Notable Decisions and Other News

Court of Appeals Leave Grants

Court of Appeals Grants Leave to Address Trial Counsel’s Obligation to Protect the Defendant’s Right to Appeal

07/07/2016

Mario Arjune, was convicted of tampering with evidence and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon in 2009 after a trial at which he was represented by private counsel.  After trial, Mr. Arjune, who is cognitively impaired, could no longer afford to retain counsel. 

Trial counsel filed a notice of appeal but he did not advise Mr. Arjune that he had the right to appeal, tell him that he could seek poor person relief and assignment of counsel, explain how to make that application, or inform him that he alone was now responsible for his own appeal.  In late 2013, the People moved to dismiss the appeal for failure to prosecute, serving defense counsel and Mr. Arjune at his parents’ address, where he no longer lived.  Defense counsel, despite being alerted to the negative consequences of his omissions, took no action to correct the situation.  The Second Department dismissed the appeal in late 2013.

Appellant filed a coram nobis petition, arguing that defense counsel was ineffective for filing a notice of appeal but failing to perform any other basic duty to preserve his client’s right to appeal.  The People opposed the petition, and the Second Department affirmed. 

Judge Eugene M. Fahey granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals to address whether coram nobis relief is available to defendants whose attorneys file a notice of appeal, but neglect to take other steps to protect a defendant’s constitutional right to appeal.  

Jenin Younes represented Mr. Arjune in the Appellate Division, filed the leave application, and will continue to represent Mr. Arjune in the Court of Appeals.