New York Court of Appeals Dismisses Our Kaporos Case
On November 14, 2018, the State of New York Court of Appeals dismissed the case of The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, et al. v. the New York City Police Department, et al. The decision followed oral arguments before the Court by attorneys for the plaintiffs (the Alliance) and the NYPD, in Albany, NY, on October 17, 2018.
Nora Constance Marino, Esq., the attorney for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, argued our case before the judges. She explains the Court’s decision as follows:
The Court of Appeals decision says that the laws cited by the plaintiffs allow for decisions involving discretion by the police. “Mandamus” -- meaning a court order to compel the police to act in a certain way -- would apply only if the laws involved no discretion whatsoever. We disagree with the court’s decision, because the laws involved in our case -- specifically, the animal cruelty statute and the health codes -- are in fact mandatory laws, meaning that the New York State legislature used words like “must” and “shall” when speaking of enforcement of these laws.
Thus, it is my opinion that the Court of Appeals was entirely incorrect in this decision. The judges ignored the clear “mandate,” or direction, of the state legislature, by allowing New York City and the New York City Police (the executive branch of government) to fail to enforce laws that are “mandated” to be enforced.
It is my opinion that this is the exact situation where judicial intervention and mandamus would be warranted; a situation where the executive branch ignores the clear intent of the legislative branch. As we have seen quite frequently on the federal level, the federal courts, most notably the Ninth Circuit, have intervened with decisions of the executive branch of the United States (the U.S. president) and issued orders mandating certain policies. We believe the Court of Appeals here had a similar obligation to intervene, and failed to.
Clarification and quick history of this case
The case involved 19 Brooklyn residents and the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, who sued the city of New York for failure to enforce fifteen laws that are violated by practitioners of an annual religious ritual called Kaporos, in which chickens are punished as surrogates for human sinners. During Kaporos, 60,000 chickens are trucked into the city each year from factory farms, in the week before Yom Kippur, to be used in this ritual and slaughtered on the public streets and sidewalks. These acts violate multiple health codes, sanitation codes, and the state animal cruelty statute.
The case was started in New York State’s lowest court, the Supreme Court. A Supreme Court judge dismissed the case. Alliance attorney Nora Constance Marino appealed to the Appellate Division, the next judicial level. There, from a panel of five judges, we received a split decision – three judges agreed with the lower court, and two did not. Those two dissenting votes were what was required to have our case heard in the state’s highest court – the Court of Appeals.
This was exciting. Very few cases make it to the Court of Appeals. The case received press coverage in mainstream media and in law journals. Oral arguments were presented to the Court on October 17, 2018, as outlined above, and were broadcast live stream. Our case was viewed by many, and many held their breath, waiting for the six Court of Appeals judges to rule.
Regrettably, after just four short weeks, the judges rendered their decision, affirming the lower courts; thus, the case remains dismissed. As we go to press, we’re considering our future options and will keep our supporters informed, with gratitude to everyone for enabling us to pursue this historic legal challenge on behalf of the chickens. – Nora Constance Marino, Esq. and United Poultry Concerns