Court of Appeals October Session: Arguments of Interest for October 12, 2017

The Court of Appeals finishes up the first week of arguments in the October session with three criminal cases on the docket (the Court’s case summaries can be found here). The Court will hear arguments on the following issues: (1) whether a criminal defendant was entitle to a writ of error coram nobis to reopen an appeal dismissed as abandoned because trial counsel was ineffective by failing to preserve the defendant’s right to appeal; (2) whether the trial court erred in failing to conduct an adequate inquiry when the criminal defendant, immediately before trial was to start, objected to his trial counsel’s preparation and sought substitution of counsel; and (3) whether the crime of burglary in Georgia is equivalent to New York’s so that a Georgia conviction for burglary could be used as a predicate felony offense to aggravate a criminal defendant’s sentence.

No. 115 People v Mario Arjune

After Arjune was convicted of tampering with physical evidence and fourth-degree weapon possession and sentenced to one to three years in prison, his trial counsel filed a notice of appeal from his conviction, but took no further steps to perfect the appeal. Four years later, the prosecution moved to dismiss the appeal as abandoned and served a copy on the trial counsel, who didn’t respond, and to Arjune’s parents’ house, but he didn’t live there anymore. After receiving no opposition, the Appellate Division, Second Department dismissed the appeal as abandoned.

Arjune, a legal permanent resident, was then picked up by ICE for deportation due to his felony conviction. His immigration attorney referred him to assigned appellate counsel, who moved to reinstate the appeal. The Appellate Division denied the motion, and refused to reconsider its denial.

Left without other options, Arjune moved for a writ of error coram nobis to reinstate the appeal, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to perfect his appeal from the conviction. The trial counsel supported the application, swearing that he didn’t advise Arjune of the steps to perfect the appeal and that it was “understood” that he wouldn’t represent Arjune on the appeal. Arjune also filed a report saying he was psychologically impaired and illiterate.

It wasn’t enough, however. The Appellate Division denied the writ, and the Court of Appeals will now hear arguments on whether Arjune’s appeal should have been reinstated.

A copy of the Appellate Division order can be found here.

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