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Pro Bono Client Obtains Victory in Article 78 Proceeding Against DOCCS

Paul, Weiss obtained a victory for our client in her Article 78 proceeding against the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The victory secures for our client and her infant son admission to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Nursery Program and makes permanent the relief that she and Paul, Weiss previously obtained through an August 1 temporary restraining order.

DOCCS denied our client's Nursery application on July 29, 2014, citing her history of substance abuse and related involvement with Child Protective Services as the sole basis for its determination. In her petition, our client argued that under New York Correction Law § 611 the relevant test is the "best interests of the child," an analysis that requires looking at the totality of circumstances impacting the child's welfare. DOCCS's narrow focus made its determination arbitrary, capricious and without rational basis. The petition stressed that prior to her incarceration, which resulted from a parole violation for staying out past curfew with the father of her baby, our client had made demonstrable strides towards rehabilitation: she had remained sober for nearly two years, secured a good job, and offer of employment upon release, developed a strong support network and was participating in recovery and mental health treatment. Noting New York's strong presumption in favor of maintaining the mother/child relationship, the petition emphasized our client's sentence was short enough that, if admitted to the Nursery Program, she would be released from prison prior to timing out of the one-year Nursery placement and no disruption of the relationship would occur. The petition argued that these achievements and policy concerns could not rationally be ignored when conducting a "best interest" analysis.

The court agreed, adopting each of our arguments in its decision. Finding that DOCCS's determination lacked a rational basis, the court vacated the denial and granted our client and her son placement in the Nursery.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation associates Jeremy Benjamin and Mary Spooner. Litigation partner Aidan Synnott supervised the matter.

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