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Top New York judges say it’s up to lawmakers to set eviction policy after Oct. 1

August 31, 2020 David Brand

The New York court system does not plan to extend a statewide residential eviction moratorium past Oct. 1 and will instead leave policymaking to the governor and legislature, New York City’s top Housing Court judge told attorneys Wednesday.

During a virtual meeting with attorneys from the Bronx, Judge Anthony Cannataro said the Oct. 1 expiration date established by Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks is the line in the sand for the state court system. Cannataro cited Marks’ Aug. 21 testimony before a Senate panel, in which Marks called the Oct. 1 date a “hard deadline.”

“I think anyone who saw Judge Marks testify at the Senate should have understood that Oct. 1 was not a day that Judge Marks or anyone in the court thought was appropriate for when evictions should start anywhere in New York,” Cannataro said. An audio recording from the meeting was shared with the Eagle.

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 “Rather, it was an effort to kind of put out there a date that was far enough in the future that everyone … most importantly the powers that be in Albany, that that was the date that all of us were looking at to take our hands off the issue of policy making around evictions,” Cannataro continued.

Hon. Anthony Cannataro, the administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York. Photo: Mario Belluomo/Brooklyn Eagle

Cannataro said the courts should not be the branch of government tasked with determining “whether there should be evictions or when they should start or how they should happen.”

“Which groups should be evicted, which groups shouldn’t be evicted,” he said. “Those are clearly heavy policy-laden decisions and those are matters for the other two branches of government to deal with.”

Office of Court Administration spokesperson Lucian Chalfen reiterated the statements by Marks and Cannataro.

“We have our lane and they have theirs. Policy is the realm of the executive and the legislative not the judicial branch of government,” Chalfen said.

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Marks issued the latest administrative order on residential evictions Aug. 12. That directive temporarily halts until Oct. 1 all evictions in cases filed or adjudicated before March 17, the first full day of a statewide eviction suspension. City officials have identified more than 14,000 households at risk of losing their homes when the moratorium expires.

The order also forces landlords and tenants to first conference with a judge before “any further proceedings” can continue.

“No residential eviction may take place prior to October 1, 2020 or — in the event of a future state or federal moratorium on evictions — such later date or dates set forth in law,” Marks wrote in the order.

Marks’ directive extended a suspension of eviction proceedings in cases filed on or after March 17 until further notice.

A bill before the state legislature would establish a statewide eviction moratorium that would last until one year after New York lifts its COVID-related state of emergency.

Judith Goldiner, the top attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit, called on state lawmakers to take up the proposed measure.

“Without action, thousands of families from across the state will face inevitable eviction come October, losing their homes just in time for the expected second wave of COVID-19,” Goldiner said. “Aside from the host of moral reasons demanding action, from a policy perspective, allowing evictions to proceed will undoubtedly perpetuate the spread of COVID-19, as families will flood crowded homeless shelters.”

“This will erode the sacrifices that have been made in New York to contain the virus.”

Landlord attorneys have urged the state to allow evictions to proceed or provide payments to property owners struggling to pay their mortgages and property taxes.

Earlier this month, attorney Nativ Winiarsky of the law firm Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens LLP criticized the court system for taking a “quasi-legislative” role by issuing eviction moratoriums.

“This latest order only continues to demonstrate that landlords are stymied at every turn by various directives [politically] aimed and designed to forestall a landlord’s ability to enforce his contractual rights,” Winiarsky said.


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