In re Village of Port Chester v. Martinez

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  • Fairness in the Courts
  • Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment
  • Authored Amicus Brief
2004

Determined whether a victim of domestic violence may be penalized for "failure to produce records" in an eminent domain suit, where she had lost access to her records when fleeing from her abusive husband.

Summary of the Case

Maria Martinez made a claim for compensation after her restaurant was taken in an eminent domain proceeding which was denied, in part because she failed to provide certain records to support her claim—even though Ms. Martinez told the judge that she left those records behind when she fled her abusive husband.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum's amicus brief to the Appellate Division argued that the trial court’s unpublished ruling was dangerous to victims of violence. It stated that even if it were true that she had lost access to the records due to her decision to leave an abusive husband, this would not excuse her "failure" to produce the records. Not only did the court fail to examine the evidentiary support for Ms. Martinez’s claim to have lost access to the records because of domestic violence, but also, it was directly contrary to New York’s strong public policy of supporting victims of domestic violence.  

Decision

The Appellate Division denied Ms. Martinez’s appeal, but it ruled on an entirely separate basis from the failure to produce records, and did not refer to the trial court’s discussion of that issue. Thus, our brief succeeded in encouraging the Appellate Division not to endorse a harmful precedent.