Nov 8th - 5:23 pm
The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday will hear the case of a Fox News reporter who is being asked to release the name of a source who provided her with the details of the diary kept by James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people in a shooting rampage in Aurora, Colorado.
The case could challenge New York’s Shield Law for those acting as journalists and how far it can stretch in other states.
In a story posted on Fox News’s website, Winter reported Holmes had mailed a notebook of details of how he was going to kill people to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack in the movie theater citing two law enforcement officials.
Attorneys for Holmes claim the release of the details violated a judicial gag order and, despite calling 14 different law enforcement officials to court, it was not determined who leaked the information.
Following that, attorneys for Holmes began the current proceeding in Manhattan Supreme Court to compel Winter to testify and produce notes on her sources.
Holmes’ lawyers argue New York’s law doesn’t apply in this case.
“… It calls into question whether this matter truly embodies a conflict between evidence privileged under New York law and and evidence that is unprotected in the demanding State.”
But Winter’s attorneys disagree, stating in court documents that the state’s shield law is “violated when a court of this state directs a report to appear in another state, where the purpose of requiring her appearance is to obtain from her the identity of her confidential sources, and where this is a substantial possibility that he demanding court will issue such a directive.”
Oct 29th - 12:47 pm
Prominent political consultant Melvin Lowe is in federal custody today after being charged in a nine-count federal complaint that includes multiple charges of fraud and criminal tax violations.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Lowe is accused of failing to report more than $2 million in his consulting income from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
He is accused of using a fraudulent invoice to defraud DSCC and its contributors out of $100,000.
Lowe is accused of taking $100,000 in payments from the Democratic conference’s campaign account for direct mail printing services that were never actually provided.
Federal officials are also accusing Lowe of making a payment of $20,000 to an unspecific consultant several days after a Senate lawmaker — identified in the complaint as “Senator No. 1″ promised to pay the consultant for services already provided.
Lowe was one of nine people who had been secretly recorded by now ex-Sen. Shirley Huntley, a Queens Democrat who was jailed in connection with a scheme to siphon funds from a non-profit she controlled.
Lowe, 52, has been a prominent figure in New York political circles for more than a decade. He was mentioned in the acknowledgements section in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book “Crossroads.”
Oct 25th - 12:47 pm
Justice For All, the organization that supports raising the retirement age for state Supreme Court and Court of the Appeals judges, has raised $144,630 in the most recent reporting period and spent heavily on mailers, a phone campaign as well as social media advertising.
The group has garnered support from influential law firms in New York, as well as a $1,000 contribution from former New York City comptroller Bill Thompson, who ended his bid last month for the Democratic nomination for mayor.
Also donating again to the effort was former Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Ciparick, who gave $1,500.
Former Chief Judge Judith Kaye contributed $1,500 as well.
Also contributing were law firms like Ruskin Moscou & Faltischek P.C. and Duffy & Duffy LLC.
All told, the group has $206,863 in the most recent reporting period, $99,500 go toward mail and $50,000 for a phone program as well as $7,000 for social media advertising.
Justice For All has retained the MirRam Group for his communications efforts.
Capital New York this morning reported that the organization was formed at the behest of Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, which court officials deny.
Oct 22nd - 2:23 pm
Good-government Citizens Union said today it opposes the amendment before voters next month that would raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 80.
The amendment would require a certification process every two years for state Supreme Court judges between the ages of 70 to 76.
At the same time, judges on the Court of Appeals would be allowed to remain on the bench without any certification to finish out their term, but not beyod age 80.
For Citizens Union, the amendment is too selective.
“Citizens Union believes there is no principled reason for raising the retirement age for only two groups of judges – judges of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court – and not having the same apply to the majority of the state’s judges,” the group writes. “Further, even the amendment’s limited changes appear arbitrary. Supreme Court justices would be certificated, but no such evaluation process would be in place for Court of Appeals judges to determine whether they are able to perform the duties of the office. In addition, Court of Appeals judges whose terms expire while in their 70s have to leave the bench immediately before reaching 80 and cannot be reappointed, whereas those judges whose terms expire in their late 60s can be reappointed to serve until 80. Their retirement age will thus be determined by the vagary of their age at the time of appointment.”
Justice For All, a coalition of mostly attorneys and law firms, has formed to push in favor of the amendment. Judges cannot actively campaign for the amendment, but Capital unearthed a memo this week that found judges were given talking points on how to support the ballot referendum.
Oct 16th - 12:54 pm
Eric Snyder, the Brooklyn-based attorney whose lawsuit challenging the wording of the casino amendment was tossed by a state judge today plans to file an emergency appeal with the state Appellate Division.
