Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals held that the certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to National Fuel Gas Supply for its proposed construction of a ninety-nine-mile natural gas pipeline satisfied Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) 206(A) so as to entitle National Fuel to exercise eminent domain over the land in dispute without undertaking additional review of the pipeline's public benefit. National Fuel commenced this EDPL vesting proceeding seeking to acquire, by eminent domain, temporary construction easements and a fifty-foot-wide permanent easement over property owned by Landowners to facilitate construction of the pipeline. Supreme Court granted the EDPL petition, concluding that National Fuel made a prima facie showing of entitlement to the easements based on the FERC certification. The Appellate Division reversed, reasoning that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's intervening denial of National Fuel's application for a water quality certification meant that National Fuel no longer held a qualifying federal certificate for purposes of the EDPL 206(A) exemption. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because the FERC-issued certificate of public convenience and necessity did not condition National Fuel's eminent domain power on receipt of a water qualify certification, the federal certificate remained valid at all relevant times. View "National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. v. Schueckler" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction for murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, holding that the trial court did not conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" into a sitting juror's unavailability before substituting an alternate juror during Defendant's trial. On the ninth day of Defendant's murder trial, the judge informed the parties that Juror Number 9 was absent. Without stating that it was ordering the substitution, the judge proceeded with Alternate Juror 1 seated in place of Juror Number 9. Alternate Juror 1 served for the remainder of the trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, on the record, the court failed to satisfy the requirement that a trial court conduct a "reasonably thorough inquiry" to ensure that its substitution determination is adequately informed. View "People v. Lang" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals concluded that Petitioner, a justice of the Northport Village Court, Suffolk County, committed certain acts of misconduct warranting his removal from the office and accepted the determined sanction of removal from office. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct determined that Petitioner repeatedly used profane, vulgar and sexist terms in emails to his clients, whom he represented through his private law practice, that denigrated participants in the legal proceeding. The Commission then concluded that the appropriate sanction was removal from office. The Court of Appeals accepted the Commission's determined sanction, concluding that Petitioner's conduct warranted removal notwithstanding the fact that he was not functioning in his judicial capacity at the time it occurred. View "In re Senzer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decisions of the courts below granting Defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered from a vehicle search, holding that the lower courts erred in relying on this Court's decision in People v. Williams, 4 N.Y.3d 535 (2005), in granting the motion to suppress. Using the emergency lights on his unmarked vehicle, a federal marine interdiction agent with the United States Customs and Border Protection stopped the driver of a vehicle in which Defendant was a passenger for driving dangerously on a public highway. The agent waited in his truck for members of the police department, who searched the vehicle upon their arrival. Defendant moved to suppress the gun recovered from the search as stemming from an unlawful seizure. Relying on Williams, Defendant argued that the stop was not a valid citizen's arrest because the agent used his emergency lights to effectuate the stop. Supreme Court granted the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the agent's conduct did not violate the Legislature's prescribed limits on a peace officer's arrest powers because he was not, in fact, a peace officer; and (2) thus, this Court's decision in Williams was inapposite. View "People v. Page" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division determining that the designating petition submitted by Respondent should not be invalidated because it was permeated by fraud, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the designating petition should be declared invalid as a matter of law. The undisputed facts of this case established that 512 out of 944 signatures submitted in the designating petition were backdated to dates preceding the candidates receipt of the blank petition pages and that fourteen of the twenty-eight subscribing witnesses swore that those signatures were placed on the designating petition before the blank petition pages were obtained from the printer. The referee, Supreme Court and Appellate Division were not persuaded that Respondent either participated in the fraud or that the irregularities rose to a sufficient level to infect the remainder of the designating petition. