Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The New York City Board of Health’s promulgation of the flu vaccine falls within the powers specifically delegated to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City Administrative Code 17-109. At issue was the Board’s amendments to the New York City Health Code mandating that children between the ages of six months and fifty-nine months who attend city-regulated child care or school-based programs receive annual influenza vaccinations. Petitioners - parents of children enrolled in child care programs subject to the flu vaccine rules who objected to their children receiving the vaccination - commenced this hybrid N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action to enjoin Respondents from enforcing the flu vaccine rules. Supreme Court granted Petitioners’ motion and permanently enjoined Respondents from enforcing the flu vaccine rules. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Board permissibly adopted the flu vaccine rules pursuant to its authority to regulate vaccinations; (2) the Board’s actions did not violate the separation of powers doctrine; and (3) the flu vaccine rules are not preempted by state law. View "Garcia v. New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division concluding that Defendant’s statements during an interrogation on a murder charge regarding the murder should have been suppressed because the murder charge was factually related to a robbery charge and Supreme Court had suppressed Defendant’s statements regarding the robbery. Defendant was charged with multiple counts of robbery in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and other charges. Defendant moved to suppress his statements regarding the robbery and murder as having been obtained in violation of his right to counsel, which attached as to the marijuana charge. Supreme Court suppressed Defendant’s statements regarding to the robbery, reasoning that the robbery and marijuana charges were related under People v. Cohen, 90 N.Y.2d 632 (N.Y. 1997), but refused to suppress Defendant’s statements regarding the murder because the murder and marijuana charges were unrelated. The Appellate Division ruled that Defendant’s statements to the police regarding the murder charge should have been suppressed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division misapplied N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 470.15 and the standard established by this Court’s decision in Cohen. View "People v. Henry" on Justia Law

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Because N.Y. Tax Law 471, which imposes requirements on Indian retailers located on reservation land to pre-pay the tax on cigarette sales to individuals who are not members of the Seneca Nation of Indians, does not operate as a direct tax on the retailers or upon members of the Seneca Nation, it does not conflict with either the Buffalo Creek Treaty of 1842 or N.Y. Indian Law 6. Plaintiffs brought this action seeking a declaration that Tax Law 471 is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from enforcing the law against them. Supreme Court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The Appellate Division reinstated the complaint to the extent it sought a declaration and then granted judgment in favor of Defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Tax Law 471 does not constitute a tax on an Indian retailer; and (2) therefore, Tax Law 471 does not violate the plain language of the Treaty or Indian Law 6. View "White v. Schneiderman" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Criminal Court properly suppressed Defendant’s breathalyzer test results on the grounds that Defendant’s consent, given in response to “inappropriate warnings,” was involuntary. Criminal Court suppressed both Defendant’s initial refusal to take the breathalyzer test and the test results, ruling (1) because the refusal occurred more than two hours after arrest, under People v. Atkins, 85 N.Y.2d 1007, 1008 (1995), the People must show that consent was express and voluntary; and (2) the People failed to demonstrate that Defendant’s consent was voluntary and not the result of coercive conduct by the officer because Defendant consented only after the officer gave the improper warnings. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the test results were properly suppressed because the breathalyzer test was not administered in accordance with the requirements of N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law 1194 and Defendant’s consent to take the test was not voluntary, as required by Adkins. View "People v. Odum" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, and a related offense, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal were not consistent with the controlling law. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) he was denied his constitutional right of self-representation when the trial court denied his request to proceed pro se with “standby counsel” without making any further inquiry; and (2) he was deprived of a fair trial when the trial court precluded his proffered psychiatric testimony for failure to serve notice on the People. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a trial court has the discretion to conduct further colloquy where a defendant does not unequivocally request to proceed without counsel but instead prefers to proceed with the assistance of counsel; and (2) the trial court did not err in precluding Defendant’s unnoticed psychiatric evidence because there was no justification for the surprise, and to allow it would contradict the statutory purpose behind the notice requirement. View "People v. Silburn" on Justia Law

