The Appellate Division Adopts New Uniform Rules of Practice Effective September 17, 2018

Under New York’s unique court structure, the Appellate Division is supposed to be a single statewide intermediate appellate court, broken into four different departments, where most appeals from the decisions of the trial court are finally resolved. But up until now, the four departments have functioned largely independently with rules of practice and customs unique to each.

Come September 17, 2018, however, all of the Departments of the Appellate Division will adopt a new set of uniform rules that will govern appellate practice in New York’s intermediate appellate courts throughout the State. Whether you’re before the First Department in Manhattan, the Second Department in Brooklyn, the Third Department in Albany, or the Fourth Department in Rochester, the rules will finally all be the same (for the most part).  That uniformity will make appellate practice so much better.

Here’s a quick look at some of the rules that are changing.

Perfecting Appeals

Before the new uniform rules were adopted, the Appellate Division departments had different time limits before an appeal would be dismissed as abandoned. In the First, Third, and Fourth Departments, the rule was if you don’t perfect your appeal within 9 months after serving the notice of appeal, the appeal would be dismissed as abandoned. In the Second Department, however, it was only 6 months.  The new uniform rules now provide that 6 months is the general rule.  The parties can, however, stipulate to extend the perfection date up to 60 days, and the appellant can thereafter apply by letter to extend the date another 30 days.  So, if the courts grant the extension requests, the date to perfect an appeal would be back to 9 months.

Briefs

Under the new uniform rules, all of the Appellate Division departments have adopted maximum word counts for briefs (14,000 for appellant’s and respondent’s briefs, and 7,000 for reply briefs). Before, the Third and Fourth Departments had maintained page limits, while the First and Second Department had moved to word counts. The uniform rules also now require briefs to be set in 14-point font (12-point for footnotes), which is new for many of the Departments.  And with the new word limits and font requirements, the last page of each brief must contain a certification telling the Court the name of the typeface, point size, line spacing, and word count to ensure compliance with the new rules.

Best of all, by adopting the uniform rules, the Fourth Department has done away with its (annoying) “no footnotes of any kind in briefs” rule! It was about time.

Challenging Constitutionality of State Statute

A new provision in the uniform rules gives the Attorney General the right to intervene in any case challenging the constitutionality of a state statute to which the State is not already a party. To allow the Attorney General the opportunity to make the decision whether to intervene, the party raising the constitutionality issue in such a case will be required to serve its brief on the Attorney General. That’s a logical extension of CPLR 1012, which gives the Attorney General the same right in proceedings before the trial courts.

Oral Argument

If your brief doesn’t specifically state that you are requesting oral argument of the appeal, and request a specific time allotment, you will be deemed to have waived oral argument and to have submitted the appeal on the briefs. This isn’t really a new requirement, it’s just more clearly stated in the new uniform rules.  The uniform rules also preserve the rules in the First and Third Departments that rebuttal time will be permitted if requested by the appellant’s counsel at the beginning of argument.  No such luck in the Second and Fourth Departments. Both have kept their previous rules prohibiting rebuttal time. Too bad.

Local Rules Preserved

Ok, ok. So, some of the unique local practices of the Appellate Division departments have been preserved in the local rules of each department.  Like the First Department’s rule that an appeal has to be placed on the calendar by the appellate at least 57 days before the first day of the term for which the appeal has been set.  And the Second Department’s rule that rebuttal isn’t available during oral argument, as I mentioned. The Third Department’s local rules deal mostly with the unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and Sex Offender Registration Act appeals that are a unique part of the Court’s docket. The Fourth Department did its best to keep its brief cover color requirements (blue for the appellant, red for the respondent, and gray for the reply brief) through the change to e-filing.

All in all, adoption of a new set of uniform rules for the Appellate Division is yet another step in the right direction, after the courts earlier this year adopted mandatory e-filing for many appeals and then recently expanded the e-filing program.  The new uniform rules will make it easier to practice in New York’s appellate courts for attorneys and clients alike.  Anything that makes practice better is a good thing in my book.

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The Appellate Division April, May, and June 2018 Leave Grants

The Appellate Division rounded out the 2017-18 term with only two more leave grants. That makes only 13 Appellate Division leave grants for the entire 2017-18 term, which is well off the mark of 38 grants during the 2016-17 term.  So what explains the change?  Could it be that Chief Judge DiFiore quietly told the Appellate Division Justices to stop granting leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals because the Court wants to control its own docket? I certainly hope not (and I have thoughts on that that are best left for a different time). But such a huge drop off in Appellate Division leave grants must have some explanation.