Snyder in a phone interview with Capital Tonight said Judge Richard Platkin’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit wrongly argued his claim the Board of Elections met secretly approve the amendment language — a claim BOE officials didn’t seek to dismiss.
“I’m shocked that the court would dismiss the claim that the vote was in secret when the Board of Elections didn’t even seek dismissal of the claim,” Snyder said. “So I’m going to immediately seek emergency relief from the Appellate Court on that issue. I think the Board of Elections is ignoring the attorney general’s recommendation for a neutrally worded amendment… and the language was not changed in an open meeting as required by law.”
At the same time, the judge ruled the timing of the suit was off, considering it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired (the BOE didn’t post the updated language until after the time to file a legal claim had run out).
“Transparency and proper notice are fundamental rights in this country and that includes New York,” Snyder said.
At the heart of the challenge is what opponents believe is overly rosy wording of the casino amendment, which if approved would pave the way for four non-American Indian commercial casinos in the first phase of construction.
The amendment includes the perceived benefits of casino gambling, such as more aid for schools and help with local governments paying down property taxes.
Opponents argue the language tilts the vote in favor of approval, though Platkin says the Board of Elections is under no legal requirement to produce langauge one way or the other.
Time is working against any appeal, however, given that ballots have already been printed.
“The Appellate Division I believe hears emergency appeals on election law issues when necessary and hopefully they’ll do that here,” Snyder said. “That’s all I can ask them to do.”
Oct 16th - 11:06 am
A state judge this morning tossed a lawsuit challenging the wording of an amendment that would expand casino gambling in New York.
Among his determinations, Judge Richard Platkin ruled the argument that the language was advocating for the expansion of non-Indian gaming “is both untimely and lacking in legal merit.”
Opponents of gambling and good-government advocates had knocked the language before voters next month for including the potential benefits of casino expansion, including lower property taxes and increased school aid.
The state Board of Elections had argued the lawsuit came after the statute of limitations expired on challenging the casino amendment’s language.
The lawsuit, brought by Brooklyn-based attorney Eric Snyder, contended the language on the ballot before voters painted an overly rosy view of casino expansion.
There is no word yet if Snyder plans to appeal, but time is becoming increasingly a factor in challenging the ballot language, given that absentee ballots have already been mailed out.
If approved on Nov. 5, four casinos would be authorized in the first round of construction, all placed north of New York City. The casinos would be restricted to the Southern Tier, Catskills and the Albany area.
The contention that the language was tipping the scale in favor of passing the amendment was bolstered by a Siena College poll that found voters would back the amendment when told of the benefits of expanding non-Indian gaming in New York.
In his ruling, Platkin argues the Board of Elections — which defended the suit — was under no under no legal requirement to have a plainer text.
Good-government groups had also taken issue with the amendment’s wording. While not weighing in on the benefits or drawbacks of casino expansion, groups like the New York Public Interest Research Group issued a friend of the court brief backing the challenge to the language.
“While NYPIRG has no position on how New Yorkers should vote on the proposed casino amendment to the state Constitution that it is at the core of this case, we believe this matter raises issues that go to the very heart of the way state government functions and the integrity of the process for revising the state’s basic charter,” said NYPIRG’s Blair Horner in a statement. “We’re disappointed that the judge chose to block a legitimate discussion on the merits of whether the state gamed the language of the casino amendment to tilt New Yorkers to a yes vote. New Yorkers still need to know how the state put its thumb on the scale in favor of casino interests when it came to drafting the pro gambling ballot question.”
Oct 4th - 1:15 pm
The committee formed to promote the passage of an amendment to raise the retirement age for state judges is being paid for by some of New York’s most prominent law firms, according to a filing with the state Board of Elections.
Like New York Jobs Now, the coalition that backs the casino expansion amendment, Justice For All is a ballot referendum committee that files with the state BOE.
The filing shows prominent firms that have business before the courts like Greenburg, Traurig donated $10,000, while Ruskin, Moscou & Faltischek contributed $1,000.
Kramer, Dillof, Livingston & Moore contributed $100,000, the filing shows.
Law firms aren’t the only contributors.
Recently retired Court of Appeals Judge Carmen Ciparick contribured $1,000.
The committee is already spending, too.
The filing shows Justice For All has spent $40,000 on polling from Global Strategies in September and $99,500 on mail.
All told, the group has $366,150 and spent $164,500, its top line filing shows. Justice For All has $201,650 in cash on hand.
