José A. Cabranes : biography
United States v. Yousef, 327 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2003), cert. denied 540 U.S. 933 (2003): Cabranes, writing jointly with other members of the panel, held that the district court erroneously concluded that the acts charged in one of the counts against the defendant were offenses against the law of nations that supported the exercise of universal jurisdiction. Cabranes concluded that customary international law currently does not provide for the prosecution of "terrorist" acts under the universality principle, in part due to the failure of States to achieve anything like consensus on the definition of terrorism. Cabranes nonetheless held that prosecution and conviction of the defendant on the count in question was both consistent with and required by the United States’ treaty obligations and domestic laws.
Flores v. Southern Peru Copper Corporation, 343 F.3d 140 (2d Cir. 2003): Cabranes, writing for the panel, held that customary international law, for the violation of which an alien has a private right of action under Alien Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1350, is limited to those clear and unambiguous rules by which states universally abide, or to which they accede, out of a sense of legal obligation and mutual concern. Cabranes concluded that the rights to life and health are insufficiently definite to constitute rules of customary international law and that plaintiffs, who alleged that Peruvian operations of an American mining company had caused severe lung disease, have not submitted evidence sufficient to establish that customary international law prohibits intranational pollution.
Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kerik, 356 F.3d 197 (2d Cir. 2004), cert. denied 125 S. Ct. 655 (2004): Cabranes, writing for the panel, upheld New York’s anti-mask statute against constitutional challenge, holding that masks worn by self-described members of an "unincorporated political membership association that advocates on behalf of the white race and the Christian faith" did not constitute expressive conduct entitled to first amendment protection. Cabranes concluded that where a statute banning conduct imposes a burden on the wearing of an element of an expressive uniform, which element has no independent or incremental expressive value, the first amendment is not implicated.
Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549 (2d Cir. 2005): Cabranes, writing for the panel, affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a suit alleging excessive force on the part of New York police officers. Cabranes held that, notwithstanding the general rule that district courts may not weigh evidence or assess the credibility of witnesses at the summary judgment stage, a district court may grant summary judgment where a plaintiff relies almost exclusively on his own testimony and that testimony is "so replete with inconsistencies and improbabilities" that no reasonable juror would undertake the suspension of disbelief necessary to credit he allegations made in the complaint.
Hayden v. Pataki, 449 F.3d 305 (2d Cir. 2006) (en banc): Cabranes, writing for a majority of the en banc court, held that section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, did not extend to a New York statute that disenfranchised currently incarcerated felons and parolees, N.Y. Elec. Law §5-106. Cabranes held that Congress did not intend to include prisoner disenfranchisement provisions of the type adopted by New York within the coverage of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and that Congress made no clear statement of an intent to modify the federal balance by applying the Voting Rights Act to these provisions.
Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2007): In a concurring opinion, Cabranes urged the Supreme Court to revisit and clarify its precedents on pleading standards in order to determine whether they strike the right balance between the need to deter unlawful conduct and the dangers of exposing public officials to burdensome litigation. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider the adequacy of the pleadings in this case. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 128 S.Ct. 2931 (2008).