In total for the 2017-18 term, the Appellate Division granted leave in 6 cases from the Second Department, 5 from the First Department, 2 from the Fourth Department, and none from the Third Department. That mostly follows the pattern from last year that most Appellate Division leave grants come from the downstate departments, while the upstate departments are more stingy in sending cases directly to the Court of Appeals.

Here’s a quick look at the two new Appellate Division leave grants from April, May, and June 2018.

April Appellate Division Leave Grants

Kuzmich v 50 Murray Street Acquisition LLC, 157 AD3d 556 (1st Dept 2018)

Question presented: Whether the tenants’ apartments in a building receiving Real Property Tax Law § 421-g tax benefits are subject to rent stabilization or should have been deregulated under the luxury vacancy control provisions of Rent Stabilization Law of 1969 [Administrative Code of City of NY] § 26-504.2(a).

Supreme Court, New York County, among other things, denied the landlord’s motion for summary judgment, granted the tenants’ cross motion for partial summary judgment, declared that the tenants’ apartments are subject to rent stabilization, and ordered that a special referee be designated to hear and determine the amount of the rent overcharges and the amount of attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the tenants in litigating this action. The Appellate Division, First Department reversed, granted the landlord’s motion for summary judgment to the extent of declaring that the tenants’ apartments were properly deregulated and are not subject to rent stabilization, denied the tenants’ cross motion, vacated the orders regarding the special referee, and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

159 MP Corp., et al. v Redbridge Bedford, LLC, 160 AD3d 176 (2d Dept 2018)

Question presented: In an action for a judgment declaring that two commercial leases are in full force and effect and that the plaintiffs are not in violation of their obligations under the leases, and seeking a Yellowstone injunction to prevent landlord from terminating leases or commencing summary proceeding for eviction, whether written leases negotiated at arm’s length by commercial tenants may include a waiver of the right to declarative relief that is enforceable at law, or whether such a waiver is void and unenforceable as a matter of public policy.

Supreme Court, Kings County, denied plaintiffs’ motion for a Yellowstone injunction and granted defendant’s cross motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed.

 

NY DFS Suit Update: State Appeals Order Declaring Daily Fantasy Sports Unconstitutional, Plaintiffs Seek Reargument

After Judge Gerald Connolly of Supreme Court, Albany County (the trial level in New York) recently declared that New York’s Interactive Fantasy Sports Law violated the New York Constitution’s outright ban on gambling, the case was bound to head on appeal. To me, the only question was to which court. Would the State appeal to the Appellate Division, Third Department (the intermediate appellate court) or directly to the New York Court of Appeals under a little used provision of the Court’s direction that allows cases that directly involve only the constitutionality of a state statute to be directly appealed to the state’s top appellate court? Well, now we have our answer.

The State filed a notice of appeal to take the case to the Third Department. Because the Appellate Division’s new e-filing rules have now kicked in, the case documents should be available on the Third Department’s electronic docket as soon as they are filed with the Court. From here, the State has 6 months to perfect its appeal by filing the brief and the record with the Third Department, and gets an automatic stay of Judge Connolly’s decision. That’s good news to the DFS industry, which will continue to enjoy the status quo of DFS gameplay in New York (and plenty of profits) as the appeals are ongoing.

For the plaintiffs, because they lost in part below, they have two options: (1) file a notice of cross appeal to take that part of Judge Connolly’s decision that held that the Legislature could exempt DFS from the criminal definition of gambling to the Third Department, or (2) file a reargument motion with Judge Connolly to get him to change his mind on that issue.  And it appears that they will pursue both avenues of relief.

Just a few days ago, the plaintiffs moved for reargument of Judge Connolly’s decision, arguing that by holding that the Legislature could decriminalize DFS even though the constitution prohibits it, the decision allows FanDuel and DraftKings to continue to operate in violation of the constitutional ban. That, the plaintiffs argue, allowed the Legislature to skirt the express terms of the New York Constitution merely because no other civil statutory scheme has been enacted to execute the constitutional ban. As the plaintiffs put it,

DFS OA screencap.bmpDFS OA screencap 2

Thus, the plaintiffs argue, because the purpose of removing DFS from the definition of “gambling” in the criminal statutes was to authorize the practice, which the Court correctly held violates New York’s constitutional ban on “gambling,” the Legislature lacked authority to authorizes what the Constitution had already prohibited. Splitting the decision as Judge Connolly did would “‘invalidate the dog while preserving the tail'” (that’s such a great quote!), the plaintiffs contend, and the Court should have invalidated the entire IFS Law, not just its regulatory scheme.

