the charges against them.”

According to Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, although the state certifies and regulates detention facilities, the state does not develop or administer the facilities, leaving that to the counties.

“This group of counties is working with a consultant to determine how to best meet the detention mandate by pooling our resources and needs,” O’Hearn explained. “It is our hope that this plan will allow Schuyler County to once again lessen the burden of state government through intermunicipal cooperation.”

O’Hearn added that the consortium should operate at no cost to the county because the state has promised reimbursement for all costs related to probation, youth detention and alternatives to detention, and allocated $100 million for “Raise the Age” in the 2018-19 budget.

Other counties who have joined—or are looking to join—the consortium are Allegany, Chemung, Cortland, Livingston, Cattaraugus, Wayne, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins and Yates. The counties have already contracted with John Treahy, of Treahy and Associates Consultation Services, an organization experienced in juvenile justice and child welfare issues, job coaching and staff training.

In addition to O’Hearn and Getman, Schuyler County officials working to comply with “Raise the Age” include District Attorney Joe Fazzary (whose office will continue to prosecute adult offenders), Social Services Commissioner JoAnn Fratarcangelo, Sheriff William Yessman and Probation Director Chris Rosno.

The “Raise the Age” law is intended as a shift from punishing to rehabilitating teens charged with crimes. While in custody, the suspects will be eligible for a variety of case services and programs to divert them from offending again and give them access to treatment for addiction or other problems.

The “Raise the Age NY Campaign” believes the law will be more effective in preventing re-offenses. They cite a U.S. Center for Disease Control study that found youth who are tried in the adult criminal justice system are 34 percent more likely to commit future crimes than those who remain in the youth justice system.

The legislature’s October 9 meeting will be held at the Schuyler County Courthouse, 105 Ninth Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891, beginning at 6:30 pm.