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People v. Garrow

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

March 30, 2017


          Calendar Date: February 17, 2017

          Lisa A. Burgess, Indian Lake, for appellant.

          Andrew J. Wylie, District Attorney, Plattsburgh (Joan Gudesblatt Lamb of counsel), for respondent.

          Before: McCarthy, J.P., Egan Jr., Lynch, Devine and Clark, JJ.


          DEVINE, J.

         Appeals (1) from a judgment of the Supreme Court (Lawliss, J.), rendered November 26, 2012 in Clinton County, convicting defendant upon his plea of guilty of the crime of predatory sexual assault against a child, and (2) by permission, from an order of said court, entered April 5, 2016 in Clinton County, which denied defendant's motion pursuant to CPL 440.10 to vacate the judgment of conviction, without a hearing.

         Defendant pleaded guilty to predatory sexual assault against a child pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement that included a waiver of appeal. In accordance with that agreement, defendant was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years to life. Defendant subsequently moved pursuant to CPL article 440 to

         vacate the judgment of conviction, claiming, among other things, that Supreme Court erred in failing to sua sponte recuse itself from this matter because it presided over a prior neglect proceeding in which defendant's improper conduct with the victim played a major role. Supreme Court denied the motion to vacate without a hearing. Defendant now appeals from the judgment of conviction and, with permission, from the order denying his motion to vacate.

         Defendant's contention on direct appeal that Supreme Court should have recused itself is unpreserved for our review given defendant's failure to move for that relief or otherwise raise the issue before Supreme Court (see People v White, 81 A.D.3d 1039, 1039 [2011]; People v Mabry, 27 A.D.3d 835, 836 [2006]). Moreover, having validly waived his right to appeal, he is foreclosed from advancing the argument on direct appeal (see People v White, 81 A.D.3d at 1039; People v McCafferty, 1 A.D.3d 799, 799 [2003], lv denied 2 N.Y.3d 743');">2 N.Y.3d 743 [2004]). To that end, the record reflects that the court adequately explained the right to appeal and the consequences of an appeal waiver and ascertained that defendant understood them, after which defendant signed a written appeal waiver in open court (see People v Lopez, 6 N.Y.3d 248, 256 [2006]). Defendant's related claim on direct appeal that counsel was ineffective for failing to move for recusal is unpreserved for our review, as defendant did not raise this claim at any point in Supreme Court or move to withdraw his guilty plea on this ground (see People v Austin, 141 A.D.3d 956, 957-958 [2016]; People v O'Neill, 116 A.D.3d 1240, 1241 [2014]).

         Defendant advanced the bias claim in his CPL article 440 motion as well, relying upon an order issued by Supreme Court in the related neglect proceeding concluding that defendant had "raped" the child, which defendant contends constituted a prejudgment of his guilt in this matter and required recusal. Where, as here, the "basis for recusal does not involve a mandatory statutory disqualification pursuant to Judiciary Law § 14, the trial judge was the sole arbiter regarding recusal" (People v Shultis, 61 A.D.3d 1116, 1117 [2009], lv denied 12 N.Y.3d 929');">12 N.Y.3d 929 [2009]). The record before us does not support the conclusion that Supreme Court's dual role in both the neglect proceeding and this criminal matter, which was entirely appropriate under the rules governing the Integrated Domestic Violence part of Supreme Court, was improper in any respect (see People v Kenyon, 108 A.D.3d 933, 941 [2013], lv denied 21 N.Y.3d 1075');">21 N.Y.3d 1075 [2013]; Matter of Karina U., 299 A.D.2d 772, 773 [2002], lv denied 100 N.Y.2d 501');">100 N.Y.2d 501 [2003]; People v Smith, 272 A.D.2d 679, 681-682 [2000], lv denied 95 N.Y.2d 938 [2000]).

         Finally, defendant was not denied meaningful representation due to trial counsel's failure to request that Supreme Court recuse itself. Given the strong evidence of guilt and beneficial plea offer, as well as the unlikelihood such a request would have been granted, defendant has not demonstrated "the absence of strategic or other legitimate explanations" for counsel's decision not to seek recusal (People v Wragg, 26 N.Y.3d 403, 409 [2015]; see People v Stahl, 141 A.D.3d 962, 966-967 [2016], lv denied 28 N.Y.3d 1127');">28 N.Y.3d 1127 [2016]). Accordingly, Supreme Court properly denied defendant's motion without a hearing (see CPL 440.30 [4]).

          McCarthy, J.P., Egan Jr., Lynch ...

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