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People v. Correa

June 3, 2010

THE PEOPLE &C., APPELLANT,
v.
EDGAR CORREA, RESPONDENT.
THE PEOPLE &C., RESPONDENT,
v.
JOAO FERNANDEZ, APPELLANT.
THE PEOPLE &C., APPELLANT,
v.
ALLEN MACK, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graffeo, J.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the New York Reports.

Defendants in these three cases challenge the rules promulgated by the Chief Judge and Chief Administrative Judge that created either the Bronx Criminal Division or Integrated Domestic Violence parts in Supreme Court, which resulted in the transfer of their misdemeanor prosecutions from local criminal courts to Supreme Court for trial. Although they did not object to the transfer procedure in the trial court, they argued on appeal that Supreme Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over their trials and that the rules violate the New York Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law. Rejecting defendants' arguments, we hold that the administrators of the unified court system were empowered under our state constitution and the Judiciary Law to adopt these rules and that Supreme Court -- a court of general, concurrent jurisdiction -- had the power to adjudicate these misdemeanor cases.

Integrated Domestic Violence Parts

In January 2004, after consultation with the Administrative Board and with the consent of the Court of Appeals, the Chief Judge of the State of New York promulgated Part 41 of the Rules of the Chief Judge providing for the establishment of Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) parts in Supreme Court. The rule directed that the specialized part "be devoted to hearing and determination, in a single forum, of cases that are simultaneously pending in the courts if one of them is a domestic violence case in a criminal court and the other is a case in Supreme or Family Court that involves a party or witness in the domestic violence case; or if one is a case in criminal court, Family Court or Supreme Court and the other is a case in any other of these courts having a common party or in which a disposition may affect the interests of a party in the first case" (22 NYCRR part 41).

The intent of the IDV directive was to allow matters involving a single family to be resolved in one court by the same jurist, thereby eliminating fragmented judicial adjudication and relieving the parties of the burden and costs of having multiple actions pending in different courts. In addition to streamlining the litigation process for litigants and providing better access to community services for families, the new IDV parts also increased judicial efficiency by avoiding duplication of effort by multiple courts, reducing scheduling conflicts and avoiding inconsistent outcomes.

Soon after the Chief Judge issued Part 41, the Chief Administrative Judge implemented the new rule by adopting Part 141 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, which defined those "IDV-eligible cases" subject to transfer to Supreme Court. Under Part 141, cases that meet the criteria are sent to an IDV part where, within five days, the cases are screened to determine whether transfer will promote the administration of justice. If so, a formal transfer order is issued and the case is retained by the IDV part for disposition. If not, the case is returned to the originating court. There are currently 44 Supreme Court IDV parts in New York State.

People v Fernandez

In January 2007, defendant Joao Fernandez was charged by misdemeanor information filed in New York City Criminal Court, Kings County, with multiple counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree after he contacted his former paramour by telephone 62 times in one evening and repeatedly threatened her with physical harm. Fernandez and the complainant had been involved in multiple prior family court cases regarding disputes about their two children. After his arraignment in New York City Criminal Court, the case was transferred to the IDV part in Kings County Supreme Court where a non-jury trial was conducted. Fernandez was convicted of three counts of attempted aggravated harassment in the second degree and sentenced to concurrent terms of one year probation. He was also directed to participate in a variety of domestic violence accountability and other programs.

Although Fernandez raised no objection in the trial court to the transfer of his case, in his appeal to the Appellate Division, Second Department, he argued that the IDV Part -- an arm of Supreme Court -- lacked the authority to exercise subject matter jurisdiction over his misdemeanor case because it was prosecuted by information rather than an indictment or superior court information issued after waiver of indictment. Defendant also contended that the Chief Judge and Chief Administrative Judge exceeded the scope of their authority when they issued the IDV directives.*fn1 In addition, he sought reversal based on an asserted evidentiary error. The Second Department unanimously rejected defendant's arguments and affirmed his conviction (People v Fernandez, 72 AD3d 303). A Justice of that court granted defendant leave to appeal.

The Bronx Criminal Division

About nine months after the IDV directives were issued, in consultation with the Administrative Board and with the consent of the Court of Appeals, the Chief Judge promulgated Part 42 of the Rules of the Chief Judge establishing a criminal division in the Supreme Court in Bronx County. The new part --denominated the Bronx Criminal Division (BCD) -- was vested with the authority to adjudicate cases commenced in the New York City Criminal Court, Bronx County, when at least one felony or misdemeanor offense was charged. The intent was to permit cases originating in the Criminal Court to be reassigned to the BCD for trial in order to alleviate a trial backlog that had developed in the Criminal Court. The Chief Administrative Judge adopted Part 142 directing, with specified limitations, that certain felony and misdemeanor cases pending in Criminal Court of the City of New York in Bronx County be transferred to the BCD Part in Supreme Court following arraignment, if the cases were not resolved at arraignment. By order of the Administrative Judge of Bronx County, the BCD directives were implemented on November 5, 2004.

People v Correa; People v Mack

In October 2005, defendant Edgar Correa was charged in a misdemeanor information filed in New York City Criminal Court, Bronx County, with various class A misdemeanors and harassment in the second degree, a violation, resulting from an altercation with his wife. After arraignment, his case was transferred to the BCD and a non-jury trial was conducted. Correa was acquitted of the misdemeanor offenses but convicted of the harassment charge and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Defendant Allen Mack was charged in an information with the misdemeanor offenses of obstructing governmental administration and assault in the third degree, as well as one count of harassment in the second degree, a violation, as a result of disruptive behavior during a parole hearing. Following his arraignment in New York City Criminal Court, Bronx County, Mack's case was transferred to the BCD for a non-jury trial in August 2006. He was convicted of attempted assault in the third degree and harassment for which he received 90-day and 15-day jail sentences, respectively.

Both Correa and Mack appealed and, in their initial briefs, neither defendant protested that his trial had been conducted in the BCD part of Supreme Court. However, in February 2009, the Appellate Division, First Department, sua sponte requested that the attorneys in each case brief two additional issues:

"(1) Whether the establishment of the Criminal Division of Supreme Court in Bronx County under Part 142 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator is consistent with the Constitution and statutes of the State of New York?

(2) Whether the Supreme Court possessed jurisdiction over a criminal case absent the filing of an indictment ...


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