JUST RELEASED

November Page IV

I

Summaries of Recently Released Decisions to Be Included In the Next Issue of the Digest (uncorrected)

 

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COURT OF APPEALS

CRIMINAL LAW.

COUNTERFEIT CONCERT TICKETS FALL WITHIN THE AMBIT OF THE STATUTE PROHIBITING POSSESSION OF A FORGED INSTRUMENT (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Fahey, determined that counterfeit concert tickets fall within the ambit of the statute prohibiting possession of a forged instrument:

Defendant's argument, a jurisdictional challenge to the indictments against him, amounts to the claim that the otherwise valid statement of the elements of the crime in each count is negated by the specific allegation in the "to wit" phrase that the forged instrument purported to be an event ticket. He insists, in effect, that counterfeit event tickets could never fall within the ambit of the second-degree forgery statute. Defendant's rationale is that event tickets, the instruments that defendant's counterfeit documents purported to be, are merely revocable licenses and do not "affect a legal right, interest, obligation or status." ...

 

Defendant's premise that event tickets are revocable licenses is true. The case law saying as much is venerable. The purchase of an event admission ticket gives the holder "a revocable license . . . to enter the building in which [the event is held], and to attend the performance" ... . An event ticket, in other words, is a permission slip, subject to retraction.

 

It does not follow, however, that an event ticket does not affect a legal right, i.e., "right created or recognized by law" ... , or status, i.e., "legal condition, whether personal or proprietary" ... . Indeed, the same decisions on which defendant relies to demonstrate the revocable nature of event tickets also describe the legal rights, albeit limited, that a ticket evidences or otherwise affects. An event ticket, the Court wrote, "is a license, issued by the proprietor . . . as convenient evidence of the right of the holder to admission"... . The Legislature has similarly defined a ticket, in the context of entertainment and the arts generally, as "any evidence of the right of entry to any place of entertainment"... . People v Watts, 2018 NY Slip Op 07926, CtApp 11-20-18

CRIMINAL LAW (FORGED INSTRUMENTS, COUNTERFEIT CONCERT TICKETS FALL WITHIN THE AMBIT OF THE STATUTE PROHIBITING POSSESSION OF A FORGED INSTRUMENT (CT APP))/FORGED INSTRUMENTS, POSSESSION OF (COUNTERFEIT CONCERT TICKETS FALL WITHIN THE AMBIT OF THE STATUTE PROHIBITING POSSESSION OF A FORGED INSTRUMENT (CT APP))/CONCERT TICKETS (FORGED INSTRUMENTS, COUNTERFEIT CONCERT TICKETS FALL WITHIN THE AMBIT OF THE STATUTE PROHIBITING POSSESSION OF A FORGED INSTRUMENT (CT APP))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, APPEALS.

THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, over a two-judge concurrence, determined the defendant's argument that the integrity of the grand jury proceedings was impaired by the prosecution's failure to call a witness requested by the defendant did not raise a constitutional issue and therefore was precluded by defendant's guilty plea:

Defendant does not contend that the evidence before the grand jury was insufficient to support the indictment. Instead, defendant claims that the prosecutor's conduct impaired the integrity of the grand jury proceeding and argues his motion to dismiss the indictment for defective grand jury proceedings on that ground is not forfeited by his guilty plea. ...

... [W]e have explained that even after entering a valid guilty plea, "a defendant may not forfeit a claim of a constitutional [*2]defect implicating the integrity of the process" ...  and we have recognized that certain claimed defects in a grand jury proceeding rise to this level ... .

 

Defendant's claim in this case rests on the purported exclusion of a witness, the substance of whose testimony was contained in an affidavit provided to the courts below. That proffered testimony was largely inadmissible and, in any event, would have inculpated him by establishing that he had a relationship with the complainant and had been in her presence in violation of an order of protection. The exclusion of such testimony before the grand jury does not present "a constitutional defect implicating the integrity of the process"...  and accordingly the claimed violation in this case did not survive defendant's guilty plea.  People v Manragh, 2018 NY Slip Op 07924, CtApp 11-20-18

CRIMINAL LAW (THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, GRAND JURY, THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP))/APPEALS (CRIMINAL LAW, GUILTY PLEA, THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP))/GUILTY PLEA (APPEALS, HE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP))/GRAND JURY (APPEALS, GUILTY PLEA, THE PROSECUTION'S FAILURE TO PRESENT A WITNESS TO THE GRAND JURY, AS REQUESTED BY THE DEFENDANT, DID NOT RISE TO A CONSTITUTIONAL DEFECT, THEREFORE THE ISSUE DID NOT SURVIVE DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA (CT APP))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, APPEALS.

EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, over a two-judge dissent, determined the evidence of serious physical injury in this first degree assault case met the "legally sufficient evidence" standard of appellate review. The victim was shot in the leg and bullet fragments remain in his body:

The victim testified that he can still "feel [the bullet] poking out," and that he continues to endure the effects "of the metal inside [his] leg." Even four years after the shooting, the victim noted that the injury still "disturbs" him at times, and that "something is wrong with [his] leg." The victim stated that, because the bullet "didn't come out of [his] leg," his "life" had been "tampered with." For instance, he can no longer participate in competitive sports, as the injury would present a "very, very, very, very big risk." The medical expert further testified that there are "many repercussions" of the type of muscle damage that the victim sustained: "Muscle damage can cause long-term injuries to the kidneys from leakage of chemicals from the muscle, toxic to the kidneys, can cause pain and weakness, difficulty walking."

 

As the dissent notes, there is certainly record evidence favorable to the defense that, when viewed in isolation, might have presented an issue of fact for the jury. That said, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the People, as our legal sufficiency standard requires, we have no trouble concluding that the jury acted rationally in finding that the victim's gunshot wound constituted a "serious physical injury" ... . People v Garland, 2018 NY Slip Op 07927, CtApp 11-20-18

CRIMINAL LAW (EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))/APPEALS (CRIMINAL LAW, LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))/SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY (CRIMINAL LAW, ASSAULT, EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))/LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, APPEALS, EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))/ASSAULT (EVIDENCE OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY MET THE LEGALLY SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE APPELLATE REVIEW CRITERIA (CT APP))

EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW.

SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO OVERSEE PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS OFFERED BY CHARTER SCHOOLS, BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS ONE OF PURE STATUTORY INTERPRETATION, DEFERENCE TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION'S CONTRARY CONCLUSION IS NOT REQUIRED (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Garcia, over an extensive two-judge dissenting opinion, determined that school districts do not have the authority to oversee pre-kindergarten programs offered by charter schools. The court noted that deference to the Commissioner of Education's contrary finding was not required because the question is one of pure statutory interpretation:

Charter schools are listed among the various eligible providers under the Statewide Universal Full-Day Pre-Kindergarten Program. Unlike other providers, however, charter schools are separately governed by the New York Charter Schools Act, and all "monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements" related to charter school pre-kindergarten programs are "the responsibility of the charter entity" and must be "consistent with the requirements" of the Charter Schools Act (Education Law § 3602-ee [12]). The issue before us is whether the statutory scheme governing charter school pre-kindergarten programs allows for shared oversight authority between charter entities and local school districts. We hold that it does not ... . * * *

According to [the appellate division, affirmed here by the Court of Appeals], the Legislature's use of the word "all" in subdivision 12 provide the charter entity "with full responsibility for the relevant monitoring, programmatic review and operational requirements' for the relevant prekindergarten programs" and that the plain meaning of this provision "in no way indicates that another entity — such as a school district — holds concurrent responsibility or authority in this regard" (... quoting Education Law § 3602-ee [12]). This reading, in the Appellate Division's view, "best harmonizes the provisions of the statute in a manner consistent with the Legislature's announced purpose" of Universal Pre-K Law which was " to encourage program creativity through competition'" (... quoting Education Law § 3602-ee [1]). The Court also determined that the plain meaning of the term "inspection" did not include a right to regulate the curriculum (id.; see Education Law § 3602-ee [10]). The Appellate Division remitted the matter to the Commissioner, given that "the Commissioner's determination regarding Success Academy's request for funding was affected by its erroneous interpretation of" Universal Pre-K Law" ... . Matter of DeVera v Elia, 2018 NY Slip Op 07922, CtApp 11-20-18

EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW (SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO OVERSEE PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS OFFERED BY CHARTER SCHOOLS, BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS ONE OF PURE STATUTORY INTERPRETATION, DEFERENCE TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION'S CONTRARY CONCLUSION IS NOT REQUIRED (CT APP))/ADMINISTRATIVE LAW (EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO OVERSEE PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS OFFERED BY CHARTER SCHOOLS, BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS ONE OF PURE STATUTORY INTERPRETATION, DEFERENCE TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION'S CONTRARY CONCLUSION IS NOT REQUIRED (CT APP))/PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS (SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO OVERSEE PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS OFFERED BY CHARTER SCHOOLS, BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS ONE OF PURE STATUTORY INTERPRETATION, DEFERENCE TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION'S CONTRARY CONCLUSION IS NOT REQUIRED (CT APP))/CHARTER SCHOOLS, PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS, (SCHOOL DISTRICTS DO NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO OVERSEE PRE-KINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS OFFERED BY CHARTER SCHOOLS, BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS ONE OF PURE STATUTORY INTERPRETATION, DEFERENCE TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION'S CONTRARY CONCLUSION IS NOT REQUIRED (CT APP))

LIEN LAW, LANDLORD-TENANT.

LANDLORD, BY THE TERMS OF THE LEASE WHICH REQUIRED THE TENANT TO DO RENOVATION WORK, IS DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE WORK, THE CONTRACTOR THEREFORE HAD A VALID MECHANIC'S LIEN WITH RESPECT TO THE LANDLORD (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Wilson, determined the landlord (COR), by the terms of the lease which required work on the premises to be done by the tenant restaurant (Peaches), consented to the work. Therefore the contractor who did the work had a valid mechanic's lien with respect to the landlord:

The language of the lease agreement not only expressly authorized Peaches to undertake the electrical work, but also required it to do so to effectuate the purpose of the lease—that is, for Peaches to open the restaurant for business and operate it continuously, seven days a week, during hours specified by COR. Furthermore, the detailed language makes clear that COR was to retain close supervision over the work and authorized it to exercise at least some direction over the work by reviewing, commenting on, revising, and granting ultimate approval for the design drawings related to the electrical work. We therefore conclude that, under our prior precedents, the terms of the lease agreement between COR and Peaches, taken together, are sufficient to establish COR's consent under Lien Law § 3. Ferrara v Peaches Cafe LLC, 2018 NY Slip Op 07925, CtApp 11-20-18

LIEN LAW (LANDLORD, BY THE TERMS OF THE LEASE WHICH REQUIRED THE TENANT TO DO RENOVATION WORK, IS DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE WORK, THE CONTRACTOR THEREFORE HAD A VALID MECHANIC'S LIEN WITH RESPECT TO THE LANDLORD (CT APP))/LANDLORD-TENANT (LIEN LAW, (LANDLORD, BY THE TERMS OF THE LEASE WHICH REQUIRED THE TENANT TO DO RENOVATION WORK, IS DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE WORK, THE CONTRACTOR THEREFORE HAD A VALID MECHANIC'S LIEN WITH RESPECT TO THE LANDLORD (CT APP))/MECHANIC'S LIEN (LANDLORD-TENANT, LANDLORD, BY THE TERMS OF THE LEASE WHICH REQUIRED THE TENANT TO DO RENOVATION WORK, IS DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE WORK, THE CONTRACTOR THEREFORE HAD A VALID MECHANIC'S LIEN WITH RESPECT TO THE LANDLORD (CT APP))

MUNICIPAL LAW.

ALTHOUGH THE VILLAGE BUILT THE BRIDGE, THE VILLAGE NEVER IMPLEMENTED THE PROCEDURES IN THE VILLAGE CODE FOR ASSUMING CONTROL OVER THE BRIDGE, THEREFORE THE TOWN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIR (CT APP).

