The postings below present recent noteworthy CAL court appearances and case outcomes. Please use the Contact Us inquiry form if you'd like further information about any of these cases.
On July 13, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed the decision of New York County Supreme Court Justice Bruce Allen, who had denied our client CP’s motion to vacate his conviction on the grounds that he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel in connection with his guilty plea to attempted third-degree sale of a controlled substance. CP, a lawful permanent resident from Trinidad, alleged that his attorney, when counseling him plead guilty, assured him that, so long as he stayed out of further legal trouble, he might avoid deportation. The First Department found that, because CP was pleading guilty to an aggravated felony, deportation was mandatory irrespective of good behavior. The First Department remanded the matter for a hearing to give CP an opportunity to demonstrate the misadvice, and to show that, had he been correctly advised, he would not have pleaded guilty. Mark Zeno represents CP.
On June 22, 2017, finding that the trial court wrongly refused defense counsel’s application to dismiss a deliberating juror as “grossly unqualified” under CPL 270.35(1), the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the first-degree manslaughter conviction of CAL client D.S. On the fourth day of deliberations, the juror sought to speak to the trial court. In the ensuing colloquy, the juror consistently maintained that she was unable to obey her oath and “separate her emotions from her ability to deliberate.” She could not, she insisted, “reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial and the law.” For its part, the trial court insisted that the juror had to deliberate fairly, because her removal would force a mistrial.
Stressing that whether a seated juror was grossly unqualified constituted “a legal determination,” the Court of Appeals observed that the juror had not declared an actual bias. The Court’s case law, however, did not require actual bias for a “grossly unqualified” determination. The Court also stated that, while “a declaration regarding emotions alone does not render a juror grossly unqualified,” this juror had declared that her emotions had disabled her from deliberating fairly and impartially. D.S. was represented by CAL attorney Susan Salomon.
On June 16, E.C.'s SORA registration level was reduced to the least restrictive level, Level 1, after the Board of Sex Offender Examiners and the DA's office consented to the reduction. E.C. is a 59-year-old man whose SORA offense in 2010 has been his only contact with the criminal justice system. In the six years since his release from incarceration he has maintained steady employment, engaged in volunteer work, and retained the support of his family. Acknowledging E.C.'s accomplishments and his remorse for his crime, the Board and court found clear and convincing evidence that a reduction to Level 1 was appropriate. Our client was represented by Molly Schindler.
On June 15, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed and dismissed CAL client Y.S.’s resisting arrest and second-degree obstructing governmental administration convictions. Y.S. was charged on the theory that she allegedly interfered with the arrest of her brother, and then with her own arrest. However, the accusatory instrument neglected to state any facts showing that the underlying arrest of Y.S.’s brother was authorized, even though this is an essential element of both resisting arrest and second-degree obstructing governmental administration. Due to this omission, the court found the accusatory instrument to be insufficient on its face, and reversed and dismissed Y.S.’s convictions. Our client was represented by Megan Byrne.
On June 6, 2017, a Bronx County Supreme Court judge granted CAL client C.T. a resentencing after the DA’s office conceded that the out-of-state predicate used to enhance his sentence was not the equivalent of a New York felony. Our client was represented by Brittany Francis.
On May 30, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed our client’s conviction for attempted first-degree robbery. It was alleged that he attempted to rob a Sunglass Hut of a pair of sunglasses, after brandishing a knife. He was charged with not only the robbery attempt, but also criminal possession of a weapon. When the police arrested the defendant as he left the scene, they found no knife, and the jury acquitted of the weapon possession count. In its charge to the jury, the court failed to tell the jurors that, to be guilty of the robbery attempt, the client had to have actually possessed a knife during the incident. Although the defense lawyer failed to object to the charge, the appellate court reversed in the interest of justice.
On May 17, 2017, our client DW was determined to be a Level 2 sex offender, despite requests from the prosecution and the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders for the judge to “upwardly depart” to a Level 3. The request for the Level 3 was based solely on DW’s commission of a subsequent nonsexual offense and was made despite the prosecution’s praise for DW’s rehabilitation in prison. The Bronx County Supreme Court judge ultimately was persuaded that the upward departure from DW’s scoring as a low Level 2 on the basis of a nonsexual offense was not warranted. The difference is significant for DW, since as a Level 3 he would have been barred from living in his family home because of its proximity to a school, even though his offense did not involve a child. He is now back home with his family. DW was represented by Julia Busetti.
On May 12, 2017, the Appellate Term, First Department, reversed and dismissed CAL client R.S.’s criminal contempt in the second degree conviction. The court held that reversal and dismissal were mandated because the allegations in the accusatory instrument were jurisdictionally insufficient to meet the elements of the charged crime. Because R.S. was induced to plead to a second count of criminal contempt by the promise that his two sentences would run concurrently, the court also reversed that conviction and remanded the case for further proceedings. Our client was represented by Brittany Francis.
