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Media Alerts - Paul Betances, et al. v. Brian Fischer, et al. - Second Circuit
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September 18, 2016
  Paul Betances, et al. v. Brian Fischer, et al. - Second Circuit
Headline: Second Circuit Holds NYS Correctional and Parole Officials' Delay in Implementing Earlier Ruling that Held Administratively Imposed Post-Release Supervision Terms to Criminal Sentences Are Unconstitutional, Was Not Objectively Reasonable

Area of Law: Criminal Law

Issue(s) Presented: Whether defendant NYS Correctional Service and Parole Division officials may be liable for failing to comply with the Court's holding in Early I that their offices' administratively imposed post-release supervision terms to criminal sentences were unconstitutional.

Brief Summary: This case concerns plaintiffs who were convicted of violent felonies and had administratively imposed post-release supervision ("PRS") terms administratively added to their sentences when the sentencing judges had failed to impose them. In 2006, in a case known as Early I, the Second Circuit held that, despite a New York statute requiring that PRS terms were required to be imposed in certain cases, only the judge could impose PRS terms, and PRS terms imposed and enforced administratively by New York State Department Of Correctional Services (DOC) and the Division of Parole (DOP) when the sentencing judge failed to do so were unconstitutional. Although defendants acknowledged that they fully understood the requirements of Early I, they refused to enforce it or take action until the New York Court of Appeals subsequently issued a decision in 2008 that state law did not permit an administratively imposed post-release supervision term. In the current suit, plaintiffs sued individually DOC and DOP officials responsible for implementing Early I for failing to do so until the later 2008 decision. The Second Circuit held that defendants' delay was not objectively reasonable and thus they were not protected by qualified immunity and affirmed the district court's decision to grant plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment seeking to hold the officials personally liable.

To read the full decision, please visit:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...ba3d9/2/hilite/


Extended Summary: Under New York law, an individual convicted of a violent felony must serve a mandatory post-release supervision ("PRS") term in addition to their imprisonment. N.Y. Penal Law ยง 70.45(1). Here, the Second Circuit revisits the issue of PRS terms administratively imposed and enforced by New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOS) and the Division of Parole (DOP) in cases when the sentencing judge failed to impose this statutory requirement. On June 9, 2006, the Second Circuit first addressed the constitutionality of administratively adding a term of post-release supervision when it decided Early v. Murray, ("Early I"), reh'g denied, ("Early II"). In Early I, the Court held that only the sentencing court may impose a PRS, and that administratively imposed PRS terms were unconstitutional. Defendants, individual DOS and DOP officials, however, refused to implement this decision, claiming it violated New York State law. On April 29, 2008, the New York Court of Appeals followed suit with the Second Circuit, holding that state law allowed only the sentencing judge to impose the terms of PRS. After these decisions, the defendants finally took steps to address obtain resentencing for individuals subject to administratively imposed PRS terms.

The plaintiffs in this case are offenders subjected to continued or newly imposed PRS terms, set forth by DOCS, from the date that Early I was decided. Previously, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to deny defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court's remand instructed the district court to develop a record as to the objective reasonableness of the time it took defendants to implement Early I. Defendants now appeal the district court's decision to grant plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on holding the defendants personal liable and to deny defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.

Defendants, Anthony J. Annucci and Brian Fisher, DOCS officials, and Terence Tracy, a DOP official, who were responsible with implementation of Early I, argued that they believed that their only responsibility was to prepare individual resentencing. The Second Circuit found this argument unpersuasive. For prospective PRS terms, the court found defendants' duty was not to impose a PRS term, and then prepare a resentencing if and when requested. For retrospective PRS terms, the court found that the fact that they took action after the 2008 Court of Appeals decision demonstrated that their responsibility was not to passively wait for individuals to file suits.

Although the Second Circuit accepted the difficulties with resentencing all of the violent felons with unpronounced PRS terms, the Court found this argument unpersuasive because Early I did not impose this requirement, and that these difficulties did not cause the delay of 14-19 months. Finally, while the Second Circuit accepted the argument that other state actors were resistant to Early I, the failure of those parties to act did not, the court said, impact defendants' ability to act and defendants had no reason to wait until after the Court of Appeals weighed in. For these reason, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision.

To read the full decision, please visit:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/de...ba3d9/2/hilite/

Panel: Circuit Judges John M. Walker, Jr., Reena Raggi, and Christopher F. Droney.

Argument Date: 3/28/2016

Date of Issued Opinion: 9/16/2016

Docket Number:
No. 15-2836-cv

Decided: Affirmed

Case Alert Author: Vito J. Marzano

Counsel: Hayley Horowitz, Emery Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP for Plaintiffs-Appellees; Steven C. Wu, Deputy Solicitor General, for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, for Defendants-Appellants.
Author of Opinion: Judge Walker

Circuit: Second Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor:
Professor Elyse Diamond

    Posted By: Elyse Diamond @ 09/18/2016 11:21 AM     2nd Circuit  

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