The Court of Appeals, in a full-fledged opinion by Judge Stein, over a dissent, reversing the Appellate Division, determined that the Town, not the Village, was responsible for the repair of a bridge. Although the bridge apparently had been built by the Village, the procedure for assuming control over the bridge laid out in the Village Code, which includes a resolution and a permissive referendum, was never implemented. The case turned on interpretation of the code provisions:

The Town argues, and the Appellate Division held, that a village has discretion to assume control of bridges in ways other than those enumerated in Village Law § 6-606. We disagree. " [W]here a law expressly describes a particular act, thing or person to which it shall apply, an irrefutable inference must be drawn that what is omitted or not included was intended to be omitted or excluded'" ... . Here, the legislature has limited the methods by which a village may assume control of a bridge by establishing specific procedures to be followed ... . Had the legislature intended for a village to have the ability to unilaterally construct, and thereby control, a bridge—without regard to the passage of resolutions, agreements with the town, or permissive referendums—the legislature could easily have so stated, and its failure to do so compels the conclusion that such other methods of assuming control are ineffective ... . Town of Aurora v Village of E. Aurora, 018 NY Slip Op 07923, CtApp 11-20-18

MUNICIPAL LAW (TOWN VS VILLAGE, ALTHOUGH THE VILLAGE BUILT THE BRIDGE, THE VILLAGE NEVER IMPLEMENTED THE PROCEDURES IN THE VILLAGE CODE FOR ASSUMING CONTROL OVER THE BRIDGE, THEREFORE THE TOWN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIR (CT APP))/BRIDGES (MUNICIPAL LAW, TOWN VS VILLAGE, ALTHOUGH THE VILLAGE BUILT THE BRIDGE, THE VILLAGE NEVER IMPLEMENTED THE PROCEDURES IN THE VILLAGE CODE FOR ASSUMING CONTROL OVER THE BRIDGE, THEREFORE THE TOWN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIR (CT APP))/TOWN VS VILLAGE (MUNICIPAL LAW, BRIDGES, ALTHOUGH THE VILLAGE BUILT THE BRIDGE, THE VILLAGE NEVER IMPLEMENTED THE PROCEDURES IN THE VILLAGE CODE FOR ASSUMING CONTROL OVER THE BRIDGE, THEREFORE THE TOWN WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR REPAIR (CT APP))

APPELLATE DIVISION

ATTORNEYS, LEGAL MALPRACTICE, NEGLIGENCE, CIVIL PROCEDURE.

COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the complaint stated a cause of action for legal malpractice and should not have been dismissed. The court explained that whether the action would survive a subsequent summary judgment motion is not to be considered. The complaint alleged plaintiff was injured by a pizza delivery driver and the attorneys failed to sue the employer (Dominos):

"On a motion pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, the court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, accord the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, and determine only whether the facts as alleged fit within any cognizable legal theory" ... . "Where a court considers evidentiary material in determining a motion to dismiss a complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7), but does not convert the motion into one for summary judgment, the criterion becomes whether the plaintiff has a cause of action, not whether the plaintiff has stated one, and unless the movant shows that a material fact as claimed by the plaintiff is not a fact at all and no significant dispute exists regarding the alleged fact, the complaint shall not be dismissed" ... . "Whether the complaint will later survive a motion for summary judgment, or whether the plaintiff will ultimately be able to prove its claims, of course, plays no part in the determination of a prediscovery CPLR 3211 motion to dismiss" ... . ...

Here, accepting the facts alleged in the complaint as true, and according the plaintiff the benefit of every possible favorable inference, the plaintiff stated a cause of action to recover damages for legal malpractice ... . The evidentiary submissions did not establish that a material fact alleged in the complaint is not a fact at all and that no significant dispute exists regarding it ... . Contrary to the defendants' contention, the plaintiff was entitled to commence this legal malpractice action even though the underlying personal injury action was still pending, as the legal malpractice action accrued, at the latest, in November 2014 ... . Lopez v Lozner & Mastropietro, P.C. , 2018 NY Slip Op 08017, Second Dept 11-21-18

ATTORNEYS (LEGAL MALPRACTICE, COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/LEGAL MALPRACTICE (COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/NEGLIGENCE (LEGAL MALPRACTICE, COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/CIVIL PROCEDURE (MOTIONS TO DISMISS,  COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/DISMISS COMPLAINT, MOTION TO (LEGAL MALPRACTICE, COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/CPLR 3211 (LEGAL MALPRACTICE, COMPLAINT STATED A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR LEGAL MALPRACTICE, MOTION TO DISMISS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))

CIVIL PROCEDURE, ATTORNEYS.

LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendants' "law office failure" excuse was sufficient to warrant granting the motion to vacate the default judgments:

"A party seeking to vacate a default in appearing or answering pursuant to CPLR 5015(a)(1), and thereupon to serve a late answer, must demonstrate a reasonable excuse for the default and a potentially meritorious defense to the action"... . The determination of what constitutes a reasonable excuse lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, and in the exercise of that discretion, the court may accept law office failure as an excuse (see CPLR 2005... ). Here, the defaulting defendants demonstrated a reasonable excuse, based upon law office failure arising from a miscommunication between their former counsel and their present counsel, for their default in answering the complaint or otherwise appearing in the action ... .

The defaulting defendants also demonstrated that they had a potentially meritorious defense. ...

Under the circumstances here, particularly in light of the evidence that the defaulting defendants' delay was not willful, the lack of prejudice to the plaintiffs resulting from the defaulting defendants' short delay in appearing and seeking to answer the complaint, the existence of a potentially meritorious defense, and the strong public policy favoring the resolution of cases on the merits, the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in denying the defaulting defendants' motion to vacate their default and to compel the plaintiffs to accept their late answer ... . Government Employees Ins. Co. v Avenue C Med., P.C., 2018 NY Slip Op 08010, Second Dept 11-21-18

CIVIL PROCEDURE (VACATE DEFAULT, LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/DEFAULT JUDGMENT, MOTION TO VACATE (LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/LAW OFFICE FAILURE (VACATE DEFAULT, LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/CPLR 5015, CPLR 2005 (VACATE DEFAULT, LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE WAS SUFFICIENT TO WARRANT GRANTING OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO VACATE THE DEFAULT JUDGMENTS, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))

CIVIL PROCEDURE, ATTORNEYS.

LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE INSUFFICIENT, MOTION TO VACATE DISCONTINUANCE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the law office failure excuse was insufficient to warrant vacating the order of discontinuance:

While courts have discretionary power to relieve a party from a judgment or order for sufficient reason and in the interest of substantial justice... , "[a] court's inherent power to exercise control over its judgments is not plenary, and should be resorted to only to relieve a party from judgments taken through [fraud,] mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect" ... .

Here, the plaintiff asserted that the action was erroneously discontinued by prior counsel due to confusion generated by an impending substitution of counsel. "Where a party asserts law office failure, it must provide a detailed and credible explanation of the default'"... , and conclusory and unsubstantiated allegations of law office failure are insufficient ... . Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the uncorroborated representation by its current counsel that the action was erroneously discontinued by prior counsel did not constitute a detailed and credible explanation warranting vacatur of the order of discontinuance and restoration of the action ... . Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied the plaintiff's motion to vacate the order of discontinuance and to restore the action to the active calendar. IndyMac Bank, FSB v Izzo, 2018 NY Slip Op 08014, Second Dept 11-21-18

CIVIL PROCEDURE (LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE INSUFFICIENT, MOTION TO VACATE DISCONTINUANCE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE INSUFFICIENT, MOTION TO VACATE DISCONTINUANCE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/LAW OFFICE FAILURE (VACATE DISCONTINUANCE, LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE INSUFFICIENT, MOTION TO VACATE DISCONTINUANCE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/DISCONTINUANCE, MOTION TO VACATE  (LAW OFFICE FAILURE EXCUSE INSUFFICIENT, MOTION TO VACATE DISCONTINUANCE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))

CONDOMINIUMS, ATTORNEYS.

PRODUCTION OF CONDOMINIUM RECORDS PROPERLY REQUESTED, THE BOARD'S PAYMENT OF THE SUBPOENAED PARTIES' LEGAL EXPENSES IN RESISTING THE SUBPOENAS FOR THE RECORDS WAS PROPER (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department determined the production of certain of the condominium's books and records was properly requested by petitioners and the subpoenaed parties' legal expenses in resisting petitioners' subpoenas were properly paid by the condominium board:

In item (j), petitioners seek "all correspondence with . . . NY Urban [or its principal] from 2011 to the present." This body of correspondence is relevant and necessary to petitioners' investigation into NY Urban's dealings with respondents, and therefore is a proper subject of the common-law right of inspection ... .

 

In item (g), petitioners seek "[a]ll documents and records relating to the Condominium's settlement agreement with the Condominium sponsor." We agree with petitioners that understanding how the Condominium reached the settlement agreement is a valid purpose. Indeed, respondents concede that petitioners are entitled to receive a copy of the final settlement agreement itself. The documents specified in item (g) following the word "including" are also reasonably relevant and necessary to the stated purpose of exploring the settlement process. We reject respondents' conclusory assertion that some unknown number of documents are protected by the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine.

 

In paying the subpoenaed parties' legal expenses, respondents were acting within the scope of their authority and in furtherance of the legitimate purpose of resisting litigation disclosure of Condominium documents, and there is no evidence that they were acting in bad faith ... . Matter of Healy v Carriage House Condominium, 2018 NY Slip Op 07970, First Dept 11-20-18

CONDOMINIUMS (PRODUCTION OF CONDOMINIUM RECORDS PROPERLY REQUESTED, THE BOARD'S PAYMENT OF THE SUBPOENAED PARTIES' LEGAL EXPENSES IN RESISTING THE SUBPOENAS FOR THE RECORDS WAS PROPER (FIRST DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (PRODUCTION OF CONDOMINIUM RECORDS PROPERLY REQUESTED, THE BOARD'S PAYMENT OF THE SUBPOENAED PARTIES' LEGAL EXPENSES IN RESISTING THE SUBPOENAS FOR THE RECORDS WAS PROPER (FIRST DEPT)

CRIMINAL LAW.

UNLIKE AN INDICTMENT, A WAIVER OF INDICTMENT MUST INCLUDE THE APPROXIMATE TIME OF THE OFFENSE, THE WAIVER HERE INCLUDED ONLY THE DAY OF THE OFFENSE AND WAS THEREFORE INVALID (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department determined the waiver of indictment was invalid because it did not include the approximate time of the offense. The court noted that the time allegations required for an indictment do not include the approximate time of the offense, but the approximate time must be included in a waiver of indictment:

Courts have held that "[w]hen time is not an essential element of an offense, the indictment, as supplemented by a bill of particulars, may allege the time in approximate terms. The indictment must, however, set forth a time interval which reasonably serves the function of protecting defendant's constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, so as to enable the defendant to prepare a defense and to use the judgment against further prosecution for the same crime" ... . Those cases deal with indictments, however, not waivers of indictment. Pursuant to the statute, an indictment must include a statement "that the offense charged therein was committed on, or on or about, a designated date, or during a designated period of time" (CPL 200.50 [6]), whereas CPL 195.20 requires that waivers of indictment include the offense's "date and approximate time" ... . "[I]n the interpretation of a statute[,] we must assume that the Legislature did not deliberately place a phrase in the statute which was intended to serve no purpose[,] and each word must be read and given a distinct and consistent meaning" ... . Simply stating that the offense occurred on, or on or about, a specified date or within a range of time (such as a certain week, month or span of months) may meet the statutory requirements for an indictment ... , but is insufficient to meet CPL 195.20's additional "approximate time" requirement for a waiver of indictment ... . Any other interpretation would render the statute's language requiring the "approximate time" superfluous or redundant. People v Busch-Scardino, 2018 NY Slip Op 07979, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (UNLIKE AN INDICTMENT, A WAIVER OF INDICTMENT MUST INCLUDE THE APPROXIMATE TIME OF THE OFFENSE, THE WAIVER HERE INCLUDED ONLY THE DAY OF THE OFFENSE AND WAS THEREFORE INVALID (THIRD DEPT))/WAIVER OF INDICTMENT  (UNLIKE AN INDICTMENT, A WAIVER OF INDICTMENT MUST INCLUDE THE APPROXIMATE TIME OF THE OFFENSE, THE WAIVER HERE INCLUDED ONLY THE DAY OF THE OFFENSE AND WAS THEREFORE INVALID (THIRD DEPT))/TIME (WAIVER OF INDICTMENT, UNLIKE AN INDICTMENT, A WAIVER OF INDICTMENT MUST INCLUDE THE APPROXIMATE TIME OF THE OFFENSE, THE WAIVER HERE INCLUDED ONLY THE DAY OF THE OFFENSE AND WAS THEREFORE INVALID (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, APPEALS.

