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Litigating Unjust Conviction Cases in New York Part I

(1434 reviews)

Produced on January 12, 2015

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Course Information

Time 53 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

Unjust, or wrongful, convictions – that is, when people are convicted of crimes for which they are in fact innocent – are some of the most frequent headline stories to come out of America's criminal justice system.  Recently, several highly publicized cases of wrongful imprisonment have captivated our attention: David Ranta, Roger Logan, Jonathan Fleming, Derrick Hamilton, and Antonio Yarbrough, to name just a few.  Each of these men were released from prison this year after it was determined that they had been wrongfully imprisoned.  At the time of release, almost all had been incarcerated for at least 20 years. 


The New York State Court of Claims Act § 8-b, also known as The Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act of 1984, allows wrongfully convicted defendants who have served all or part of their sentence to seek compensation from the State if certain requirements have been met. 


In this course, Ameer Benno, a New York City-based civil rights attorney, introduces viewers to the litigation of unjust conviction cases in New York.  This course provides an overview of the legal landscape of these claims, with emphasis on the numerous procedural and substantive pitfalls facing lawyers who litigate these challenging cases. 


Learning Objectives:

I.       Understand the narrow “eligible grounds” for bringing an unjust conviction lawsuit and the barriers that can preclude people who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned from recovering damages

II.      Become acquainted with the elements of an unjust conviction claim and how the courts have interpreted those elements

III.     Comprehend the unique and strictly enforced pleading requirements of these claims

IV.     Gain insight on Court of Claims practice, the most frequently encountered discovery issues, and how to address them

V.      Examine the interplay between unjust conviction claims and other civil rights claims, such as Section 1983



Credit Information

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Ameer Benno

Ameer Benno, Attorney at Law

Mr. Benno began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney at the esteemed Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where, under then-District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, he served in both the trial division and the appeals bureau. In the trial division, Mr. Benno investigated and prosecuted violent and white-collar crimes and tried several jury trials to verdict, all as primary chair. In the appeals bureau, Mr. Benno handled all aspects of criminal appeals, and regularly submitted arguments to the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal.

After several years as an Assistant District Attorney, Mr. Benno left government service to work for a premier civil litigation law firm where he tried civil cases and managed a caseload that focused on civil rights matters in state and federal court.

In 2009, Mr. Benno opened his own law practice, which focused on civil rights cases in state and federal court, criminal defense, and appellate litigation.

In addition to an active trial practice, Mr. Benno has briefed and argued criminal and civil appeals in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Departments of the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, the New York State Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

In 2010, Mr. Benno argued People v. Mothersell in the New York State Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest tribunal. That case, which challenged the constitutionality of the City of Syracuse’s usage of “all persons present” search warrants, resulted in a unanimous reversal of the client’s criminal conviction and the dismissal of his indictment, and changed the landscape of criminal law practice in New York State. More recently, Mr. Benno was lead counsel in Bailey v. Pataki, a Section 1983 civil rights action against former New York State Governor George Pataki and several members of his administration for creating and implementing an unconstitutional civil commitment policy for a class of prisoners. Mr. Benno briefed and argued the interlocutory appeal in that case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. He won that appeal, and thereafter tried the case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. After a three and a half week trial, the jury found a top member of Gov. Pataki’s administration liable for violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

From 2006 through 2012, Mr. Benno was an adjunct professor at New York Law School, where he taught Legal Reasoning and Writing and Written and Oral Advocacy.

Mr. Benno is admitted to the New York and Connecticut state bars, and is admitted to practice in the federal courts of the Southern, Eastern, Western, and Northern Districts of New York as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

He serves on the Civil Rights and Liberties Committee of the New York County Lawyers Association, and is a member of the Civil Rights Section of the American Association of Justice. Mr. Benno is also a member of the National Police Accountability Project, the New York City Policing Roundtable, the First Amendment Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, and the Brooklyn Bar Association. 

Mr. Benno also is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the New York State Defenders Association. He is a member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Legal Committee.

In 2012 and again in 2013, Mr. Benno was selected to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list as one of the top up‐and‐coming attorneys in the metro-New York area in the areas of First Amendment and civil rights law. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor.

In 2013 and 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected by the National Trial Lawyers for inclusion in the Top 100 trial attorneys in New York State in the area of criminal law. This is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state in the nation who meet stringent qualifications. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research. In 2014, Mr. Benno was also selected for inclusion in the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40.

Mr. Benno is rated 10.0, the highest rating given, by the online lawyer rating service Avvo.com.

Mr. Benno received his B.A. degree with honors from Johns Hopkins University, and his J.D. from Cornell Law School. While at Cornell Law School, Mr. Benno received recognition for his superior litigation abilities and was a member of the prestigious Moot Court Board.


Derrick J.


Stephen R.

Very informative!

Henry S. S.

Very helpful, very interesting, and very informative.

steven r.

excellent job

Robin B.

very clear and well presented

Sandra K.

While this is not my area of expertise, I was pleased to learn something about this important practice.

Barbara C.

Love lawline. Period.

David H.

lecture and materials seem thorough

Tracie R.

Very clear and interesting presentation of a topic that I'm not very familiar with. Great pace (not too fast/not too slow) and knowledgeable presenter. I enjoyed this presentation!

Anne B.

Very clear presentation

Albert P P.


richard l.

Very thorough.

Alan H.

excellent, thorough presentation.

jane M.

Well organized and presented !

Robert H.

Good organized presentation

Matthew R.

In depth and nice pace. Very interesting.

Patrick G.

Best course I've taken this period. Teacher was brilliant.

Robert H.


William D.

This is the third presentation I have watched from him and it was the best of the three.

Stanley G.

Very succinct and direct svn for a non-criminal law practitioner. Very good job

Susan M. B.

Very interesting topic. Engaging speaker.

James A.

limited subject explained well

Kirl F.


Lori L.

This was one of the best CLE courses I have taken. Attorney Benno presented the materials very well and I loved how he went through each element of unjust/wromgful conviction. Very informative!

Michael P. B.

Excellent presentation, on point.

Jeffrey B.

Excellent speaker. Excellent materials. Thank you.

Rommel M.


Evan K.

Not my area. but very interesting niche of NY statute and practice. Good job. Thanks!

Artemis C.

He was a good speaker, held my attention. Easy to understand. Interesting subject matter.

Otto M.

Great overview

Jane S.

I really enjoyed this program. Mr. Benno was a great presenter--he clearly walked through the complicated provisions.

James M.

Informative and clear.

Agnes M.

Presentation was very informative, thorough and overall excellent!

Jessica A.

Fantastic presentation. I really enjoyed this lecture and learned a lot. Great choice for a CLE course and the lecturer is very knowledgeable and interesting to listen to.

Valerie d.

I learned a great deal due to the engaging and interesting demeanor of Mr. Benno.


Very informative.

Peter C.

Very effective speaker.

Kimberly R.

Great course

Brett C.

Best lawline speaker seen so far.

Gwaina W.

This was a great course! I think it could have been a full day seminar to go over case law and to get some more in depth knowledge but the course still piqued my interest in the subject/topic.

Vincent O.

Speaker did a great job presenting the material.

Gareth D.


Michael B.

Very good presenter.

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