Monday, November 20, 2023

Court of Appeals Judge George Bundy Smith

A Legacy of Judicial Excellence and Civil Rights Advocacy
By Kimberley Bernard
Kimberley Bernard is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Prior to attending law school, Kimberley earned her bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany, SUNY, where she majored in English with double minors in Business and Sociology.
At the law school, Kimberley has served as treasurer for the Black Law Student Association, was a semi-finalist in the 2022 Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Competition, and was the recipient of the 2023 James Campbell Matthews Student Award. Currently, she works as a student assistant in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office.
With an interest in family law, Kimberley has spent the last few years dedicating herself to these matters. In the Spring of 2023, Kimberley interned with the Family Violence Litigation Clinic, representing clients faced with domestic violence issues before the court. During the summer of 2023, Kimberley worked as a Summer Law Clerk for Arquette Law Firm, focusing on family and matrimonial matters.
This fall semester, she has had a Field Placement in the chambers of the Honorable Richard Rivera and she serves as a part-time Legal Aide for the New York Attorney General’s Office’s Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigation Office.

George Bundy Smith, a distinguished jurist, left an indelible mark on the legal landscape of New York State during his tenure on New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals. This paper examines his judicial philosophy, landmark decisions, and lasting impact on civil rights and social justice within the context of the Court of Appeals.

Raised amidst racial segregation, Judge Smith’s personal experiences with inequalities fueled his commitment to civil rights and social justice throughout his career. His journey from being the only African American in his high school class to serving on New York's high court showcased his dedication to justice, fairness, and equality.

This paper explores Judge Smith’s early life, legal career, and educational journey, which included experiences such as being a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights Movement. His tenure as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and as a law secretary to influential jurists provided him with insights into the legal system’s transformative power in promoting civil rights and social progress.

The paper delves into significant rulings and opinions authored by Judge Smith, including his majority opinion in People v. LaValle (2004) that challenged the constitutionality of a “deadlock instruction” in death penalty cases. Another significant opinion, People v. Calabria (2000), addressed prosecutorial misconduct’s impact on a fair trial. Additionally, this paper highlights Judge Smith’s impactful dissent in People v. Tortorici (1999), where he challenged the majority’s approach to due process in cases involving mental competency.

Judge Smith’s commitment to public service extended beyond the bench, as he actively championed civil rights causes, promoted diversity within the legal profession, and engaged in various legal organizations. While his decisions were not without criticism, Judge Smith’s legacy is one of unwavering dedication to justice, equality, and civil rights. His impact on the legal community continues to inspire future generations in their pursuit of a more just society.
To read the paper, open HERE.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Judge Caitlin Halligan: Past Precedent and Future Predictions

By John K. Penman
John Penman is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Prior to his legal education, John received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University where he won the school's undergraduate short fiction competition. At Albany Law, John is a Government Law Center Fellow and participant in Moot Court. 
John has additionally interned with the New York State Justice Center For the Protection of People With Special Needs, New York State Department of Education, and Office of Minority Counsel in the New York State Assembly.
Presently, John is working with clients through the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Right to Counsel Program and Community Economic Development Clinic at the Edward P. Swyer Justice Center.

This paper presents a profile of Caitlin Halligan, an accomplished legal professional who recently secured an appointment as an Associate Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. Drawing from various sources, including her early life, education, career trajectory, and past judicial nominations, this paper sheds light on Halligan’s journey and provides insights into her potential role as an Associate Judge.

The analysis explores Halligan’s academic achievements, notable clerkships with federal courts, private practice experiences, and her tenure as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.  This paper also addresses concerns and expectations regarding Halligan’s corporate background, her pro bono work, and her ability to interpret the law fairly and equitably.

Finally, this paper discusses the potential impact of Halligan’s appointment on key legal issues in New York State, such as workers’ rights, corporate liability, and criminal justice.
To read the paper, open HERE.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Search and Seizure Under Chief Judge Wilson

Will his elevation lead New York to greater protections of privacy and freedom from government interference?