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the lower courts should have concluded that this was one of those rare instances in which the designating petition is so permeated by fraud as a whole as to call for its invalidation. View "Ferreyra v. Arroyo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division in Matter of Seawright v. Board of Elections in the City of New York and affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division in Matter of Hawatmeh v. New York State Board of Election, holding that, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the complete failure to file by the applicable deadline either a cover sheet with a designating petition or a certificate of acceptance constitutes a "fatal defect" under N.Y. Elec. Law 1-106(2). In Seawright, the Appellate Division, First Department, held that the candidate's belated filing of a cover sheet and certificate of acceptance did not constitute a fatal defect. In Hawatmeh, the Appellate Division, Third Department held that, notwithstanding the "unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic," the candidate's belated filing of a certificate of acceptance was a fatal defect. The Court of Appeals revised in Seawright and affirmed in Hawatmeh, holding that New York courts remain constrained by the express directive of the Election Law and that the First Department's analysis in Seawright directly conflicts with that well-established statutory mandate. View "Seawright v. Board of Elections in City of New York" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's order dismissing Plaintiffs' personal injury action against, among other defendants, the City of New York, based on Plaintiffs' failure to submit to pre-action N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law 50-h hearings, holding that a claimant does not have the right to observe a coclaimant's section 50-h oral examination over the municipality's objection. Plaintiffs served Defendants with a joint notice of claim, arguing that they suffered personal injuries and other damages due to Defendants' negligence. Defendants served separate notices of 50-h hearing, advising that Plaintiffs were required by law to be orally examined concerning their allegations before commencing an action. Plaintiffs appeared for their section 50-h hearings, but their attorney refused to let the hearings proceed unless each plaintiff could be present while the other testified. Defendants rejected Plaintiffs' requested procedure, and no section 50-h hearings occurred. Supreme Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiffs' failure to submit to the section 50-h hearings. Supreme Court granted the motion, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that section 50-h does not provide a claimant the right to observe a coclaimant's section 50-h oral examination over the municipality's objection. View "Colon v. Martin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division concluding on direct appeal that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, holding that Defendant, on this record, did not sustain his burden to establish that counsel was constitutionally ineffective. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that his trial counsel's failure to challenge a prospective juror constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the record was inadequate to review Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and (2) the appropriate procedure for the litigation of Defendant's challenge to his counsel's performance was a N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.10 motion. View "People v. Maffei" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law (CPL) 710.70(2) grants a defendant the right to review of a suppression decision when the order related exclusively to a count that was satisfied by a guilty plea but was not one to which the defendant pleaded guilty. Defendant was charged with two counts of burglary in the second degree. The first count related to a laptop computer, and the second count related to jewelry. Defendant moved to suppress the jewelry, but Supreme Court denied the motion. Defendant then pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in the second degree as charged in the count pertaining to the theft of the laptop computer, in satisfaction of the count charging the burglary of jewelry. On appeal, Defendant argued that Supreme Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the jewelry. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that it was jurisdictionally precluded from reviewing the suppression order. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Defendant's right to appellate review of Supreme Court's suppression order was secured by CPL 710.70(2); and (2) because the Appellate Division did not reach the underlying suppression question the case must be remitted to the Appellate Division for further proceedings. View "People v. Holz" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that an arbitration panel acted within the bounds of its broad authority by reconsidering an initial determination - denominated a "partial final award" - that addressed some, but not all, of the issues submitted for arbitration. Insureds sought payment of their costs resolving through a settlement a federal qui tam action under two insurance policies issued by Insurer. After Insurer denied coverage Insureds demanded arbitration under arbitration clauses contained in the policies. The arbitration panel issued what it called a "partial final award" determining that only one insurance policy was applicable and that one insured was entitled to defense costs but not indemnification. Insureds sought reconsideration, which the arbitration panel granted. The panel then issued a "final award" granting one insured recovery for damages constituting of both the settlement and defense costs. The Appellate Division reversed, vacated the final award, and confirmed the partial final award. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the arbitration panel did not exceed its authority by reconsidering the partial final award. View "American International Specialty Lines Insurance Co. v. Allied Capital Corp." on Justia Law