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High-Profile Matters

The Law Department has always been on the cutting edge of the legal profession, having argued more than 60 times before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Landmark cases include Ward v. Rock Against Racism, which established the standard for time, place and manner restrictions on the exercise of free speech; Penn Central v. City of New York, which upheld the power of governments to protect designated landmarks; and Goldberg v. Kelly, which established the standard of due process required prior to the deprivation of government benefits.  Below are summaries of recent high-profile matters.

Taxation of Foreign Missions
City of New York v. Permanent Missions of India and Mongolia
For many years, the City has levied property taxes on portions of foreign missions to the U.N. that are used as residential quarters for embassy personnel. The City is seeking over $16 million in property tax arrears from India and $2 million from Mongolia for floors of their buildings used as residences. The Second Circuit rejected India's claim that it cannot be sued in U.S. courts. The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act generally precludes lawsuits against foreign governments, but an exception allows suits involving "immovable property."

The matter was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 24, 2007 by Corporation Counsel, Michael A. Cardozo. The case was handled below by the Affirmative Litigation division.

Listen to the Supreme Court Oral Argument (Courtesy of The Oyez Project)
View the Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcript (in PDF)
View the Law Department's Supreme Court Brief (in PDF)

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Board of Education v. Tom F.
On February 26, 2007, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in the matter of Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York v. Tom F. The issue was whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act -- which seeks to ensure that children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education -- requires a public school district to reimburse the private school tuition of a child who had never previously received special education from any public school system.
The case was argued in October 2007. The Appeals division and General Litigation division worked on this matter.

View the Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcript (in PDF)
View the Law Department's Supreme Court Brief (in PDF)

Random Bag Searches in Subways
MacWade v. Kelly
Two weeks after the terrorist attack on the London Underground, the NYPD began a program of floating checkpoints in subway stations where randomly selected passengers were required to allow their bags to be inspected to gain entrance to the subway.  After weighing factors such as the degree of danger, riders' expectation of privacy, and the intrusiveness and efficacy of the searches, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the program unanimously and dismissed the suit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Scott Shorr, a Senior Counsel in the Appeals division, argued the case before the Second Circuit. The case was handled below by the Special Federal Litigation division.

View the Oral Argument at the 2d Circuit (Courtesy of C-Span)

Use of Eminent Domain for Economic Development
Kelo v. New London
Eminent domain is a tool that allows communities to acquire and assemble land for a variety of public uses. In 2005, in the case Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court resolved a split in amongst the various jurisdictions and affirmed that the pursuit of economic development is a “public use” under the 5th amendment to the Federal Constitution and recognized eminent domain as an essential device utilized by local governments to facilitate public projects for the redevelopment and revitalization of economically distressed areas. Because of the vital importance of eminent domain to a large urban city like New York, the City of New York filed an amicus brief in this matter. Notable examples in New York City of economic development projects that were created with the assistance of condemnation are Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the redevelopment of Times Square, the creating of the Metrotech office park in Brooklyn and the World Trade Center before its destruction.
The Appeals division and Tax and Bankruptcy Litigation division worked on this matter.

View the Law Department's Amicus Brief

Global Warming
Massachusetts v. EPA
In this significant case, New York City was lead City petitioner along with several other cities, states and environmental organizations that sought relief from the adverse effects of global climate change. The case challenged EPA's decision in a September 2003 rulemaking not to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide) from new motor vehicles. The City joined the suit when it was before the D.C. Circuit and assisted with briefs and worked with experts to prepare a standing affidavit that outlined various harms that global warming poses to the City. The case was argued before the Supreme Court in 2006 and on April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court issued its opinion holding that "that EPA has statutory authority to regulate the emission of [greenhouse] gases from new motor vehicles" and "that EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the statute." The Court reversed the DC Circuit and remanded the case back to EPA to provide statutorily proper reasons for its decision to regulate or not regulate.

The Environmental Law division worked on this matter.

View the Supreme Court Opinion (in PDF)
View the Supreme Court Brief for Petitioners (in PDF)

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