It seems like every day we learn about another case where a prisoner is exonerated after years of incarceration. Indeed, people being convicted of crimes for which they are in fact innocent has become one of the headline stories of America's criminal justice system. What recourse do these former-inmates have after being released from prison in order to obtain redress for their wrongful confinement?
The answer: the New York State Court of Claims Act § 8-b – also known as The Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Act of 1984. This Act 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 Part II, Ameer Benno, a New York City-based civil rights attorney, delves into the case law that has developed around unjust conviction claims, providing the viewer with a deeper understanding of these actions and sharing ways by which to assess the strengths and weaknesses of potential unjust conviction claims.
I. Understand the narrow “eligible grounds” for bringing a unjust conviction lawsuit and the barriers that can preclude people who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned from recovering damages
II. Learn more about the elements of an unjust conviction claim, and how the courts have interpreted those elements
III. Be able to distinguish a viable unjust conviction claim from one that is destined to fail
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.
Attorney Benno is a legal scholar.
Exceptional!!! And the materials are invaluable.
Great topic well presented.
a lot of very good information so you can really start to learn how to understand the unjust conviction case
The speaker was extremely knowledgeable on this topic.
Excellent course. Very informative and well presented.