New York Bars Sole Unvaccinated Judge From Courthouse

New York Bars Sole Unvaccinated Judge From Courthouse judge jenny rivera sits on bench Court of Appeals Associate Judge Jenny Rivera listens to oral arguments at the Court of Appeals on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. (Hans Pennink/AP)

By Peter Malbin | Tuesday, 05 October 2021 11:49 AM

One of New York state's most senior judges has refused to get vaccinated or seek a medical exemption and can no longer enter the courthouse.

Associate Court of Appeals Judge Jenny Rivera is the only state jurist out of approximately 1,300 who declined the COVID-19 vaccine and failed to apply for a medical or religious waiver, the New York Post reported.

The Columbia University-educated judge was barred from entering any court facilities, including her chambers, beginning Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. when the state Unified Court System’s vaccine mandate went into effect for all staffers.

Rivera is one of seven judges on the Court of Appeals, headed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. The panel meets in person about once a month to hear oral arguments in an Albany courthouse.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Rivera in 2013 for a 14-year term. It wasn’t immediately clear why Rivera has refused the vaccine, the Post reported.

Over 85% of the state’s 15,615 court staffers have been vaccinated. About 1,000 employees applied for medical or religious exemptions.

Exempt staffers can enter court facilities with weekly negative COVID-19 tests.

Nationwide, members of the judiciary face diverging, regional rules on whether they need to get vaccinated. So far, federal district courts in only three of the 10 largest U.S. cities have announced they are requiring employees to get vaccinated, Reuters reported.

Divisions exist in New York City. The Manhattan-based Southern District of New York imposed a vaccine mandate, while no such rule exists in Brooklyn's Eastern District of New York.

For the first time this Tuesday, Rivera will be the sole jurist to tune into the session via video since the court resumed in-person sessions in March.

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