The panel, consisting of Justices Angela Mazzarelli (See Profile), James Catterson (See Profile), Leland DeGrasse (See Profile), Rosalyn Richter (See Profile) and Sallie Manzanet-Daniels (See Profile), said the plaintiffs' injuries "fall within the statutory goal of insuring against the stigma that is created as a result of plaintiffs having been the subjects of unsustained accusations."
It rejected the city's argument that §§160.50 and 160.55 were drafted to benefit only individuals whose private information was about to be disclosed and not those whose information could potentially be disclosed.
"Plaintiffs correctly assert that the statute's mandatory sealing requirements demonstrate that the statute seeks to protect individuals against the risk of public disclosure of their records prior to an actual unlawful disclosure," the court said.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU, said in a statement that as a result of the ruling "innocent New Yorkers who are the victims of unjustified police stops will no longer suffer the further injustice of having their personal information stored indefinitely in an NYPD database. She said the ruling "finally clears the names of more than 360,000 innocent people whose only crime was that they were stopped and frisked by NYPD officers."
Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU's associate legal director and lead counsel in the case, said the court "said loudly and clearly that this database must be sealed" and called on the city to immediately seal the records.
"We found it deeply troubling that the NYPD was flagrantly ignoring the sealing statute and we hope that [yesterday's] decision puts an end to that," Dunn said.
Joining the NYCLU as amici curiae were the Community Service Society of New York, the Bronx Defenders, the Center for Community Alternatives, the Legal Aid Society, the Legal Action Center, MFY Legal Services, Youth Represent, the New York County Lawyers' Association and the Fortune Society. Judith Whiting of the Community Service Society appeared for the amici.
The city was defended by Assistant Corporation Counsel Mordecai Newman.
The city does not dispute that the records must be "sealed," but it notes the definition of "sealed" is unclear and will be defined as the case progresses.
Jaffe did not resolve the issue of whether the records were sealed in compliance with §§160.50 and 160.55 and the First Department accepted, for the purposes of the decision, that the plaintiff's allegations that the records were not sealed is accurate.