Items tagged with 'law'

New York State's highest court rejects bid to ban large sodas

nys court of appeals exterior

The state Court of Appeals building in downtown Albany.

New York State's highest court -- the Court of Appeals -- issued a decision today that blocks New York City's much-talked about attempt to cap the size of containers for sodas and other sugary beverages at certain outlets. The 4-2 ruling rejected an appeal of lower court decisions by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

There are a lot of issues that intersect at the point of a 16-ounce soda -- health, business, personal liberty -- but the court's ruling was focused on... separation of powers.

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On tiger selfies

There's been some media hubbub the last few days after the New York State legislature passed a bill that would ban "tiger selfies" -- yep, exactly what it sounds like, apparently it's a guys-on-Tinder thing. (Because of course it is.) [NY Post]

As it happens, the the actual bill is aimed at prohibiting direct contact between the public and big cats (like tigers) at places such as "roadside zoo exhibitors" as a safety measure for people and a welfare measure for the animals. The Assembly sponsor, Linda Rosenthal, said she hadn't even heard of the tiger selfies until after the bill passed her in chamber. ] [CNet]

If this sounds like a Colbert Report segment, you would be right (embedded above).

Joe Bruno retrial verdict

joe bruno sentencing closeup cropThe jury in the Joe Bruno retrial found the former state Senate majority leader not guilty on the charges that a consulting arrangement involved kickbacks or bribes for his influence in state government. [TU CapCon]

In the 2009 trial he had been found guilty -- and sentenced to two years in prison -- of essentially the same accusations, but a 2010 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States changed the criteria for the "theft of honest services" law he had been convicted under. Federal prosecutors decided to try prosecuting him again, which is what led to this retrial.

After today's verdict, the TU's Rob Gavin reported that Bruno went to Jack's (where else) to celebrate. [@RobertGavinTU]

Wider perspective: Jimmy Vielkind over at Capital, after the verdict: "State lawmakers, exhale: Joe Bruno, and the system as you know it, has been acquitted."

That photo on the right is a file photo, not from today.

Washington Ave Armory dance party court decision: It depends on what you mean by "auditorium"...

Washington Ave Armory by upstateNYer

The Washington Ave Armory. / photo: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

A state appellate court today reversed a decision by the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals last year that prohibited the Washington Ave Armory from holding "rave"-type dance events.

A year ago the BZA ruled such events violated the Armory's zoning. That decision hinged on the definition of the word "auditoria," the category under which the Armory is classified. The BZA ruled that an auditorium includes fixed seats, and because these dance party events didn't have fixed seats for each person in the audience, they were not allowed. The BZA's ruling was upheld by a state Supreme Court in Albany County last May. (The issue had grown out of an October 2012 foam party event at the Armory at which Albany police say crowd members had gotten combative while waiting to enter the venue.) [TU 2013] [Justia] [AOA 2012]

Like that BZA decision, this new ruling from an appellate division of state Supreme Court also focuses on the term "auditorium" and its definition -- or, rather, definitions.

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Albany Common Councilman calls for city ban on therapy aimed at "converting" gay people

albany city hallAlbany Common Councilman Judd Krasher announced today a plan to introduce legislation to ban "conversion therapy" -- in which a therapist attempts to change the sexual orientation of a gay person -- in the city, in part to prompt the state to act on the matter. Said Krasher in a press release:

"This ordinance is important on many levels. Most significantly, it will further protect Albany's LGBT youth. Additionally, the case is closed and the scientific community is in consensus; being an LGBT individual is not a disease or mental disorder and attempts to 'cure' people of their sexual orientation severely hurts a youngster's well-being. The City of Albany is a city of inclusion, a place that embraces diversity. Restorative therapy does not belong in Albany or civilized society. With that said, I hope the introduction and eventual passage of the ordinance sends a strong message to state government to act swiftly and ban this barbarism statewide."

