NYC sheriff: City council's relief bill could put law enforcement officers in jail
If a law enforcement officer acts on a court order to collect debt or perform evictions, they can be held in contempt and jailed indefinitely
New York Daily News
NEW YORK CITY — Council legislation that would prevent city sheriffs and marshals from collecting debt and performing evictions during the coronavirus pandemic conflicts with state law and puts officers at risk of jail time, the sheriff said Tuesday.
“It is our view that the sheriff cannot comply with the directives of [the bill] without violating the panoply of state laws that govern the sheriff’s role as a civil enforcement official of the courts,” NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito said during a Council hearing on the measure.
The legislation, sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson, would bar marshals and city sheriffs from the taking and restitution of property or the execution of money judgments for all New Yorkers until the coronavirus crisis is over.
The bill – which essentially pauses evictions and debt collection for all city renters during the pandemic – would also give tenants additional time to repay rent.
And the legislation would extend this measure until April 2021 for New Yorkers directly impacted by COVID-19.
But the sheriff told Council members his office had “significant legal concerns” about the bill.
“The courts have repeatedly held that a sheriff cannot look behind the court mandates or review them for error and can be penalized for doing so,” Fucito said.
If sheriffs fail to act on a court order, they can be held in contempt and faces criminal and civil penalties, including indefinite jail time until the order is carried out.
The legislation is part of a package of measures meant to help New Yorkers during the fallout of coronavirus.