Monday, November 29, 2021

More new laws in New York: Governor signs bills affecting prisons, youthful offender designation after sentencing

Governor Kathy Hochul has signed bills into law related to criminal justice:
L 2021, ch 570: Amends the Correction Law to prohibit “double-bunked housing,” “the practice of inmate housing where bunk beds are used in a dormitory setting, with inmates residing in an open space and sleeping on bunk beds.” (Effective Feb. 1, 2022).
L 2021, ch 557: Establishes a nine-member Commission on Prison Education “to study and develop a plan for improving education in state prisons.” (Effective Nov. 3, 2021).
L 2021, ch 552: Provides eligible youth with an added opportunity to be designated youthful offenders, by allowing a defendant to seek review five years after sentence was imposed or the individual’s release from incarceration, whichever is later. (Effective Nov. 2, 2021).

The intent of L 2021, ch 570, seems somewhat undercut by the Governor's recent decision to close six prisons.

For more on these new laws, click the links above.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Schuyler County Officials Warn: Be aware of unsolicited property offers. “Know your rights before you sign.”

Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning property owners to be aware of unsolicited offers to buy land in Schuyler County, often at a deep discount from the actual value.

“Reports have surfaced this month of a company soliciting property owners in the area offering to buy vacant land for cash,” Philbin said. “The offers include a Purchase and Sale Agreement, asking the owner to sign and send back within a short period of time. The quick cash offer they make is always below the assessed value, and sometimes by as much as 15 to 25 percent. That could cost you thousands of dollars, depending the price and your property’s actual value.”

“Many of these buyers are, basically, throwing out nets to see if they can find an owner who doesn't understand the real value of their property or an owner that wants to sell quickly at (almost) any cost. They may be senior citizens, facing a personal situation that is forcing them to consider selling their real estate. These buyers are often hoping to find sellers willing to sell at 85% or less of the true market value.”

While the offer may be perfectly legal, signing and sending back the agreement, Getman pointed out, would create a binding contract. That contract, Getman said, may obligate the owners to conditions or expenses they did not understand before signing.

“For example, the offer may state the buyer will pay all closing costs, but also require the seller to clear up any liens or encumbrances on the property at the seller’s own expense before the sale,” Getman explained. “That could include mortgages, property taxes or even electric, water and sewer bills. If the sale price does not cover those expenses, the sellers could be left paying out more than they are getting for the property.”

Therefore, property owners should review any documents very carefully and consult an experienced attorney before signing any type of agreement, Getman said.

Philbin and Getman offered several tips to property owners who receive unsolicited offers to buy their land:

• Never sign anything until you are sure you want to move forward.
• Have your own attorney review the document before your sign them. If you do not have an attorney, the New York State Bar Association may be able to refer you to an appropriate attorney via the NYSBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service:
• Check out the would-be buyer online. If someone is legitimately interested in buying your home, you should be able to retrieve information about them. Look for any red flags such as bad reviews or lawsuits.
• Ask for references. If the buyer will not offer any, something is wrong. If their references are sketchy and cannot be verified, you need to rethink doing business with that person.
• Find out the fair market value of your home before you agree to a price.
• Consider bringing in a real estate professional to represent you and give you a fair opinion of your land’s value. If the buyer is legitimate they should be willing to discuss terms with your agent.
• If selling your property seems like a good idea, do not jump at the first offer made (especially if it represents just a small fraction of the land’s worth).

Finally, if you receive anything in the mail about your property that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the County Clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.

“Keep in mind that this is often totally legitimate,” Getman said. “The goal here is to understand what you may sacrifice for convenience.”

“Know your rights before you sign,” Philbin said.

The Schuyler County Clerk is responsible for all books, files and other necessary equipment for the filing, recording and depositing of deeds, maps, papers in actions and special proceedings of both civil and criminal nature, judgment and lien dockets and books for the indexing of the same as directed or authorized by law.