There is currently a bill in the New York State legislature that would prohibit mental health professionals from "engaging in sexual orientation change efforts" with patients under the age of 18. Doing so would be considered professional misconduct and could result in the therapist's license being revoked or suspended.

Two states currently have such bans in the place -- California (passed in 2012) and New Jersey (in 2013).

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A good attorney for writing a will?

accounting ledgerKate emails:

Could anyone recommend a good, reasonable lawyer to prepare a simple will?

A will is one of those things most people, especially younger people, are probably like, "Me? I don't need a will."

But you might surprised, even for the non-Warren Buffets of the world -- a will can help can help smooth the way a bit for your loved ones after you die. And while there are online services that now offer to help with preparing a will, an actual attorney might be able to ask you better questions for writing a more helpful will.

So, suggestions for Kate? Bonus points for explaining why you're suggesting that attorney. And extra bonus points for mentioning roughly how it much it cost, so Kate and everyone else has a good idea of what they might expect to pay.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good divorce attorney?
+ Ask AOA: Attorneys for small businesses?

photo: Flickr user Edinburgh City of Print (cc)

Wandering Dago's request for injunction against the state denied

Thumbnail image for food truck festival troy 2013 wandering dago crowdA federal judge has denied the Wandering Dago food truck's request for a preliminary injunction against the state Office of General Services and NYRA over being kept from the food vendor program at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this past summer.

The decision from US District Court judge Mae A. D'Agostino is after the jump. The judge's decision largely boiled down to a determination that WD waited too long to file for the injunction after originally being denied a spot at the ESP (there was a gap of about three months). JCE has more on the decision over at Capitol Confidential.

The vending season at the Track has ended for the year (of course), as has the season at the ESP.

The request for an injunction was just one part of original WD's complaint in the case. The food truck is also seeking damages and a judgement that the state's actions -- specifically, keeping the truck out of vendor programs because of the name -- is unconstitutional.

The owners of the Wandering Dago -- Andrea Loguidice and Brandon Snooks -- started the food truck last year in Schenectady. The term "dago" has been used as a slur against people of Italian descent, and sometimes people from Spain and Portugal as well. But Loguidice and Snooks have said they picked the name as a nod to their Italian heritage and an effort to reclaim the word.

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Nite Moves' Supreme Court peitition denied

The petition by the Latham strip club Nite Moves to get the Supreme Court of the United States to hear its appeal of a ruling by New York's highest court on a sales tax exemption was rejected today by SCOTUS. (The application is listed under "CERTIORARI DENIED" as "677 NEW LOUDON CORP. V. NEW YORK TAX APPEALS TRIBUNAL.") Having cert denied isn't necessarily a comment on the case by the court, it just means not enough justices decided it was worthy enough to be taken up by the court.

The case in question revolved around an argument by Nite Moves that it shouldn't have to pay sales taxes on cover fees and private dances because such, um, services qualified for a "dramatic or musical arts performances" tax exemption. Last October, the New York State Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- rejected the argument 4-3. It's an interesting case and the opinions -- especially a dissent by Judge Robert Smith -- are good reading.

Attorneys for Nite Moves had framed their petition to the Supreme Court as a First Amendment question, asking whether the state had the right "to selectively administer a tax exemption for dramatic or musical arts performances in a way that imposes a higher tax on content that a government functionary disfavors" (more links to related docs). The group of attorneys representing the club's case included a high-profile First Amendment lawyer who had successfully petitioned for a posthumous New York State pardon of Lenny Bruce. Nite Moves' case had also gotten support from attorneys for Larry Flynt. [Media Coalition] [WSJ] [TU]

So now we all miss out on the opportunity to hear the Supremes discuss the artistic merits of lap dances. But we'll still have that Colbert Report segment starring Steve Barnes.

Wandering Dago food truck sues over not being allowed to vend at the ESP and Saratoga Race Course

food truck festival troy 2013 crowd outside wandering dago food truck

Wandering Dago at the food truck festival in Troy earlier this summer.

