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Article 10 of the Mental Hygiene Law…cont

C.P.L.R. §101 provides that the C.P.L.R.’s provisions “shall govern the procedure in civil judicial proceedings in all courts of the state and before all judges, except where the procedure is regulated by inconsistent statute.” Given that Article 10 contains its own detailed venue provisions, in the view of this Court, it is clear that venue change determinations under Article 10 are governed by Article 10, rather than the C.P.L.R.’s general change of venue provisions. It is also clear in this Court’s view, however, that the well-established requirements for moving venue based on witness convenience applicable under the C.P.L.R. are also applicable under Article 10.It is well-settled under New York law that “words having a precise and well-settled legal meaning in the jurisprudence of the state are to be understood in such sense when used in statutes, unless a different meaning is plainly indicated.”

Here, there is no indication on the face of the Article 10 statute or its legislative history that the legislature, in enacting Article 10, intended to abrogate the well-settled evidentiary requirements applicable to change of venue motions based on criminal witness convenience. Indeed, as noted supra, the legislature used virtually the same phrase to describe this consideration in Article 10 as the phrase contained in the C.P.L.R. At the time Article 10 was enacted, the evidentiary requirements for venue change motions based on witness convenience under the C.P.L.R. had been well-settled for more than a decade. It should be assumed that “in drafting the statute, the Legislature understood and adopted that well-settled meaning”.

In the view of this Court, the State is essentially asking that the Article 10 statute be construed to allow for the State (or perhaps the Respondents as well) to use M.H.L. §10.08(e) to move venue to the location where an offender’s crime was committed in any case, since the same arguments the State is making here would apply in any Article 10 proceeding. This is precisely the issue which the legislature considered and resolved in M.H.L. §§10.06(a) & (b), however. To construe the statute as the State urges, in the view of this Court, would make the careful procedural scheme contained in M.H.L. §§10.06(a) & (b) a nullity, since a party could always make the same showing the State has made in the instant motions at any time and have venue transferred to the location where an offender’s sex crimes had been committed in any case.

The venue provision at issue in these motions, in the view of this Court, is of a wholly different character than the provision discussed immediately supra. M.H.L. §10.08(e), at issue here, in the view of this Court, contemplates a venue change not because it is better policy to conduct trials in the locations where an offender’s crimes were committed, but on the basis of facts particular to an individual case. That is, having resolved the policy issues which inherently form the basis for the State’s motions here in Article 10’s initial venue setting provisions, the legislature went on to provide a catch-all additional venue shifting provision to address any cases in which a particularized showing of good cause had been made. Domestic violence could have been involved.

In the view of this Court, the State has not made the particularized demonstration of good cause required by the statute in these motions and indeed, as outlined supra, a number of countervailing considerations exist which argue that venue should not be changed in these cases. Whatever the merits of the policy arguments inherent in allowing the State or respondents to move venue to the location where an offender’s crime had been committed may be, the statute, in this Court’s view, simply does contemplate that those arguments, standing alone, constitute “good cause” to change venue.

Accordingly, the court held that the state’s motions in these cases, as noted above, are therefore denied.

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