By Jordyn Conway
Jordyn Conway is a third year student at Albany Law School, where she is serving the community as Pro-Bono Scholar in her final semester.
Prior to attending law school, Jordyn was employed as a planning consultant addressing municipal and land-use issues in New York State. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the SUNY ESF at Syracuse University, and briefly studied environmental planning and policy at University College Dublin, Ireland.
In addition to her academic studies at the law school, Jordyn has served as the Co-Chair for the Women’s Leadership Initiative Fellowship, Director of Finance the Moot Court Program, Sub-Editor for the Government Law Review, Teaching Assistant for Professor Armstrong’s Torts course, and has interned for the New York State Supreme Court, 4th Judicial District. This summer she is working as Summer Associate for Whiteman, Osterman & Hanna, LLC.

It is anticipated that Chief Judge Rowan Wilson’s tenure as the leader of the New York Court of Appeals will take the state’s highest court in a more liberal direction, especially in consideration of the rights of the accused. As demonstrated in Chief Judge Wilson’s opinions, and even more notably in his dissents, he has expressed his views on how New York law should be interpreted and applied in cases where the protection of privacy related to search and seizure is at issue.

Overall, Chief Judge Wilson’s decisions have revealed that he has a rather liberal stance on Fourth Amendment federal issues and Article 1, Section 12 issues under New York’s state constitution. In multiple cases, Chief Judge Wilson has dissented where he felt the majority was too lenient in approving searches and that the standards for seeking or implementing a warrant needed to be heightened. Additionally, his dissents have argued for greater protections stemming from the state constitution rather than defaulting to the minimum protections offered by the federal Constitution.

This paper explores Chief Judge Wilson’s dissents in search and seizure cases to provide a legal analysis with regard to his views and how he might approach such issues in the future as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. 
To read the paper, open HERE.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

The Story of Happy the Elephant

Matter of  Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny

By Dylon T. Newkirk
Dylon Newkirk has just begun his final year at Albany Law School and is expecting to graduate in May of 2024. During his time at Albany Law, Dylon has held various executive board positions. Dylon is the treasurer of the Historical Society of the New York Courts-Albany Law Chapter, Social Media Director for the Albany Law Golf Club, and treasurer and Assistant Captain for the Albany Law Hockey Club. Dylon is also a law clerk at Pierro, Connor & Strauss, LLC.
Prior to attending Albany Law, Dylon attended SUNY Albany, earning a Bachelor's degree in Political Science with dual minors in Business and Economics. Outside of the classroom, he greatly enjoys any time spent outdoors – whether he’s teeing it up on the links, or strolling through his carefully manicured flower garden.

The New York Court of Appeals has historically leaned liberal and been ahead of its time. The highest court in the state of New York has been on the forefront of guaranteeing rights years ahead of other states and the federal government. Unfortunately, that historical trend did not hold true in the case of Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny.

Happy is a fifty-one-year-old Asian elephant who is currently being housed in the Bronx Zoo. Happy has been there for most of her life, stuck for the entertainment of millions of people, after she was stolen from Thailand as an infant elephant. But things were not always so bad for Happy. At one point in time, she had her herd, but they have slowly died off. Therefore, Happy now lives in solitary confinement.

A petition for habeas corpus was brought on Happy’s behalf, but the Court of Appeals ruled that habeas corpus can only apply to humans. Did the court rule incorrectly? What can we make of the longest dissent in Court of Appeals history? Could a new court possibly reverse the error? This paper takes an in-depth look at Nonhuman Rights Project v. Breheny and attempts to answer these questions.
To read the paper, open HERE.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Center Editorial Board, 2023-2024


Sarah Midani is a class of 2025 student at Albany Law School.
With a keen interest in both labor law and education law, she serves as a law clerk in the Office of General Counsel at New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). Sarah first joined NYSUT as a Peggy Browning Fellow in the summer of 2023, where she researched the strength of federal and state workplace safety laws as mechanisms to protect teachers from student violence. At the law school, Sarah is a Government Law Center Fellow and a member of the Albany Law Review.
Prior to law school, Sarah worked as a broadcast and digital news producer at the NBC, CBS, and CW affiliates in Syracuse, New York.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in educational studies from Siena College, and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. 