Based on that argument, the plaintiffs ask Judge Connolly to impose a permanent injunction that would compel the State to stop the current DFS operators from continuing to offer games in New York. Even if the Court did so, however, DFS games likely would still continue during the appeals as a result of the State’s entitlement to an automatic stay of any decision that Judge Connolly makes.

Although I certainly understand the plaintiffs’ point that Judge Connolly’s decision effectively found a constitutional violation without any real remedy, I think they’ll be hard pressed to convince the Judge to change his mind. Usually, any mind changing is made by the Appellate Division upon appellate review, not by the Judge that just issued the decision the party is seeking to reargue.  But, here, the plaintiffs had nothing to lose by making the motion, and we’ll see how it comes out.

Next up, the State will get a chance to oppose the plaintiffs’ reargument motion on December 19th, and the plaintiffs will reply by December 28th. I would expect a decision, likely a short and sweet denial of reargument, in late January or early February. And then the real appellate fireworks will begin.

 

Appellate Division E-Filing Update: Second Department Expands Mandatorily E-Filed Appeals as of December 3, 2018

The New York Appellate Division e-filing program has gone so well that the Second Department is expanding it again. After a limited start in March that only included appeals originating from Westchester County, and then Suffolk in July, the Court has decided to include all appeals from orders in the Ninth Judicial District beginning on December 3, 2018.

The e-filing system has not only worked well for the courts and attorneys who practice frequently in the Appellate Division, but it has also opened up previously hard to get case documents for public view. If there’s an Appellate Division case you’re interested in, you can now just go to the NYSCEF e-filing system and search for the case as a guest. No login or payment necessary, unlike the federal courts’ PACER system. Better access to the courts and case documents is always a good thing.

As the Appellate Division e-filing system evolves, there are a few changes I’d love to see, like being able to search for cases with specific issues or motions. But for now, the transition to appellate e-filing has gone about as well as could have been expected. And the Clerk’s Offices in each of the courts deserves plenty of credit for that.

The Appellate Division January, February, and March 2018 Leave Grants

The Appellate Division only granted two more cases from the first three months of 2018, both of which came from the Second Department. With the two new leave grants from the Second Department, it jumped into the departmental lead with 5 leave grants to 4 from the First Department and 2 from the Fourth Department. The 11 total Appellate Division leave grants through March 2018 is way behind the 26 the Appellate Division had granted through March 2017. An interesting downturn to watch to see if this is more aberration or trend.

If you missed the first two parts of my Appellate Division leave grants series, August, September, and October 2017’s grants can be found here, and November and December 2017’s grants here.

Here’s a quick look at the two new Appellate Division leave grants, both of which came in March 2018.

March Appellate Division Leave Grants

Andryeyeva v New York Health Care, Inc., 153 AD3d 1216 (2d Dept 2017)

Questions presented: Whether the plaintiffs’ renewed motion for class certification was properly granted, and whether the Appellate Division erred in finding that the premise upon which the employer based its payment practices with respect to nonresidential home health care attendants–that is, the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the Wage Order (12 NYCRR 142.2.1)–is neither rational nor reasonable.

Supreme Court, Kings County, granted plaintiffs’ renewed motion for class certification pursuant to CPLR article 9. The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed.

Moreno v Future Care Health Services, Inc., 153 AD3d 1254 (2d Dept 2017)

Questions presented: Whether the defendant employer violated Labor Law article 19 by paying the plaintiff home health care attendants a flat rate for 24-hour shifts, resulting in a wage below minimum wage, and whether Supreme Court properly denied plaintiffs’ motion for class certification.

Supreme Court, Kings County, denied the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification pursuant to CPLR article 9. The Appellate Division, Second Department vacated the order, and granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification pursuant to CPLR article 9.

NY DFS Suit: NY Judge Holds Daily Fantasy Sports Law Violates NY’s Constitutional Ban on Gambling, and the State Could Appeal Directly to the Court of Appeals Right Now

Article I, § 9 of the New York Constitution bans gambling, plain and simple. That includes, lotteries, pool selling, book making, and now, according to a New York trial judge, daily fantasy sports as well. As you may recall, in 2015, the New York Attorney General made it a point to enforce the constitutional ban on gambling against major DFS players FanDuel and DraftKings. After the Legislature passed the Interactive Fantasy Sports Law in 2016, based on substantial lobbying efforts from the DFS industry, the AG settled the case against FanDuel and DraftKings and found itself in the unenviable position of having to switch sides to defend the new enactment.

