US

New York’s top judge fails to comply with vaccination mandate

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge in New York’s highest court has been referred to a disciplinary committee and could be thrown off the bench for failing to comply with a rule requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Judge Jenny Rivera, one of seven attorneys on the state Court of Appeals, has been barred from court facilities and has been working remotely since October, court officials said. She is one of four judges statewide who have been referred to the state Commission on Judicial Ethics for failing to follow the mandate that applies to all court personnel.

The Court of Appeals is the New York equivalent of the United States Supreme Court.

“We made it clear from the outset that any non-compliant judge submits to a referral to the Commission on Judicial Ethics for their determination,” said courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

Asked about Rivera’s status, Chalfen said, “She does not comply with the court’s vaccination policy.”

Responding to a message left at Rivera’s Chambers, Court of Appeals spokesman Gary Spencer said: “If this is true, any referral would be confidential under court law.”

Rivera, who was appointed to the Court of Appeals by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, participated in hearings by video, questioning attorneys via a large television screen placed next to her colleagues on the court bench. Albany courtroom.

She was absent from Tuesday’s ceremony, which was attended by Governor Kathy Hochul, celebrating the new appeals court judges.

The New York state justice system requires all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy it implemented last year. On March 21, the state court system informed 156 court employees that they did not meet the job requirements and would be fired if they did not show proof of vaccinations by April 4. .

Chalfen said of those employees, 103 received termination letters, one resigned, 11 said they were retiring and 41 chose to comply with the mandate and will return to their jobs.

This deadline did not apply to judges, who can only be removed by the Commission on Judicial Ethics. The commission has never sanctioned or removed an appeals court judge, according to a database of its rulings.

Rivera can continue to work as a judge while the commission process unfolds. The timeline for this process has not been released.

On its website, the Commission on Judicial Ethics states that all complaints remain confidential until it issues a public decision that a judge should be reprimanded, censured, removed from office or retired, or whether the judge complained against has waived confidentiality.

A commission spokeswoman, Marisa Harrison, declined to comment.

Since its inception in 1978, the commission has issued decisions in 912 cases, about two-thirds of which involved lower-level city or village court judges. The commission dismissed 176 judges and publicly censured 342 judges. Another 114 judges retired or resigned as a result of the commission’s work.

Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak

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