New York Sheriffs: No, we won't be enforcing Cuomo's Thanksgiving restrictions

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo threw caution to the wind this week and issued yet another mandate in the name of the pandemic. This time he said that he was limiting the number of people who could gather in private residences for Thanksgiving to a maximum of ten people. I’m fairly certain that, by this point, everyone knew that “pandemic fatigue” had been setting in and there was a limit as to how much of this government intrusion people were going to tolerate. Well, it appears that the horse has finally bucked, as the saying goes. A number of Sheriffs, primarily from upstate and Long Island, have now announced that they have no intention of attempting to enforce this rule. (NY Post)

In a scathing Facebook post on Saturday, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino questioned the legality of Gov. Cuomo’s newly instituted 10-person cap on parties and other gatherings in private residences.

“Frankly, I am not sure it could sustain a Constitutional challenge in Court for several reasons including your house is your castle,” the sheriff wrote in the Saturday post.

“And as a Sheriff with a law degree I couldn’t in good faith attempt to defend it Court, so I won’t,” he said.

Giardino noted his office, with limited resources, has scant legal options to enter private homes other than search warrants, invitations or under an “emergency circumstance.”

Sheriff Giardino went on to snidely comment that “obtaining a Search Warrant to enter your home to see how many Turkey or Tofu eaters are present is not a priority.”

Giardino wasn’t the only one. Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy simply said there would be “no enforcement.” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo was a bit more expansive in his response, sayingI can’t see how devoting our resources to counting cars in citizens’ driveways or investigating how much turkey and dressing they’ve purchased is for the public good.”

Prior to that, a group of Staten Island Republican officials released a statement blasting the idea. In fact, even in a state as heavily tilted toward the Democrats as New York is, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to speak up in defense of this order.

I can’t imagine the Governor is very happy at the moment. Andrew Cuomo is nearly as infamous for his short temper and angry outbursts as his CNN anchor brother Chris. Diplomacy isn’t exactly his strong suit. But this was always going to be seen as a preposterous order. Even if the sheriffs wanted to comply, how would they go about it? As Sheriff Giardino suggested, they can’t just drive around their entire county tallying up how many cars are in each driveway and then go ask for a warrant to bust into the house.

As I said at the top, this moment has been coming for quite a while now. All over the state (and indeed much of the country) people have had to put up with seeing the schools shutting down, reopening, and then shutting down yet again. Employees in too many industries were sent to the unemployment lines in the spring, called back in the fall and are now back out of work again. Older citizens with little online technical experience have been forced to replace hugging their relatives with Zoom calls. It was already more of a burden than many were willing to bear.

Demanding that larger families pick and choose who could or couldn’t come to sit around the Thanksgiving feast table was clearly a bridge too far. People have let their elected leaders and local law enforcement officials know that this was simply too much and many of the sheriffs and state Assembly members were clearly listening. So what happens to an executive mandate when law enforcement proclaims that they will not be punishing those who violate it? It becomes a non-factor and the governor making the proclamation is shown to be a paper tiger. And that’s what’s happening to Andrew Cuomo this week.