Sitting judges are prohibited from campaigning for a candidate or a ballot initiative, including the amendment that would raise the retirement age from 70 to 80 for state Supreme Court judges and those who sit on the Court of the Appeals, the state’s highest court.
The formation of the committee backing the retirement age change, led by Albany political consultant Bruce Gyory, was announced this morning.
Oct 4th - 12:08 pm
A group led by veteran Albany hand Bruce Gyory will push for the passage of amendment to the state’s constitution that would raise the retirement age of judges.
The group, Justice for All, announced today it is forming a “committ of advocates” from the law field who oppose the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The amendment would raise the retirement age for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges to 80. At the crux of the argument for amendment supporters is the current retirement age of 70 was approved more than a century ago.
To that end, the group is launching a webiste, nyjusticeforall2013.com, to support the amendment.
“We’re thrilled to launch this website because the more New Yorkers know about this Constitutional Amendment; the more likely they are to support it,” said Gyory, the group’s executive director and a contributor to Capital Tonight’s “Insider” segment. “By passing Proposition 6, we will strengthen our judiciary and allow competent judges who are physically and mentally capable to continue serving our judicial system and making New York State work.”
An interesting side story on the amendment is how it could impact Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Should the amendment fail and Cuomo be re-elected to a second term, he would likely be able to replace the entire Court of Appeals with his own jurists.
The age cap amendment for judges is one of six constitutional changes voters will consider in November.
Earlier this week, a coalition backing the casino expansion proposal was formed that includes members of the business community and labor.
Jun 25th - 12:32 pm
While the Supreme Court 5-4 decision to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act has a more high-profile impact on southern states, there is a New York impact as well.
The provision for the Justice Department to review changes to election law also covers Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan in New York City.
More immediately, the most recent election law measures approved in the state Legislature — lever machines for New York City and moving the mayoral runoff date — will not require preclearance from the U.S. Justice Department.
In the longer term, New Yorkers wishing challenge any city or state election law change will potentially go through a far more complicated briar patch of legal manuevers, according to Jeff Wice, an outside counsel for the Senate Democrats who is now affiliated with Effective NY.
“Any New Yorker who now wants to challenge an election law would have to go through a costly and time consuming federal lawsuit where the burden is on the challenging plantiff to invalidate the law and it is always a difficult uphill battle,” Wice said in an interview.
And then there’s the scenario in which the redistricting issue could be revisited, but this time without preclearance from the Justice Department.
Wice, who is an attorney arguing on the Favors case challenging the Senate redistricting plan, said if a federal court tosses out the maps, the process will go back to the Legislature and the governor.
Only this time, there would be no approval from the Justice Department (which already signed off on the original maps drawn in 2012 by state lawmakers).
The Favors case is current in its pre-trial discovery phase in the Eastern District court in Brooklyn before a three-judge panel.
The expectation is the court would want to hear the case and make a decision before the 2014 elections.
Democratic officials in New York aren’t happy with the development.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 is deeply disappointing, and Congress must act immediately to develop a new coverage provision that will ensure equal access to the political process for every American,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statem. “While the Supreme Court has preserved the preclearance process of Section 5, it is now the responsibility of Congress to ensure that the Voting Rights Act continues to play its vital role in strengthening our democracy and combating and deterring voting discrimination.”
Jun 20th - 4:43 pm
The state’s newest Court of Appeals judge was sworn in Thursday, with a high-profile former classmate on hand. Sheila Abdus-Salaam was unanimously confirmed by the state senate last month. She comes to the state’s highest court with 20 years of experience as a judge. And at her swearing-in ceremony, her experience and commitment to public service were praised by U-S Attorney General Eric Holder, who attended Columbia Law School with Abdus-Salaam. Holder talked about their time at Columbia together, commenting on her “relentless pursuit of excellence,” her compassion, and also her ability to “boogie.”
Holder has undergone his fair share of controversies in Washington, with several appearances before Congressional committees to talk about Department of Justice programs. He referenced those situations when he admitted that Adbus-Salaam has one ability he envies. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate last month, and Holder said he read that during her confirmation process, Judge Abdus-Salaam got a standing ovation every time she appeared before members of the legislature. He told the crowd “Now as someone who appears before a different legislature in Washington DC, I know just how extraordinary that is,” and said he hoped she could give him some tips before he went back to DC.
Judge Abdus-Salaam returned Holder’s praising, noting how remarkable it was that they had gone on from their time together in law school to become the first black U.S. Attorney General and the first black women on New York’s Court of Appeals. Abdus-Salaam replaced Theodore Jones, who passed away last year. He was the first African-American judge on the Court of Appeals.