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State v. Davis

New York Court of Appeals
13 N.Y.3d 17 (2009)


On December 15, 2005, a police officer observed Wayne Davis (defendant) in Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, New York, at 2:06 a.m. A sign posted in the park stated the park closed at 9 p.m. A New York City Parks Department (Parks Department) rule prohibited individuals from being in city parks after the posted closing time. Violation of this rule was a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of ninety days’ imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. On February 16, 2006, the State of New York (plaintiff) arraigned Davis for violating the Parks Department rule and Davis pled not guilty. Davis consented to his case being referred to a judicial hearing officer (JHO) for trial, final disposition, and sentencing. New York Criminal Procedure Law § 350.20 allowed JHOs, who were retired judges, to hear Class B criminal cases in order to alleviate backlog and delay in the criminal courts. A JHO exercised the same powers as a New York City Criminal Court judge, and a JHO’s decision was subject to appeal in the same manner as a decision of a Criminal Court judge. JHOs were employed only on consent of the parties, and defendants retained the right to have their case adjudicated by a Criminal Court judge. A JHO convicted Davis of violating the Parks Department rule and sentenced Davis with a $75 fine or up to ten days in jail. The sentence was later changed to time served. Davis appealed the conviction, challenging the constitutionality of § 350.20 on the ground that it violated the New York Constitution. The Appellate Term affirmed. The New York Court of Appeal granted Davis leave to appeal.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ciparick, J.)

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