News Articles

Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project

 DV LEAP celebrates an important court victory this month in the matter of  SL v. JR, NY Court of Appeals, 2015 which established an important precedent regarding constitutional rights in custody decisions.  Along with our superb pro bono partner, Brown Rudnick, we were proud to provide two amicus briefs for this critically important custody appeal challenging, on due process grounds, a NY court's decision to strip a parent of custody without a hearing   

In this case, the trial court relied on the undefined standard “adequate relevant information” to justify taking away from the  the mother all unsupervised contact with her children without hearing testimony or taking evidence. The trial court also relied heavily on a custody evaluator's report without allowing either parent the opportunity to cross-examine the evaluator or rebut his conclusions.  In a resounding reversal, the NY Court of Appeals reaffirmed the constitutional principle that custody decisions should generally be rendered only after a full and plenary hearing and based only on admissible evidence. The Court of Appeals also noted that the "adequate relevant information" standard, which courts in New York’s Second Department have increasingly invoked to dispense with custody hearings, failed to protect a parent's fundamental right "to control the upbringing of a child" and tolerated "an unacceptably-high risk of yielding custody determinations that do not conform to the best interests of the child." It was DV LEAP’s pleasure to work with the talented Brown Rudnick team and appellate attorney Harold Burke to achieve this powerful victory for New York’s families.

Check out this great article from the New York Law Journal for more on this case, including a quote from DV LEAP Staff Attorney Sasha Drobnick.