Articles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals

by
The City amended it's zoning laws to prohibit the nonconforming use of non-owner-occupied multiple dwellings in various zoning districts. Plaintiffs alleged that the City's failure to notify them, as affected property owners, prior to enacting this zoning change violated their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court affirmed the district court's conclusion that the change of zoning rules did not offend the procedural guarantees of the Due Process Clause because the zoning amendment was prospective and generally applicable, and was therefore "legislative" in character rather than "adjudicative." View "Edelhertz v. City of Middletown" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs are motorists who use the Grand Island Bridge but, because they are not residents of Grand Island, did not qualify for the lowest toll rate. Plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the toll discount policies violated the dormant Commerce Clause as well as the constitutional right to travel that courts have located in the Privileges and Immunities and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, both in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the November 28, 2011 Memorandum Decision and Order of the district court, among other things, that granted judgment in favor of defendants. The court held that plaintiffs have standing under Article III, the toll policy at issue was a minor restriction on travel and did not involve "invidious distinctions" that would require strict scrutiny analysis pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment; the district court correctly used, in the alternative, the three-part test set forth in Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. County of Kent, to evaluate both plaintiffs' right-to-travel and dormant Commerce Clause claims; and the Grand Island Bridge toll scheme was based on "some fair approximation of use" of the bridges; was not "excessive in relation to the benefits" it conferred; and did not "discriminate against interstate commerce." Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Selevan, et al. v. New York Thruway Authority, et al." on Justia Law

by
This appeal concerned a longstanding land-use dispute between the Church and the Town over the Church's plan to build a worship facility and school on land that it owned within the Town. The Town appealed from the district court's holding that they violated the Church's rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., as well as the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and New York constitutional and statutory law. The court concluded that the Town's arguments on appeal were without merit and concluded that the district court correctly applied the law, discerning no clear error in its factual findings. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Fortress Bible Church v. Feiner" on Justia Law

by
The Mission brought this interlocutory appeal from the district court's denial of immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602-1611. At issue was whether the Mission could be sued for the damage to an adjoining property caused by its alleged failure to comply with the New York City Building Code, N.Y. City Admin. Code tit. 28, ch.1. The court rejected the Mission's argument that the immunity accorded to its decision to base its operations in a townhouse and to renovate the building for such use extended to the tort allegedly committed during its implementation of that decision. Although the Mission was not under an obligation to construct the chancery at any particular location, once it decided to do so it could not disregard the nondelegable duty of care imposed upon it by the city's Building Code. Accordingly, the court held that the obligation to protect the party wall was not discretionary and that the Mission could not avail itself of the protection of the FSIA's discretionary function exception. View "USAA Casualty Ins. Co. v. Permanent Mission Of The Republic of Namibia" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff brought this action against the Village Defendants alleging a violation of his constitutional rights as a result of the Zoning Board of Appeals' denial of his application for a certificate of occupancy (CO) for his newly-built home. Specifically, plaintiff asserted that the Village Zoning law, Chapter IX, Section E was void for vagueness and that the Village Defendants violated his substantive due process rights by denying him a CO. The court held that Section E was unconstitutionally vague as applied to plaintiff's property because it provided inadequate notice of the elevation point on River Road from which plaintiff should measure the height of his house to determine compliance, and because it authorized arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. The court also held that the ordinance's constitutionality was not otherwise saved by its core meaning because a reasonable enforcement officer could find that the height of plaintiff's house was in compliance with Section E's restrictions. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Village Defendants on plaintiff's void-for-vagueness claim and directed that court to enter summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on this claim. The court also vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Village Defendants on plaintiff's substantive due process claim and remanded for further proceedings.

by
Defendant appealed convictions for conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, causing death by use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, murder in the course of drug conspiracy, and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. Defendant contended that he was entitled to acquittal on some counts by reason of double jeopardy and the sufficiency of the evidence, to resentencing on other counts, and to a new trial. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant where a jury could reasonably conclude that defendant had inferentially instructed another individual to kill the victim; that Judge Jones' decision to exclude certain portions of the tapes of jailhouse telephone conversations was not an abuse of discretion and, if the Judge had committed an error, it was harmless; that any residual prejudice from a witness's statement was negligible because the information regarding defendant's arrest was already before the jury; that the record was insufficient to allow adjudication of defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and that the Double Jeopardy clause did not bar the government from getting "one complete opportunity" to achieve a conviction on the greater offense by retrial of that count where the jury in the first trial convicted defendant on the lesser offense and failed to reach a verdict on the greater offense. The court rejected defendant's remaining claims and affirmed the judgment.

by
Defendant, a former Senator in the New York State Legislature, appealed from a judgment entered in district court following his conviction of two counts of mail fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and federal-program fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, federal-program fraud, and wire fraud. On appeal, defendant contended principally that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea, erred in calculating the imprisonment range recommended by the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, and erred in ordering restitution without proof that the persons characterized by the government as victims were directly harmed by his offense conduct. The court considered all of the parties' contentions in support of their respective positions and, except as indicted, have found them to be without merit. Accordingly, the court vacated the August 23, 2010 order and remanded for further proceedings with respect to the amount of restitution to be ordered and the judgment of conviction, as well as all other aspects of defendant's sentence, were affirmed.