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It’s Tuesday and the Mayor’s New Involuntary Commitment Policy Had Its First Day in Court

A controversial new policy finds itself quickly in court, and other links to start your day.

(Hell Gate)

Two weeks ago, just before jetting off to Greece and then Qatar, Eric Adams announced a shift in how New York City would be treating New Yorkers who appear to be struggling with mental illness. Even if they are not posing a threat to anyone else, NYPD officers and other City employees now have the ability to involuntarily bring them to a hospital, where they would undergo evaluation and (hopefully) treatment. The press conference hosted by the mayor grabbed headlines and took the city's own police force by surprise. Upon returning from abroad, Adams himself did a string of media appearances touting the policy change. A legal motion challenging the initiative was filed days after it was announced.

The motion was filed by lawyers representing Steven Greene, a plaintiff in an ongoing civil lawsuit against the City. Greene, who struggles with mental health issues and says he's been mistreated by the NYPD in the past, told his lawyers that since the announcement, he's been afraid to go outside, for fear of being taken involuntarily by the NYPD.

On Monday afternoon in federal court in Lower Manhattan, Luna Droubi, an attorney representing Greene, asked a judge to issue a temporary restraining order for the new policy, which has already gone into effect. 

"This is a lowering of the standard," Droubi told 81-year-old District Judge Paul A. Crotty. "This is a new policy."

Droubi and other lawyers for the plaintiffs, a group that includes organizations like Community Access, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York, and Correct Crisis Intervention, were arguing that because the mayor had shifted how the City was applying state law, this represented a completely new policy, and it should be subject to both scrutiny from the court as well as a possible pause to give the City time to fully explain to law enforcement how the policy would be rolled out. Currently, no police officers have received extra training based on the guidance. 

The arguments from the attorneys echoed comments made by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who told reporters last week, "What we'd like to see is a plan. We have not seen that yet."

Alan Scheiner, an attorney for the Adams administration, defended the initiative, and argued that the mayor was simply alerting his City employees to powers they already had. 

"This is the application of an existing law," Scheiner told Crotty.

While the judge appeared skeptical of the plaintiffs' ability to halt the shift without any proof that someone's rights had already been violated by it, he defended their right to question it, leading to some chippiness from Scheiner, who claimed they didn't actually want people to find help. 

"[The plaintiffs] claim to be advocates for the mentally ill, but they want people to starve to death, walk on the subway tracks," Scheiner told the court, before eventually being cut off by the judge. 

In the middle of arguments, Crotty questioned why the Adams administration would hold a press conference to announce a new policy, if it wasn't in fact new. 

"They haven't been [enforcing the law], and that’s the whole point of the new policy?" Crotty asked the City's lawyer, who answered in the affirmative. 

The judge ended the meeting without issuing a decision, but said he would issue one "shortly."

Some links for you, issued immediately:

  • Remember when humans first went to the moon? Same feeling.
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