DURING THE PLEA COLLOQUY DEFENDANT NEGATED AN ELEMENT OF THE CRIME AND THE COURT DID NOT CONDUCT FURTHER INQUIRY, THE ERROR NEED NOT BE PRESERVED FOR CONSIDERATION ON APPEAL, PLEA VACATED (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, vacating defendant's plea, determined that the court should have conducted further inquiry after defendant, during the plea colloquy, made a statement about the age of the victim which negated an element of the crime. The error triggered the narrow exception to the preservation requirement:

Defendant contends that the plea must be vacated because he negated an essential element of the crime at sentencing. Although the record does not reflect that defendant made an appropriate postallocution motion in order to preserve this issue for our review, we find that a statement made by defendant at sentencing cast doubt upon his guilt and, therefore, triggered "the narrow exception to the preservation requirement and impos[ed] a duty upon County Court 'to inquire further to ensure that defendant's guilty plea [was] knowing and voluntary'" ... . "[S]tatements made by a defendant that negate an element of the crime to which a plea has been entered . . . or otherwise suggest an involuntary plea require[s] the trial court to then conduct a further inquiry or give the defendant an opportunity to withdraw the plea" ... .

At sentencing, defendant stated that the sexual conduct started when the victim was 13 years old, not 12 years old. Such statement by defendant negated the element of predatory sexual assault against a child in the first degree that requires that the victim be under the age of 13 (see Penal Law § 130.96). Notwithstanding defendant's statement, County Court did not make any further inquiry or give defendant an opportunity to withdraw his plea prior to proceeding to sentencing. People v Brassard, 2018 NY Slip Op 07978, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (DURING THE PLEA COLLOQUY DEFENDANT NEGATED AN ELEMENT OF THE CRIME AND THE COURT DID NOT CONDUCT FURTHER INQUIRY, THE ERROR NEED NOT BE PRESERVED FOR CONSIDERATION ON APPEAL, PLEA VACATED (THIRD DEPT))/APPEALS (CRIMINAL LAW, DURING THE PLEA COLLOQUY DEFENDANT NEGATED AN ELEMENT OF THE CRIME AND THE COURT DID NOT CONDUCT FURTHER INQUIRY, THE ERROR NEED NOT BE PRESERVED FOR CONSIDERATION ON APPEAL, PLEA VACATED (THIRD DEPT))/PLEA COLLOQUY  (DURING THE PLEA COLLOQUY DEFENDANT NEGATED AN ELEMENT OF THE CRIME AND THE COURT DID NOT CONDUCT FURTHER INQUIRY, THE ERROR NEED NOT BE PRESERVED FOR CONSIDERATION ON APPEAL, PLEA VACATED (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE.

DEFENDANT DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE RECORDING OF PHONE CALLS MADE FROM JAIL AND TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE RECORDINGS AS TRIAL EVIDENCE (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department determined the defendant's request to preclude recording of phone calls he made from jail was properly denied. Defendant was deemed to have consented to the recordings:

"Defendant impliedly consented to the recording of the call(s) based on his receipt of multiple forms of notice that his calls would be recorded, and he was not entitled to separate notice that the calls might be subpoenaed by prosecutors" ... . People v Mason, 2018 NY Slip Op 07944, First Dept 11-20-18

CRIMINAL LAW (EVIDENCE, DEFENDANT DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE RECORDING OF PHONE CALLS MADE FROM JAIL AND TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE RECORDINGS AS TRIAL EVIDENCE (FIRST DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, PHONE CALLS FROM JAIL, DEFENDANT DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE RECORDING OF PHONE CALLS MADE FROM JAIL AND TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE RECORDINGS AS TRIAL EVIDENCE (FIRST DEPT))/PHONE CALLS (CRIMINAL LAW, JAIL,  DEFENDANT DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE RECORDING OF PHONE CALLS MADE FROM JAIL AND TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE RECORDINGS AS TRIAL EVIDENCE (FIRST DEPT))/RECORDINGS (PHONE CALL, JAIL, CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT DEEMED TO HAVE CONSENTED TO THE RECORDING OF PHONE CALLS MADE FROM JAIL AND TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE RECORDINGS AS TRIAL EVIDENCE (FIRST DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE.

SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department determined Supreme Court properly suppressed evidence seized at the time of the illegal arrest, as well as the subsequent lineup identification:

... [A]t the time of the gunpoint seizure of the two defendants, the police had an anonymous tip that an undescribed suspect or suspects had burglarized an unspecified apartment on the sixth floor of a building, they spoke to building residents who reported noise on that floor, and they saw defendants leaving an apartment on that floor carrying undescribed bags. The totality of this information failed to provide reasonable suspicion to support an immediate forcible seizure without any inquiry. The police learned additional information, but only after the unlawful seizure.

 

Therefore, the court properly suppressed all physical evidence as fruit of the illegality. Furthermore, the court also granted suppression, independently of the initial illegality, because the witness's recollection about the subsequent search of the contents of the bags, and about the recovery of gloves from the hallway floor, was so limited that the People did not meet their initial burden of coming forward with credible evidence to establish either a search of the bags incident to a lawful arrest or the abandonment of the gloves ... . 

 

The record also supports the court's determination to suppress an officer's lineup identification of [defendant] Salkey, who had fled the scene, as the unattenuated fruit of the unlawful stop and frisk ... . The vague testimony provided no explanation of how Salkey came to be placed in a lineup, and no basis for finding attenuation from the initial illegality. People v Brown, 2018 NY Slip Op 07956, First Dept 11-20-18

CRIMINAL LAW (EVIDENCE, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW,  SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))/SUPPRESSION  (CRIMINAL LAW,  SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))/SEARCH AND SEIZURE (CRIMINAL LAW,  SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))/LINEUPS (CRIMINAL LAW,  SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))/IDENTIFICATION (LINEUPS, (CRIMINAL LAW,  SUPREME COURT PROPERLY FOUND THE GUNPOINT ARREST UNLAWFUL AND PROPERLY SUPPRESSED THE SEIZED ITEMS AND THE LINEUP IDENTIFICATION (FIRST DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, APPEALS.

TESTIMONY OF SOLE EYEWITNESS DEEMED INCREDIBLE AND UNRELIABLE, CONVICTION REVERSED UNDER A WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ANALYSIS (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing defendant's manslaughter conviction under a weight of the evidence analysis, determined that the testimony of the sole eyewitness, Geroulakis, was incredible and unreliable:

On cross-examination, Geroulakis's testimony was incredible and unreliable. Geroulakis denied that, at the first trial, he had identified the defendant as the shorter man at the souvlaki stand. When Geroulakis was confronted with his testimony from the first trial, he responded, "I remember they told me who is who, who stabbed me and who stabbed Jimmy." Significantly, investigating detective Robert W. Henning testified that Geroulakis told him that he had argued with the shorter man, that they pushed and shoved each other, that the man "pulled out a knife" and stabbed Geroulakis "in the right thigh area" and then walked over to the car, reached in, and "stabbed [Zisimopoulos] in the abdomen." After reading his interview notes, Henning confirmed that Geroulakis stated that the same person stabbed both Geroulakis and Zisimopoulos. Furthermore, on cross-examination, Geroulakis testified that he did not remember what the man whom he identified as the defendant was wearing and denied previously describing the man as wearing a long-sleeved black shirt. Geroulakis recalled telling a detective only that "some were wearing black and one was wearing long sleeves." Geroulakis acknowledged that, in 2009, he had testified that the taller man wore a black shirt with long sleeves. A video-still from one of the clubs that the defendant visited in the early morning of the day of the incident revealed that the defendant was wearing a light-colored shirt with horizontal stripes and sleeves to the elbows. In addition, Detective Constantine Papadopoulos testified that the defendant had the same tattoo on his right arm at the time of trial that he had at the lineup, and Detective David Beutel testified that the defendant had tattoos on both of his arms. Geroulakis, however, testified that the arms of the two men who allegedly stabbed Zisimopoulos were bare and that he did not observe any tattoos.

 

Moreover, Geroulakis's motive to identify the defendant as one of the people who stabbed Zisimopoulos is apparent from his exaggerated testimony at the second trial. It was only at second trial, nine years after the incident, that Geroulakis testified that he had observed the defendant, the taller of the two men, twice: once at the souvlaki stand and once by the car at the time of the stabbings. On cross-examination, however, Geroulakis admitted that, at the first trial, he stated that he recognized only the shorter man from the souvlaki stand, not the defendant. Despite this admission, Geroulakis continued to insist at the second trial that both the defendant and the shorter man were at the souvlaki stand.

 

Based on the weight of the credible evidence, we find that the jury was not justified in finding the defendant guilty of manslaughter in the first degree beyond a reasonable doubt ... . People v Andujar, 2018 NY Slip Op 08028, Second Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (TESTIMONY OF SOLE EYEWITNESS DEEMED INCREDIBLE AND UNRELIABLE, CONVICTION REVERSED UNDER A WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ANALYSIS (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, APPEALS, TESTIMONY OF SOLE EYEWITNESS DEEMED INCREDIBLE AND UNRELIABLE, CONVICTION REVERSED UNDER A WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ANALYSIS (SECOND DEPT))/APPEALS (CRIMINAL LAW, TESTIMONY OF SOLE EYEWITNESS DEEMED INCREDIBLE AND UNRELIABLE, CONVICTION REVERSED UNDER A WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ANALYSIS (SECOND DEPT))/WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE (APPEALS, CRIMINAL LAW, TESTIMONY OF SOLE EYEWITNESS DEEMED INCREDIBLE AND UNRELIABLE, CONVICTION REVERSED UNDER A WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE ANALYSIS (SECOND DEPT))/

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, ATTORNEYS.

THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department determined Supreme Court should have held a hearing on defendant's motion to vacate his conviction alleging ineffective assistance counsel. i.e., the failure to move to dismiss the indictment based on a speedy trial violation. Although the People raised a question of fact about whether defendant's counsel consented to certain adjournments, the issue was not conclusively demonstrated, requiring a hearing:

Defendant argued that he was deprived of effective assistance because his counsel failed to move to dismiss the indictment based on a violation of his statutory speedy trial rights. Failure to make a meritorious speedy trial motion, which would result in dismissal of the indictment, is sufficiently egregious to amount to ineffective assistance... . There is ordinarily no strategic reason for counsel to fail to make a dispositive motion that would result in dismissal of the charges with prejudice, so long as it is shown that the motion would have been successful ... . ...

The Court of Appeals has clarified that " [a]djournments consented to by the defense must be clearly expressed to relieve the People of the responsibility for that portion of the delay. Defense counsel's failure to object to the adjournment or failure to appear does not constitute consent" ... A court may not deny a motion to dismiss for a statutory speedy trial violation "without a hearing unless '[a]n allegation of fact essential to support the motion is conclusively refuted by unquestionable proof'" ... . " Of course, only those periods for which the People have not provided 'unquestionable documentary proof' — for example, a transcript or letter evidencing defendant's consent — need be addressed at any hearing" ... . At least one court has held that calendar and file jacket notations" do not constitute unquestionable proof to meet the People's "burden of demonstrating sufficient excludable time" ... . People v Matteson, 2018 NY Slip Op 07976, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (VACATE CONVICTION, THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/EVIDENCE (VACATE CONVICTION, THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE, (VACATE CONVICTION, THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/VACATE CONVICTION, MOTION TO ( THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE (THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/SPEEDY TRIAL (VACATE CONVICTION,  THERE ARE QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER DEFENSE COUNSEL CONSENTED TO ADJOURNMENTS, DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE HIS CONVICTION ALLEGING INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE IN THAT DEFENSE COUNSEL DID NOT MOVE TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT ON SPEEDY TRIAL GROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED WITHOUT A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, APPEALS.

RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing defendant's resisting arrest conviction, determined that the trial evidence rendered the resisting arrest count of the indictment duplicitous. At trial evidence of two separate circumstance where defendant was alleged to have resisted arrest, involving different police officers, was presented. Although the error was not preserved, the court considered the issue under its interest of justice jurisdiction:

"Even if a count facially charges one criminal act, that count is duplicitous if the evidence makes plain that multiple criminal acts occurred during the relevant time period, rendering it nearly impossible to determine the particular act upon which the jury reached its verdict" ... . The indictment charged defendant with one count of resisting arrest. According to the record evidence, however, the jury was presented with two instances where defendant resisted an officer's arrest — one involving the victim that turned violent and the other involving the officers who discovered him in the dumpster. We also note that, during deliberation, the jury asked whether it could consider the incident at the dumpster with respect to the resisting arrest charge or solely defendant's encounter with the victim. In our view, Supreme Court's response in rereading count 5 of the indictment failed to dispel any confusion by the jury... . Although this argument is unpreserved for review, we take corrective action in the interest of justice by dismissing count 5 of the indictment with leave to the People to re-present any appropriate charges to a new grand jury ... . People v Hilton. 2018 NY Slip Op 07981, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT))/APPEAL (CRIMINAL LAW, RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT))/INDICTMENTS (RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT))/DUPLICITOUS (CRIMINAL LAW, RESISTING ARREST COUNT RENDERED DUPLICITOUS BY TRIAL TESTIMONY, UNPRESERVED ERROR CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, RESISTING ARREST CONVICTION REVERSED (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, ATTORNEYS, AGENCY.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice McCarthy, determined defendant, an inmate, did not present sufficient proof that Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) personnel acted as agents for the police when investigating a killing in the prison. Defendant alleged that inmates were coerced into testifying against him and evidence of the coercion was Brady material which should have been provided to the defense by the prosecutor. The Third Department found defendant had not met his burden of proof concerning whether the DOCS personnel were acting as agents for the police. Rather, there was evidence that the DOCS investigation and the police investigation were separate and had different purposes. Therefore defendant's motion to vacate his conviction was properly denied:

Several cases have held that "[e]vidence gathered by prison staff . . . generally is not 'under the control or in the possession of the People or its agents, but [is] instead in the possession of an administrative agency that was not performing law enforcement functions'"... . That said, whether knowledge of a government official or employee may be imputed to the People appears to turn on whether participation in the criminal probe was an ancillary law enforcement task... or whether the level of cooperation between the employee and law enforcement in a particular criminal investigation renders the employee an agent of the People ... . Under agency principles, "acts of agents, and the knowledge they acquire while acting within the scope of their authority are presumptively imputed to their principals"... . For example, "[w]hile social workers are generally not agents of the police," in situations where they engage in a "joint venture" with police agencies to collaborate on child abuse or sexual abuse investigations, share information and a common purpose, and have a "cooperative working arrangement" with police, an agency relationship may exist such that the social workers' knowledge is imputed to the People ... . ...

... [I]t appears that the State Police and IG [the DOCS Investigator General] were conducting parallel investigations — one criminal and one administrative, albeit with some obvious and necessary overlap — addressing different aspects of the situation... . The report from the lead IG investigator — who was not called to testify — reveals that he interviewed inmates with the State Police, gathered information for two months after the incident, conferred with State Police and met with the District Attorney. But the report indicates that the IG closed its case six months before defendant's criminal trial, based on a finding that there was no evidence of staff misconduct, indicating the administrative focus of the IG's investigation. People v Lewis, 2018 NY Slip Op 07980, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))/EVIDENCE (DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (CRIMINAL LAW, PROSECUTORS, BRADY MATERIAL, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))/BRADY MATERIAL (DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))/AGENCY (CRIMINAL LAW, JOINT INVESTIGATIONS, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))/VACATE CONVICTION, MOTION TO  (DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS) PERSONNEL WERE NOT ACTING AS AGENTS FOR THE POLICE WHEN INVESTIGATING THE PRISON KILLING WITH WHICH DEFENDANT WAS CHARGED, THEREFORE THE PROSECUTOR WAS NOT OBLIGATED TO LEARN ABOUT AND TURN OVER TO THE DEFENSE ANY ALLEGED EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE TURNED UP IN THE DOCS INVESTIGATION (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW.

THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the denial of defendant's request to present an alibi witness was reversible error, despite the fact that a notice of alibi had not been served. The People had opened the door at trial, creating the need to call the alibi witness:

Pursuant to CPL 250.20 (3), "[i]f at the trial the defendant calls such an alibi witness without having served the demanded notice of alibi, . . . the court may exclude any testimony of such witness relating to the alibi defense." Precluding a criminal defendant from proffering evidence in support of his or her own case implicates the Compulsory Process Clause of the Sixth Amendment... , and, although CPL 250.20 (3) explicitly states that the trial court's decision to permit a late notice of alibi is discretionary, preclusion is only an appropriate penalty "in the most egregious circumstances"... . When a defendant's "omission was willful and motivated by a desire to obtain a tactical advantage that would minimize the effectiveness of cross-examination and the ability to adduce rebuttal evidence, it would be entirely consistent with the purposes of the Compulsory Process Clause simply to exclude the witness'[s] testimony"... .

... [A]lthough defendant did not serve an alibi notice in response to the People's demand for same, defendant did not intend to call an alibi witness except that the People — knowing that defendant had testified to having an alibi during the grand jury but that he had not presented that defense at trial — directly elicited testimony ... about what defendant was doing on the night of the shooting. In response to follow-up questions by the People, [the witness] provided the alibi witness's first name and generally discussed that defendant was friends with this person. The People's question regarding what defendant was doing the night of the shooting was the first reference to defendant's alibi during the trial, and defendant thereafter sought permission to call his friend ... as a witness for the first time. The People, despite raising and pursuing this line of questioning, objected because defendant had not served an alibi notice. Defendant argued that the People opened the door and created the issue and, as a result, defendant should not be precluded from calling Steward. We agree. People v Perkins, 2018 NY Slip Op 07972, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CRIMINAL LAW, ALIBI WITNESS, (THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT))/CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (CRIMINAL LAW, COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE, THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT))/COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE (CRIMINAL LAW, ALIBI WITNESS, THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT))/ALIBI WITNESS (THE PEOPLE OPENED THE DOOR AT TRIAL CREATING THE NEED FOR DEFENDANT TO CALL AN ALIBI WITNESS FOR WHOM THE DEFENDANT HAD NOT SERVED A NOTICE, THE DENIAL OF THE REQUEST IMPLICATED THE COMPULSORY PROCESS CLAUSE OF THE SIXTH AMENDMENT AND CONSTITUTED REVERSIBLE ERROR (THIRD DEPT))

CRIMINAL LAW, IMMIGRATION LAW, ATTORNEYS.

DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing County Court, determined that defendant was entitled to a hearing on his motion to vacate his conviction on ineffective assistance grounds. Defendant's affidavit raised sufficient factual questions which could not be answered from the record to warrant a hearing. Defendant alleged he was not informed of the deportation consequences of the marijuana conviction:

"Although a hearing on a CPL 440.10 motion is not always necessary, a hearing is required where the defendant bases the motion upon nonrecord facts that are material and, if established, would entitle the defendant to relief"... . In support of his motion to vacate the judgment of conviction, defendant tendered his own affidavit, wherein he asserted that he had completed his prison sentence and period of postrelease supervision and that he was being held at a federal detention facility pending deportation proceedings. He stated that trial counsel failed to inform him of the immigration consequences of being convicted as charged and that, had he been so informed, he would have asked trial counsel "to explore the possibility of a plea bargain rather than take the case to trial, even though [he] continued to maintain [his] innocence." He further stated that trial counsel's failure to present him with any plea offer, or to inform him of potential deportation consequences, "caused [him] to forgo any discussion of a plea bargain." People v Blackman, 2018 NY Slip Op 07982, Third Dept 11-21-18

CRIMINAL LAW (DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))/IMMIGRATION LAW (CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))/DEPORTATION (CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (CRIMINAL LAW, DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))/INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE  (DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))/VACATE CONVICTION, MOTION TO  (DEFENDANT ENTITLED TO A HEARING ON HIS MOTION TO VACATE HIS CONVICTION ON INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE GROUNDS, DEFENDANT ALLEGED HE WAS NOT INFORMED OF THE DEPORTATION CONSEQUENCES OF HIS MARIJUANA CONVICTION (THIRD DEPT))

FAMILY LAW.

FATHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED, MOTHER HAD RELOCATED TO FLORIDA WITHOUT FATHER'S CONSENT AND WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE COURT (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Family Court, determined that father's petition to modify custody should not have been denied without a hearing. Mother had relocated to Florida without father's consent or the permission of the court:

Family Court correctly determined that the mother's testimony about her unilateral relocation constituted a change in circumstances, triggering an inquiry into whether the child remaining in the mother's custody in Florida is in the child's best interests ... . However, the court abused its discretion in making a final determination on that issue without a full hearing at which the parties and the child's attorney had an opportunity to present relevant evidence. The question of a child's relocation out of state necessarily requires "due consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances and with predominant emphasis being placed on what outcome is most likely to serve the best interests of the child ... . [C]ustody and visitation decisions should be made with a view toward minimizing the parents' discomfort and maximizing the child's prospects of a stable, comfortable and happy life"... . Relevant factors include the parties' good faith in requesting or opposing the move, the child's attachments to each parent, the quality of the life-style that the child would have if the proposed move were permitted or denied, the effect that the move may have on any extended family relationships, and whether a visitation plan can be achieved that permits the noncustodial parent to maintain a meaningful parent-child relationship (id.). In this case, since the father had raised concerns in his petition about the child's education, the parties should have had the opportunity to present evidence about this, in addition to other relevant factors. Matter of Michael B. v Latasha T.-M., 2018 NY Slip Op 07929, First Dept 11-20-18

FAMILY LAW (RELOCATION, CUSTODY MODIFICATION, FATHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED, MOTHER HAD RELOCATED TO FLORIDA WITHOUT FATHER'S CONSENT AND WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE COURT (FIRST DEPT))/CUSTODY (FAMILY LAW, RELOCATION, CUSTODY MODIFICATION, FATHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED, MOTHER HAD RELOCATED TO FLORIDA WITHOUT FATHER'S CONSENT AND WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE COURT (FIRST DEPT))/RELOCATION (FAMILY LAW, CUSTODY, FATHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DENIED, MOTHER HAD RELOCATED TO FLORIDA WITHOUT FATHER'S CONSENT AND WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE COURT (FIRST DEPT))

FAMILY LAW.

FAMILY COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ORDERING UNSUPERVISED VISITATION WITH CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE PARENTS' CARE, THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES SINCE THE DENIAL OF THE PARENTS' APPLICATION TO HAVE THE CHILDREN RETURNED TO THEM (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Family Court, determined the record did not support ordering unsupervised visitation with the parents:

Respondents continue to refuse to admit or even to acknowledge the possibility that the children, all of whom tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), were sexually abused. Even as recently as May 2018, and although they ostensibly had participated in various services and counseling, the parents continued to offer implausible explanations for the children's medical condition. ...

 

In November 2017, Family Court (Ta-Tanisha James, J.) denied the parents' application pursuant to Family Court Act § 1028 to have the children returned to their care. Since then there has been no change in the circumstances upon which the denial of that application was based. The court (Frias-Colon, J.) issued the instant order without benefit of a full fact-finding hearing, apparently to avoid delay and stagnation in the proceeding. This justification is inadequate. The permanency reports and treatment updates before the court reiterated the parents' ongoing inability to acknowledge that their children had been sexually abused and did not advocate unsupervised visitation. In view of the gravity of the allegations and the parents' attitude toward, and role in, the events at issue, we find that the court abused its discretion in ordering unsupervised visitation on the record before it. Matter of Abass D. (Mamadou D.--Sitan D.), 2018 NY Slip Op 07968, First Dept 11-20-18

FAMILY LAW (FAMILY COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ORDERING UNSUPERVISED VISITATION WITH CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE PARENTS' CARE, THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES SINCE THE DENIAL OF THE PARENTS' APPLICATION TO HAVE THE CHILDREN RETURNED TO THEM (FIRST DEPT))/VISITATION (FAMILY COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ORDERING UNSUPERVISED VISITATION WITH CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE PARENTS' CARE, THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES SINCE THE DENIAL OF THE PARENTS' APPLICATION TO HAVE THE CHILDREN RETURNED TO THEM (FIRST DEPT))

FAMILY LAW.

FATHER, WHO WAS INCARCERATED, SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRODUCED FOR THE PROCEEDING TO APPOINT A GUARDIAN FOR THE CHILD, NEW HEARING ORDERED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Family Court, determined father, who was incarcerated, had a fundamental right to be heard in the guardianship proceeding and shouild have been produced in court:

The order, after a hearing at which the father was neither present nor represented, and upon the mother's consent, granted the petition of Krystle L. B. to be appointed permanent guardian of the subject child. ... 

