Mineola Mayor Scott Srauss said village officials "need to make...

Mineola Mayor Scott Srauss said village officials "need to make sure we have done everything we can to protect our first responders."  Credit: Howard Simmons

Mineola has adopted a resolution to prevent first responders’ contact information from being shared in pre-trial discovery, making it the first municipality on Long Island to pass a legal statement that contradicts new state laws, officials said.

“I’m not sure this will hold up,” Mayor Scott Strauss said Wednesday before the board of trustees passed the resolution 5-0. “At the end of the day, we need to make sure we have done everything we can to protect our first responders.”

Strauss, a former NYPD officer and firefighter, said the discovery law, which took effect Jan. 1, is unfair to firefighters and medical personnel.

The law requires prosecutors to share names and “adequate contact information” of any person who has relevant information with defense attorneys regardless of whether the person will testify later. It does not define what information constitutes “adequate” but said physical addresses aren’t required to be shared.

Officials said the village’s resolution extends “the same privacy protection” afforded to police officers, meaning only the person’s name and work affiliation would be revealed.

“If you think about it, the personal data is not necessary if someone wants to get ahold of our firefighters,” village attorney John Gibbons said. “Name and work would be more than sufficient [for the defense] to identify the individual and get in touch with the person.”

Although the resolution took effect immediately, it is unclear how it will be executed. When there are conflicting laws, prosecutors must comply with state laws, according to legal experts.

Village officials said they are counting on their decision to spur conversations and prompt other municipalities to act too.

Proponents of the state’s discovery law said the change, which also mandates prosecutors turn over discovery information to defendants within 15 days after an arraignment, allows defense attorneys to gather as much information as possible to conduct their investigation.

“The point of that change is it’s not up to the prosecutor to determine what witness a defense attorney should be talking to and getting information from,” said Susan Bryant, executive director of the Albany-based New York State Defenders Association.

Critics said the village’s reaction appeared to be motivated by fear of the unknown, even though most states have comparable open discovery laws.

“I don’t see the need for [the resolution],” said Elizabeth Nevins, an associate clinical professor of law at Hofstra University in Hempstead and a former public defender. “This is an example of local government trying to subvert the intent of the state government.” 

Fred Klein, a former Nassau County prosecutor and visiting assistant professor of law at Hofstra, disagreed.

“I don’t see why the first responders shouldn’t be afforded the same protection” as law enforcement, Klein said. 

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