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Legal Myths & Realities by Judge Joan Shkane

This is a continuing discussion of Legal Myths and Reality, because those informed are the most successful.
MYTH: In New York State when you have been convicted of a crime and served your time, you are restored to all the privileges you had before the conviction.
REALITY: California amended its parole law in 2020 so that those with felony convictions who have served their penalty have the privilege to take part in the justice system by serving as jurors. New York State has not followed. In New York when you are convicted of a major crime (felony) you are unable thereafter to serve as a juror. Serving is a fundamental right and obligation of a citizen. When a felon is shut out of this duty (s)he is shut out of one of the privileges of citizenship, that is, to participate in the
administration of justice.
Now a lawsuit is pending in New York State to overturn the law that prevents convicted felons from participating in jury service. It is a class action brought on behalf of New York felons. It alleges that this prohibition disproportionately bars Black men, so that they are underrepresented in the jury pool. The lawsuit describes alleged racially biased policing and prosecutorial practices so that disproportionate
number of Black men are convicted of crimes. Once that happens their rights are curtailed. This means that future jury pools are tainted because they are not representative of the population. The lawsuit alleges that more than at least one of every four otherwise jury-eligible Black residents of New York County where the lawsuit is brought, up to 40 percent, are excluded. It alleges that by this prohibition the voting strength of Black citizens on grand juries and trial juries in civil and in criminal cases is diluted.
These bodies are basic to democratic self-government and the administration of justice, and excluding Black felon men only makes it more likely that the racially biased policing and prosecutorial practices continue and expand.
The lead plaintiff in the case is a Black man whose 10-year-old conviction of a drug possession felony would not even be a major crime, but a lesser crime, a misdemeanor, today. Therefore, he is excluded from participation of any type of jury duty based on a crime that is minor under today’s law. Stay tuned for the result of the law suit.

MYTH: There are very few regulations in New York State on “puppy mills” who supply pet stores and earn a profit from animal cruelty and from the unsuspecting consumer.
REALITY: The Governor just signed a bill into law that no longer will allow puppy mills to operate in this state. It applies to the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. Puppy mills, also known as puppy farms, are commercial dog breeding facilities that quick breed puppies or other animals in conditions regarded as inhumane. They are factory farms for dogs who are bred as frequently as possible in often unsanitary, cruel and deplorable conditions. The owners prioritize profits over the health and well-being of the animals. They often sell through internet sales, flea markets and pet stores. The difference
between a puppy mill and a breeder is that a breeder will typically have many questions about the buyer and the buyer’s lifestyle. The breeder will work to match the buyer with the right puppy. A puppy mill will sell a puppy or other animal for the right price, regardless of the buyer’s background with animals and intentions. They are considered by the New York State Legislature to be inhumane high volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers. The animals are often sick and unsocialized. Pet store owners strongly and energetically opposed the ban, arguing that practically the ban would put them out of business, and philosophically that government should not interfere in business practices.
The bi-partisan Legislature answered that pet stores can make up the revenue loss by charging animal
rescue shelters rent to use the store space for adoptions where they can showcase adoptable animals and place them in their forever homes. They further answered that many breeding facilities are inhumane and brutal and do not protect the animal. This often permits a store owner to earn a profit from animal cruelty and from unsuspecting consumers. Now anyone purchasing a pet through a New York State pet store can only buy a pet that is supplied by an animal rescue/adoption shelter. When it comes to animal cruelty, New York State government feels justified to intervene in business practices.
Some animal lovers would even argue that is one of the reasons government exists.

Attention to legal myths can be important. They can be a starting point for developing an interest in the law. However, if specific legal issues are important in your life, for instance, regarding custody ofchildren or money payable for any reason, it is wise to consult a lawyer who can advise you on the truth of legal myths. This discussion is not intended to render legal advice on specific cases or to express an opinion on any specific case.

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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