Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In this criminal proceeding, the Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the sentencing court erred in unsealing the court record of the proceeding in which Defendant was acquitted but erred in concluding that Defendant was not entitled to a remedy for the trial court's violation of N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 160.50, holding that the sentence should be vacated. Defendant pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance. Before sentencing, Defendant was prosecuted for a crime he allegedly committed after entering his plea. The jury acquitted Defendant of the new charge, and the official record was sealed. In sentencing Defendant for his possession charge, the court unsealed the records in the prior criminal action. Based in part on Defendant's trial testimony in the sealed proceeding, the court deviated upward from the court's promised sentence. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court erred in unsealing the records of the proceeding terminated by acquittal and improperly considered Defendant's trial testimony in deciding not to adhere to the promised sentence; and (2) because the court's sentence was based on that testimony, the proper remedy was to remit for resentencing without reference to the contents of the sealed records. View "People v. Anonymous" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals confirmed the determination of a local services agency, confirmed by a state agency, that child support payments a parent receives, made for the benefit of her five children living at home, are included as "household" income in deciding whether the household is eligible for benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), holding that, for the purposes of SNAP, child support directly received by a parent is household income, even if it is used for the benefit of an ineligible college student living at home. The Suffolk County Department of Social Services (DSS) discontinued the household's benefits because its income exceeded the upper limit for the household. Because the two college children were ineligible for SNAP, DSS did not count them as household members but did include the full amount of child support in its calculation of household income. The mother appealed, arguing that the college children's pro rata share of the child support payment should be excluded from household income, rendering the household SNAP-eligible. The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) upheld the determination. The Appellate Division confirmed the OTDA's determination. The Court of Appeals also confirmed, holding that the OTDA's interpretation of the relevant federal statutes was not irrational and was entitled to deference. View "Leggio v. Devine" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court denying Defendant's motion to set aside his sentence of six months of incarceration, imposed upon his guilty plea to third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, on the ground that the sentence was illegally lenient, holding that the denial of Defendant's motion was not reviewable. Over a fifteen-year period, Defendant committed numerous felonies, some of them violent, yet avoided enhanced sentences. In 1997, Defendant was sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender based upon his criminal convictions in 1988 and 1991. In 2015, Defendant collaterally moved to set aside his 1988 sentence of six months of incarceration under N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 440.20 on the ground that the sentence was illegally lenient. Supreme Court denied the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that because Defendant was not adversely affected by the error in sentencing on the 1988 conviction, his motion must be rejected without consideration of its merits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that when a defendant moves to vacate a sentence on the ground that it is illegally lenient, denial of the motion is not reviewable because any purported error in the proceedings has not adversely affected the defendant. View "People v. Francis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals upheld a determination of the Comptroller's Office that a Port Authority compensation adjustment program artificially enhanced certain employees' final average salaries so as to increase their retirement benefits, holding that substantial evidence supported the Comptroller's determination. The Comptroller concluded that the payments made pursuant to the compensation adjustment program were not pensionable compensation under N.Y. Retire. & Soc. Sec. Law 431(3), which provides that "any additional compensation paid in anticipation of retirement" must be excluded from final average salary calculations. Petitioner employees commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding challenging the determination of the Comptroller's Office. The Appellate Division annulled the Comptroller's determination and granted the petition, concluding that the payments did not artificially inflate Petitioners' final average salary in anticipation of retirement. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was substantial evidence to support the Comptroller's determination that the Port Authority's compensation adjustment program constituted "additional compensation paid in anticipation of retirement." View "Bohlen v. DiNapoli" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the opinion of the Appellate Division affirming Defendant's conviction of first-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, holding that there was legally sufficient evidence of Defendant's "intent to defraud, deceive or injury another" within the meaning of N.Y. Penal Law 170.30. