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Empire Justice Urges Governor Cuomo to Sign Critical Domestic Violence Legislation

April 5, 2011

Mylan Denerstein
Counsel to the Governor
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224

Via Electronic Mail

re: S.4222/A.627 

Dear Ms. Denerstein,

I am writing to urge the Governor to sign S.4222/A.627, which was transmitted to your office for consideration on April 1, 2011. 

Following 2008’s historic expansion of the domestic violence victim-related definition of “family or household member” in Ch. 326 of 2008, no similar change to the Social Service Law §459-a’s definition has since occurred.  The Social Services Law definition determines intimate partner violence victim access to the panoply of residential and non-residential domestic violence services, as well as access to the public assistance waivers and protections available under this state’s version of the Family Violence Option.  By reference, this legal definition also provides abuse victims with access to address confidentiality protections in civil proceedings under CPLR §2103, as well as access to anti-discrimination and confidentiality protections contained under Insurance Law §2612.

It is vital that the Social Services Law is updated to include protection for victims in “intimate relationships” as is similarly provided under Article 8 of the Family Court Act, as well as Criminal Procedure Law §530.11.  Improved consistency between these state laws defining who is a “victim of domestic violence” is critical.  First, in their present form, the legal definitions are distinct and provide protection to different classes of victims.  As a result of these differences, otherwise deserving victims may be precluded from certain key rights and services based only on dated inconsistencies in the legal definitions and not on legitimate need.  Second, having largely different legal definitions of who qualifies as a “victim” is not sound public policy.  It creates confusion amongst service providers, in the legal system, and for victims themselves.  While the definitions would still not be exact mirrors of one another pursuant to this amendment, if this bill becomes law, the language is much more significantly parallel. 
In addition, the amendment also includes the growing list of codified enumerated family offenses contained in the Family Court Act and the Criminal Procedure Law.   

Empire Justice Center urges Governor Cuomo sign S.4222/ A.627 into law.

For more information, please contact:

Amy Schwartz-Wallace

Empire Justice Center
Telesca Center for Justice
One West Main Street, Suite 200
Rochester, NY  14614 

P:(585) 454-4060
F:(585) 454-2518

April 5, 2011