The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government and its various officials. The County Attorney prosecutes and defends civil actions on behalf of the county and county employees acting pursuant to their official duties.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Governor Hochul signs new criminal legal system laws

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed several bills relevant to the New York State criminal justice system. The new laws include:
• L. 2021, ch 501: Amends CPL 440.10 to “[p]ermit[] the court to grant post-conviction motions to vacate a judgment when the issue raised upon such motion is ineffective assistance of counsel in certain cases in which the court would otherwise be required to deny the motion.” [Effective 10/25/2021.]
• L 2021, ch 474: Adds Family Court Act 162-a to prohibit the use of restraints on children under 21 in family courts except in limited circumstances. [Effective 10/8/2021.]
• L 2021, ch 486: “Removes the prohibition on individuals convicted of a felony that prevents them from being appointed fiduciary of an estate ….” Previously anyone with a felony conviction was barred from serving as an executor/executrix of an estate; under the new law, a court will still have discretion to declare someone ineligible if the prior felony conviction relates to fraud or embezzlement. [Effective 10/22/2021.]
• L 2021, ch 487: The bill allows individuals under supervision to work night and overtime shifts without being violated for breaking curfew. [Effective 10/22/2021.]
• L 2021, ch 491: “Relates to certificates of relief from disabilities and certificates of good conduct upon discharge.” Individuals can now apply for a certificate at the time of supervisory discharge, instead of having to wait for three years. [Effective 1/20/2022.]
• L 2021, ch 492: “Relates to work related labor protests not being considered a parole violation.” Previously there were no protections for people on supervision to participate in work-related labor protests or lawful labor disputes, strikes, or work stoppages or slowdowns; this bill specifically allows them to do so without being violated. [Effective 10/25/2021.]
• L 2021, ch 494: “Relates to annual reporting on substance use disorder in incarcerated individuals; requires the office of addiction services and supports to monitor programs providing treatment to incarcerated individuals in correctional facilities and provide an annual report.” [Effective 10/23/2021.]

Monday, November 15, 2021

Schuyler County Opposes Hochul Prison Closures

The Schuyler County Legislature has come out against what it called Gov. Kathy Hochul’s “abrupt, secretive and unsafe” prison closures on public safety, economic and environmental grounds.

Meeting in special session on Monday (November 15, 2021), the legislature voted unanimously to enact a resolution opposing the planned closure of six prisons across the state by March of next year: Ogdensburg Correctional Facility; Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility; Willard Drug Treatment Campus; Southport Correctional Facility; Downstate Correctional Facility and Rochester Correctional Facility.

The resolution, drafted for the legislature by County Attorney Steven Getman at the request of Legislator Phil Barnes (R-Watkins Glen) and Chairman Carl Blowers (R-Montour Falls), noted that two of prisons, Southport and Willard, were located in adjoining Chemung and Seneca counties and provided jobs to Schuyler County residents.

“Governor Hochul’s decision impacts hundreds of area correctional officers and prison staff, and means uprooting hundreds of area families and a devastating toll on already hard-hit local economies,” the legislature noted.

Further, the resolution stated, the closure of Willard threatened to “prevent or delay necessary upgrades to the wastewater treatment facilities for Seneca County Sewer District No. 1, which serves (the) Campus as well as Sampson State Park, commercial and residential properties in the hamlet of Willard, the villages of Ovid and Lodi, and users along the east shore of Seneca Lake… potentially endangering the Seneca Lake watershed.”

Finally, the document noted that the state “has recently invested $20 million into operations at Southport, implementing a step-down program to work with the most violent inmates in the state’s prison system to get them ready for reintegration into the general prison population.”

Based on the above, the legislature said it “stands with our brave New York State Corrections Officers, as well as with corrections support staff and their families, whose lives will be devastated by this decision, and other area residents along Seneca Lake and otherwise, and calls for this decision to be reconsidered and reversed immediately.”

At the legislature’s direction, copies of the resolution will be sent by Legislative Clerk Stacy Husted to the Governor, the Acting Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, various other state officials and the legislatures of the adjoining counties, among others.

A complete copy of the draft resolution is available here.

New York’s New Policing Reforms Go into Effect

The “New York State Professional Policing Act (PPA) of 2021” went into effect on October 16.

Among the changes are minimum hiring standards for all new law enforcement officers, including:
New Medical and Physical Fitness Standards and Procedures for Police; and
A New Central State Registry of Police Officers and Peace Officers.
New procedures related to background checks and a psychological assessment are also included in the new law.

For more information, click here.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Second Amendment Legal Update: November, 2021

A monthly update, prepared for the Schuyler County Chapter of S.C.O.P.E. NY, a statewide 501(c)4 organization dedicated to preserving the 2nd Amendment rights for the residents of New York State. For a complete PDF copy of this month's update, click here.

Friday, November 5, 2021


Please take notice that on the 2d day of November, 2021, the Treasurer, County of Schuyler (the “Enforcing Officer”) of the County of Schuyler (the “Tax District”), pursuant to law filed with the Clerk of Schuyler County a petition of foreclosure against various parcels of real property for unpaid taxes. Such petition pertains to the following parcels: [see exhibits A, B and C, annexed hereto and made a part hereof]

1. Effect of Filing: All persons having or claiming to have an interest in the real property described in such petition are hereby notified that the filing of such petition constitutes the commencement by the Tax District of a proceeding in the court specified in the caption above to foreclose each of the tax liens therein described by a foreclosure proceeding in rem.

2. Nature of Proceeding: Such proceeding is brought against the real property only and is to foreclose the tax liens described in such petition. No personal judgment will be entered herein for such taxes or other legal charges or any part thereof.

3. Persons Affected: This notice is directed to all persons owning or having or claiming to have an interest in the real property described in such petition. Such persons are hereby notified further that a duplicate of such petition has been filed in the office of the Enforcing Officer of the Tax District and will remain open for public inspection up to and including the date specified below as the last day for redemption.

4. Right of Redemption: Any person having or claiming to have an interest in any such real property and the legal right thereto may on or before said date redeem the same by paying the amount of all such unpaid tax liens thereon, including all interest and penalties and other legal charges which are included in the lien against such real property, computed to and including the date of redemption. Such payments shall be made to: Holley Sokolowski, Treasurer, County of Schuyler, 105 Ninth St, Unit 17, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. In the event that such taxes are paid by a person other than the record owner of such real property, the person so paying shall be entitled to have the tax liens affected thereby satisfied of record.

5. Last Day for Redemption: The last day for redemption is hereby fixed as February 28, 2022.

6. Service of Answer: Every person having any right, title or interest in or lien upon any parcel of real property described in such petition may serve a duly verified answer upon the attorney for the Tax District setting forth in detail the nature and amount of his or her interest and any defense or objection to the foreclosure. Such answer must be filed in the office of the County Clerk and served upon the attorney for the Tax District on or before the date above mentioned as the last day for redemption.

7. Failure to Redeem or Answer: In the event of failure to redeem or answer by any person having the right to redeem or answer, such person shall be forever barred and foreclosed of all his or her right, title and interest and equity of redemption in and to the parcel described in such petition and a judgment in foreclosure may be taken by default.

Notice and Petition: Schuyl... by Steven Getman

Monday, November 1, 2021

New law gives courts guidance on pet custody in divorce cases

Rather than treating pets the same as a dining table, the law requires judges in divorce proceedings to consider the animals’ best interests when deciding which spouse gets custody...

For example, judges could consider which spouse most often fed the animal, took the pet for veterinary care or spent the most time with it.

Lawmakers who supported the bill argued custody battles involving pets are not uncommon... The new law will help determine a clear path to resolving those disagreements.

New York’s new law takes effect immediately.