A recent court ruling by a state Supreme Court justice in Western New York has broken with the consensus on the repeal of 50a, the law that protected police officers' records from the public and could lead to New York’s Supreme Court setting precedence.

“[It could] potentially go to the highest court in the state because you may very well have, out of the different departments, different views on the issue," said Goshen attorney Michael Sussman.

What You Need To Know

  • A State Supreme Court justice ruled that the repeal of law 50a was not retroactive

  • The law that protected police officers' records from the public was repealed on June 12, 2020

  • Goshen Attorney Michael Sussman says the law may end up before the State Supreme Court for a ruling on whether it was intended to be retroactive

Sussman says this was a case of Judge Ann Marie Taddeo interpreting the language in the law’s repeal as not being explicitly retroactive. She issued a permanent injunction on behalf of the Brighton Police Patrolman Association, ruling that the repeal should only count for files after the repeal date of June 12, 2020. Sussman says this could also lead to legislators rewriting this law with clearer language.

“I assume there’s gonna be political pressure with regard to the whole issue and that maybe the legislature is going to have to be clearer in indicating their intention. Because there should not be doubt as to its intent in cases that are pending, for this to be retroactive," Sussman said.

He adds that the majority of rulings related to 50a, including locally, have interpreted the law as retroactive. Last summer, the City of Middletown went to court after a FOIL request by Attorney Kenneth Puig was denied by the city, stating that the repeal was not retroactive. But State Supreme Court justice Robert Onofry ruled in Puig's favor.

Allan McClain, president of community group 845 Unity, says he is disappointed by the ruling by Justice Taddeo.

“Usually when laws are passed, they’re done in a way to right wrongs," McClain said.

And he hopes that, whether through legislation or court rulings, any changes need to make the repeal undeniably retroactive are made. Because, he says, transparency and public trust of law enforcement are at stake.

“This is how people are allowed to leave one municipality for wrongdoing and then go to another one and commit the same crime or same violation," McClain said, “and do it over and over again.”