Second Circuit Decision in NY Assembly Speaker’s Bribery Conviction Reversal Opens Possible Loophole

Sheldon Silver, former speaker of the New York State Assembly, was convicted of a number of political corruption crimes in 2015, namely accepting bribes in exchange for favorable “official acts” that benefited some bribe payors. He appealed his conviction to the Second Circuit on two grounds: first, that the trial court erred by failing to require that the prosecution establish that he and the bribe payor had a “meeting of the minds” on the specific official act to be performed in exchange for the bribes; and second, that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecution to proceed on a theory that allowed conviction based on a “nonspecific promise to undertake official action on any future matter beneficial to the payor.” (Emphasis added.)

On January 21, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit partially reversed Silver’s conviction and remanded the case for resentencing. The court’s logic and findings are significant and merit close attention.

View the full Alert on the Duane Morris LLP website.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey Clarifies “Plain View” Seizures (Sort of): State v. Gonzales

“(P)lain view” seizures were recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971).  The doctrine is true to its name: it permits warrantless seizures of illegal contraband that is in the “plain view” of law enforcement.   This is the law in New Jersey too.  State v. Bruzzese, 94 N.J. 210 (1983).

There is common sense at work here.  If law enforcement finds evidence out in the open, it would be unduly burdensome and illogical to require the State to leave the evidence in place while it secures a warrant to support the necessary seizure.

But this exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement requires a dash of kismet and a dollop of good luck: law enforcement must be in the right place, at the right time, to discover and seize the evidence. If they are not, then they cannot.

Yet, what if such a happy fortuity is more than luck, but is also the product of some prior planning or scheming?  What if law enforcement’s actions are challenged as pre-textual?  When and how is the subjective intent of the police to be considered in evaluating the validity of a “plain view” seizure? Continue reading “The Supreme Court of New Jersey Clarifies “Plain View” Seizures (Sort of): State v. Gonzales”

Supreme Court of New Jersey Increases Protections for Cellphone Billing Records in State of New Jersey v. Lunsford

By Eric R. Breslin

Cellular telephone billing records are another mundane aspect of modern life. They arrive monthly in the mail or online and hardly anyone I know (at least) spends any great amount of time reviewing them for accuracy or content. In most households, they go into the “to be paid” pile, where they reside until processing.

But telephones are no longer just telephones and cellular telephone bills, if parsed thoroughly and knowingly, can reveal on their face a startling amount of personal information and can provide entrée to much more. In 2016, cellular telephones must be viewed as small super computers and cellular telephone bills can yield as much information as banking or credit cards records can, if not more. Continue reading “Supreme Court of New Jersey Increases Protections for Cellphone Billing Records in State of New Jersey v. Lunsford”