WATERTOWN — A state appellate court Friday upheld state Supreme Court Judge James P. McClusky’s January 2019 decision that denied a transgender woman’s attempt to have the state Division of Human Rights investigate her alleged treatment by police following her September 2017 arrest.
DeAnna LeTray, through the New York Civil Liberties Union, had brought action in December 2018 against the Division of Human Rights, the Watertown City Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s departments after the division refused to hear her claims that she was discriminated against by police based on her transgender status.
Ms. LeTray was charged Sept. 28, 2017, with fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing government administration and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance following a domestic incident.
Ms. LeTray, who was arrested under the name of Anthony Campanaro, claimed police made derogatory and harassing statements about her gender identity, including calling her a man and asking, “How long have you done that?” and “How long have you dressed like that,” according to the suit.
She filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights, which dismissed the matter because the division claimed it has no jurisdiction over police agencies. NYCLU filed suit charging that police agencies are “public accommodations” and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the Division of Human Rights.
In his decision, Judge McClusky said the court was bound to uphold the Division of Human Rights’ determination unless it found that the division’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious or an error of law.” Judge McClusky wrote that courts have “routinely” held that correctional facilities, comprehensive alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs and state Office of Mental Health detention centers are not considered public accommodations.
The judge noted that while some services provided by police, such as fingerprinting and educational programs, are available to the general public and could be considered public accommodations, the investigation of crimes and ensuing arrests are not.
“Investigating crimes and arresting citizens are services for the betterment of society but are not services open to the public,” Judge McClusky wrote. “Certainly we expect police to treat all citizens with respect, however where there are allegations of abuse the complaining individuals do not have the right to have the (Division of Human Rights) investigate those complaints.”
Judge McClusky noted that Ms. LeTray alleged, in part, that she was arrested because of her transgender status and was seeking to have the Division of Human Rights consider whether this status factored into probable cause for her arrest.
“Understandably, the State Legislature never intended the (Division of Human Rights) to second guess our state’s criminal courts,” the judge wrote.
Judge McClusky further wrote that while Ms. LeTray was placed in a holding cell, this “does not meet the definition of a sleeping place” as defined under state Executive Law relative to housing accommodations.
“The purpose of the holding cell at issue is to hold a detainee until Court is available for an arraignment,” Judge McClusky wrote. “Detainees have been known to sleep in transport vehicles, interview rooms, court rooms and anywhere else they may find themselves for a period of time. The fact that detainees fall asleep in such places does not transform them into housing accommodations.”
Ms. LeTray appealed the ruling and in a decision released Friday by the state Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the higher court agreed with Judge McClusky and supported the Division of Human Rights’ conclusion “that it lacked jurisdiction” over Ms. LeTray’s complaint.