2023 New York State Legislative Session Wrap Up

The State legislative session has concluded, at least for the moment. With some reporting that the Assembly may return to debate more bills later in the month, we take this opportunity to provide a recap of where the City Bar’s advocacy work stands as of today, June 12. A list of bills supported by our committees that passed the Legislature can be found below; please click on the links for a full summary and the report. The Policy Department will be working with committees to further advocate for the measures in the coming months to ensure they are signed into law by the Governor.

Bill Passed Both Houses, Pending Action by the Governor 

  • 2218 (AM Weprin) / S.3261 (Sen. Hoylman-Sigal) – Repeals Judiciary Law § 470 to permit nonresident attorneys licensed to practice in New York to practice in the state without maintaining New York office space.  Under Judiciary Law § 470, an attorney licensed in New York who maintains an office in state may practice in New York even if they are out-of-state residents.  The New York Court of Appeals has interpreted this rule to mean that a nonresident attorney who wishes to practice in New York must be both licensed to practice in New York and have a physical office in New York. There are three main reasons we supported repeal: (1) it is largely agreed that the original purpose of the law was to ensure personal service on nonresident attorneys, but various methods now exist for proper service of nonresident attorneys; (2) the law fosters procedural difficulties and delays in situations where a non-compliant attorney may be prevented from filing a case or is removed from a pending matter; and (3) maintaining a physical office in New York entails inconvenience and expense, and invariably passed on to clients. If enacted, New Yorkers will have greater access to affordable lawyers, as repeal will help lawyers to keep their costs down. This bill is supported by the Legal Referral Service Committee (Joseph Tremiti, Chair) and Small Law Firm Committee (Anne Wolfson, Chair), who worked closely with the New York State Bar Association to see the bill introduced and passed.  This bill is a 2023 New York State Legislative Agenda item.
  • 1029-C (AM Cruz) / S.7551-A (Sen. Myrie) – the “Clean Slate Act” will automatically seal criminal conviction records for civil purposes after reasonable waiting periods. Sealing would not take effect until community supervision is complete, and records would be sealed only for civil purposes, remaining available for criminal justice purposes and for gun licensing. Imprisonment cuts a person’s future earnings in half, results in economic losses and can mean a lifetime of perpetual punishment that continues long after any criminal systems involvement has ended. Existing avenues to sealing relief are cumbersome and inefficient; we believe that enacting broad-based, automatic records sealing is necessary for real change.  While the bill is not as expansive as we originally supported, we join the diverse coalition of groups and businesses – including 49 law firms – in supporting the amended Act. It will allow millions of New Yorkers with criminal conviction histories the opportunity to move forward, achieve financial and housing security, and become vital participants in New York’s economy. As City Bar President Susan J. Kohlmann wrote in the New York Law Journal in March, “The City Bar supports innovative legislative solutions to ameliorate those consequences that result in essentially a civil life sentence experienced by individuals with conviction histories. The Clean Slate Act is one such solution.” This bill was supported by the Mass Incarceration Task Force (Sarah J. Berger, Chair), Civil Rights Committee (Kevin Jason and Kathleen Rubenstein, Co-Chairs), Corrections and Community Reentry Committee (Alexis Flyer and Stephanie A. Holmes, Co-Chairs), and the Criminal Justice Operations Committee (Ben Wiener, Chair). This bill is a 2023 New York State Legislative Agenda item.
  • 152 (Cruz) / S.939 (Bailey) – Ensures that appellate courts are able to meaningfully review and address allegations of police misconduct arising in criminal cases. Criminal Procedure Law section 710.70(2) currently states that an appellate court “may” review a suppression decision “notwithstanding the fact that such a judgment is entered upon a plea of guilty.” This bill would amend the statute to state that appellate courts “shall” review suppression claims “notwithstanding the fact that such a judgment is entered upon a plea of guilty and notwithstanding an otherwise enforceable waiver of the right to appeal.” It would thus unambiguously remove suppression issues from the ambit of appeal waivers.  This bill is supported by the Criminal Justice Operations Committee (Ben Wiener, Chair) and the Mass Incarceration Task Force (Sarah J. Berger, Chair).
  • A.5772 (Lavine) / S.5162 (Hoylman-Sigal) - Will permit all persons to use unsworn declarations, whether made within or outside the United States, in place of notarized affidavits or affirmations in New York state court litigation. Presently only members of a few professions may do so. The limitations of the current law create significant difficulties for litigants and non-party witnesses, particularly the unrepresented and those residing outside cities in addition to imposing undue burdens on the offices of the county clerks and courts. We believe that the elimination of notarization will not reduce the truthfulness of witness statements filed in court, and that ample need for notaries in New York State would remain.  The bill is also consistent with Federal practice. This bill is supported Commercial Law and Uniform State Laws Committee (Curtis C. Mechling, Chair), Council on Judicial Administration (Fran R. Hoffinger, Chair), Litigation Committee (Seth D. Allen, Chair) and State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee (Amy D. Carlin, Chair).

