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Knife Rights Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against New York City and NYC DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. Print E-mail

Knife Rights is spearheading a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit, originally filed in June 2011, against New York City and New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. over their wrongful harassment of knife owners, retailers and manufacturers.  As this lawsuit works its way forward, we will post newsworthy events and links to articles, motions and other relevant information here (Click on "Read More >>>>" below for links).

Lawsuit Summary: The lawsuit challenges New York City’s and District Attorney Vance’s attempt to criminalize as contraband the most widely-owned pocket knives in America -- one-hand opening and assisted opening folding knives -- under state laws prohibiting switchblades and gravity knives. The case seeks a judicial determination that the New York State laws regarding switchblades and gravity knives are unconstitutionally vague as applied by NYC and the DA to these common pocket knives (which are distinct from gravity knives and switchblades because of their bias towards closure). Knife Rights' lawsuit intends to stop New York City officials from abusing this vague state law to make bogus arrests of law-abiding citizens carrying common pocket knives, and from coercing knife retailers into making huge payments to avoid prosecution.(Click on "Read More >>>>" below for links to background articles)

Status Summary as of June 10, 2016: Attorneys representing Knife Rights' plaintiffs and the defendants New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. will square off in Federal Court in Manhattan on Thursday morning, June 16. The oral argument portion of the trial on the merits will finally be held before U.S. District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest five years after our federal civil rights lawsuit was originally filed. The public is welcome to attend. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of May 12, 2016: The Legal Aid Society, the oldest and largest private non-profit legal services agency in the nation and New York's primary public defender, yesterday filed an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) Brief in support of Knife Rights' long-running Civil Rights Lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.

Knife Rights Chairman Doug Ritter said, "The Legal Aid Society's well-reasoned and eloquently written brief compellingly tells the stories of individuals who have fallen victim to defendants' unconstitutional practices and ties directly into the key elements of the defendants' continued sordid prosecutions of innocent knife owners. The Society has succeeded in adding additional human faces to the injustice these prosecutions have visited on tens of thousands of law-abiding knife owners, highlighting the serious constitutional issues at stake here." Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Sept. 22, 2015: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously ruled today that Knife Rights' Federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. will proceed, reversing a District Court's erroneous dismissal of the case on procedural "standing" grounds.

The Second Circuit ruled that Knife Rights' plaintiffs John Copeland, Pedro Perez, and Native Leather have the right to pursue their claims to end the unconstitutional manner in which the City and the DA have enforced state gravity knife law against honest individuals and businesses with regard to common folding knives. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of July 27, 2015: Knife Rights last week filed a Rule 28(j) Notice of Supplemental Authorities in Knife Rights' Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. A Rule 28(j) filing is used to "bring pertinent and significant authorities" to the Court's attention after oral argument (in our case, back in January of this year), but before the decision is announced. In this instance the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an 8-1 decision in the case of Johnson v United States which bolstered Knife Rights' argument that the New York State law regarding gravity knives is unconstitutionally vague as applied by NYC and the DA to common folding knives (which are distinct from gravity knives because of their bias towards closure). Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Jan 16, 2015: Oral argument in the appeal of Knife Rights' Federal Civil Rights case against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., which was dismissed on standing grounds, was held on January 13 in New York City. In response to questions from the bench, the DA's attorney was forced to admit that what had happened to plaintiff John Copeland could happen to anyone. When asked directly if someone could show his knife to two policemen who tested the knife with the city's (indeterminate) "wrist-flick" test and found the knife legal, that the same knife could later be found illegal by a third policeman, he agreed that was the case. That goes directly to the claim in the lawsuit that this test is unconstitutionally vague because no one can know if any Common Folding Knife is legal. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Sept. 2, 2014: Knife Rights filed a Reply Brief in its appeal of a U.S. District Court's absurd ruling in its ongoing Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against New York City and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. The 30-page legal brief was filed on August 28, 2014, and can be viewed here. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of May 19, 2014: Knife Rights filed an appeal of a U.S. District Court's absurd ruling in its ongoing Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against New York City and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. The 62-page legal brief was filed on May 15, 2014, and can be viewed here. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Dec. 23, 2013: Knife Rights has a filed a Notice of Appeal in its federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City, following a judge's refusal to allow supposed "defects" in the case documents to be corrected. The judge previously used those "defects" to try to throw out the case. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Oct. 7, 2013: Knife Rights has asked the Court for permission to amend its complaint to add details the Court said should have been included when it dismissed Knife Rights' Federal civil rights lawsuit against New York City and District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. last week. If the motion for reconsideration is granted, the lawsuit would be able to continue forward without having to appeal to a higher court. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Sept. 26, 2013: Knife Rights To Appeal Outrageous NYC Ruling. Recently appointed U.S. District Court Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that the plaintiffs falsely arrested or threatened with arrest have no standing to sue. Click here to read article with full details.

Status Summary as of Sept. 1, 2013: Original complaint amended, adding victimized NYC retailer Native Leather; most depositions and document requests completed; Judge throws out NYC & DA Motions to Dismiss, amended complaint accepted; NYC & DA re-file Motions to Dismiss on technicality; Plaintiff's experts' reports filed and depositions of experts in process.

Note that New York City administrative code has an under-4-inch length limit and requires knives be carried concealed. Knife Rights recommends that you never carry your knife clipped to your pocket in New York City. Even when covered by a jacket, simply moving the jacket aside to get to a wallet has been enough to get folks arrested. Always ensure your knife is completely concealed at all times, including not "printing" on the outside of your clothing. In addition, be extremely circumspect about using a knife for any purpose in a public setting.

Note also that NYC has interpreted the state law against gravity knives such that if an officer can "wrist flick" the knife blade open and the knife blade locks open, that knife is an illegal gravity knife. NYC  takes this position even if it requires multiple tries and use of exaggerated arm thrust or motion. Using this interpretation, most any lockblade knife might be deemed an illegal gravity knife.  If you are arrested for possession of an "illegal knife" in New York, please immediately contact Knife Rights at: nycity@KnifeRights.org

The links below are in chronological order:

June 17, 2010: Manhattan District Attorney Shakes Down Honest Knife Retailers

Knife Rights Contests DA's Claims, Tactics in Knife Retailer Shakedown

NYC Outrage Latest Update

New Yorker Gives Thanks to Knife Rights Foundation

Ironic WSJ Article Features Knives NYC Citizens Can't Buy

June 9, 2011: Knife Rights Sues New York City and NYC District Attorney

Original NYC Complaint

New York City's Motion to Dismiss

Knife Rights Response in Opposition to New York City's Motion to Dismiss

DA Vance's Motion to Dismiss

Knife Rights Response in Opposition to DA's Motion to Dismiss

Amended Complaint with additional plaintiffs

Judge Throws Out NYC & DA Motions in NYC Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit - Amended Complaint OK'd

Knife Rights To Appeal Outrageous NYC Ruling! Obama-Appointed Judge Says Those Arrested in NYC Have No Standing to Sue!

 
 
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