Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Tern affirming Defendant's conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree in satisfaction of the accusatory instrument, holding that the accusatory instrument failed to give Defendant sufficient notice of the charged crime.Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree for possessing an illegal synthetic cannabinoid. On appeal, Defendant argued that the misdemeanor complaint was jurisdictionally defective because it failed to allege that he possessed one of the synthetic cannabinoid substances listed in N.Y. Public Health Law 3306 (g). The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the misdemeanor to which Defendant pleaded guilty failed to allege a sufficient factual basis to conclude that the substance Defendant possessed was illegal; and (2) dismissal of the remaining count was appropriate. View "People v. Hill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that a grievance complaint filed with the assessor or board of assessment review at the administrative level by a net lessee who is contractually obligated to pay real estate taxes on the property at issue satisfies N.Y. Real Prop. Law (RPTL) 524(3) such that the net lessee may properly commence an article 7 proceeding upon rejection of its grievance.DCH Auto leased a parcel of property in the Town of Mamaroneck upon which it operated a car dealership. DCH's lease with the owner was a net lease requiring DCH to pay the real estate taxes associated with the property, in addition to the rent. DCH challenged certain tax assessments by filing grievance complaints with the town's board of review. The board denied the challenges, after which DCH petitioned for judicial review. Supreme Court dismissed the petitions on the ground that only an owner may file the initial grievance complaints under RPTL 524(3). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DCH was included within the meaning of "the person whose property is assessed" under RPTL 524(3). View "DCH Auto v. Town of Mamaroneck" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Term insofar as appealed from in this criminal case, holding that the court mistakenly relied on amended language in granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the accusatory instrument.Defendant was charged in a single accusatory instrument with three misdemeanor counts and three traffic infractions. Defendant moved to dismiss the accusatory instrument on speedy trial grounds under N.Y. Crim. Proc. (CPL) 30.30. The court denied the motion, and a jury convicted Defendant. During the pendency of Defendant's appeal, the legislature amended CPL 30.30 to add 30.30(1)(e), which states that the term "offense" includes traffic infractions for the purpose of section 30.30(1). The Appellate Term granted Defendant's motion to dismiss the accusatory instrument. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that CPL 30.30(1)(e) had no application to Defendant's direct appeal from his judgment of conviction because the legislature did not mandate retroactive application of the newly-worded CPL 30.30. View "People v. Galindo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's judgment dismissing HSBC Bank USA, National Association's claim against the sponsor of an underlying transaction seeking to "revive" an earlier action filed by two certificateholders pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 205(a), holding that there was no error.Defendant, as sponsor of a residential mortgage-backed securities trust transaction, purchased thousands of mortgage loans and sold them to ACE Securities Corp. pursuant to an agreement in which the sponsor made various representations and warranties. ACE Securities deposited the loans in the trust, and the loans served as collateral for $500 million in certificates issued by the trust. Those certificates paid principal and interest to certificateholders based on funds generated by the mortgages. After two certificateholders brought an action against the sponsor HSBC filed a complaint on behalf of the trust purporting to substitute as plaintiff for the certificateholders. Supreme Court denied sponsor's motion to dismiss the complaint as untimely. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the action was time-barred. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that HSBC could not invoke C.P.L.R. 205(a) to avoid dismissal of this time-barred claim. View "ACE Securities Corp. v. DB Structured Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the courts below granting a motion to dismiss Nonhuman Rights Project's petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to secure the transfer of Happy, an elephant residing at the Bronx Zoo, to an elephant sanctuary, holding that the lower courts properly granted the motion to dismiss the habeas petition.Petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project, a not-for-profit corporation, commenced this habeas proceeding on behalf of Happy, arguing that Happy was a cognitively complex and autonomous nonhuman animal that should be "recognized as a legal person with the right to bodily liberty protected by the common law" and immediately released from "unlawful imprisonment" at the Zoo. Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that "the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that nonhuman animals are not persons with a common law right to liberty that may be secured through a writ of habeas corpus. View "Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny" on Justia Law

Posted in: Animal / Dog Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division affirming as modified the order of Supreme Court ruling that the underlying action to foreclose on a mortgage was time-barred pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213(4) and that the six-year statute of limitations had not been tolled or revived under N.Y. Gen. Oblig. 17-105, holding that there was no error.Plaintiffs brought this derivative action against Defendant seeking a declaration that the underlying mortgage was unenforceable because the six-year limitations period for commencing a foreclosure action had expired. Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs seeking to cancel and discharge the mortgage. The Appellate Division affirmed as modified. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) N.Y. Gen. Oblig. 17-105, not section 17-101, governs whether the statute of limitations has been tolled or revived in an action pursuant to N.Y. Real. Prop. Acts. & Proc. Law 1501(4); and (2) the Appellate Division correctly concluded that Defendant did not meet the requirements of section 17-105(1) in order to toll or revive the statute of limitations. View "Batavia Townhouses, Ltd. v. Council of Churches Housing Development Fund Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant's conviction of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, holding that the effect of the trial judge's erroneous evidentiary rulings in this case deprived Defendant of his constitutional right to present a defense.During trial, the court precluded certain evidence proffered by Defendant in support of his justification defense. The court charged the jury on Defendant's justification defense. The jury rejected the defense and convicted Defendant. The Appellate Division reduced Defendant's sentence and otherwise affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a jury should have been allowed to hear and assess the excluded information and then to weigh all of the relevant evidence before reaching a verdict. View "People v. Deverow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of fraudulent accosting and sentencing him to time served, holding that the complaint was facially sufficient.On appeal, Defendant argued that the term "accost" in N.Y. Penal Law 165.30(1) should be narrowly construed to require "a physical approach and an element of aggressiveness or persistence" that is "directed toward a specific individual rather than the public at large." The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed and affirmed, holding that the accusatory instrument contained factual allegations sufficient to establish reasonable cause that Defendant accosted the potential victims of the scam leading to his conviction. View "People v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that when an employer pays premiums to a mutual insurance company to obtain a policy for its employee and the insurance company demutualizes, the employee is entitled to the proceeds from demutualization.Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company (MLMIC) issued professional liability insurance policies to eight medical professionals who were litigants in the cases before the Court of Appeals on appeal. The premiums for the policies were paid by the professionals' employers. After MLMIC demutualized and was acquired by National Indemnity Company, MLMIC sought to distribute $2.502 billion in cash consideration to eligible policyholders pursuant to its plan of conversion. At issue was the employers' claim of legal entitlement to receive the demutualization proceeds. The Supreme Court held that, absent contrary terms in the contract of employment, insurance policy, or separate agreement, the employee, who is the policyholder, is entitled to the proceeds. View "Columbia Memorial Hospital v. Hinds" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Appellate Division reversing Defendant's convictions for attempted use of a child in a sexual performance and other offenses and holding that a new trial was required based on the admission of certain screenshots, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion in determining that the People properly authenticated the screenshots.Defendant, a high school volleyball coach, was charged with several offenses stemming from allegations that Defendant engaged in injurious acts toward a child by sending numerous text massages containing sexual content to a player on his team. The messages were found by the victim's boyfriend, who took screenshots of them and forwarded them to the victim's mother. At issue was the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to preclude the admission of prints of six of the screenshots on the grounds they were not properly authenticated. The Appellate Division reversed Defendant's convictions for all charges, holding that a new trial was required based on the admission of the screenshots. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion as a matter of law in the court's determination that the screenshots of the text messages were sufficiently authenticated or in the admission of the screenshots into evidence. View "People v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law