Executive Editor
Priscilla Capuano is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Prior to attending law school, Priscilla earned her bachelor’s degree from Siena College, where she majored in Philosophy and minored in Creative Arts. During College she interned as a tour guide at the USS Slater in Albany, New York. 
Last year, Priscilla interned in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office in the summer of 2022. She continued her work there by completing a Field Placement over the fall and volunteering in the spring. Priscilla was on Albany Law School’s Criminal Appellate Travel Team where she competed in the 2023 Herbert Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition. She also competed in the 2023 Domenick L. Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition, in which she was a finalist. She also won the third best oral advocate award. As the Managing Editor for Production, Research, and Writing on the Journal of Science and Technology, Priscilla was involved in organizing and running the Journal Write-on Competition.
During the summer of 2023, Priscilla worked as a Summer Associate for Goldman Sachs. This fall, she has a Field Placement in the chambers of the Honorable Mae D’Agostino. She is continuing her involvement in the Journal of Science and Technology.

Executive Editor
Kelly Krull
is a third-year student at Albany Law School. 
Prior to attending Albany Law, she completed her bachelor’s degree in the 3+3 law program at Le Moyne College, where she majored in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-law. During her undergraduate studies, she interned for a Judge at the Worcester District Court in Massachusetts.
At Albany Law, Kelly currently is a work study in the Information Technology Department. She is also currently a research assistant for Professor Melissa Breger. In the fall of 2022, she joined the Family Violence Litigation Clinic in Albany Law’s Justice Center. 

Executive Editor
Cameron Bishop
is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Before law school, he earned a bachelor's degree from Siena College where he majored in Political Science, complemented by a pre-law certificate and completion of the Standish Honors Program. In the Standish Honors Program, he completed 100 hours of community service at the Schenectady Inner City Ministry and prepared an Honors Thesis on the advertising strategies in battleground states in the 2020 Presidential Election. He was a member of the Siena Mock Trial Team, as well as a captain of the team in his senior year.
Last year, Cameron interned at the Schenectady County District Attorney's Office. He was also a Dean Thomas Sponsler Honors Teaching Fellow, where he was a teaching assistant for Professor Mayer for Federal Civil Procedure and then for Criminal Law. He will continue working with her as her research assistant. He is also a member of the Albany Law Review.
As a 3L, Cameron will participate in a field placement in the chambers of the Honorable Mae A. D'Agostino, District Court Judge for the Northern District of New York. Additionally, he is a member of the Pro Bono Scholars Program and will be placed with the Schenectady County Public Defender's Office, hopefully doing work in drug court. He was a participant in the 2022 Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Competition and competed in the 2023 Domenick L. Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition in which he and his partner were finalists, and he won the best oral-advocate award.
For previous years' staffs, click HERE.  

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Constitutional Individuation: The Jurisprudential √úbermensch

By Clarence Felix Nyiri
Clarence Nyiri will be graduating from Albany Law School in December of this year. Before attending Albany Law, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marist College.
Clarence spends most of his free time as the frontman and lead writer for the internationally acclaimed alternative rock band “The Dissidents.” He also works as an independent novelist and screenwriter and is involved in a music-centered AI startup known as “Haven Music.”
Currently, Clarence is in the process of drafting a thesis that links foundational legal and moral values to necessary constants and synchronous systems within the fields of psychology, physics, and neuroscience.

Does the law have a shadow?

Among the most significant intellectual thinkers of the Western canon is Friedrich Nietzsche, whose works have offered a rounded and nuanced explanation for how people process their environment through gradually changing moral prisms. Carl Jung, a student and successor of Nietzsche, made great strides in applying the concepts inherent in Nietzsche’s teachings to the archetypal foundations of the human psyche. Jung’s career and contributions have greatly enhanced mankind’s understanding of how psychology relates to human interaction with reality, making him a highly respected figure in the field.

Central to the teachings of both thinkers is the idea that the creation of a psychologically balanced system of beliefs and morals relies on a process of gradual change through introspection, the confrontation of fears, and the integration of the ideologically opposite “shadow” complex with the conscious persona which governs our day-to-day operations.
In this paper, the ideal role of judges is examined and redefined through this method of thinking. A new “ideal judge” is posited which rivals the “Judge Hercules” proposed by Ronald Dworkin. In lieu of a judge with the absolute mental command of legal precedent and tradition of the United States, an alternative is proposed which seeks to balance the judicial self-interests inherent in legal realism, the moral archetypes which would not be out of place in a natural law conception, and their application to community interactions as would be seen in a positivist perspective.

