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No one could have guessed that a union pin about the size of a penny could cause so much legal trouble. Guess again. The New York Supreme Court will hear a case on Sept. 24 regarding an improper practice charge brought by the Police Benevolent Association against the New York State Police (PBA). The complaint alleges that at a 2002 labor meeting, the department prohibited union members from wearing their PBA pins while sitting at the defense table during a trial or risk facing disciplinary charges. The issue was raised following a 2002 trial in which a former state trooper was acquitted on charges of alleged animal cruelty. PBA Vice President Don Postles wore his PBA pin and sat at the defendant’s table to assist the officer’s lawyer. Postles sat at the table because the defense counsel expected the prosecution’s strategy to focus on certain intricacies regarding state trooper policy. The pin ban order was issued because of concerns that if the jury sensed a connection between the defense and the officers testifying at trial, it would undermine the prosecution’s case. The PBA filed its motion opposing the pin ban through the state’s labor board, the Public Employees Review Board. The board ruled in favor of the PBA in July, allowing the pins. Police Benevolent Association of New York State Troopers Inc. v. State of New York, U-24165. The New York District Attorney General’s Office recently filed a motion for appeal. It will be heard by the state Supreme Court, a trial court in New York. A spokesman for the state police directed questions regarding the case to the New York Attorney General’s Office, which also declined to comment. PBA attorney Stephen G. DeNigris of the law offices of Stephen G. DeNigris in Albany, N.Y., and Washington, said the precedent for the right of union members to wear pins has been established by state and federal precedent. He said the state does not have the authority to prevent the officers from wearing the pins. DeNigris, a former attorney with the Federal Labor Relations Board who represents more than 35 other police unions, said that under federal law and several state statutes, union members are allowed to wear their pins absent specific special circumstances. DeNigris also said that the state had even less authority in this case, since the union officers were wearing the pins outside of the workplace, and Postles was paid for his involvement in the trial by the union-not the state. Dan DeFedericis, president of the PBA of the New York State Troopers Inc., said there are few reasons why a union officer would have to sit at the defendant’s table. He added that if the judge instructed the officer to remove the pin, the union would not have objected. But DeFedericis remained firm in his position that the state has no right to make this demand on the union. “The union has the right to wear its colors,” he said. “A judge can make that decision in his own courtroom, but for the state to say it is a whole different animal.”

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