The Wandering Dago food truck has filed a lawsuit in federal court over the truck being denied the opportunity to vend at the Empire State Plaza and Saratoga Race Course this summer. In the suit, it contends the truck was bounced because of its name, an action it argues violated the owners' 1st Amendment rights.

The complaint is embedded after the jump. It lays out Wandering Dago's arguments and its view of the events that led up to its denial to vend at the ESP and Saratoga Race Course.

Here's the situation, as depicted in the lawsuit, in short:

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New York's highest court on GPS, and who can share tips at a Starbucks

Thumbnail image for nys court of appeals exteriorTwo decisions this week by the New York Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- caught our eye.

One decision is about the use of a modern technology that's becoming ubiquitous -- GPS -- and governmental employees and their personal cars. The other is about an everyday thing that people might not think much about: tips at Starbucks.

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NYCLU: New York has racial disparity in pot arrests

pot budBlack New Yorkers are 4.5 times more likely than white New Yorkers to be arrested for marijuana possession, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report out this week looking at arrest data. The NYCLU notes this racial disparity exists in arrests even though surveys indicate whites in New York State use pot at higher rates than blacks.

Also out this week, a national report by the ACLU in which New York is tagged as having the highest marijuana arrest rate of any state (though DC's is even higher).

Said NYCLU exec director Donna Lieberman in a press release:

"New Yorkers should be embarrassed that our state leads the nation in marijuana arrests ... The crackdown on low-level marijuana possession needlessly hurts individuals and families - subjecting them to all sorts of collateral consequences like the loss of student financial aid and job opportunities. Governor Cuomo has pledged to clarify the state's marijuana laws to bring justice and common sense to drug enforcement in our state. We urge him to keep that promise."

Andrew Cuomo has proposed making the penalty for public possession of small amounts of pot, currently a misdemeanor, the same as private possession (a citation). He's said leveling the penalties is "about creating fairness and consistency in our laws since there is a blatant inconsistency in the way we deal with small amounts of marijuana possession."

New York State's high rate of pot arrests is driven in large part by New York City, where the issue is in turn driven in large part by the city's "stop and frisk" policies. For example, in New York County (Manhattan), blacks are more than 9 times as likely as whites to get arrested for pot possession, according to the NYCLU's calculations.

But there's a disparity in the Capital Region, too. Here are the "times more likely" figures from the NYCLU for the Cap Region core:

Albany County: 2.44
Rensselaer: 4.75
Saratoga: 4.20
Schenectady: 3.68

Earlier elsewhere:
+ Push for pot, now with lobbying muscle
+ Capital New York: Albany's unlikely marijuana legalization champion sees interest, but no movement yet

photo: Wikipedia user HighinBC (cc)

Where the food trucks are. And aren't. And why.

Wandering Dago in Schenectady

The Wandering Dago in Schenectady last fall.

Last week's announcement that the Food Trucks of NY Festival -- originally planned for Albany's Washington Park -- was instead headed for Troy, prompted people to ask: What happened?

So we looked into it. And as we found out along the way, part of the challenge of operating a food truck in the Capital Region is the area's many municipalities -- and their many different rules.

Here's a look at where you're more likely to find -- and not find -- food trucks around the area, and why.

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Lifetime says injunction is lifted, it's showing that Christopher Porco movie

lifetime romeo killer chris porco

The Lifetime Network says it's won an appeal in state appellate court that allows it to show the made-for-TV movie Romeo Killer: The Chris Porco Story this Saturday night. Deadline has a copy of the order.