 

An incarcerated parent has a fundamental right to be heard in a proceeding impacting the care and control of his or her child ... . Here, the incarcerated father's rights were violated when the Family Court elected to hear and determine the guardianship petition without producing the father in court or affording him an opportunity to be heard.

 

Accordingly, we reverse the order appealed from, and remit the matter ... for a hearing at which the father's constitutional right to be heard will not be abridged and a new determination thereafter on the guardianship petition. Matter of Krystle L.B. v Crystal L.W., 2018 NY Slip Op 08019, Second Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (FATHER, WHO WAS INCARCERATED, SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRODUCED FOR THE PROCEEDING TO APPOINT A GUARDIAN FOR THE CHILD, NEW HEARING ORDERED (SECOND DEPT))/GUARDIANSHIP (FATHER, WHO WAS INCARCERATED, SHOULD HAVE BEEN PRODUCED FOR THE PROCEEDING TO APPOINT A GUARDIAN FOR THE CHILD, NEW HEARING ORDERED (SECOND DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, APPEALS.

APPEAL RENDERED MOOT BY THE RETURN OF THE CHILD IN THIS CHILD NEGLECT - TEMPORARY REMOVAL PROCEEDING AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE DID NOT APPLY, TWO JUSTICE DISSENT ARGUED A NOVEL ISSUE HAD BEEN RAISED CONCERNING CONSENT TO THE TEMPORARY REMOVAL AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE WAS APPLICABLE (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, over a two-justice dissent, determined that the appeal in this child neglect/temporary matter removal had been rendered moot by a disposition which returned the child and the exception to the mootness doctrine, which would allow consideration on appeal, did not apply. The dissent argued that the exception to the mootness doctrine was applicable:

Family Court ... rejected respondent's offer to consent to the continued removal without also admitting that the removal was "necessary to avoid imminent risk to the child's life or health"... . Family Court made such a finding at the conclusion of the hearing and issued an order continuing the temporary removal....

 

Following the issuance of the appealed-from order, respondent agreed to a resolution in which the violation petition was withdrawn, the neglect petition was adjourned in contemplation of dismissal and the child returned to respondent's care. Contrary to her contention, these developments rendered her appeal moot...  She further argues that this case presents an issue that is "likely to recur, typically evades review, and raises a substantial and novel question" so as to fall within the exception to the mootness doctrine, pointing to Family Court's refusal to allow her to waive the removal hearing and consent to the continued removal absent an admission of imminent risk ... . Appeals from temporary removal orders are often rendered moot when the petition is disposed of before an appeal on the temporary order is decided ... , but issues arising from such orders need not evade review considering the preference available for appeals from orders issued under Family Ct Act article 10 ...  More importantly, the law is clear that any order of temporary removal must include a finding that removal "is necessary to avoid imminent risk to the child's life or health" ... . The contention that this requirement can be waived at respondent's convenience is not "sufficiently substantial to warrant [invoking] the exception to the mootness doctrine" ... .

From the dissent:

 

While we agree with the majority that this appeal is moot, we find that the exception to the mootness doctrine applies. The substantive issue presented is whether a respondent in a proceeding under Family Ct Act article 10, part 2 may consent to the temporary removal of his or her child. The record shows that Family Court interpreted both Family Court §§ 1022 and 1027 as requiring the court to make a factual finding that a child is in imminent danger before issuing a temporary removal order. That is certainly the case in a contested proceeding... . The distinct question here, however, is whether a parent may consent to the temporary removal, obviating the need for either an admission of wrongdoing or a hearing eliciting facts of imminent risk as required by Family Court. Given the court's position, it is evident that the issue will readily recur in proceedings before that court. Moreover, appeals from temporary removal orders are routinely found to be moot because a disposition is reached before an appeal is decided ... . Because the procedures surrounding the removal of children from their parents are manifestly of public importance, we consider the consent issue important to resolve. It also appears to be novel. As such, we are persuaded that the exception to the mootness doctrine should be applied ... . Matter of Tyrell FF. (Jaquasisa GG.), 2018 NY Slip Op 07985, Third Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (APPEAL RENDERED MOOT BY THE RETURN OF THE CHILD IN THIS CHILD NEGLECT - TEMPORARY REMOVAL PROCEEDING AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE DID NOT APPLY, TWO JUSTICE DISSENT ARGUED A NOVEL ISSUE HAD BEEN RAISED CONCERNING CONSENT TO THE TEMPORARY REMOVAL AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE WAS APPLICABLE (THIRD DEPT))/APPEALS (FAMILY LAW, APPEAL RENDERED MOOT BY THE RETURN OF THE CHILD IN THIS CHILD NEGLECT - TEMPORARY REMOVAL PROCEEDING AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE DID NOT APPLY, TWO JUSTICE DISSENT ARGUED A NOVEL ISSUE HAD BEEN RAISED CONCERNING CONSENT TO THE TEMPORARY REMOVAL AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE WAS APPLICABLE (THIRD DEPT))/MOOTNESS DOCTRINE, EXCEPTION TO (APPEALS, FAMILY LAW, APPEAL RENDERED MOOT BY THE RETURN OF THE CHILD IN THIS CHILD NEGLECT - TEMPORARY REMOVAL PROCEEDING AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE DID NOT APPLY, TWO JUSTICE DISSENT ARGUED A NOVEL ISSUE HAD BEEN RAISED CONCERNING CONSENT TO THE TEMPORARY REMOVAL AND THE EXCEPTION TO THE MOOTNESS DOCTRINE WAS APPLICABLE (THIRD DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, ATTORNEYS.

FATHER DENIED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN THIS MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY PROCEEDING (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined father had been denied his right to counsel in this modification of custody proceeding for the reasons explained in Matter of Hensley v DeMun, 163 AD3d 1100, 1101 [2018]:

For the reasons stated in Matter of Hensley v DeMun (supra) - the appeal by the father regarding Supreme Court's resolution of the two petitions filed by the mother of the nonsubject child - we find that the father was denied the right to counsel, and we must therefore reverse and remit for further proceedings. Matter of DeMun v DeMun, 2018 NY Slip Op 07987,  Third Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (FATHER DENIED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN THIS MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY PROCEEDING (THIRD DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (FAMILY LAW, FATHER DENIED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN THIS MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY PROCEEDING (THIRD DEPT))/RIGHT TO COUNSEL (FAMILY LAW, FATHER DENIED HIS RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN THIS MODIFICATION OF CUSTODY PROCEEDING (THIRD DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, ATTORNEYS.

CHILD DID NOT RECEIVE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, MOTHER SOUGHT A MODIFICATION OF VISITATION WITH FATHER BASED UPON THE CHILD'S REACTIONS TO VISITS WITH FATHER, THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT RECORD ON THE RELEVANT ISSUES THROUGH QUESTIONING THE CHILD AND CROSS-EXAMINING MOTHER (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing Family Court, determined the child did not receive effective assistance of counsel in this proceeding to modify visitation. Mother sought to eliminate the scheduled visitation with father and allow the child to visit father as the child wished. Family Court denied the petition:

To effectively represent and protect a child's interests, the attorney for the child's role is twofold: (1) help the child express his or her wishes to the court, and (2) take an active role in the proceedings ... . By meeting with the child and informing Family Court that the child did not want to continue visitation as ordered, and by requesting and participating in the Lincoln hearing, the trial attorney for the child met the first objective. Given the mother's limited testimony, however, Family Court understandably characterized the record as "thin." In our view, the attorney for the child should have taken a more active role in the proceedings by presenting witnesses that could speak to the child's concerns and/or conducting a more thorough cross-examination of the mother. During his brief cross-examination of the mother, for example, the trial attorney for the child did not attempt to elicit any further information about his client's behavior and demeanor relative to his visits with the father. On this record, we agree with the argument made by the appellate attorney for the child that the trial attorney for the child did not provide effective assistance. Consequently, the order dismissing the petition should be reversed and the matter remitted to Family Court for further proceedings, including a new fact-finding hearing. Matter of Payne v Montano, 2018 NY Slip Op 07990, Third Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (ATTORNEYS, CHILD DID NOT RECEIVE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, MOTHER SOUGHT A MODIFICATION OF VISITATION WITH FATHER BASED UPON THE CHILD'S REACTIONS TO VISITS WITH FATHER, THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT RECORD ON THE RELEVANT ISSUES THROUGH QUESTIONING THE CHILD AND CROSS-EXAMINING MOTHER (THIRD DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (FAMILY LAW,  CHILD DID NOT RECEIVE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, MOTHER SOUGHT A MODIFICATION OF VISITATION WITH FATHER BASED UPON THE CHILD'S REACTIONS TO VISITS WITH FATHER, THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT RECORD ON THE RELEVANT ISSUES THROUGH QUESTIONING THE CHILD AND CROSS-EXAMINING MOTHER (THIRD DEPT))/INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE (FAMILY LAW, CHILD DID NOT RECEIVE EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL, MOTHER SOUGHT A MODIFICATION OF VISITATION WITH FATHER BASED UPON THE CHILD'S REACTIONS TO VISITS WITH FATHER, THE ATTORNEY FOR THE CHILD DID NOT MAKE A SUFFICIENT RECORD ON THE RELEVANT ISSUES THROUGH QUESTIONING THE CHILD AND CROSS-EXAMINING MOTHER (THIRD DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, CIVIL PROCEDURE, EVIDENCE, ATTORNEYS.

SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, modifying (reversing) Supreme Court in this action for divorce, determined that defendant's motion to preclude plaintiff from introducing certain evidence at trial because of the failure to comply with discovery orders should have been granted. Defendant's request for attorney's fees was properly denied, however, because plaintiff is the less-monied spouse:

A court may prohibit a party "from producing in evidence designated things or items of testimony" if the party "refuses to obey an order for disclosure or willfully fails to disclose information which the court finds ought to have been disclosed" (CPLR 3126[2] ...). Before a court invokes the drastic remedy of precluding evidence, there must be a clear showing that the failure to comply with court-ordered discovery was willful and contumacious ... . The willful and contumacious character of a party's conduct can be inferred from either (1) the repeated failure to respond to demands or comply with court-ordered discovery, without a reasonable excuse for these failures, or (2) the failure to comply with court-ordered discovery over an extended period of time ... .

 

Here, the defendant demonstrated that the plaintiff failed to comply with court-ordered discovery over an extended period of time. The willful and contumacious character of the plaintiff's conduct may be inferred from her failure to respond to the defendant's letter ... , despite two court orders directing her to do so, and her failure to proffer any excuse for her failure. Accordingly, that branch of the defendant's motion which was to preclude the plaintiff from producing physical evidence or testimony at trial relating to certain limited items previously requested but not disclosed should have been granted.

 

We agree, however, with the Supreme Court's denial of that branch of the defendant's motion which was to direct the plaintiff to pay interim counsel fees in the sum of $5,000, since the plaintiff is the less-monied spouse ... . Maliah-Dupass v Dupass, 2018 NY Slip Op 08018, Second Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (DIVORCE, SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))/DIVORCE (SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))/CIVIL PROCEDURE (DISCOVERY, SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))/CPLR 3126 (DIVORCE, SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (CIVIL PROCEDURE, PRECLUSION, SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (FAMILY LAW, DIVORCE, SUPREME COURT SHOULD HAVE PRECLUDED DEFENDANT FROM INTRODUCING CERTAIN EVIDENCE AT TRIAL BECAUSE OF THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH DISCOVERY ORDERS, HOWEVER, SUPREME COURT PROPERLY DENIED DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES BECAUSE PLAINTIFF IS THE LESS-MONIED SPOUSE (SECOND DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, EVIDENCE.

FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Family Court, determined that Family Court did not have enough evidence before to justify denying mother's petition to modify custody. Family Court relied upon a hearsay letter from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register to the effect that certain allegations against the father were unfounded or unsubstantiated:

First, the Family Court improperly denied the mother an opportunity to respond to the "unfounded" letter, which was hearsay. Moreover, although the father apparently had it in his possession for approximately two months, he did not provide it to her until the September 20 court appearance.

 

Second, * * * even if the "unsubstantiated" letter referred to the report made by the older child's school social worker, that letter did not disprove the mother's uncontroverted assertion that, both before and after that report was made, the children had expressed fear of and a desire not to visit with the father. ...

