People v. Charles F.

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; KAYE; KAYE, J., dissents and votes to reverse in a separate opinion in which COOKE, C.J., and WACHTLER
Citation458 N.E.2d 801,470 N.Y.S.2d 342,60 N.Y.2d 474
Decision Date20 December 1983
Parties, 458 N.E.2d 801 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. CHARLES F., Appellant.

Page 342

470 N.Y.S.2d 342
60 N.Y.2d 474, 458 N.E.2d 801
The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
CHARLES F., Appellant.
Court of Appeals of New York.
Dec. 20, 1983.

[60 N.Y.2d 475] J. Michael Jones and Dennis R. Dawson, Geneseo, for appellant.

Theodore E. Wiggins, Jr., Dist. Atty., for respondent.

[60 N.Y.2d 476] Rene H. Reixach, Jr., Rochester, for Genesee Valley Chapter, New York Civil Liberties Union and another, amici curiae.

OPINION OF THE COURT

PER CURIAM.

Defendant has been found guilty of conduct which if done by an adult would constitute the crimes of menacing (Penal Law, § 120.15) and trespassing (Penal Law, § 140.05), offenses punishable by imprisonment. After a jury trial before the Conesus Town Court he was adjudicated a youthful offender and sentenced to a term of probation. His adjudication was affirmed subsequently by Livingston County Court. On this appeal he contends that his constitutional due process right to a fair trial has been violated because the charges were prosecuted before a lay Justice.

In People v. Skrynski, 42 N.Y.2d 218, 397 N.Y.S.2d 707, 366 N.E.2d 797 we held that the practice of employing laymen as Town and Village Justices was authorized by the State Constitution and that it did not violate the requirements of the Federal Constitution, citing North v. Russell, 427 U.S. 328, 96 S.Ct. 2709, 49 L.Ed.2d 534. In North, the appellant contended that an accused misdemeanant, facing possible incarceration, is entitled in all cases to trial

Page 343

[458 N.E.2d 802] before a [60 N.Y.2d 477] law-trained Judge. Without passing on appellant's claim, the Supreme Court determined that as long as an accused who is initially tried before a nonlawyer Judge has an effective alternative of a criminal trial before a court with a traditionally law-trained Judge or Judges, there is no violation of the due process clause of the Federal Constitution. We noted in Skrynski that CPL 170.25 provides such an effective alternative by establishing a discretionary procedure to divest town and village courts, of, and remove to a superior court, the power to try and determine a criminal case.

In Skrynski defendant had not moved for removal pursuant to CPL 170.25. In the present case defendant did, alleging in his motion papers that he had an "absolute right to be tried before a lawyer judge." No other reason for removal nor any claim of possible prejudice was stated. County Court denied defendant's applications. In this posttrial appeal, defendant assigns no trial errors requiring reversal nor any specific prejudice resulting from the conduct of the trial by a lay Judge. Indeed, the District Attorney claims that defendant did not register a single objection or protest during the trial. Thus, defendant neither anticipated any errors by reason of his trial before a lay Judge nor suffered any. His claim is the same as that advanced in Skrynski that he is entitled to a law-trained Judge, in any event, if the possibility of incarceration exists upon conviction of the charges and that the motion to remove necessarily had to be granted.

A defendant is constitutionally entitled to receive a fundamentally fair trial (see North v. Russell, supra, 427 U.S. at p. 337, 96 S.Ct. at 2713) but the mere allegation that a Judge lacks legal training does not mandate removal. A defendant has no absolute due process right under New York or Federal law to trial before a law-trained Judge and defendant having asserted no other cause for removal here, County Court properly denied his pretrial motion and affirmed the judgment entered after trial.

Accordingly, the order of County Court should be affirmed.

KAYE, Judge (dissenting).

While lay Judges unquestionably make a significant, valued contribution to the functioning [60 N.Y.2d 478] of our judicial system, defendants facing imprisonment, with a complex array of constitutional and statutory rights, must have the option to be tried before law-trained Judges. This position is compelled by the holding of the United States Supreme Court in North v. Russell, 427 U.S. 328, 96 S.Ct. 2709, 49 L.Ed.2d 534 and consistent with the decision of this court in People v. Skrynski, 42 N.Y.2d 218, 221, 397 N.Y.S.2d 707, 366 N.E.2d 797.