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The lengthy delay between Defendant’s arrest in this case and his eventual guilty plea violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendant was charged in an indictment with murder in the second degree and other crimes. The time between Defendant’s arrest and his eventual guilty plea spanned six years, three months, and twenty-five days. Defendant spent the entirety of that period incarcerated. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division and dismissed the indictment, holding that, after evaluating all the relevant factors set forth in People v. Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d 442 (1975), under the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. View "People v. Wiggins" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division that reversed a judgment by Supreme Court, vacated Defendant’s pleas, and dismissed Defendant’s indictment without prejudice. The People filed a motion to compel a DNA test and served the motion on retained defense counsel. The trial court, in Defendant’s absence, granted retained counsel’s motion to be relieved from representing Defendant and granted the People’s DNA discovery motion. After counsel was relieved, Defendant appeared in court. The court proceeding to act in place of counsel throughout an extensive colloquy. Notwithstanding Defendant’s entreaties for an attorney to advise him regarding the motion to compel a DNA test, the court rejected Defendant’s requests for an attorney. The Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division correctly determined that Defendant was deprived his right to counsel during the pretrial proceedings concerning the DNA test. The court further held, however, that dismissal of the indictment was not “necessary and appropriate” to rectify the injustice to Defendant. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The State’s contribution to health insurance benefits for State employees, including members of the State judiciary, is not judicial compensation protected from direct diminution by the Judicial Compensation Clause of the State Constitution, and the reductions in contributions do not have the effect of singling out the judiciary for disadvantageous treatment. Plaintiffs, Supreme Court Justices and others, filed suit against the State seeking a declaratory judgment that newly amended N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law 167(8), which authorizes reduction in contributions towards health insurance premiums, violates the Compensation Clause of the State Constitution. Supreme Court denied the State’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that compensation includes health insurance benefits and that the decree in the State’s contribution level discriminated against judges. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a contribution to health care premiums is not compensation within the context of the Compensation Clause, and the change in State contributions does not jeopardize the independence of the judiciary. View "Bransten v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered two certified questions by holding (1) under the capacity rule, public benefit corporations have no greater stature to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes than do municipal corporations or other local government entities; and (2) a claim-revival statute will satisfy the Due Process Clause of the state Constitution if it was enacted as a reasonable response in order to remedy an injustice. Plaintiffs, workers who participated in cleanup operations following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, brought claims against BatteryPark City Authority (BPCA), a public benefit corporation, alleging that they developed illness as a result of their exposure to harmful toxins at BPCA-owned properties in the course of their cleanup duties. The district court dismissed the claims on the grounds that Plaintiffs did not serve BPCA with timely notices of claim. The legislature responded by enacting Jimmy Nolan’s law, which revived Plaintiffs’ time-barred causes of action for one year after the law’s enactment. Plaintiffs subsequently served new notices of claim on BPCA within the one-year revival period. The district court granted summary judgment for BPCA, concluding that Jimmy Nolan’s Law was unconstitutional as applied. On appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal certified questions to the Court of Appeals. The court answered as set forth above. View "In re World Trade Center Lower Manhattan Disaster Site Litigation" on Justia Law

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A government agency may rely on section 37(2)(e)(iii) of the State’s Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law art 7 (FOIL)) - under which an agency may seek to exempt from public inspection those records compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation - only if the agency establishes that (1) an express promise of confidentiality was made to the source, or (2) the circumstances of the particular case are such that the confidentiality of the source or information can be reasonably inferred. In this case, the Second Department ruled that the District Attorney of Nassau County properly denied Petitioner’s FOIL request for records relating to his conviction. Petitioner subsequently commenced this proceeding pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 against the Nassau County District Attorney seeking disclosure of his case file. Supreme Court granted the petition. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the case file was appropriately withheld under section 87(2)(e)(iii). The Court of Appeals reversed and remitted the matter to Supreme Court, holding that the Second Department applied the wrong standard in making its ruling. View "Friedman v. Rice" on Justia Law