Wednesday, February 1, 2023

People v. Tiger, “[M]ore than it should and less than it seems”

The Court of Appeals’ Over-Emphasis on Finality and Conservation of Judicial Resources

By Olivia Harvey
Olivia Harvey is a 2022 graduate of Albany Law School. During law school, she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Center for Judicial Process, as well as a teaching assistant and research assistant for Professor Vincent Bonventre.
Olivia also served as an intern at the law school’s Immigration Law Clinic, where she provided direct representation to an asylum-seeker, and as an intern at the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, where she worked in the appeals unit.
Olivia is currently an Assistant District Attorney at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

In its 2018 decision in People v. Tiger, the New York Court of Appeals held that, for those convicted of a crime by guilty plea, there exists no right to bring a motion for post-conviction relief challenging the conviction on the basis of actual innocence, unless the claim involves newly discovered DNA evidence.

In dissent, Judge Rowan Wilson castigated the majority opinion for doing “more than it should and less than it seems.” Wilson criticized the majority for characterizing the issue in the case more broadly than necessary, while simultaneously failing to answer the question of whether the disparity its holding created between those convicted by plea and those convicted by trial verdict rendered either the specific provision at issue, or the statutory scheme as a whole, unconstitutional.

This paper seeks to demonstrate that the majority opinion does in fact do “more than it should and less than it seems,” in more than one way. Throughout the majority opinion, the Court focuses more than it should on how preventing defendants convicted by plea from bringing a claim of actual innocence serves society’s interest in the finality of criminal cases and judicial economy. At the same time, the societal interest in finality is far less important than the majority makes it seem; the fact that other states that have successfully permitted those convicted by plea to bring a claim of actual innocence and the structure of the statutory scheme illustrate this point.
To read the paper, open HERE.