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  • Rich Klein


In a bench ruling on Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Stephan Schick dismissed a New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) habeas corpus petition in a class action lawsuit on behalf of some 42 Sullivan County Jail inmates deemed most vulnerable to coronavirus, including many who had tested positive.

The ruling was a significant win for Sheriff Michael Schiff's Office, the County Attorney's Office which defended Schiff, the District Attorney's Office and the State Department of Corrections & Supervision - all who argued against releasing any of the inmates.

“As Judge Stephan Schick noted in granting our motion to dismiss, the County Jail, its corrections officers and its medical personnel did not disregard, at any point, the health and safety of our inmates,” County Attorney Michael F. McGuire stated. “I am gratified at his decision, rendered before we even needed to state our side of the case. Obviously the Court agreed that the NYCLU’s petition was without merit and unfounded.”

A statement by NYCLU lead attorney Philip Desgranges late today (Tuesday) said:

“In the midst of a pandemic when 45% of the jail population had been infected with COVID-19, the Sheriff’s Office had no medical personnel available for 10 hours a day. Our two days of testimony showed that during those 10 hours it relied on security staff to administer medication and make emergency medical decisions. Even when medical staff were present, they often took days to respond to emergency sick calls, made no effort to proactively check people’s COVID symptoms, and took no measures to protect the high risk populations within the jail. That is reckless behavior. We are deeply disappointed in the Court’s decision and will continue to fight to protect medically vulnerable incarcerated people who face a high risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”

Desgranges said the NYCLU is weighing whether to file an appeal, which would be before the Appellate Division, Third Department.


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