NEW YORK – April 10, 2020 -- Health care workers and volunteers in New York State exposed to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) can now designate a standby guardian for their children according to an Executive Order signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. A team from the Albany office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP, working pro bono with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), helped draft language for the order. The order would also allow others exposed to COVID-19 to designate a standby guardian.
Executive Order No. 202.14, in part, expands the scope of the New York Surrogate's Court Procedure Act (S.C.P.A.) § 1726. Signed by Cuomo on April 7, the order modifies sections of the Act to provide that any parent, a legal guardian, a legal custodian, or primary caretaker who works or volunteers in a health care facility or who reasonably believes that they may otherwise be exposed to COVID-19, may designate a standby guardian by means of a written designation.
“The well-being of healthcare workers and anyone exposed to COVID-19 is paramount right now. We hope this change will give them some peace of mind when it comes to the care of their children. We are very grateful to Governor Cuomo for issuing this Executive Order and to everyone who played a role in extending the act to cover those most at risk in our state,” said Randye Retkin, Director of NYLAG’s LegalHealth Division. “This is an unprecedented time and we were able to move swiftly to do the right thing. We also thank Greenberg Traurig’s team in Albany for understanding how important this is for New York’s frontline healthcare workers and other New Yorkers exposed to the virus, and for making this a priority.”
“We applaud Governor Cuomo for providing New York’s health care workers with a critical tool to plan for their families. We hope this gives those who are on the front lines of the State’s COVID-19 response some peace of mind,” said Lynelle K. Bosworth, a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Albany office.
“The extension of the protections under S.C.P.A. § 1726 was critical, particularly given that courts are closed. Greenberg Traurig has a long tradition of stepping up to help communities in need, and we were honored to continue our pro bono work with NYLAG to accomplish this,” said Mark F. Glaser, a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Albany office.
The act was first passed in 1992 at the height of the AIDS crisis to help sick parents plan for their children’s futures and initiate the immediate transfer of temporary guardianship powers to someone the parent trusts, until a more permanent arrangement and hearing could be put in place, according to NYLAG. In 2018, Greenberg Traurig worked with NYLAG to help pass the legislation that would allow parents who are at risk of detainment or deportation based on immigration status to designate a standby guardian to care for their children in the event the parent is detained or deported. Until then, the Act limited the ability of parents to appoint or designate a Standby Guardian to seriously ill individuals. This Executive Order is an important extension of these protections.
“GT attorneys are rising to the occasion to serve their communities during this crisis,” said Caroline J. Heller, Greenberg Traurig Litigation Shareholder and Chair of the firm’s global Pro Bono Program. “We are proud of our continued pro bono work with NYLAG in support of its mission to provide legal services to low-income New Yorkers and of the impact our combined teams are making.”
About New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG): Founded in 1990, NYLAG provides free legal services, financial counseling, and engages in policy advocacy to help people experiencing poverty or those with low-income. NYLAG assists immigrants, victims of domestic violence, children, seniors, and chronically ill and disabled patients with a wide range of legal issues. NYLAG’s LegalHealth division focuses its practice mainly on assisting ill and disabled patients through its legal clinics in more than 25 hospitals across the city. LegalHealth frequently assists parents in naming Standby Guardians for their children.
About Greenberg Traurig’s Pro Bono Program: Greenberg Traurig lawyers across the firm provide pro bono legal services to the indigent and working poor, as well as to numerous civic and charitable organizations dedicated to assisting them. The firm focuses its resources on specialized and interrelated issues including civil rights and affirmative action, anti-human trafficking, family law matters, criminal appeals, immigration and political asylum, housing, and homelessness.
About Greenberg Traurig, LLP: Greenberg Traurig, LLP (GT) has approximately 2200 attorneys in 41 locations in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. GT has been recognized for its philanthropic giving, diversity, and innovation, and is consistently among the largest firms in the U.S. on the Law360 400 and among the Top 20 on the Am Law Global 100. Web: www.gtlaw.com Twitter: @GT_Law