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that the jury could reasonably have inferred from the evidence that Defendant knowingly possessed counterfeit money with fraudulent intent. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a rational jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant intended to pass the counterfeit bills in his possession and thereby defraud others; (2) Defendant's objections to the admission of certain testimony were unpreserved; and (3) the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to justify the original stop of Defendant. View "People v. Britt" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence following the court's granting permission to the People to reopen the hearing and present additional testimony after the People had rested but before the court rendered a decision, holding that Supreme Court had, and did not abuse, the discretion to reopen the suppression hearing. Defendant was charged with attempted robbery and assault. Defendant moved to suppress the identification made by the victim on the night of the assault, arguing that the identification procedures had been unduly suggestive and that his initial detention had been without reasonable suspicion. A hearing was held. After the People rested but before the court rendered a decision the People were granted permission to reopen the hearing and present additional testimony. Supreme Court subsequently denied Defendant's suppression motion, and Defendant was convicted. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the hearing court's reopening was a permissible exercise of its discretion. View "People v. Cook" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division, holding that, under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3122(a)(2), the Comptroller of the State of New York's subpoenas to a medical provider seeking patients' records in carrying out the Comptroller's obligation to audit payments to private companies that provide health care to beneficiaries of a state insurance program need not be accompanied by written patient authorizations. Petitioner, a professional corporation engaged in the practice of plastic surgery, was served with a subpoena duces tecum requesting the names and addresses of certain patients. Petitioner commenced this special proceeding to quash the subpoena, arguing that under C.P.L.R. 3122(a)(2) it was not obligated to respond to the subpoena. Supreme Court granted the petition and quashed the subpoena. The Appellate Division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the requirements set out in C.P.L.R. 3122(a)(2) apply only to subpoenas duces tecum served after the commencement of an action, and therefore, the statute does not require that the Comptroller's subpoenas be accompanied by written patient authorizations. View "Plastic Surgery Group, P.C. v. Comptroller of the State of New York" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division's decision confirming the determination of the Environmental Control Board (ECB) concluding that petitioner corporations were outdoor advertising companies (OACs), holding that by advertising a distinct legal entity on their buildings, petitioner corporations made space available to "others" under Administrative Code 28.502.1. Petitioner corporations were owned either by John Ciafone or by both Ciafone and his spouse. Each of the buildings owned by the corporations had signage affixed to it advertising Ciafone's law practice. The New York City Department of Buildings cited the corporations for violations of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, as well as the New York City Zoning Resolution. The determination was affirmed on administrative appeal. The court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Ciafone, his professional corporation, and the petitioner corporations were separate legal entities, and therefore, the petitioner corporations were OACs under the plain language of Administrative Code 28-502.1. View "Franklin Street Realty Corp. v. NYC Environmental Control Board" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgments of the trial court in both of these cases, holding that both courts erred by reversing, after summations, their prior rulings on Defendants' requests to charge the jury, but these errors did not mandate reversal. The appellate courts affirmed Defendants' convictions on both cases at issue on appeal, ruling that both lower courts erred by failing to charge the jury in accordance with the courts' pre-summation rulings on Defendants' charging requests but that the error was harmless. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a trial court's error in reversing a prior charging decision after summations have been completed is subject to harmless error analysis; and (2) where the evidence of guilt in both cases was overwhelming, the error in each case was harmless. View "People v. Mairena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In these three consolidated appeals the Court of Appeals addressed the issue of imprecise language in Defendants' written waivers of the right to appeal that mischaracterized the scope of the appellate rights waived as a condition of the plea bargains, adhering to well-established precedent in affirming in one case and reversing in other two cases. At issue was whether, under the circumstance of each of the three cases, the mischaracterizations impacted the knowing and voluntary nature of the three appeal waivers before the Court. The Court of Appeals (1) affirmed in one case, holding that the appeal waiver was knowingly and voluntarily entered; and (2) reversed in the other two cases, holding that the appeal waivers were involuntarily made and thus not enforceable. View "People v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law