New York to Weigh Constitutional Obligations to Indigent Defendants: Class-Action Lawsuit to Proceed to Trial

December 17, 2013 — A State Supreme Court in Albany has ruled that a class-action lawsuit challenging New York State’s failure to provide effective counsel to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes will proceed to trial. The trial, expected to start this spring, will be the first of its kind in the nation. The lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.

Testimony so far presented in the case shows that “on a consistent basis, indigent criminal defendants are being arraigned without being afforded their right to counsel," wrote Justice Eugene Devine.

The decision came late Monday and was in response to requests both by the NYCLU and New York State to resolve some or all of the case without trial.

The lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring, et al., v. State of New York, was filed in 2007 on behalf of 20 defendants in Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler and Washington counties. It charges New York with persistently failing its constitutional obligations to provide effective counsel to indigent New Yorkers charged in criminal court. The upcoming trial will be the first to take on an entire state’s system of indigent defense.

“There are substantial issues of fact to be resolved at trial," Devine wrote in his decision. "The Court has observed that the reputation of the public defense system in this State has deteriorated. This case shall determine whether there are systemic deficiencies in the existing public defense system or not.”

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman called the decision "a tentative step toward justice."

“We are confident that the constitutional rights of New Yorkers will prevail at trial,” Lieberman said.

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Albany Police Chief Krokoff, County Sheriff Apple and Planned Parenthood Executive Carreker Honored by NYCLU

Law Enforcement Cited for Progress in Dealing with Transgender Issues

ALBANY — The Capital Region Chapter honored Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and Blue Carreker, vice president for public affairs and media relations at the Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood at our annual awards ceremony.

The event was held at the University Club in Albany on November 7, 2013.

Chapter Director Melanie Trimble said Krokoff and Apple were recognized with the Ned Pattison Award “because both departments have developed new policies and procedures when interacting with transgender individuals in criminal justice matters.”

At the ceremony, both Krokoff and Apple said that, in the past, they used to dread receiving calls from Trimble but added that they now feel they have developed a constructive relationship with our chapter.

Carreker was presented with the Carol S. Knox Award for her leadership in spearheading the local campaign for the Women’s Equality Act during the past legislative session.

“Blue was responsible for keeping 80 local sponsors, hundreds of active local supporters and several thousand email activists regularly updated about campaign progress, while at the same time organizing petition drives, phone banks and public events in support of the Women’s Equality Act,” Trimble said.

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NY's Highest Court Rules GPS Tracking of State Employee's Personal Car Unlawful

June 27, 2013 — In a victory for privacy rights, the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, unanimously ruled today that New York State acted unlawfully when it planted a GPS tracking device on a government employee’s personal car and tracked his movements outside of working hours.

The decision was issued in Cunningham v. New York State Department of Labor, a lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging the Department of Labor’s planting of a GPS tracking device on an employee's personal car as part of an investigation into workplace misconduct. Using the device, the Labor Department tracked the whereabouts of 30-year Department employee Michael Cunningham and his family for at least a month, including during evenings, weekends and while the family went on vacation out of state.

“With this ruling, the state's 200,000 employees can feel secure in the fact that their bosses cannot secretly track them and their families for 24 hours a day,” said NYCLU Senior Staff Attorney Corey Stoughton, lead counsel on the case. “The Court of Appeals sent a clear message that the government cannot intrude into the private lives of employees simply to investigate workplace issues.”

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NY’s High Court to Hear NYCLU Challenge to GPS Tracking of State Employee’s Personal Car

May 28, 2013 — The state’s highest court will tomorrow hear arguments in a New York Civil Liberties Union case challenging New York State’s warrantless planting of a GPS tracking device on a government employee’s personal car.

The device, planted as part of an investigation into workplace misconduct, tracked the whereabouts of 30-year Department of Labor employee Michael Cunningham and his family on their personal car for at least a month, including during evenings, weekends and while the family went on vacation out of state.

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