Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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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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The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of New York’s discretionary persistent felony offender sentencing scheme, holding that, in light of Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. __ (2013), this sentencing scheme does not violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), nor does it violate Defendant’s due process and Sixth Amendment rights. Defendant argued New York’s persistent felony offender statute, N.Y. Penal Law 70.10(1)(a), increased the sentencing floor for persistent felony offenders. The Court of Appeals held that even if Defendant was correct in his characterization, the increase to the sentencing floor would not be the result of impermissible judicial fact-finding. The court further held that the statute falls squarely within the exception afforded by Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224 (1998), because it exposes defendants to an enhanced sentencing range based only on the existence of two prior felony convictions. View "People v. Prindle" 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 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 held that an administrative notice declaring that the policy of the Administrative Board of the Courts of the State of New York henceforth would be that no judge certificated for service as a Justice of the Supreme Court may receive, concurrent with a salary for such service, a retirement allowance for prior judicial service within the United Court System, is not contrary to law or constitutional mandate raised by Plaintiffs. In so holding, the Court reversed the decision of the Appellate Division - which declared that the Board’s administrative order violated the New York Constitution, the Judiciary Law, and the Retirement and Social Security Law - and reinstated the judgment of Supreme Court. View "Loehr v. Administrative Board of the Courts of the State of New York" 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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In 2013, Supreme Court issued 381 warrants directed at Facebook upon a warrant application by the New York County District Attorney’s Office that was supported by an investigator’s affidavit. The warrants sought the account information and communications of various Facebook subscribers in connection with a criminal investigation. Facebook moved to quash the warrants, arguing that they were overbroad and lacked particularity. Supreme Court denied the motion. While Facebook’s appeal was pending, Facebook moved for an order compelling disclosure of the investigator’s support affidavit. Supreme Court denied the motion to compel disclosure of the affidavit. Facebook appealed that order as well. The Appellate Division dismissed both of Facebook’s appeals on the ground that they were taken from nonappealable orders. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because the orders resolving Facebook’s motions relate to warrants issued in a criminal proceeding, and the Criminal Procedure Law does not authorize an appeal from either order, Supreme Court properly denied the two motions at issue here. View "In re 381 Search Warrants Directed to Facebook, Inc." 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