A state supreme court judge had issued the injunction Wednesday after Christopher Porco himself had filed a motion objecting to the use of his name and story in the movie. [TU]

Earlier Thursday Slate's Emily Bazelon explained why the restraining order probably didn't stand much chance of holding up. A clip:

Christopher Porco sued Lifetime under New York civil rights law, arguing--without having seen the film--that the movie is "fictionalized" and uses his name for "purposes of trade." Judge Muller should have realized that the First Amendment trumps publicity rights here. Courts almost never stop movies--or books or articles or blog posts--from being published. Nor should they: As the Supreme Court has repeatedly said, the value of a big teeming marketplace of free speech and ideas outweighs the cost of publishing information that's far more private and controversial than the facts of Christopher Porco's history and crimes.

The family of Amanda Knox tried a similar move in 2011 in an attempt to stop a Lifetime movie about her story -- that didn't work, either. [Deadline] [Deadline]

Romeo Killer is scheduled to run Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 7 pm.

In other words, yes, your weekend has been saved.

photo: Ed Araquel / Lifetime

In jail, but out working

albany county inmates assembling PAL light display

Albany County Jail inmates assembling a display for the Capital Holiday Lights in Park in Washington Park.

A few weeks ago we got an email from Laura, who noticed that inmates from the Albany County Jail were putting up the holiday light display in Washington Park. "I suppose there are many points of view on prisoners working," she wrote, "but it looks like chain gang labor to me."

We've noticed prisoners working on other projects throughout the county, too. And Laura's note got us curious about what kind of jobs they're doing and how the program works.

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The airport, photographs, and free speech

Updated

You probably saw the video this week from ALB -- two people recording their effort to hand out flyers about opting out of the full body scan, an airport official asks them to stop, they say no, and an Albany County sheriff's deputy tells the airport official the two people are exercising their rights. The video has racked up more than 100,000 views on YouTube.

The airport released a statement saying its "concern -- as it always is -- was for the safety of the passengers and the public who were in the airport." [TU]

So, what exactly are a person's rights in this sort of situation?

Well, like most things, it's complicated.

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State's highest court rules strip club dances aren't exempt from taxes as artistic performances

nys court of appeals by upstateNYer
photo: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

The New York Court of Appeals -- the state's highest court -- ruled today that Nite Moves, a Latham strip club, is not exempt from paying sales taxes on cover fees and private dances. Attorneys for the company that owns Nite Moves had argued the club shouldn't have to pay the taxes because dances at the club qualified for a "dramatic or musical arts performances" tax exemption.

From the 4-3 majority opinion for In the Matter of 677 New Loudon Corporation v. State of New York Tax Appeals Tribunal:

Clearly, it is not irrational for the Tax Tribunal to decline to extend a tax exemption to every act that declares itself a "dance performance." If ice shows presenting pairs ice dancing performances, with intricately choreographed dance moves precisely arranged to musical compositions, were not viewed by the Legislature as "dance" entitled a tax exemption, surely it was not irrational for the Tax Tribunal to conclude that a club presenting performances by women gyrating on a pole to music, however artistic or athletic their practiced moves are, was also not a qualifying performance entitled to exempt status. To do so would allow the exemption to swallow the general tax since many other forms of entertainment not specifically listed in the regulation will claim their performances contain tax-exempt rehearsed, planned or choreographed activity.

The majority opinion could pretty much be paraphrased as, Stop being ridiculous -- you know that is not what the law is intended to do. Judges Carmen Ciparick, Victoria Graffeo, Eugene Pigott, and Theodore Jones made up the majority.

But the dissenting opinion's response is essentially, Yeah, well, you're being a bit of a snob -- and it doesn't really matter what the legislature intended, it matters what the law actually says. And, as written, it says a dance is a dance.

As it happens, the dissent -- by Judge Robert Smith -- is more fun to read. Here's a clip:

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Taking away the driver's license of multiple offenders, permanently

police car lightsIf you follow Capital Region news somewhat closely, one of the things you'll notice is how often people get arrested for multiple DWIs (we didn't have to look hard to find those). It seems to happen with depressing regularity.

