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The Appellate Division, First Department, today ruled that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) violated state law by maintaining a secret database of more than 360,000 people who were stopped and frisked but never convicted of a crime, clearly articulating for the first time that citizens may enforce their sealing rights in court.
The case, Lino v. City of New York, was brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and supported by a friend-of-the-court brief written by the Community Service Society of New York (CSS). Joining the amicus brief were other organizations that rely on the sealing laws to support the reentry of people with criminal records: The Bronx Defenders, the Center for Community Alternatives, the Legal Action Center, the Legal Aid Society, MFY Legal Services, Youth Represent, the New York County Lawyers Association, and the Fortune Society.
“CSS has long understood how the criminal justice system can devastate low-income communities,” said David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society. “Effective implementation of the sealing laws ensures that police contact does not cost innocent people their jobs and housing.”
The CSS brief argued that the sealing laws have preserved employment and housing opportunities for people who have inconsequential police contact but are never convicted of a crime. For its part, the court acknowledged how the laws are meant to prevent even the risk of disclosure: “It makes little sense for plaintiffs to have to wait until their job applications are in the mail or they are about to appear for a job interview before they have standing to bring a cause of action against the effect of unsealed records.”
A copy of the amicus brief, which was written by CSS General Counsel Judith Whiting and Senior Staff Attorney Paul Keefe, is available here.