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Empire Justice Press Release: Senate Can Pass S.405 Today or Tomorrow to Solve the Nuisance Ordinance Problem

For Immediate Release

June 20, 2017

Third Department Decision Strikes Down Local Laws as Unconstitutional-
Senate Can Pass S.405 Today or Tomorrow to Solve the Nuisance Ordinance Problem

For more information contact: Kristin Brown (518) 852-5766

Nuisance Ordinance Found Unconstitutional for Undermining Tenants’ Right to Call 911

In a unanimous ruling issued last week, the Appellate Division of the Third Judicial Department declared a local nuisance ordinance in Groton, NY unconstitutional and struck it down completely.  The court determined that Groton’s nuisance law was overbroad and facially invalid because it penalized tenants and residents for exercising their right to call the police for help.
This court decision makes passage of Senator Robach’s bill, S.405 before the end of the 2017 legislative session even more critical – the bill, if passed, will effectively bring all local nuisance ordinances into compliance with the Constitution. The bill has passed the Assembly unanimously 4 years in a row but has remained stalled in the Senate. If it passes this year it would be particularly timely and would solve a potentially serious problem for municipalities across the state who are exposed if they have nuisance ordinances similar to the one in Groton, where the case was focused.  Groton’s law is not unique and there are many others like it throughout New York State, including Binghamton.  Any community with a nuisance ordinance similar Groton’s should now be on notice that their local law may well share a similar fate.
In the case, the village sued a landlord under the ordinance, threatening him with closure of his properties based on police reports of criminal activities that occurred there, including incidents where his tenants were victims of crime.  An amicus brief filed by the ACLU and NYCLU, Empire Justice Center, New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and other groups highlighted how local nuisance laws harm crime victims including domestic violence survivors, undermining their rights to call police and to maintain their housing.   
Senator Robach’s bill, S.405, which has already passed the Assembly and is in the Rules Committee would fix the constitutional problem, by creating a statewide exemption in these laws for crime victims, including domestic violence victims, so that it is clear that they will not be penalized if they call 911 for help.
To address this exposure for taxpayers and municipalities, Empire Justice Center is urging immediate passage of S.405 in the New York State Senate.
Link to decision: