News 27 Mar. 2013

Curtis Successfully Defends Appellate Division Victory at the New York Court of Appeals

On March 21, 2013, Curtis obtained a dismissal of an appeal filed by the City of New York to the New York State Court of Appeals on a previously granted Article 78 Petition. The original Article 78 was filed by Valentina Morales and, then Curtis associate, Morgan Nighan on behalf of an inmate mother at Rikers Island, Arisleida Duarte, who had been denied admission to the prison's nursery program based on her criminal history and the charges of gang assault then pending against her. Arguing that the law governing the nursery program, NYS Corrections Law Section 611, did not permit the New York City Department of Corrections to deny admission based on automatic disqualifiers, Curtis won at both the Supreme Court and the Appellate Division, Second Department. In its motion for leave to appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals, the City asserted that the Appellate Division had erred both in finding that the sole criterion for admission to the nursery program under the statute was the 'best interests of the child' and in ordering that Ms. Duarte be admitted to the nursery program. Two days prior to the scheduled argument the Department of Corrections reissued its administrative guidelines and, among other procedural changes, removed any and all automatic disqualifiers to admission. Ms. Morales in part then argued to the Court of Appeals that the case should be dismissed as moot as no exception to the mootness doctrine could be applied especially in light of the new administrative guidelines. The Court of Appeals agreed and in a decision dated March 21, 2013 dismissed the City's appeal.

The Curtis team consisted of Valentina Morales, Turner Smith and George Spencer.