The IFS law (Chapter 237 of the Laws of 2016) attempted to exempt “interactive fantasy sports” from the New York Constitution’s ban on gambling. Specifically, it provides:

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Using the AG’s own arguments against it, a group of private plaintiffs challenged the IFS Law as a violation of New York’s constitutional ban on gambling. They argued: “In enacting [the DFS law], the Legislature has done exactly the opposite of what Article I, § 9 of the Constitution commands. Instead of passing laws to prevent gambling, it has enabled it. It has also provided a tortured interpretation of the term ‘gambling’ that defies its ordinary meaning while violating the principle that exceptions to constitutional prohibitions should be strictly construed” (Plaintiffs’ Memorandum of Law, at 25).

NY Interactive Fantasy Sports Law is Unconstitutional, But Holds that the Legislature Can Exempt DFS from the Penal Law

Judge Gerald Connolly, in a seemingly split decision, which can be read in full here, agreed with the plaintiffs. In a comprehensive decision of the type I like to see in an important case like this one, Judge Connolly held that the scope of the term “gambling” in the New York Constitution must be construed broadly according to its plain meaning. The terms are broad and all-inclusive, he noted. Indeed, the “any other form of gambling” language in the constitutional ban requires an “expansive, not a limited” interpretation (Decision, at 20). Indeed, the Judge noted, it has been interpreted previously by the AG to forbid sports gambling, which includes DFS. Judge Connolly thus held that daily fantasy sports, which involves the selection of players over whom the DFS participants have no control after the lineups are set, is gambling and falls within NY’s constitutional ban.

It is not for the Legislature to define the scope of the constitutional ban, the Judge held. Accepting the State’s interpretation would allow the Legislature’s definition of gambling in a statute to render the constitutional provision meaningless, a construction that must be avoided under normal principles of constitutional interpretation. A statute cannot change the effect of a constitutional provision. To change the constitution, the amendment process must be followed. And the Legislature did not do that here for DFS.

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The Court also rejected the State’s argument that because DFS involves a measure of skill, a fact which the Judge presumed to be true, it can’t be a game of chance prohibited by the Constitution. The drafters of the constitutional ban on gambling intended to prohibit “contests based on future contingent events,” which DFS clearly is, the Judge reasoned, regardless of the skill involved (Decision, at 19).

Although the Court largely sided with the plaintiffs’ argument that DFS is prohibited by the NY constitutional ban on gambling, the Judge did reject one portion of their argument. In a confusing distinction, the Court held that the Legislature’s exemption of DFS from the definition of “gambling” under the Penal Law, the criminal statutes in New York, was not unconstitutional. The Court held that it was not within the scope of judicial review to declare that the Legislature’s discretionary act to define DFS as outside of the statutory definition of gambling in the criminal statutes. That decision lies entirely with the Legislature.

So, if I have this right, DFS is prohibited by the NY Constitution, but DFS companies like FanDuel and DraftKings can’t be criminally prosecuted for operating unconstitutional DFS games in New York. Relief for the constitutional violation must lie elsewhere apparently.

The Appellate Process

The State will undoubtedly appeal Judge Connolly’s order declaring the IFS law unconstitutional. By virtue of that appeal, enforcement of the order will be automatically stayed under CPLR 5519(a). So, for now and while the appellate process continues, DFS will remain up and running in New York. And that’s not a short process. From the time the notice of appeal is filed, the State will have 6 months to perfect the appeal by filing a brief and the record. Plus, the time to perfect the appeal can be extended up to another 3 months, by stipulation of the parties, or a motion to the Court. With the benefit of the automatic stay, the State will be in no rush to file its brief, I’d imagine. They’ll want to get it right.

If both sides appeal (because they both lost something, the State more than the plaintiffs though), the time is measured from the latest notice of appeal and both appeals will have to be perfected simultaneously. If not, once the State files its brief, the plaintiffs will technically have 30 days to file their opposing brief, but that time is routinely extended, and under the new uniform rules of the Appellate Division, can last up to a total of 3 months.

Although Judge Connolly did not have the benefit of amici submissions on the legal issues (a surprising decision, I think, given the stakes involved), I would be surprised if numerous amici motions are not made at the Appellate Division. Interested parties will undoubtedly want to give the Court their views on the issues, and the Court will certainly welcome all the help it can get in deciding this case).

Once the case is fully perfected before the Appellate Division, it’s usually three or four months before the Court will schedule oral argument. It’s then 4 to 6 weeks until a decision in most cases, and I’d expect this one to be the same. So, totaling all that time up, you’re looking at about 15 to 18 months before the Appellate Division will decide the issues, and then the case can go to the New York Court of Appeals.

