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Abstract

The recent enactment of the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act ("Restoration Act") reflects the New York City Council's concern that the City Human Rights Law "has been construed too narrowly." The law explicitly rejects the "carbon copy" theory and seeks an independent construction from similar or identical provisions of New York state or federal statutes. The Restoration Act proceeds along two basic tracks. One track consists of a series of amendments to particular sections of the law. These amendments expand retaliation protection, raise the maximum civil penalties that can be awarded in proceeding brought administratively, protect domestic partners against all forms of discrimination proscribed by the law, require administrative investigations to be thorough, and restore the availability of attorney's fees in catalyst cases. The second track is designed to eliminate the mechanism by which judges have failed to give the local law the expansive interpretation that the Council has intended. The changes in the Restoration Act respect and honor the unique ability of judges to take center stage in the advance of social justice by the simple and profound task of giving "thoughtful, independent consideration" to what interpretation would best fulfill "the uniquely broad and remedial purposes of the City's Human Rights Law."

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