In addition to these bills, the City Bar saw notable progress on a number of priority bills that are worth mentioning:

  • 5649-A (AM Reyes) / S.4561-A (Sen. Gonzalez) – Would provide internet access to individuals residing in temporary housing throughout New York State. This bill is the center of the City Bar’s #Wifi4Homeless campaign, which seeks to raise awareness about the lack of internet access and essential technology resources in New York homeless shelters. Since May 2020, with the release of the City Bar Justice Center’s report, “Homeless Need Internet Access To Find a Home: How Access to Internet and Technology Resources can Support Homeless Families Transition out of Homeless Shelters,” the City Bar and the Justice Center have issued multiple reports and advocated for reliable internet access to be available to shelter residents. New York’s shelters are overwhelmingly lacking internet access, an essential service which could reduce the length of residents’ stays and facilitate their exit into permanent housing. This digital divide is not a new problem, but only grew more severe with the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill would represent a significant step forward by ensuring that all shelter residents across New York State are guaranteed reliable internet access. Initially supported by the Social Welfare Law and Education and the Law Committees, the legislation is now also endorsed by the following committees: Children and the Law; Task Force on Digital Technologies; Domestic Violence; Immigration and Nationality Law; Legal Problems of the Aging; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Rights; New York City Affairs; Pro Bono and Legal Services; Sex and Law; and Technology, Cyber and Privacy Law. The bill passed the Senate for the first time, a significant step forward for the issue.  This bill is a 2023 New York State Legislative Agenda item.
  • The State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee, Council on Judicial Administration and Litigation Committeeproposed amendments to Article 9 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules to reform and modernize the administration of class actions in New York’s courts. In 1975, New York enacted its current Article 9 for class actions, but the statute has not been materially changed since. In 2003, significant changes were made to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Committees recommend that some of the changes to federal law be considered for Article 9 and states that amendments are “appropriate to improve the administration of class actions and to continue to restore New York to a leadership role in commercial litigation.” The bill has been reintroduced in the current session as 7113 (Sen. Hoylman-Sigal). This bill is a 2023 New York State Legislative Agenda item.
  • The Task Force on Digital Technologies proposed amendments to the Official Text of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), called the New Emerging Technologies Amendments.  The Amendments would modernize, rationalize and clarify the UCC so that it effectively governs important transactions in digital assets, while applying to certain digital assets the unique characteristics of New York law that facilitate the negotiability of written instruments and, thereby, enhance transactional certainty.  Enactment of the Amendments is necessary to preserve New York’s preeminence as a leading commercial jurisdiction by adapting New York’s UCC to recent and potential future developments in technology and related new methods of doing business.  The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Hoylman-Sigal as S.7244.

We will continue to provide updates on the status of these bills in the coming months, so please make sure to follow us on social media and read the 44th Street eNews and other City Bar publications for updates.

This list does not include budget-related advocacy work and successes; information on the City Bar’s work related to the 2023-24 budget is here.

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