Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals in this care reaffirmed its longstanding rule that a warrantless arrest of a suspect in the threshold of a residence is permissible under the Fourth Amendment, provided that the suspect has voluntarily answered the door and the police have not crossed the threshold. Defendant was arrested without a warrant inside the doorway of his home. Defendant was later convicted of four counts of third-degree robbery and one count of attempted third-degree robbery. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress, arguing that the police violated Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 573 (1980), by entering his home without consent or a warrant. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the police never entered Defendant’s home, and therefore, the intrusion prohibited by Payton did not occur; (2) despite the urging of Defendant and two dissenting colleagues, this court refuses to adopt a new rule that warrantless “threshold/doorway arrests” violate Payton when the only reason the arrestee is in the doorway is that he or she was summoned there by police; and (3) there is no compelling justification to overrule prior precedent to recognize a new category of Payton violations based on subjective police intent. View "People v. Garvin" on Justia Law

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Sections 8-102(16)(c) and 8-107(1)(a) of the New York City Administrative Code preclude a plaintiff from bringing a disability discrimination claim based solely on a perception of untreated alcoholism. Plaintiffs, officers with the New York City Police Department, were referred to the internal counseling services unit of that police force (CSU) for assistance with their purported alcohol abuse. The CSU determined that each plaintiff suffered from alcoholism. The parties now agree that Plaintiffs were not actually alcoholics. Plaintiffs brought this action alleging that Defendants discriminated against them by subjecting them to adverse employment actions based on the mistakenly perceived disability of alcoholism. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs pursuant to the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Defendants appealed. In answer to a question certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court of Appeals held that the Administrative Code does not consider a mistaken perception of alcoholism to be a disability covered by the NYCHRL. View "Makinen v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals rejected Plaintiffs’ argument that an individual has a fundamental constitutional right to aid-in-dying as defined by Plaintiffs and also rejected Plaintiffs’ assertion that the State’s prohibition on assisted suicide is not rationally related to legitimate state interests. Plaintiffs filed this action requesting declaratory and injunctive relief to permit “aid-in-dying,” which would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill patient to obtain a prescription from a physician to cause death. The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action and did not present a justiciable controversy. Supreme Court granted the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed as modified, declaring that the assisted suicide statutes provide a valid statutory basis to prosecute physicians who provide aid-in-dying and that the statutes do not violate the New York Constitution. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the State Constitution’s Due Process Clause does not encompass a fundamental right to physician-assisted suicide; and (2) the State’s prohibition is rationally related to a number of legitimate state interests, and heightened scrutiny is unwarranted. View "Myers v. Schneiderman" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, where a sworn juror repeatedly and unambiguously stated that she was unable to render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence and the law, the trial court erred in failing to discharge the juror as “grossly unqualified to serve” pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 270.35(1). After a jury trial, Defendant was acquitted of murder in the second degree and convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant receive a new trial, holding that the sworn juror at issue in this case, a juror who purportedly stated that she could not “do what the law require[d] [her] to do,” was incapable of rendering an impartial verdict as required by her oath as a sworn juror. Therefore, section 270.35(1) mandated her discharge. View "People v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child. The Appellate Division affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s failure to object to the admission of evidence that the victim disclosed the abuse three years after it ceased and then again four years after her initial disclosure. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to demonstrate the absence of strategic or legitimate explanations for counsel’s failure to object to the evidence at issue. View "People v. Honghirun" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was New York City’s 2001 zoning amendments that affected the City’s adult entertainment industry. Plaintiffs, an adult video store and an establishment that showed adult films, brought this case seeking a declaration that the 2001 amendments were facially unconstitutional as a violation of free speech. After years of litigation, the Court of Appeals ruled that judgment be granted in favor of the City, holding that the City met its burden of demonstrating that the establishments affected by the City’s 2001 zoning amendments retained a continued focus on sexually explicit materials or activities. Therefore, under a 2005 decision of the Court of Appeals in this case, the amendments did not violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. View "For the People Theatres of N.Y. Inc. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, for cases commenced before the effective date of the 2015 amendment to the Human Rights Law, the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) permits the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff against the State under the Human Rights Law for sex discrimination in employment by a state agency. In so holding, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division, concluding that the civil action in this case was eligible for an award of attorneys’ fees. Previously, Supreme Court held that attorneys’ fees and costs should not be awarded because the EAJA did not apply “where a plaintiff has recovered compensatory damages for tortious acts of the State and its employees.” View "Kimmel v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held in this criminal case that, to ensure road safety, a police officer may run a license plate number through a government database to check for any outstanding violations or suspensions on the registration of the vehicle without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and such a check does not constitute a search. The Court further held that information obtained indicating the registration of the vehicle was in violation of the law as a result of this check may provide probable cause for the officer to stop the driver of the vehicle. In so holding, the Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court’s reversal of the suppression court’s suppression of the evidence in this case, determining that the license plate check of Defendant’s vehicle and the traffic stop of Defendant’s vehicle and his person were lawful. View "People v. Bushey" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered three questions certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding who may be liable under the New York State Human Rights Law. Plaintiffs sued Astro Moving and Storage Co., Allied Van Lines, and Sirva, Inc. after Astro fired them upon discovering their convictions for sexual offenses against young children. Astro performed moving services for Allied, and Allied was a subsidiary of Sirva, Inc. The Court of Appeals answered (1) section 296(15) of the New York State Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of a criminal conviction, limits liability to an aggrieved party’s “employer”; (2) common-law principles determine who may be liable as an employer under section 296(15), with the greatest emphasis placed on the alleged employer’s power “to order and control” the employee in his or her performance of work; and (3) section 296(6) of the New York State Human Rights Law, which provides for aiding and abetting liability, extends liability to an out-of-state nonemployer who aids or abets employment discrimination against individuals with a prior criminal conviction. View "Griffin v. Sirva, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to suppress a firearm recovered from his vehicle, arguing primarily that the challenged search was unlawful under the Court of Appeals’ holding in People v. Huntley because it was premised on his status as a parolee but was conducted by police officers, not by his parole officer. The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions for criminal possession of a weapon in the second and third degrees and unlawful possession of marihuana, holding (1) a tip indicating that Defendant had a firearm in his vehicle taken together with Defendant’s reduced expectation of privacy provided support in the record for the conclusion that the search of Defendant’s vehicle was lawful and reasonable; and (2) there was support in the record for the trial court’s rejection of Defendant’s proffered race-neutral reason for exercising a peremptory challenge as to a prospective juror as pretextual. View "People v. McMillan" on Justia Law