Because this case unquestionably involves a substantial constitutional question, whichever party loses at the Appellate Division should have an appeal as of right directly to the Court of Appeals, which would then issue a final opinion on the constitutionality of the IFS law, likely in 2021 at the earliest.

The State Can Appeal Directly to the Court of Appeals Right Now

Here’s an interesting wrinkle. What if the State decides it doesn’t want to wait that long? It could try to appeal directly to the Court of Appeals right now, and I think it should.

A little used provision of the Court’s jurisdiction allows the Court of Appeals to hear and decide cases on direct appeal from a trial court order, like this one, that finally determines a case “where the only question involved on the appeal is the validity of a statutory provision of the state or of the United States under the constitution of the state or of the United States” (CPLR 5601 [b] [2]). That seems to me to apply here.

First, Judge Connolly’s order finally disposes of the entire action. It granted relief to both sides, decided all of the causes of action, and there are no issues left to consider, so it’s a final determination. Second, the only issue in the case are whether the IFS law violates the New York Constitution’s ban on gambling. Judge Connolly said it did. CPLR 5602 thus appears to give the State, or the plaintiffs for that matter, the right to appeal directly to the Court of Appeals for a final decision on the constitutional question right now.

But why appeal directly to the Court of Appeals now, instead of letting the Appellate Division decide the issues first? Timing is everything for this case. The DFS industry wanted a quick fix to the issue before DFS was legal in New York, and it presumably wants a quick end to this litigation to provide certainty to the industry. Outside of a constitutional amendment to authorize DFS, which is a two year-plus process, the quickest way to a final resolution is a direct appeal to the state’s highest court. If the Court of Appeals is going to decide the issues anyway, why not get them to do it now?

What’s more, the Court of Appeals is often reticent to strike down a statute as unconstitutional, and the burden for the plaintiffs to carry is a heavy one. The Court of Appeals will review the constitutional issue on a clean slate, so it’s free to disagree with Judge Connolly’s determination. And every single Judge on the Court has been appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Now, that doesn’t mean they’ll all agree with the State, but the State would only need 4 votes for constitutionality. While Judges Rivera and Wilson may not be in play (the State’s arguments are a little weak for getting their votes, I think), Chief Judge DiFiore and Judges Stein, Garcia, Fahey, and Feinman are.

Win or lose, the Legislature will have a chance to fix the issue and grant an exception from the NY constitutional ban on gambling for DFS (and sports gambling for that matter) for all time, a process it probably should have followed back in 2016.

The Appellate Division November and December 2017 Leave Grants

After 6 Appellate Division leave grants from the first few months of the 2017-18 term, November and December only saw the Appellate Division finding three new cases to send to the Court of Appeals, two from the First Department and one from the Second Department. That brings the total Appellate Division leave grants to 9, with 4 coming from the First Department, 3 from the Second Department, and 2 from the Fourth Department.

Here’s a quick look at the new cases for the Court of Appeals to decide.

November Appellate Division Leave Grants

Mery v Eginger, 149 AD3d 827 (2d Dept 2017)

Question presented: In a case where the plaintiff was struck in the eye by piece of wire ejected from lawn mower, whether the property owner was vicariously liable for negligence on part of independent contractor who was mowing the property owner’s lawn, and whether lawn mowing is an inherently dangerous activity.

Supreme Court, Dutchess County, granted the motion of defendant Society of Friends Church for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it. The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed.

December Appellate Division Leave Grants

Matter of Lacee L. (Stephanie L.), 153 AD3d 1151 (1st Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether the Americans With Disabilities Act applies in a Family Court article 10 proceeding in evaluating whether agency made reasonable efforts to achieve the permanency goal of returning the subject child to the parent, who suffers from a cognitive disability.

Family Court, Bronx County, determined that the petitioner agency made reasonable efforts to achieve the permanency goal of returning the subject child to respondent mother during the nine-month period following the child’s removal. The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed.

Matter of New York City Asbestos Litigation (South v Chevron), 153 AD3d 461 (1st Dept 2017)

Question presented: In a case where the plaintiff, who was exposed to asbestos while serving as merchant mariner, executed a release before receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, whether a release executed by the plaintiff in a 1997 Jones Act (46 USC § 30104 et seq.) action was enforceable in subsequent Jones Act and negligence action brought by the plaintiff and his wife derivatively against defendant manufacturer of asbestos.

Supreme Court, New York County, denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint insofar as asserted against it. The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed.