 

Finally, to the extent that Family Court was making a determination that the parties' child's fear of his father was unfounded based on the "unsubstantiated" letter, and that modification was therefore not in the child's best interests, this was error. Since this was the parties' first appearance before this judge, the court did not have sufficient information about the parties and their child to make a comprehensive and independent determination about the child's best interests ... . Matter of Juliette S. v Tykym S., 2018 NY Slip Op 07960, First Dept 11-20-18

FAMILY LAW (FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT))/EVIDENCE (FAMILY LAW, FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT))/CUSTODY  (FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT))/ABUSE (FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT))/HEARSAY  (FAMILY COURT DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO WARRANT DENIAL OF MOTHER'S PETITION TO MODIFY CUSTODY, A HEARSAY LETTER FROM THE NYS OFFICE OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES CHILD ABUSE AND MALTREATMENT REGISTER, FINDING CERTAIN ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FATHER TO BE UNFOUNDED, WAS INSUFFICIENT (FIRST DEPT))

FAMILY LAW, EVIDENCE.

FAMILY COURT'S FINDING THAT FREEING THE CHILD FOR ADOPTION WOULD NOT BE IN THE CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY A SOUND AND SUBSTANTIAL BASIS (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Family Court, determined it was in the best interests of the child to free the child for adoption without the consent of father. Mother's parental rights had terminated, but the court-appointed evaluator testified the relationship with father was positive and should not be terminated. The Second Department held that other evidence which supported freeing the child for adoption was not given sufficient weight:

"This Court will not disturb a Family Court's determination regarding the best interests of the child unless it lacks a sound and substantial basis in the record" ... . Here, the hearing court's finding that it would be in the best interests of the child to remain in foster care instead of being freed for adoption lacks such a sound and substantial basis. The finding was based primarily on the opinions offered by the court-appointed evaluator, who recommended that the foster mother have custody of the child because she raised him since he was an infant, she has an "extremely close bond" with him, and she is able to take care of the child's special needs. While the evaluator also opined that the child has a "very positive relationship" with the father, and that it would not be in the best interests of the child to sever that relationship by freeing the child for adoption, the evaluator conceded that the foster mother and the father view each other with "significant distrust," that the child "hears conflicting information" from the foster mother and the father, that the child "senses their anger and conflict," and that the conflict was "very stre not determinative ... . Based on the record before us, we find that the hearing court gave undue weight to the evaluator's conclusions with regard to the benefits of the child's relationship with the father ... and failed to accord sufficient weight to the impact on the child of long-term foster care, which would continue to expose him to the distrust between the foster mother and the father, and deprive the child of "a permanent, nurturing family relationship" ...  .

 

Moreover, the Family Court did not give sufficient weight to testimony from the assigned case planner and the foster mother that the child repeatedly had contact with the birth mother during his visits with the father, in violation of the court's directive precluding such contact with the birth mother. Similarly, the evaluator did not consider either the possibility that the father was exposing the child to the birth mother or the effects on the child of continued contact with the birth mother, information vital to assessing the best interests of the child. Matter of Jasiah T.-V. S.J. (Joshua W.--Shatesse J.), 2018 NY Slip Op 08020, Second Dept 11-21-18

FAMILY LAW (FAMILY COURT'S FINDING THAT FREEING THE CHILD FOR ADOPTION WOULD NOT BE IN THE CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY A SOUND AND SUBSTANTIAL BASIS (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (FAMILY LAW, FAMILY COURT'S FINDING THAT FREEING THE CHILD FOR ADOPTION WOULD NOT BE IN THE CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY A SOUND AND SUBSTANTIAL BASIS (SECOND DEPT))/SOUND AND SUBSTANTIAL BASIS (FAMILY COURT'S FINDING THAT FREEING THE CHILD FOR ADOPTION WOULD NOT BE IN THE CHILD'S BEST INTERESTS WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY A SOUND AND SUBSTANTIAL BASIS (SECOND DEPT))

FORECLOSURE, EVIDENCE.

IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE MORTGAGE, AS OPPOSED TO THE NOTE, AT THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF A FORECLOSURE ACTION, EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE UNDER THE BUSINESS RECORDS EXCEPTION TO THE HEARSAY RULE RAISED A QUESTION OF FACT ABOUT PLAINTIFF'S STANDING (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department determined plaintiff had raised a question of fact about whether it had standing to bring this foreclosure action. The court noted that it is not necessary to have possession of the mortgage, as opposed to the note, at the time the action is commenced. A question of fact about possession of the note was raised by evidence admissible pursuant to the business records exception to the hearsay rule:

"[T]o have standing, it is not necessary to have possession of the mortgage at the time the action is commenced . . . . [T]he note, and not the mortgage, is the dispositive instrument that conveys standing to foreclose under New York law" ... . Plaintiff raised a question of fact as to its possession of the note prior to commencement of the action through the affidavit of Anthony D'Addona, who averred that he reviewed the books and records of plaintiff, kept in the ordinary course of business, and that plaintiff was the holder of the note and mortgage. This affidavit was sworn to on September 28, 2015, prior to commencement of this action. "It is well settled that a business entity may admit a business record through a person without personal knowledge of the document, its history or its specific contents where that person is sufficiently familiar with the corporate records to aver that the record is what it purports to be and that it came out of the entity's files" ... . DLJ Mtge. Capital v Mahadeo, 2018 NY Slip Op 07963, First Dept 11-20-18

FORECLOSURE (IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE MORTGAGE, AS OPPOSED TO THE NOTE, AT THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF A FORECLOSURE ACTION, EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE UNDER THE BUSINESS RECORDS EXCEPTION TO THE HEARSAY RULE RAISED A QUESTION OF FACT ABOUT PLAINTIFF'S STANDING (FIRST DEPT))/STANDING (FORECLOSURE, IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE MORTGAGE, AS OPPOSED TO THE NOTE, AT THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF A FORECLOSURE ACTION, EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE UNDER THE BUSINESS RECORDS EXCEPTION TO THE HEARSAY RULE RAISED A QUESTION OF FACT ABOUT PLAINTIFF'S STANDING (FIRST DEPT))/BUSINESS RECORDS (FORECLOSURE, IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE MORTGAGE, AS OPPOSED TO THE NOTE, AT THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF A FORECLOSURE ACTION, EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE UNDER THE BUSINESS RECORDS EXCEPTION TO THE HEARSAY RULE RAISED A QUESTION OF FACT ABOUT PLAINTIFF'S STANDING (FIRST DEPT))/HEARSAY (BUSINESS RECORDS, FORECLOSURE, (IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO HAVE POSSESSION OF THE MORTGAGE, AS OPPOSED TO THE NOTE, AT THE TIME OF THE COMMENCEMENT OF A FORECLOSURE ACTION, EVIDENCE ADMISSIBLE UNDER THE BUSINESS RECORDS EXCEPTION TO THE HEARSAY RULE RAISED A QUESTION OF FACT ABOUT PLAINTIFF'S STANDING (FIRST DEPT))

INSURANCE LAW, NEGLIGENCE, LABOR LAW-CONSTRUCTION LAW.

ANTISUBROGATION RULE BARRED PLAINTIFF INSURER'S CAUSES OF ACTION, THE UNDERLYING ACTION ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, in this construction accident case with multiple subcontractors, insurers and insureds, determined that the antisubrogation rule barred plaintiff-insurer's causes of action:

The nonparty-respondent The New School (hereinafter TNS) entered into a contract with the nonparty-respondent Tishman Construction Corporation of New York (hereinafter Tishman) for the building of a new facility. Pursuant to the agreement, Tishman entered into trade contracts with various subcontractors, including ... the defendant subcontractors. Tishman also contracted with nonparty ... Geller to provide electrical services.

 

The defendant subcontractors elected to participate in a Contractor Controlled Insurance Program (hereinafter the CCIP) implemented by Tishman. Geller did not participate in the CCIP, and instead obtained a policy of insurance issued by the plaintiff, Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company ... . As required by the trade contract, both TNS and Tishman were named as additional insureds under the Wausau policy.

 

The nonparty Harripersaud ..., an employee of Geller, allegedly was injured when he tripped and fell while working at the construction site. Harripersaud commenced a personal injury action ... against TNS and Tishman, alleging negligence and violations of the Labor Law. Tishman's insurer tendered the complaint to the plaintiff, which accepted the tender and agreed to defend and indemnify Tishman and TNS. Subsequently, the plaintiff, as subrogee for Tishman and TNS, commenced this action against the defendant subcontractors. Tishman and TNS moved for leave to intervene and ...to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiff cross-moved to consolidate this action with the Harripersaud personal injury action. ...

 

The antisubrogation rule operates to bar the plaintiff's causes of action. Under the antisubrogation rule, "an insurer has no right of subrogation against its own insured for a claim arising from the very risk for which the insured was covered" .. . This rule prevents an insurer from passing its losses to its own insured ... . Here, the defendant subcontractors were members of the CCIP, and the CCIP imposed a $500,000 retention obligation on Tishman, as to each occurrence under the policy. Accordingly, the antisubrogation rule bars Tishman and TNS from asserting claims against the defendant subcontractors... . Inasmuch as the antisubrogation rule would bar Tishman and TNS from asserting causes of action against the defendant subcontractors, it bars the plaintiff's causes of action as well. A subrogee "is subject to any defenses or claims which may be raised against the subrogor. Thus, a subrogee may not acquire any greater rights than the subrogor" ... . Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co. v Gamma USA, Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 08055, Second Dept 11-21-18

INSURANCE LAW (ANTISUBROGATION RULE BARRED PLAINTIFF INSURER'S CAUSES OF ACTION, THE UNDERLYING ACTION ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT (SECOND DEPT))/ANTISUBROGATION RULE (INSURANCE LAW, ANTISUBROGATION RULE BARRED PLAINTIFF INSURER'S CAUSES OF ACTION, THE UNDERLYING ACTION ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT (SECOND DEPT))/NEGLIGENCE (INSURANCE LAW, ANTISUBROGATION RULE BARRED PLAINTIFF INSURER'S CAUSES OF ACTION, THE UNDERLYING ACTION ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT (SECOND DEPT))/LABOR LAW-CONSTRUCTION LAW (INSURANCE LAW, ANTISUBROGATION RULE BARRED PLAINTIFF INSURER'S CAUSES OF ACTION, THE UNDERLYING ACTION ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE AND LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS STEMMING FROM A CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT (SECOND DEPT))

NEGLIGENCE.

QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER THE DEFENDANT CITY WAS AWARE OF A DEFECT IN THE SOFTBALL PLAYING FIELD, WHETHER THE DEFECT WAS NEGLIGENTLY REPAIRED AND WHETHER PLAINTIFF ASSUMED THE RISK OF INJURY, DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined there were questions of fact whether defendant city had notice of a defect in a softball field, whether the defect was negligently repaired, and whether plaintiff assumed the risk of injury from playing baseball on the field:

Plaintiff Rory Martin was injured when, while playing softball on defendant's field, he unsuccessfully attempted to jump over a hole that was in the field near home plate. Plaintiff testified at his 50-h hearing that a six-inch-deep hole, three-to-four feet long, and four-to-five feet wide, near the right hand batter's box, had been filled in with loose clay and appeared to be level when he stepped into the batter's box. After plaintiff safely reached first base and additional players used the batter's box, the hole became more exposed and surprised plaintiff as he ran home to try to score. When plaintiff saw the size of the hole and attempted to jump over it, his left foot struck a clay-obscured edge of the hole, causing him to suffer a fractured ankle.

 

Under the circumstances presented, triable issues exist as to whether the City had notice of this particular defect, and, if so, whether the City negligently or improperly repaired the defect, whether the playing field was as safe as it appeared to be, whether plaintiff's injury arose as a consequence of a condition or practice common to the particular sport, and whether plaintiff assumed the risk of playing on the subject field ... . Martin v City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 07946, First Dept 11-20-18

NEGLIGENCE (QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER THE DEFENDANT CITY WAS AWARE OF A DEFECT IN THE SOFTBALL PLAYING FIELD, WHETHER THE DEFECT WAS NEGLIGENTLY REPAIRED AND WHETHER PLAINTIFF ASSUMED THE RISK OF INJURY, DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))/ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK (NEGLIGENCE, SOFTBALL, QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER THE DEFENDANT CITY WAS AWARE OF A DEFECT IN THE SOFTBALL PLAYING FIELD, WHETHER THE DEFECT WAS NEGLIGENTLY REPAIRED AND WHETHER PLAINTIFF ASSUMED THE RISK OF INJURY, DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))/SPORTS (ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK, SOFTBALL, QUESTIONS OF FACT WHETHER THE DEFENDANT CITY WAS AWARE OF A DEFECT IN THE SOFTBALL PLAYING FIELD, WHETHER THE DEFECT WAS NEGLIGENTLY REPAIRED AND WHETHER PLAINTIFF ASSUMED THE RISK OF INJURY, DEFENDANT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))

NEGLIGENCE, EVIDENCE.