Through a case study of the history of the incorporation doctrine; the application of the Bill of Rights to the states, a legal parallel is made to the processes of Nietzsche and Jung. An argument is presented that incorporation is an apt representation of American Jurisprudence confronting the essential dominant and suppressed elements of its legal “psyche,” and that effective and moral law is the byproduct of this union.
To read the paper, open HERE.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Justice Samuel Alito’s Approach to Stare Decisis

By Claire D. Hewitt
Claire Hewitt just finished her second year at Albany Law School. But she’ll be graduating early, in December 2023.
Before attending law school, Claire earned her bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego, where she majored in criminal justice and was on the women’s softball team. 
At the law school, Claire has been an Associate Board Member of the Moot Court Program, Treasurer of Phi Alpha Delta, Teaching Assistant for Professor Wetmore’s Criminal Law course, and Certified Legal Intern for the Albany County DA’s Office in the Major Crimes Bureau. This summer, she is working at the New York County DA’s Office as a Summer Law Fellow. 
Claire has previously interned for the New York State Office of the Attorney General in the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. Before law school, she worked as a full-time legal assistant for a solo practitioner in Syracuse, New York, working on civil matters and appeals.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Justice Samuel Alito testified that stare decisis is a fundamental part of the American legal system and ensured that he would respect the judgments and wisdom which are embedded in prior judicial decisions. However, actions speak louder than words. If Justice Alito truly believed that the judicial doctrine of stare decisis is a fundamental part of the American legal system, why is it that he will agree to overturn court-set precedent when it aligns with his personal views?

While stare decisis is an important doctrine that has helped regulate the judiciary for hundreds of years, its inconsistent implementation by Supreme Court justices like Justice Alito directly contradicts its purpose. Justice Alito appears to give great deference to stare decisis, as demonstrated in many of his judicial opinions, which reveal his reliance on precedent and historical practice as a method of reasoning and his disfavor of precedent-altering decisions. Yet, many of his opinions also reveal a willingness to depart from precedent as he chooses.

Despite his claim that judges are neither legislators nor rule makers, an observation of Justice Alito’s jurisprudence demonstrates that stare decisis is merely a political tool of convenience. Justice Alito is guilty of using this tool inconsistently, specifically to further his own religious views and political positions.  

This paper proceeds in three parts. Part I lays out a background explanation of the legal doctrine of stare decisis and its basic history and place in the Supreme Court. Part II focuses on Justice Alito’s stance on this doctrine by discussing many of his opinions, which cumulatively demonstrate three distinct observations of his jurisprudence. Part III discusses the resulting conflict that arises from the inconsistent implementation of stare decisis and its impact on the current Supreme Court and today’s society. Part IV ties together ideas and draws conclusions.
To read the paper, open HERE.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Relitigating Dobbs in a Conservative Court: The Potential Road from Justice Thomas and Natural Law

By James C. Ashley
James C. Ashley is a summa cum laude graduate of Albany Law School, class of 2023. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Linguistics from SUNY Albany, also summa cum laude.
At Albany Law School, James was an Executive Editor for Notes and Comments on the Albany Law Review, a Sponsler Fellow in Civil Procedure, and a Teaching Assistant in Lawyering. He was the winner of the 2022 Domenick L. Gabrielli Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition. James interned with the New York State Division of Human Rights, as well as with Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, where he will begin his career after the bar exam.

As early as 1991, reporters predicted that if selected for the Supreme Court, a Justice Clarence Thomas would one day vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

At his confirmation hearing, he was questioned about his prior embrace of the doctrine of natural law—the belief in the existence of a higher law that can be discovered by human reason—to draw out his views on abortion. Thirty years later, the Supreme Court held, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that the Federal Constitution does not provide protection for a woman’s right to have an abortion, with Justice Thomas voting to overturn Roe as predicted. He concurred separately, but with no explicit references to the natural law doctrine.

This paper examines Justice Thomas’s opinions on abortion for either implicit or explicit references to natural law. Then, it weighs the feasibility of several novel arguments that could be used to relitigate Dobbs before a conservative Court.
To read the paper, open HERE.