Court of Appeals Holds Hearsay Statements from Sexual Assault Victim May be Considered to Support College Disciplinary Decision

When a sexual assault occurs on a SUNY campus, the victim shouldn’t have to suffer through the assault twice. The victim has the right to decide not to participate in any disciplinary hearings held by the SUNY disciplinary board, and to instead submit a written or other hearsay statement telling his or her side of the story. And that’s exactly what happened in Matter of Haug v State Univ. of N.Y. at Potsdam (No. 102). The sexual assault victim didn’t want to participate in the SUNY disciplinary hearing against the offender, but instead submitted a written statement.  The victim’s statement was consistent with what she had told the SUNY investigator and a SUNY administrator, and following the hearing, SUNY expelled the offender.

In a surprising reversal, however , the Third Department annulled SUNY’s expulsion determination as unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.  The SUNY Student Code required affirmative consent to sex, which it was undisputed that the student never received, but the Third Department majority nevertheless said that the victim’s hearsay account of the incident was insufficient to meet the substantial evidence standard. Hearsay evidence couldn’t be considered in the substantial evidence determination, the Court held. Instead, the Court held, the complainant’s act of removing her shirt when the student offered sex was enough to show consent in this situation. The Court, therefore, vacated the student’s expulsion.

In a cogent dissent at the Appellate Division, two Justices took the majority to task for, among other things, substituting the Court’s own judgment of the facts for the SUNY disciplinary board that heard the testimony at the disciplinary proceeding.  The dissent emphasizes that the complainant’s story that she “froze” upon the student’s advances was consistent when she told it both to the SUNY investigator and to an administrator.  It did not have any of the hallmarks of unreliability that have lead to the general rule that hearsay evidence, on its own, isn’t enough to constitute substantial evidence.  Moreover, the only reason why the complainant’s account was technically hearsay, the dissent pointed out, was because she didn’t want to participate in disciplinary proceedings.  Her decision to invoke that right doesn’t undermine the credibility of her account of the assault.

SUNY appealed, and the Court of Appeals understandably reversed. In a short memorandum opinion, joined by 6 of the 7 Judges, the Court held that the victim’s hearsay statement could be considered when deciding whether substantial evidence, a very low standard, existed in the administrative record to support SUNY’s expulsion decision.

The Court, adopting the Appellate Division dissent’s view, also took the Appellate Division majority to task for substituting its view of the facts for the SUNY disciplinary board’s findings. “[I]t was the province of the hearing board to resolve any conflicts in the evidence and make credibility determinations,” the Court held. And thus, it was not for the Appellate Division to reweigh that evidence on appeal.

By holding that a sexual assault victim’s hearsay statements may be considered both at the administrative level and in a subsequent challenge to a disciplinary decision, the Court of Appeals has preserved the victim’s right to choose whether or not to participate in the disciplinary proceedings. That’s undoubtedly, to me at least, the right result. If the victim is unwilling or unable to relive the assault in the context of a subsequent disciplinary proceeding, he or she shouldn’t have to.  Holding otherwise would have forced the victim into a sort of Hobson’s choice: relive the sexual assault in live testimony at the hearing and be cross-examined, or don’t participate at all. The Court of Appeals’ holding in Haug, therefore, will continue to allow victims of sexual assault to decide whether or not to participate in a disciplinary hearing, free from considerations of how that decision will impact the disciplinary process.

The Court of Appeals’ opinion is here.

The Appellate Division August, September, and October 2017 Leave Grants

The Court of Appeals docket is also filled with cases that the Appellate Division found interesting enough to grant leave on its own. It’s a unique aspect of New York’s appellate jurisdiction that allows the intermediate appellate courts to have a say in what cases the Court of Appeals hears. For a more in depth look at the process through which the Appellate Division grants leave to appeal, you can read about it here.

Here’s a quick look at the Appellate Division’s leave grants from the 2017-18 term.

August Appellate Division Leave Grants

Nicke v Schwartzapfel Partners P.C., 148 AD3d 1168 (2d Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether plaintiffs, chapter 13 bankruptcy debtors, had capacity to maintain legal malpractice action against a law firm that represented the bankruptcy trustee in a personal injury action asserted on behalf of one of the plaintiffs, and whether collateral estoppel barred the plaintiff from commencing the legal malpractice action.

Supreme Court, Nassau County, granted those branches of defendants’ separate motions to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against each of them. The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed and denied the motions, and then granted leave to appeal.

Schnapp v Miller’s Launch, Inc., 150 AD3d 32 (1st Dept 2017)

Question presented: In a case where the Plaintiff, a maritime surveyor, was injured while attempting to board a vessel by jumping from the bulkhead to the vessel’s deck, whether questions of fact exist as to whether defendant vessel owner violated the turnover duty and duty to intervene under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

Supreme Court, New York County, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Division, First Department reversed and denied the motion, and then granted leave to appeal.