A METAL PROTRUSION IN A PARKING LOT MEASURING AN INCH OR LESS WAS A NON-ACTIONABLE TRIVIAL DEFECT, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined that a metal protrusion of an inch or less in a parking lot constituted a trivial defect which was not actionable in this slip and fall case:

In determining whether a defect is trivial, courts "must examine all of the facts presented, including the width, depth, elevation, irregularity and appearance of the defect along with the time, place and circumstance of the injury" ... . "[T]here is no minimal dimension test' or per se rule that a defect must be a certain minimum height or depth in order to be actionable" ... . However, a defendant "may not be cast in damages for negligent maintenance by reason of trivial defects on a walkway, not constituting a trap or nuisance, as a consequence of which a pedestrian might merely stumble, stub his toes, or trip over a raised projection" ... .

 

The defendants presented evidence that the alleged defect was an inch or less in size, that the incident occurred in the daytime hours under clear conditions, and that the area immediately surrounding the alleged defect was clear of debris and not dangerous or trap-like. Easley v U Haul, 2018 NY Slip Op 08008, Second Dept 11-21-18

NEGLIGENCE (SLIP AND FALL, A METAL PROTRUSION IN A PARKING LOT MEASURING AN INCH OR LESS WAS A NON-ACTIONABLE TRIVIAL DEFECT, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/SLIP AND FALL (A METAL PROTRUSION IN A PARKING LOT MEASURING AN INCH OR LESS WAS A NON-ACTIONABLE TRIVIAL DEFECT, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (NEGLIGENCE, TRIVIAL DEFECT, A METAL PROTRUSION IN A PARKING LOT MEASURING AN INCH OR LESS WAS A NON-ACTIONABLE TRIVIAL DEFECT, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))/TRIVIAL DEFECT (SLIP AND FALL, A METAL PROTRUSION IN A PARKING LOT MEASURING AN INCH OR LESS WAS A NON-ACTIONABLE TRIVIAL DEFECT, SUPREME COURT REVERSED (SECOND DEPT))

NEGLIGENCE, CIVIL PROCEDURE, ATTORNEYS, EVIDENCE.

WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, over a partial dissent, determined defendants' motion to set aside the verdict in this stairway slip and fall case should not have been granted, and the plaintiff's motion for sanctions (attorney's fees) for frivolous conduct (bringing the motion to set aside) should have been granted. The dissenting justice agreed the verdict should not have been set aside, but disagreed with the imposition of sanctions on defense counsel. The plaintiff alleged she fell (19 inches) because there was no handrail on one side to the stairs. The Second Department explained that even if the jury found the absence of a handrail to be open and obvious, the jury still could have found the absence of the handrail acted as a trap for the unwary:

"Proof that a dangerous condition is open and obvious does not preclude a finding of liability against an owner for failure to maintain property in a safe condition"... . "While such proof is relevant to the issue of a plaintiff's comparative negligence, a hazard that is open and obvious may be rendered a trap for the unwary where the condition is obscured or the plaintiff distracted" ... . "The determination of . . . whether a condition is not inherently dangerous, or constitutes a reasonably safe environment, depends on the totality of the specific facts  ... . ...

.. [T}he Supreme Court should have granted the plaintiff's cross motion for an award of costs in the form of reimbursement of reasonable attorneys' fees pursuant to 22 NYCRR 130-1.1 based on the frivolous conduct of the defendants in moving to set aside the verdict pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to the extent that the motion was predicated upon the ground that the plaintiff failed to establish at trial that they owned the subject property. * * *

 

... [T]he record shows that the defendants' ownership of the property was never genuinely disputed. Cram v Keller, 2018 NY Slip Op 08007, Second Dept 11-21-18

NEGLIGENCE (SLIP AND FALL, OPEN AND OBVIOUS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/SLIP AND FALL ( OPEN AND OBVIOUS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/STAIRWAYS (SLIP AND FALL, OPEN AND OBVIOUS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/OPEN AND OBVIOUS  (SLIP AND FALL, OPEN AND OBVIOUS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/ATTORNEYS (FRIVOLOUS CONDUCT, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/SET ASIDE VERDICT, MOTION TO (FRIVOLOUS CONDUCT, ATTORNEYS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/FRIVOLOUS CONDUCT (MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT, ATTORNEYS, WHETHER A CONDITION IS OPEN AND OBVIOUS SPEAKS TO COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE, AN OPEN AND OBVIOUS CONDITION CAN BE THE BASIS FOR LIABILITY IF THE CONDITION AMOUNTS TO A TRAP FOR THE UNWARY OR DISTRACTED, MOTION TO SET ASIDE THE VERDICT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, MOTION FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENSE COUNSEL FOR BRINGING THE MOTION TO SET ASIDE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))

NEGLIGENCE, EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, EVIDENCE.

NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the school district's motion for summary judgment in this playground student injury case should have been granted. Defendants demonstrated there was an adequate number of monitors supervising the children, infant plaintiff was using the equipment properly, and the equipment was in good working order. There was no showing that plaintiffs' expert had any expertise re: playground equipment. Infant plaintiff slipped off a bar and fell because his hands were wet:

The defendants submitted evidence demonstrating, prima facie, that the level of supervision afforded to the infant plaintiff and the other students at the time of the accident was adequate... , and, in any event, that any alleged lack of supervision was not the proximate cause of the infant plaintiff's injuries ... . Furthermore, the defendants submitted a report and affidavit from their expert, which established that the playground equipment was appropriate for the infant plaintiff's age group, and was not defective ... .

 

In opposition, the plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Although the plaintiffs submitted an affidavit from their purported expert, there was no showing that the purported expert had any specialized knowledge, experience, training, or education regarding playground equipment so as to qualify him to render an opinion in this area ... . Ponzini v Sag Harbor Union Free Sch. Dist., 2018 NY Slip Op 08046, Second Dept 11-21-18

NEGLIGENCE (NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION, NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW (NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION, NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION, NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/NEGLIGENT SUPERVISION (EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION, NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (EXPERT OPINION, EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION, NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))/EXPERT OPINION (NEGLIGENCE,  EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW, NEITHER THE LEVEL OF PLAYGROUND SUPERVISION, NOR THE PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT CONSTITUTED THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF INFANT PLAINTIFF'S FALL, PLAINTIFFS' EXPERT DID NOT DEMONSTRATE EXPERTISE RE: PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (SECOND DEPT))

NEGLIGENCE, VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW.

DEALERSHIP HAD NOT TRANSFERRED OWNERSHIP OF THE CAR TO THE PURCHASER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND WAS THEREFORE LIABLE TO PLAINTIFF AS THE OWNER, THE DRIVER STRUCK A BARRICADE WHICH IN TURN STRUCK PLAINTIFF WHO WAS WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT).

The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant car dealership (Port Motors) had not transferred ownership of the car to the purchaser (Love) at the time of the accident and was therefore liable to plaintiff as the owner of the vehicle. Plaintiff was injured when the driver (Lemos) struck a barricade which in turn struck plaintiff, who was walking on the sidewalk:

Because Port Motors "fail[ed] to comply with the statutory requirements regarding vehicle registration procedures . . . [it] is estopped from denying ownership of the vehicle and is fully liable to the plaintiff as if it were the owner' of the vehicle" ... . Although this Court has held that "title to a motor vehicle is transferred when the parties intend such transfer to occur" ... , here, there is no evidence that the parties intended to transfer title to the vehicle from Port Motors to Love prior to the accident. ...

The metal barricade standing in the roadway was not "a sudden and unexpected circumstance which le[ft] little or no time for thought, deliberation or consideration, or cause[d] [Lemos] to be reasonably so disturbed that [he] [had to] make a speedy decision without weighing alternative courses of conduct . . . "... . Rather, by colliding with the barricade and propelling it onto the sidewalk, where it struck a pedestrian, Lemos failed to both operate his vehicle in a manner that was reasonable and prudent under the circumstances  ... and to see what was there to be seen through the ordinary use of his senses ... . Bunn v City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 07936, First Dept 11-20-18

NEGLIGENCE (VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW, DEALERSHIP HAD NOT TRANSFERRED OWNERSHIP OF THE CAR TO THE PURCHASER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND WAS THEREFORE LIABLE TO PLAINTIFF AS THE OWNER, THE DRIVER STRUCK A BARRICADE WHICH IN TURN STRUCK PLAINTIFF WHO WAS WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))/VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW (OWNER LIABILITY, DEALERSHIP HAD NOT TRANSFERRED OWNERSHIP OF THE CAR TO THE PURCHASER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND WAS THEREFORE LIABLE TO PLAINTIFF AS THE OWNER, THE DRIVER STRUCK A BARRICADE WHICH IN TURN STRUCK PLAINTIFF WHO WAS WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))/TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS (VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW, DEALERSHIP HAD NOT TRANSFERRED OWNERSHIP OF THE CAR TO THE PURCHASER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND WAS THEREFORE LIABLE TO PLAINTIFF AS THE OWNER, THE DRIVER STRUCK A BARRICADE WHICH IN TURN STRUCK PLAINTIFF WHO WAS WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))/PEDESTRIANS  (VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW, DEALERSHIP HAD NOT TRANSFERRED OWNERSHIP OF THE CAR TO THE PURCHASER AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND WAS THEREFORE LIABLE TO PLAINTIFF AS THE OWNER, THE DRIVER STRUCK A BARRICADE WHICH IN TURN STRUCK PLAINTIFF WHO WAS WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK, PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED (FIRST DEPT))

REAL ESTATE, CONTRACT LAW, EVIDENCE.

REAL ESTATE PURCHASE CONTRACT, ALTHOUGH MISSING SOME TERMS, SATISFIED THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS, SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE ACTION, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THE FINANCIAL ABILITY TO CLOSE ON THE LAW DATE (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department agreed with Supreme Court that the real estate purchase contract, although some terms were missing, satisfied the statute of frauds, Therefore the motion to dismiss the action for specific performance was properly denied. However, Supreme Court should not have granted summary judgment because plaintiff failed to demonstrate he had the financial ability to purchase the property on the law date:

"Only reasonable certainty, not absolute certainty, as to the terms of the agreement is required" ... . Here, the essential terms of the contract were explicitly contained in the agreement, thus satisfying the requirements of the statute of frauds. The agreement is subscribed by the parties to be charged, identifies the parties to the transaction, describes the property to be sold with sufficient particularity, and states the purchase price, the down payment received, and how the purchase price was to be paid ... . Additionally, while some terms, such as the closing date, the quality of title to be conveyed, and the risk of loss between the contract and the closing, are not included within the agreement, the remaining terms are clear and enforceable and, thus, the law will serve to fill in those missing provisions ... . ...

... [T]he plaintiff's submissions failed to demonstrate that he had the financial ability to consummate the sale of the property on January 25, 2016, the date which he had set for the closing in his time-is-of-the-essence letter to the defendant. The plaintiff's submissions highlighted, rather than eliminated, triable issues of fact as to whether he possessed the funds necessary to consummate the sale. In light of the foregoing, the plaintiff did not meet his prima facie burden on his motion, and thus, the motion should have been denied without regard to the sufficiency of the opposition papers ... . O'Hanlon v Renwick, 2018 NY Slip Op 08027, Second Dept 11-21-18

REAL ESTATE (REAL ESTATE PURCHASE CONTRACT, ALTHOUGH MISSING SOME TERMS, SATISFIED THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS, SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE ACTION, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THE FINANCIAL ABILITY TO CLOSE ON THE LAW DATE (SECOND DEPT))/CONTRACT LAW (REAL ESTATE PURCHASE CONTRACT, ALTHOUGH MISSING SOME TERMS, SATISFIED THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS, SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE ACTION, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THE FINANCIAL ABILITY TO CLOSE ON THE LAW DATE (SECOND DEPT))/SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE (REAL ESTATE PURCHASE CONTRACT, ALTHOUGH MISSING SOME TERMS, SATISFIED THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS, SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE ACTION, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THE FINANCIAL ABILITY TO CLOSE ON THE LAW DATE (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (REAL ESTATE PURCHASE CONTRACT, ALTHOUGH MISSING SOME TERMS, SATISFIED THE STATUTE OF FRAUDS, SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE SPECIFIC PERFORMANCE ACTION, HOWEVER, SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN GRANTED, PLAINTIFF FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE THE FINANCIAL ABILITY TO CLOSE ON THE LAW DATE (SECOND DEPT))

SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, ARBITRATION, CIVIL PROCEDURE.

COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL APPLIED TO THE OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES' (OPWDD'S) ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS WHICH FOUND PETITIONER WAS NOT GUILTY OF SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO A RESIDENT OF A GROUP HOME FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THE SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS BY THE JUSTICE CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WERE BOUND BY THE FINDINGS OF THE OPWDD ARBITRATION (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Garry, determined that the arbitration proceeding conducted by Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) had a collateral estoppel effect upon subsequent proceedings concerning the same matter conducted by the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Petitioner was accused of providing marijuana to a resident of a group home for persons with developmental disabilities. The OPWDD arbitration concluded petitioner was not guilty. However the Justice Center essentially sustained the charges. The central question was whether the OPWDD and the Justice Center were in privity, such that the Justice Center must accept the outcome of the OPWDD arbitration:

 Collateral estoppel applies to arbitration proceedings, and when the doctrine's requirements are satisfied, "[an] arbitrator's factual findings must be accorded collateral estoppel effect" ... . 

 

...[T]the Justice Center shared interests with OPWDD in the disciplinary proceeding stemming from its fundamental statutory obligation to "protect[] . . . vulnerable persons who reside in or receive services from [state-operated] facilities" and "assur[e], on behalf of the state, that vulnerable persons are afforded care that is of a uniformly high standard" ... . The Justice Center directly served these purposes by participating as counsel in the disciplinary proceeding conducted by OPWDD pursuant to its governing regulations and the pertinent collective bargaining agreement to determine whether petitioner should be terminated from her employment working with vulnerable persons... . ...

... The Justice Center is required by statute to develop the code of conduct that governs OPWDD employees such as petitioner who regularly work with vulnerable persons in facilities like the group home at issue here ... . ...

... [T]he OPWDD form that was used to report the incident ... included a section indicating that the Justice Center had been notified and providing the date, time and identification number of the notification ... . The Justice Center's subsequent investigation of the incident was carried out by an investigator who testified that he was employed by OPWDD. Matter of Anonymous v New York State Justice Ctr. for The Protection of People With Special Needs, 2018 NY Slip Op 07996, Third Dept 11-21-18

SOCIAL SERVICES LAW (COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL APPLIED TO OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES' (OPWDD'S) ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS WHICH FOUND PETITIONER WAS NOT GUILTY OF SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO A RESIDENT OF A GROUP HOME FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THE SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS BY THE JUSTICE CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WERE BOUND BY THE FINDINGS OF THE OPWDD ARBITRATION (THIRD DEPT))/ARBITRATION (COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL APPLIED TO OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES' (OPWDD'S) ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS WHICH FOUND PETITIONER WAS NOT GUILTY OF SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO A RESIDENT OF A GROUP HOME FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THE SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS BY THE JUSTICE CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WERE BOUND BY THE FINDINGS OF THE OPWDD ARBITRATION (THIRD DEPT))/COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL (ARBITRATION, COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL APPLIED TO OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES' (OPWDD'S) ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS WHICH FOUND PETITIONER WAS NOT GUILTY OF SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO A RESIDENT OF A GROUP HOME FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THE SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS BY THE JUSTICE CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WERE BOUND BY THE FINDINGS OF THE OPWDD ARBITRATION (THIRD DEPT))/CIVIL PROCEDURE (COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL, ARBITRATION, COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL APPLIED TO OFFICE FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES' (OPWDD'S) ARBITRATION PROCEEDINGS WHICH FOUND PETITIONER WAS NOT GUILTY OF SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO A RESIDENT OF A GROUP HOME FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THE SUBSEQUENT PROCEEDINGS BY THE JUSTICE CENTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS WERE BOUND BY THE FINDINGS OF THE OPWDD ARBITRATION (THIRD DEPT))

SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, MUNICIPAL LAW, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, EVIDENCE.

PETITIONER'S PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TERMINATED, NOTICE DID NOT SPECIFY SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF A FAILURE TO COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYMENT TRAINING AND SOME EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE, PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED (SECOND DEPT).

The Second Department, reversing the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, determined the Nassau County Department of Social Services' notice to petitioner of the termination of her public assistance benefits was defective and violated her right to due process. The notice did not include any specific instance of a refusal to cooperate with the employment training program, and the subsequent hearing considered evidence not mentioned in the notice:

A local agency may not discontinue a recipient's public assistance benefits unless the recipient's failure to comply with one of the department's work rules is found to be willful and without good cause" (,,,see Social Services Law § 341[1]). A social services agency is required to provide an individual whose public assistance benefits are being discontinued with written notice that includes "the specific instance or instances of willful refusal or failure to comply without good cause" with employment requirements (Social Services Law § 341[1][b]). "A notice specifying the wrong charge as the basis for a reduction in benefits does not comply with the regulatory standard, nor with the constitutional standards of due process"... .

Here, the petitioner correctly contends that the agency's notice was defective because it did not include any specific instances of her willful refusal without good cause to cooperate with the employment training program ... . Additionally, at the fair hearing, the agency offered evidence that the petitioner submitted a falsified timesheet indicating that she continued to attend training after her participation in the program was terminated, a charge not included in the notice. Accordingly, because the notice lacked specificity and failed to adequately advise the petitioner of the issues which were the subject of the hearing, the notice violated the petitioner's right to due process of law ... . Matter of Pearl v Imhof, 2018 NY Slip Op 08024, Second Dept 11-21-18

SOCIAL SERVICES LAW (PETITIONER'S PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TERMINATED, NOTICE DID NOT SPECIFY SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF A FAILURE TO COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYMENT TRAINING AND SOME EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE, PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED (SECOND DEPT))/MUNICIPAL LAW (SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, PETITIONER'S PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TERMINATED, NOTICE DID NOT SPECIFY SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF A FAILURE TO COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYMENT TRAINING AND SOME EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE, PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED (SECOND DEPT))/CONSTITUTIONAL LAW  (SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, PETITIONER'S PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TERMINATED, NOTICE DID NOT SPECIFY SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF A FAILURE TO COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYMENT TRAINING AND SOME EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE, PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED (SECOND DEPT))/EVIDENCE (SOCIAL SERVICES LAW, PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS, NOTICE, HEARING, PETITIONER'S PUBLIC ASSISTANCE BENEFITS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN TERMINATED, NOTICE DID NOT SPECIFY SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF A FAILURE TO COOPERATION WITH EMPLOYMENT TRAINING AND SOME EVIDENCE PRESENTED AT THE HEARING WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE NOTICE, PETITIONER'S DUE PROCESS RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED (SECOND DEPT))

TRUSTS AND ESTATES, FIDUCIARY DUTY.

ONLY SERIOUS MISCONDUCT, NOT CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, JUSTIFIES REMOVAL OF NAMED EXECUTORS, SURROGATE'S COURT REVERSED, MATTER SENT BACK FOR A HEARING (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department, reversing Surrogate's Court, determined that the petition seeking letters of administration on the ground that respondents, who were the named executors, had conflicts of interest and had breached their fiduciary duties, should not have been granted. The court explained that named executors can be removed only for serious misconduct, not conflicts of interest. The matter was sent back for a hearing:

"'[I]t is actual misconduct, not a conflict of interest, that justifies the removal of a fiduciary'"... . Simply put, "a conflict does not make a fiduciary ineligible under SCPA 707, and public policy zealously protects the decedent's right to name a fiduciary, even one with a conflict" ... . Thus, petitioners' remedy for the alleged conflict of interest lies not in the ineligibility provisions of SCPA 707, but in the provisions of SCPA 702 authorizing the issuance of limited and restricted letters of administration under certain enumerated circumstances.

To that end, SCPA 702 (9) specifically provides for the issuance of limited letters of administration to a party for the purpose of commencing "any action or proceeding against the fiduciary, in his or her individual capacity, or against anyone else against whom the fiduciary fails or refuses to bring such a proceeding." Indeed, this subdivision is designed to preserve a decedent's choice of fiduciary "by permitting the appointment of a second limited administrator instead of requiring the disqualification or removal of original fiduciaries where their conflicts of interests preclude them from pursuing claims against themselves or others to the prejudice of other persons interested in the estate" ... . For these reasons, we conclude that the conflict alleged did not render respondents ineligible to serve as fiduciaries of decedent's estate under SCPA 707. Matter of Bolen, 2018 NY Slip Op 08001, Third Dept 11-21-18

TRUSTS AND ESTATES (EXECUTORS, ONLY SERIOUS MISCONDUCT, NOT CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, JUSTIFIES REMOVAL OF NAMED EXECUTORS, SURROGATE'S COURT REVERSED, MATTER SENT BACK FOR A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/FIDUCIARY DUTY (TRUSTS AND ESTATES, EXECUTORS, ONLY SERIOUS MISCONDUCT, NOT CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, JUSTIFIES REMOVAL OF NAMED EXECUTORS, SURROGATE'S COURT REVERSED, MATTER SENT BACK FOR A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))/EXECUTORS (TRUSTS AND ESTATES, ONLY SERIOUS MISCONDUCT, NOT CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, JUSTIFIES REMOVAL OF NAMED EXECUTORS, SURROGATE'S COURT REVERSED, MATTER SENT BACK FOR A HEARING (THIRD DEPT))

WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW.

IN ORDER FOR THE INJURED RAILROAD WORKER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW BENEFITS, ALL PARTIES WOULD HAVE TO WAIVE FEDERAL JURISDICTION UNDER THE FEDERAL EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY ACT (FELA), MATTER SENT BACK (THIRD DEPT).

The Third Department determined that claimant, a railroad employee injured on the job, could only be found eligible for Workers' Compensation benefits if all the relevant parties consented to waive federal jurisdiction under the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), which otherwise preempts the Workers' Compensation Law. The matter was sent back to the Workers' Compensation Board:

FELA preempts state law remedies, including workers' compensation claims, "for railway employees injured in the course of employment when any part of that employment furthers interstate commerce" ... . An exception is contained in Workers' Compensation Law § 113, which empowers the Board to award workers' compensation benefits if "the claimant, employer and insurance carrier waive their federal rights and remedies" ... . This can be accomplished with an explicit waiver by all parties or, alternatively, when conduct such as " representation of the employer by experienced counsel; utilization by the parties of the [B]oard's machinery at a series of hearings resulting in a series of awards; and payment and acceptance of those awards" demonstrates an implied waiver ... . Absent "a joint waiver or agreement evidencing an intention to be bound by" a workers' compensation award in lieu of the otherwise exclusive FELA remedy, the workers' compensation claim cannot proceed ... . Matter of McCray v CTS Enters., Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 07997, Third Dept 11-21-18

WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW (IN ORDER FOR THE INJURED RAILROAD WORKER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW BENEFITS, ALL PARTIES WOULD HAVE TO WAIVE FEDERAL JURISDICTION UNDER THE FEDERAL EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY ACT (FELA), MATTER SENT BACK (THIRD DEPT))/FEDERAL EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY ACT (FELA) (IN ORDER FOR THE INJURED RAILROAD WORKER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW BENEFITS, ALL PARTIES WOULD HAVE TO WAIVE FEDERAL JURISDICTION UNDER THE FEDERAL EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY ACT (FELA), MATTER SENT BACK (THIRD DEPT))/RAILROAD WORKERS (WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW, IN ORDER FOR THE INJURED RAILROAD WORKER TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR WORKERS' COMPENSATION LAW BENEFITS, ALL PARTIES WOULD HAVE TO WAIVE FEDERAL JURISDICTION UNDER THE FEDERAL EMPLOYER'S LIABILITY ACT (FELA), MATTER SENT BACK (THIRD DEPT))