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New York State Court Officers File Suit Against Court System Over Lack of PPE

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On July 1, 2020, the New York State Court Officers Association filed claims against Chief Judge of the State of New York, the Honorable Janet DiFiore, and the New York State Office of Court Administration, alleging that the New York State courthouses failed to provide a safe working location by properly cleaning and sterilizing the court officers’ work environment.

In the complaint, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, named plaintiff Dennis W. Quirk, President of the New York State Court Officers Association (“COA”), argues that it is his responsibility as union president to support safety in the workplace for court officers. Quirk alleges that he has vigorously objected to the lack of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and properly sterilized work areas for COA members in order to combat the very clear and present danger that COVID-19 represents to court officers, as courts across the New York court system reopen.

Additionally, the complaint details how the plaintiff attempted to utilize the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") in order to obtain documents regarding outlining the budget and expenditures of the New York Court of Appeals, citing concerns that the defendant court system was engaging in improper spending, thereby diverting funding away from implementing proper safety measures with in the Court System. The plaintiff states the aforementioned attempt to gain information was not responded to.

As a result of this unanswered FOIA request, Quirk alleges that the defendants attempted to silence him by threatening disciplinary action and seeking to infringe upon his advocacy for his members. The plaintiff argues that the defendants further tried to infringe on his right to free speech and attempt to limit his rightful association with COA members with a bid to remove him from office.

Plaintiff seeks to represent around 1,500 New York State Court Officers. The suit brings causes of action for conspiracy, imminent and substantial endangerment, violation of New York State Labor Law Section 740 and public nuisance.

The case is: Quirk et al. v. DiFiore et al., Case No.: 7:20-cv-05027, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

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