Matter of New York Civ. Liberties Union v New York City Police Dept., 148 AD3d 642 (1st Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether Civil Rights Law § 50-a exempts from disclosure written disciplinary decisions of the New York City Police Department, despite that the disciplinary trials are open to the public and redaction of identifying information is available, and whether respondents’ previous disclosure of other redacted records waives any objection to redacting the subject disciplinary decisions.

Supreme Court, New York County, adhering to orders of the same court (10/16/12, 7/29/14 and 10/2/14), granted, to a limited extent, the petition brought pursuant to CPLR article 78 seeking to compel respondents to disclose certain records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law. The Appellate Division, First Department reversed, denied the petition, and dismissed the proceeding. The Court then granted leave to appeal.

September Appellate Division Leave Grants

Lobello v New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Co., 152 AD3d 1206 (4th Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether the two-year limitations period set forth in the homeowner’s insurance policy at issue ran from the date of burglary or from the date the insurer denied coverage for the loss

Supreme Court, Oswego County, among other things, granted in part defendant’s cross motion for summary judgment. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department modified by granting that part of plaintiff’s motion seeking to dismiss defendant’s affirmative defense of expiration of the two-year limitations period set forth in the policy, denying defendant’s cross motion in its entirety, and reinstating the complaint with respect to the loss of 9/29/09, and as so modified, affirmed.

Erie Insurance Exchange v J.M. Pereira & Sons, Inc., 151 AD3d 1879 (4th Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether summary judgment was properly denied to plaintiff because the plaintiff failed to establish, as a matter of law, that a certain exception to Exclusion G in the subject business catastrophe liability policy does not apply.

Supreme Court, Monroe County, insofar as appealed from, denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed.

October Appellate Division Leave Grants

Andrew Carothers, M.D., P.C. v Progressive Insurance Co., 150 AD3d 192 (2d Dept 2017)

Questions presented: What are the elements necessary to establish the defense of fraudulent incorporation recognized in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Mallela (4 NY3d 313 [2005]) where a payment was withheld by the insurance carrier for medical services provided by a professional corporation which has been “fraudulently incorporated” to allow nonphysicians to share in its ownership and control, and whether an adverse inference is available for nonparties’ invocation of Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Civil Court of the City of New York, Richmond County, upon a jury verdict, found in favor of defendant and against plaintiff, dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Term affirmed, and the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed.

The Court of Appeals April-May and June 2018 Session and Decision Days Leave Grants

At the end of the term, it’s not abnormal to see the Court of Appeals tend to grant more cases to fill up its argument docket for the fall. During the 2016-2017 term, the Court granted 15 of its 27 total leave grants during the April-May and June sessions, including June Decision Days. More than half from the last three months of the term. This year is similar, with 8 leave grants out of 25 total coming during the April-May and June sessions, plus decision days.

What’s most notable about all of the leave grants this year, however, is the Court’s trend toward granting leave in cases from the Third and Fourth Departments.  Last year, only 7 of the Court’s 27 leave grants came from the upstate Departments. This year, in contrast, 15 cases were granted from the Third and Fourth Departments, compared to 10 from the First and Second. One year is far too small of a sample size to be meaningful, but it will be interesting to watch the grants for the 2018-19 term to see if the Court tends to favor granting leave to cases in the upstate Departments and leaving the First and Second Departments to grant leave on their own.

Here’s a quick rundown of the 8 leave grants from the April-May and June Sessions, and June Decision Days.

April-May Session Leave Grants

Fasolas v Bobcat of N.Y., Inc., 150 AD3d 147 (2d Dept 2017)

Question presented: Whether an exception to strict products liability as set forth in Scarangella v Thomas Built Buses (93 NY2d 655 [1999]) is applicable where the allegedly defectively designed product was sold without optional safety equipment to a rental company that planned to rent the product to the general public.

Supreme Court, Queens County, denied defendants’ motions pursuant to CPLR 4401 for judgment as a matter of law dismissing the complaint as to them, and pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside so much of the jury verdict on the issue of liability finding each of the two defendant Bobcat entities 25% at fault in the happening of the accident and defendant Port Jefferson Rental Center d/b/a Taylor Rental Center 50% at fault in the happening of the accident, and for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, to set aside that portion of the jury verdict on the issue of liability in the interest of justice and for a new trial or, in the alternative, to set aside, as excessive, the jury verdict on the issue of damages awarding plaintiff the principal sum of $1,000,000 for conscious pain and suffering (4/18/13 order); and thereafter, entered a judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendants upon the jury verdict on the issue of liability and damages, and upon the 4/8/13 order (4/22/13 order). The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed and dismissed the appeal and cross appeal from the order denying the parties’ CPLR 4401 and 4404 motions after trial.

