The Fourth Department affirmed the summary denial of defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction on ineffective assistance grounds. Defendant argued his counsel was ineffective because counsel did not object to defendant’s being forced to wear a stun belt. The two-justice dissent noted that the ground on which the majority based its decision, i.e., that defense counsel’s failure to object did not rise to ineffective assistance, was not the ground relied on by the motion court. Therefore, the dissent argued, the appellate court could not affirm on that ground:
From the dissent:
The court summarily denied the motion, concluding in relevant part that defendant is not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim because we determined on direct appeal that he was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel … . The majority affirms that ruling on another ground, one not argued by the People on appeal—namely, that defense counsel’s failure to object to the stun belt, standing alone, was not such an egregious or prejudicial error as to compromise defendant’s right to a fair trial. Because the court did not deny defendant’s motion on the ground relied upon by the majority, we are precluded from affirming on that ground (see People v Concepcion, 17 NY3d 192, 197-198 ; People v LaFontaine, 92 NY2d 470, 473-474 , rearg denied 93 NY2d 849 ). People v Bradford, 2022 NY Slip Op 02897, Fourth Dept 4-29-22
Practice Point: Although the argument was made in the dissent in this case, it is worth noting that there is authority for the position that an appellate court cannot affirm on a ground not relied upon by the lower court.