March 09, 2021

Joel Rudin argues important civil rights appeal in Second Circuit

Firm principal Joel Rudin today argued an important civil rights case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Listen to the oral argument here. At issue is whether a plaintiff in a federal civil rights case claiming that fabricated evidence was used against him must also prove that he won his state criminal case on the basis of his innocence. Very few criminal cases are resolved that way. In this case, Smalls v. City of New York, our client’s gun possession conviction was reversed on appeal, and the indictment dismissed, not on the basis of his innocence, but because police illegally stopped him, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. After a federal civil jury found he was framed by police using fabricated evidence, the federal trial judge dismissed the case because the state court had not indicated in its decision that Mr. Smalls was innocent.

Retained to handle the appeal by Mr. Smalls and his trial attorney, we are seeking to have the jury’s verdict reinstated. Resolution of our appeal will depend upon the Second Circuit’s interpretation of a recent Supreme Court decision, McDonough v. Smith, 139 S. Ct. 2149 (2019), a case in which Mr. Rudin was co-counsel. You can read our Second Circuit briefs, authored by Mr. Rudin and associates Jacob Loup and Matthew Wasserman, here (opening) and here (reply). An amicus brief supporting our appeal was submitted by 12 leading civil rights and public interest organizations. You can read it here.