Reis v. Volvo Cars of N. Am.

Plaintiff brought an action against Volvo Cars of North America, alleging defective design of a product. The case proceeded to trial. At Plaintiff’s request, the trial court included a pattern jury instruction to charge the jury that was the same standard jury charge in malpractice actions. The instruction tells the jury that a defendant who has special skills in a trade or profession is required to use the same degree of skill and care that others in the same trade or profession would reasonably use in the same situation. A jury rendered a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because this was not a malpractice case but a design defect case, the charge should not have been given, and the error required reversal and a new trial. View "Reis v. Volvo Cars of N. Am." on Justia Law

People v. Marquan M.

Defendant, a high school student, anonymously posted sexual information and photographs of fellow classmates and other adolescents on Facebook, a social networking website. Defendant was charged with and pleaded guilty to cyberbullying under a local law enacted by the Albany County Legislature. Defendant appealed, arguing that the cyberbullying law violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Albany County’s cyberbullying law was overbroad and facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause because the text of the law criminalized a variety of constitutionally-protected modes of expression - a great deal more than acts of cyberbullying. View "People v. Marquan M." on Justia Law

People v. Maldonado

Defendant was charged with numerous crimes arising from his theft of a minivan and the death of a pedestrian that the minivan struck during a high-speed police chase. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of depraved indifference murder, unlawful fleeing of a police officer in a motor vehicle in the first degree, and grand larceny in the fourth degree. On appeal, Defendant asserted that there was insufficient evidence to support his depraved indifference murder conviction. The Court of Appeals modified the Appellate Division’s order by reducing Defendant’s depraved indifference murder conviction to manslaughter in the second degree, holding that the evidence in this case was legally insufficient to support the conviction because the circumstances did not fit within the narrow category of cases wherein the facts evince a defendant’s utter disregard for human life. View "People v. Maldonado" on Justia Law

In re Thelen LLP

These two cases involved the dissolution of two separate law firms. After the law firms’ dissolution, the partners joined other law firms, which took on unfinished legal matters from the dissolved law firms’ former clients. The dissolved law firms subsequently filed for bankruptcy. Separate adversary proceedings were brought against the law firms that hired the dissolved law firms’ partners. The lawsuits were premised on the unfinished business doctrine, and the plaintiffs sought to recover the value of the dissolved law firms’ business for the benefit of the estate’s creditors. At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether, for purposes of administering a related bankruptcy, New York law treats a dissolved law firm’s pending hourly fee matters as its property. The Court of Appeals held that pending hourly fee matters are not partnership property or unfinished business within the meaning of New York’s Partnership Law, as a law firm does not own a client or an engagement and is only entitled to be paid for services actually rendered. View "In re Thelen LLP" on Justia Law

Wallach v. Town of Dryden

These two appeals concerned the efforts of two corporations to explore and develop natural gas resources in two municipalities. In response, both municipalities adopted amendments to their zoning laws that prohibited all oil and gas exploration. The corporations brought actions challenging the zoning laws. Supreme Court declared the zoning laws valid, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the supersession clause in the statewide Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law does not preempt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate oil and gas production activities, including hydrofracking, within municipal boundaries through the adoption of zoning laws. View "Wallach v. Town of Dryden " on Justia Law

People v. Haggerty

After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of grand larceny and money laundering, both in the second degree, for defrauding the former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, of $750,000. The Appellate Division affirmed the convictions. On appeal, Defendant argued that the testimony regarding the source of the stolen funds violated the best evidence rule and that, without the testimony, the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) by the time Defendant raised his objection, other testimony was given that tended to prove ownership, and therefore, the best evidence rule challenge was of no consequence; and (2) nevertheless, the testimony was not so prejudicial as to deny Defendant a fair trial. View "People v. Haggerty" on Justia Law

People v. Garrett

After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder in the second degree. The Appellate Division affirmed on direct appeal. Approximately a decade later, Defendant moved to vacate his judgment of conviction, asserting that the People committed a Brady violation by failing to disclose to him that a federal civil action had been brought against one of their police witnesses, a homicide detective who interrogated Defendant, based on the detective’s alleged police misconduct in an unrelated case. The Appellate Division remitted the matter for a hearing, determining that the civil allegations against the detective constituted impeachment evidence and that the People’s failure to disclose them may have deprived Defendant of a fair trial. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, although the civil allegations were favorable to Defendant, he failed to prove that the People suppressed the information or that he was prejudiced by the undisclosed information. View "People v. Garrett" on Justia Law

People v. Baret

In 1996, Defendant pleaded guilty to third-degree sale of a controlled substance. In 2010, citing Padilla v. Kentucky, Defendant moved to vacate his conviction on the ground that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of the immigration consequences of his guilty plea. Supreme Court declined to apply Padilla retroactively to Defendant’s claim. The Appellate Division disagreed with Supreme Court, holding that Padilla was to be retroactively applied to pleas after Congress made significant changes in immigration law in 1996. The United States Supreme Court subsequently decided Chaidez v. United States, holding that Padilla does not apply retroactively in federal collateral review. After Chaidez was decided, the Court of Appeals in the instant case reversed the Appellate Division’s order, holding that, pursuant to federal or state retroactivity principles, Padilla does not apply retroactively in state court postconviction proceedings. View "People v. Baret" on Justia Law

Lynch v. City of New York

New York City police officers and firefighters appointed on or after July 1, 2009 are tier three members of the New York City Police Pension Fund and the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund. Petitioners filed a complaint alleging that the City of New York unlawfully deducted three percent from the gross annual wages of its tier three police officers and firefighters as mandatory employee pension contributions. At issue in this case was whether N.Y. Retire. & Sox. Sec. Law 480(b) obligates a public employer to pay any portion of a tier three public employee’s statutorily required pension contribution. The Appellate Division answered that question in the positive. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that section 480(b) only encompasses temporary programs in place as of 1974 for tier one and two members of a public employee retirement system. View "Lynch v. City of New York" on Justia Law

People v. Galindo

Defendant was indicted on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. The jury returned a verdict convicting Defendant of both counts. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it may infer that Defendant possessed the weapon with the intent to use it unlawfully against another. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the evidence that Defendant possessed a loaded firearm, together with the statutory presumption of intent arising from the possession, was legally sufficient to support his conviction for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. View "People v. Galindo" on Justia Law