Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Defendant appealed, arguing that the prosecutor’s use of PowerPoint slides during summation deprived him of a fair trial and that defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the use of the slides. The Appellate Division affirmed the judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, given the parameters of the permissible use of the PowerPoint slides at issue, counsel was not ineffective for failing to object. View "People v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and other offenses. The jury convicted Defendant of two counts of DWI. Appellate Term reversed and remitted for a new trial on those counts, concluding that Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights were violated because the police officer who testified at trial regarding Defendant’s breath test did not personally administer the test, although he did directly observe the test. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that no Confrontation Clause occurred under the facts of this case because the officer testified based on his own observations and inclusions, rather than as a surrogate for his partner, who administered the test, and none of the nontestifying officer’s hearsay statements were admitted against Defendant. View "People v. Lin" on Justia Law