The New York Daily News reports that Justice Jenny Rivera of the state’s Court of Appeals is among four judges who are still refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine. Ms Rivera was appointed to the state’s highest court by former Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013.
The state’s Office of Court Administration can’t fire the judges, but they can be referred to the Commission on Judicial Conduct for their refusal to comply with the state’s vaccine mandate.
“They too are being held to account, as actions have consequences,” OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said. “We had made it clear from the outset that any Judge not in compliance subjects themselves to a referral to the Commission on Judicial Conduct for their determination.”
Unions that represent court employees plan to appear before the Public Employment Relations Board on 5 April to protest the potential firings, arguing that the state’s vaccine mandate violates labour laws.
“We’ve got 22 people who’ve been served with this notice, and I believe that they’re going to stand by their convictions and that they are willing to lose their job over this,” Pat Cullen, president of the Supreme Court Officers union, said.
According to the Daily News, the fight over the vaccine mandate within the court system escalated to the point of alleged harassment. In August, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and the head of the court officer’s union, Dennis Quirk, feuded over the mandate. Mr Quirk eventually posted Ms DiFiore’s home address on his Facebook page.
Mr Quirk was later suspended, prompting him to resign as a court officer. He remains the president of the New York State Court Officers’ Association.
According to court administrators, the individuals who have not taken the vaccine are currently barred from entering any court facilities.
New York required all state employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly Covid-19 tests in July after a directive issued by Mr Cuomo.
“It’s smart, it’s fair and it’s in everyone’s interest,” he said at the time.
The mandate took effect in November, but affected only a small amount of the city’s workers. According to then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, 91 per cent of the city’s civilian employees, and around 80 per cent of its firefighters were vaccinated at the time the mandate went into effect.