Of course, this isn't just a problem in this area. Today Andrew Cuomo announced new state regulations that are aimed at keeping repeat drunk and/or drugged drivers off the road (or at least taking their licenses away). The new rules are listed after the jump. In short, they include:

+ The DMV will now be allowed to review the lifetime record of drivers who apply to have their license re-instated.

+ If the DMV determines the person has five or more alcohol or drug related driving convictions in his or her lifetime -- or a combination of three convictions and other offenses -- the DMV can permanently revoke their license. (Permanent revocation wasn't previously allowed.)

+ Allow the DMV to make sure a temporary license revocation lasts the full six months or a year. (Apparently it was possible to get a temporarily revoked license back after as little as seven weeks previously.)

The Cuomo admin says there are currently 50,000 people in the state with with valid or suspended licenses who have three or more alcohol-related convictions in their lifetimes -- and more than a third of them have been involved in crashes that killed or injured someone. It figures the new rules will permanently revoke -- or delay -- the licenses of 20,000 people this year.

Not mentioned in the announcement: treatment. Some people who get stopped for DWI just made a stupid mistake and probably won't repeat it. But others -- and we suspect a lot of the repeat offenders fall into this category -- have an addiction that needs treatment. When you show up drunk to a STOP-DWI Victim's Impact Panel, you probably have a serious problem. We're curious if there's a way to better help these people.

In other news: computers apparently can drive cars pretty well. [WSJ]

photo: Flickr user davidsonscott15 (cc)

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Violence, Vulgarity, Lies

albany law school exteriorThe Albany Law Review has a symposium on free speech issues -- "Violence, Vulgarity, Lies ... and the Importance of 21st Century Free Speech" -- coming up September 27 at Albany Law. And it looks like it's gathered a solid lineup of speakers, including:

Floyd Abrams, First Amendment lawyer, whose wins before the U.S. Supreme Court range from the Pentagon Papers to Citizens United
Dean Alan B. Morrison, George Washington School of Law, who co-founded the Public Citizen Litigation Group with Ralph Nader and who has argued more than 20 cases before the Supreme Court
Susan Herman, President, American Civil Liberties Union, and author, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy
Robert O'Neil, former President, University of Virginia, and founder, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression
Ronald Collins, Harold S. Shefelman Scholar, University of Washington School of Law
Robert D. Richards, founding co-director, Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, and John & Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies at Penn State
Adam Liptak, Supreme Court correspondent, The New York Times

The symposium is free and open to the public.

Yep, Albany Law does advertise on AOA.

You can get arrested for being a jerk, even if you're only bothering your newlywed wife

new york state court of appeals buildingA few lessons we took away from today's New York State Court of Appeals decision in the case of The People v. Tony Weaver:

  1. You can get arrested for disorderly conduct if your jerkish behavior is not bothering anyone other than your newlywed wife.
  2. The fact that it's your wedding night does not earn you a free pass from the cops for being a jerk.
  3. Telling an officer to "shut the f--- up" because she's not your mother -- probably not a good idea.
  4. Being clothed in formal wear will not prevent you from being tased.
  5. Do you really want your wedding album to include a mug shot?

All noted. Good to see that the state's highest court has cleared that up.

Earlier on AOA: Broken engagement -- who gets the ring in New York State?

photo: Flickr user wadester16

Be prepared to duck

golf ball in roughFrom the decision yesterday by New York's Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, in Anand vs. Kapoor -- also known as the "Should a golfer have to yell 'Fore!'?" case:

Here, Kapoor's failure to warn of his intent to strike the ball did not amount to intentional or reckless conduct, and did not unreasonably increase the risks inherent in golf to which Anand consented. Rather, the manner in which Anand was injured -- being hit without warning by a "shanked" shot while one searches for one's own ball -- reflects a commonly appreciated risk of golf (see Rinaldo v McGovern, 78 NY2d 729, 733 [1991]).

So, heads up out there. And, you know, maybe find friends who are better at golf.

photo: Flickr user One Tree Hill Studios

The Scoop

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