On April 25, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department, ordered that CAL client C.F.’s sentence be reduced by 20 years. Originally sentenced to consecutive terms of 25-life and 20-life for separate robberies, C.F. asked the court to order the sentences to run concurrently in the interest of justice. The court agreed, reducing the sentence from an aggregate term of 45-life to one of 25-life. It also dismissed as an inclusory, concurrent count a third-degree robbery conviction. Our client was represented by Kate Skolnick.
On April 21st
, a Manhattan judge, at a SORA registration hearing, granted a downward departure to Level 1 for our client TA after the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders had recommended a Level 2. The judge agreed that Mr. A did not intentionally target someone who was underage and that his risk of re-offense was low. Mr. A was represented by Molly Schindler.
On May 18, 2017, several current and former members of the CAL staff were featured as guest speakers at the Brooklyn Reentry Consortium, focusing on the specific challenges that persons convicted of sex offenses face upon release into the community. CAL's resident social worker Susannah Karlin and Senior Appellate Counsel Lauren Springer both had the opportunity to speak on their areas of expertise, as did former CAL staff attorney Jill Sanders. The consortium was cosponsored by CAL and organized in collaboration with the Kings County Reentry Task Force -- a joint venture between the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, the NYS Department of Corrections & Community Supervision, and the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services to provide support for certain adults transitioning from incarceration back into Brooklyn’s communities.
On March 1, 2017, CAL had the pleasure of hosting a fundraiser benefiting the Immigrant Defense Project. CAL's Robin Nichinsky and Mark Zeno were honored for their work representing immigrant clients seeking post-conviction relief in partnership with IDP. The event featured sales of artworks by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artist Collective, which are on rotational display in CAL's office space at 120 Wall Street. Many thanks to all who participated in making the evening such a success for IDP and the featured artists.
CAL is proud to announce that, on January 28, 2017, Attorney-in-Charge Robert S. Dean was named a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation. Fellows are nominated by peers and recognized for distinguished achievement, dedication to the legal profession, and commitment to the organized bar and service to the public. As Emily F. Franchina, Chair of the Fellows, stated, "Being a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation is an honor. Fellows represent one percent of the New York State Bar Association membership. Being nominated and elected is a notable achievement."
On August 15th, CAL welcomed Marianne Yang as a supervising attorney and co-director of the recently renamed Immigrant Justice Project, formerly known as the Padilla Project. Marianne brings a wealth of knowledge at the intersection of immigration and criminal law from her experience at IDP and Brooklyn Defender Services. She looks forward to working with fellow project co-director Robin Nichinsky on expanding the breadth and depth of CAL's post-conviction advocacy for clients facing immigration consequences.
In July, CAL welcomed both John Santoro and Maya Hart as new Client Advocates. Maya graduated from Williams College in June and John graduated from Columbia University in May. They will be joining current Client Advocate Erika Parry in the north wing of the office, and they look forward to supporting CAL's appellate work as well as enchancing our mission of holistic advocacy and client services.
On June 11, 2015, CAL's social worker, Susannah Karlin, and CAL SORA specialist Jill Sanders, did a presentation at the bi-monthly meeting of the Bronx Re-entry Task Force. Their presentation dealt with sex offender registration and the challenges these persons face when re-entering their communities. After a 10 minute presentation, Susannah and Jill fielded nearly an hour of questions about the ins-and-outs of the sex offender registration process, how sex offender residency restrictions effect communities, and how to dispel the myths surrounding “stranger danger” and the rates of sexual recidivism. The presentation helped give members of the re-entry community important information about the topics discussed.
On November 14, 2014, in Washington D.C., the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) honored Claudia Trupp as the winner of the Reginald Heber Smith Award. The “Reggie” celebrates outstanding achievements and dedicated services of an attorney for contributions made while employed by an organization providing indigent defense services or civil legal services. To receive the Reggie, an attorney must have “significantly advanced the cause of equal justice for individual clients or low-income communities.” The attorney also must be known to provide “extraordinary and successful” legal advocacy on behalf of clients who could not otherwise afford counsel.
On September 15, 2014, Mark Zeno, CAL's Assistant-Attorney-in-Charge, received the New York County Lawyers' Association 2014 Public Service Award. New York City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter presented the award and delivered the keynote address.
On January 24, 2013, CAL Attorney-in-Charge Robert S. Dean received the New York State Bar Association's 2012 award for Outstanding Appellate Practitioner. The award was established in 2003, to recognize "outstanding advocacy, protection of due process and the public welfare, and the integrity of the judicial system."
CAL Senior Supervising Attorney Abigail Everett was chosen to receive New York County Lawyers' Association 2012 Public Service Award. United States Attorney for the Southern District, Preeta Bharara, presented the award at the September 12, 2012 ceremony.
See the shout-out to CAL in the first report issued by the National Registry of Exonerations in the United States 1989-2012, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Law School. The report details the 873 individual exonerations in the United States from January 1989 through February 2012. CAL's Justice First Project provided statistics to Professor Sam Gross on its cases over the course of a number of years.