A divided New York Court of Appeals recently held that Civil Rights Law § 50-a bars disclosure of police officer personnel records except under very limited circumstances, eliminating access to such records by the press or advocacy groups under the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) even if the police department itself is willing to release them and even if they are redacted. The decision, In the Matter of New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Department, came with two dissents arguing that it is a significant break with earlier case law in which the Court construed FOIL exemptions more narrowly and at least suggested that agencies and the lower courts had more flexibility to effectuate FOIL’s goal of transparency.
Matthew J. Morris is a Special Litigation Counsel. He works on a variety of disputes concerning insurance coverage, partnership and joint venture agreements, hotel management agreements, merchant funding agreements, civil RICO and international arbitration.
Matt's analytical acumen has enabled him to contribute significantly to the Firm's success in difficult appellate matters, including two victories in the New York Court of Appeals: one in a dispute concerning whether the aggregate coverage limit of an excess liability insurance policy covering asbestos claims made against the insured was renewed annually, rather than continued over the three-year period of the policy (16 N.Y.3d 419), and the other in a decision that established that an insured may obtain indemnification for payments made as disgorgement where such payments do not represent the insured’s own illicit gains (21 N.Y.3d 324).
Other cases included:
- A victory in the New York Appellate Division in a dispute regarding whether an insured that sold asbestos believing its products could be used safely, despite its awareness of possible injuries, did not expect or intend such injuries for coverage purposes (101 A.D.3d 434)
- A successful appeal to the Second Circuit from a decision in which the district court had held that a "hell or high water” agreement barred Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. from arguing that it was constructively evicted from its premises, terminating its rent obligation (570 F.3d 513)
- Representation of The New York Times in a case in which the lower court granted class certification to plaintiffs challenging the right to engage in newsgathering, and the appellate court reversed the certification order (895 A.2d 1173)
- Recent trial victories involving substantial damages in an arbitration regarding a hotel owner’s termination of a hotel management agreement in Mexico and a commercial landlord-tenant dispute regarding a rent rebate provision
A sharply divided New York Court of Appeals recently held that defendants who allegedly made intentional and repeated use of New York correspondent bank accounts for money laundering thereby purposefully transacted business related to the plaintiffs’ claims, and thus were subject to the personal jurisdiction of the New York courts. According to the three-judge dissent, the decision, Rushaid v. Pictet & Cie, broke with 40 years of precedent, expanding the reach of the state’s long arm statute to encompass individuals who performed no acts directed at New York. Because correspondent bank accounts enable foreign banks to facilitate transactions in U.S. currency and the U.S. market, and New York is the home of many correspondent banks, any expansion of personal jurisdiction in New York based on correspondent banking relationships could have a significant impact. Courts and practitioners may have to reconsider their assumptions about personal jurisdiction in future cases.
The Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York recently adopted a new form of confidentiality order that eliminates the option to e-file documents redacted for confidentiality without a motion to seal. The new confidentiality form, which became effective on July 1, 2016, requires the “Producing Party” who originally designated the documents as confidential to file a motion to seal promptly after any party files redacted copies of the documents. This puts an end to the option of avoiding filing a motion to seal – an alternative that many attorneys had found convenient when confidential information was submitted to the court on a motion or at trial. The effect of the new rule will likely be to expose more confidential information used in litigation to public scrutiny, or to drive up the cost of avoiding such public exposure, or both.
In State of New York v. Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC, New York’s Appellate Division recently denied a motion by Donald Trump’ organization to dismiss a fraud claim brought by the New York Attorney General (“AG”) under Executive Law § 63(12). Aside from the fame, or perhaps notoriety, of the respondents, Trump is noteworthy in two other respects. First, the Court’s interpretation of Executive Law § 63(12) suggests that it is easier for the AG to establish a violation of that law than a common law fraud claim (although the Court concluded that the two claims should be treated alike for statute of limitations purposes). Second, in reaching its conclusion, the Appellate Division flatly overruled one of its own decisions – an extreme rarity.