Matter of Larchmont Pancake House v Board of Assessors, 153 AD3d 521 (2d Dept 2017)

Questions presented: Whether, in a proceeding pursuant to Real Property Tax Law article 7 brought by a petitioner who did not own the subject property, to review real property tax assessments, the petitioner is an aggrieved party within the meaning of the Real Property Tax Law, and whether the petitioner failed to satisfy condition precedent set forth in RPTL 524(3) because grievance was not filed by property owner, thereby depriving court of subject matter jurisdiction to review assessments.

Supreme Court, Westchester County, denied the motions of the Assessor of the Town of Mamaroneck and the Board of Assessment Review to dismiss the petitions in four related proceedings pursuant to Real Property Tax Law article 7 to review real property tax assessments for the tax years 2010-2013. The Appellate Division, Second Department reversed and granted the motions to dismiss the petition in each proceeding.

Viselli v The Riverbay Corp., 155 AD3d 439 (1st Dept 2017)

Questions presented: In a case where a firefighter slipped and fell on a wet substance on painted concrete stairs, and was injured, whether Supreme Court properly granted summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs’ claim alleging a violation of General Municipal Law § 205-a, and whether defendant’s submission of a certificate of occupancy indicating that the building was in compliance with all applicable statutes, codes and ordinances shifted the burden to plaintiff to raise triable issues on that claim.\

Supreme Court, Bronx County, granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed.

June Session Leave Grants

Matter of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. v. Tax Appeals Tribunal of State of N.Y., 155 AD3d 1352 (3d Dept 2017)

Questions presented: Whether an ambiguous tax exclusion should be construed in favor of the taxpayer or the government, whether the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the information services provided to appellant by a nonparty were excluded from sales tax liability under Tax Law § 105 (c)(1), and whether the Appellate Division properly made factual determinations not addressed by the Tax Appeals Tribunal.

The Appellate Division, Third Department annulled the determination of respondent Tax Appeals Tribunal denying petitioner’s request for certain refunds of sales and use tax imposed under Tax Law articles 28 and 29.

Matter of Jordan v New York City Housing Auth., 154 AD3d 618 (1st Dept 2017)

Questions presented: Whether Civil Service Law § 71 applies to labor class employees, whether the Department of Citywide Administrative Services is a necessary party to proceeding that challenged New York City Housing Authority’s denial of petitioner’s application for reinstatement, and whether respondent New York City Housing Authority should have been permitted an opportunity to answer the petition following the denial of its cross motion to dismiss.

Supreme Court, New York County, among other things, 1) granted the petition to the extent of remitting the proceeding to respondent New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for compliance with Civil Service Law § 71, 2) denied NYCHA’s cross motion to dismiss the petition as against it, and 3) denied NYCHA’s request to answer the petition; App. Div. affirmed.

Rosa v Delacruz, 158 AD3d 571 (1st Dept 2018)

Question presented: In a no fault automobile insurance case, whether the plaintiff raised an issue of fact as to whether his injuries were causally related to automobile accident.

Supreme Court, Bronx County granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment dismissing Rosa’s complaint based on his failure to demonstrate that he suffered a serious injury to his left shoulder within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102 (d). The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed.

Collazo v Netherland Property Assets LLC, 155 AD3d 538 (1st Dept 2017)

Question presented: In a case where tenants claim that their landlord overcharged them rent by allegedly taking advantage of luxury decontrol provisions of the Rent Stabilization Law while simultaneously receiving tax incentives under the City of New York’s J-51 program, whether Supreme Court abused its discretion in determining that most of plaintiffs’ claims were within the specialized expertise of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and dismissing those claims under the primary jurisdiction doctrine.

Supreme Court, New York County granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the overcharge proceeding on the ground that the tenants’ claims should first be determined by the York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The Appellate Division, First Department affirmed.

June Decision Days Leave Grants

People ex rel. Allen v Yelich, 159 AD3d 1202 (3d Dept 2018)

Question presented: Where the appellant, who absconded from supervision in New York, was sentenced for an unrelated crime in New Jersey, and the New Jersey court ordered the sentence on New Jersey crime to run concurrently with undischarged portion of the New York sentence, but appellant was not returned to New York State custody to serve the concurrent sentence, whether respondent Department of Corrections and Community Supervision improperly calculated appellant’s maximum expiration date for period of post-release supervision.

Supreme Court, Franklin County denied the appellant’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and the Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed.

 

 

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