In May, 1981 three informations were issued by the Conesus Town Court, charging appellant with criminal mischief in the fourth degree (a class A misdemeanor), menacing (a class B misdemeanor), and trespass (a violation). If convicted, he faced incarceration for up to one year. Given the charges, appellant had the constitutional right to representation by counsel, and to have such counsel assigned at public expense if necessary (CPL 170.10, subd. 3, par. [c] ), and he was by law entitled to a trial by jury (Baldwin v. New York, 399 U.S. 66, 73-74, 90 S.Ct. 1886, 1890-1891, 26 L.Ed.2d 437; People v. Dargan, 27 N.Y.2d 100, 102, 313 N.Y.S.2d 712, 261 N.E.2d 633 cert. den. 400 U.S. 920, 91 S.Ct. 179, 27 L.Ed.2d 160). Appellant pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial. Through counsel, he filed a demand to produce together with motions for Brady materials, a bill of particulars, and a Sandoval hearing. These were all returnable in the Conesus Town Court, where neither Judge was law trained.

Appellant also moved in County Court for an order removing the action to a court where the Judges must be law trained. 1

Page 344

[458 N.E.2d 803] The basis for appellant's motion was that, as he had been charged with offenses carrying potential penalties of up to one year's imprisonment, he had an absolute right to be tried before a lawyer Judge.

In January, 1982, the County Court denied appellant's motion. In its memorandum decision, the court stated that, unlike the defendant's rights to trial de novo in North v. Russell 427 U.S. 328, 96 S.Ct. 2709, 49 L.Ed.2d 534, supra, which was "absolute, unconditional and available in all instances," the New York removal procedure under CPL 170.25 does not entitle a [60 N.Y.2d 479] defendant to removal as of right but rather requires a showing of good cause and rests with the discretion of the County Court. The fact that appellant was charged with offenses that could result in incarceration did not, in the court's view, constitute the "good cause" required for removal under CPL 170.25, since this court in People v. Skrynski, 42 N.Y.2d 218, 397 N.Y.S.2d 707, 366 N.E.2d 797, supra and Matter of Legal Aid Soc. v. Scheinman, 53 N.Y.2d 12, 439 N.Y.S.2d 882, 422 N.E.2d 542 declined to rule that a lawyer Judge is required in such circumstances.

Appellant proceeded to trial in Town Court before a jury and...

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5 practice notes
  • People v. Jackson
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • December 6, 1989
    ...419, 355 N.Y.S.2d 983; People v. Johnson, 127 Misc.2d 386, 389, 485 N.Y.S.2d 965 2). The district attorney, citing People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801, cert. denied 467 U.S. 1216, 104 S.Ct. 2660, 81 L.Ed.2d 367 argues that since a conviction by a nonlawyer ......
  • People v. Clark, 2011-00191
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 29, 2015
    ...... so jealously guarded, lose[s] force without a ... Judge to insure ... that the jury is correctly instructed” (People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 480, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801 ). Indeed, the right to a trial by jury, as conferred 9 N.Y.S.3d 305by the New York Constitution, requ......
  • People v. Munoz, SANCHEZ-MEDIN
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • February 6, 1990
    ...lack of admission would impact upon the People, rather than defendants. Cf. People v. Felder, supra; compare, People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 477, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801 (1983) cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1216, 104 S.Ct. 2660, 81 L.Ed.2d 367 [153 A.D.2d 285] (1984) (holding that w......
  • Estate of Collins, Matter of
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • December 20, 1983
    ...be reversed and the case remitted to that court for a determination of whether the evidence is sufficient to prove the will. Page 342 [458 N.E.2d 801] COOKE, C.J., and JASEN, JONES, WACHTLER and MEYER, JJ., SIMONS, J., taking no part. Order reversed, with separate bills of costs payable out......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • People v. Jackson
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court
    • December 6, 1989
    ...419, 355 N.Y.S.2d 983; People v. Johnson, 127 Misc.2d 386, 389, 485 N.Y.S.2d 965 2). The district attorney, citing People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801, cert. denied 467 U.S. 1216, 104 S.Ct. 2660, 81 L.Ed.2d 367 argues that since a conviction by a nonlawyer ......
  • People v. Clark, 2011-00191
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 29, 2015
    ...... so jealously guarded, lose[s] force without a ... Judge to insure ... that the jury is correctly instructed” (People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 480, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801 ). Indeed, the right to a trial by jury, as conferred 9 N.Y.S.3d 305by the New York Constitution, requ......
  • People v. Munoz, SANCHEZ-MEDIN
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • February 6, 1990
    ...lack of admission would impact upon the People, rather than defendants. Cf. People v. Felder, supra; compare, People v. Charles F., 60 N.Y.2d 474, 477, 470 N.Y.S.2d 342, 458 N.E.2d 801 (1983) cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1216, 104 S.Ct. 2660, 81 L.Ed.2d 367 [153 A.D.2d 285] (1984) (holding that w......
  • Estate of Collins, Matter of
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • December 20, 1983
    ...be reversed and the case remitted to that court for a determination of whether the evidence is sufficient to prove the will. Page 342 [458 N.E.2d 801] COOKE, C.J., and JASEN, JONES, WACHTLER and MEYER, JJ., SIMONS, J., taking no part. Order reversed, with separate bills of costs payable out......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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