Covey v. Town of Somers

RESPONDENT: Town of Somers

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)

ARGUED: Mar 29, 1956
DECIDED: May 07, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for Covey v. Town of Somers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1956 (Part 1) in Covey v. Town of Somers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1956 (Part 2) in Covey v. Town of Somers

Earl Warren:

Mr. Koegel --

Otto E. Koegel:

May it please the Court.

I have heard it said many times that hard cases make bad law, it might make bad law and I hasten therefore to make this as least hard as my powers will avail.

There is more than a fake suggestion here that there has been callous indifference on the part of the appellee municipality toward the plight of the incompetent whose affairs are now in the hands of a committee.

In New York, we say committee.

If I mispronounced that word, it's because of my earlier education in Washington where they call it committee, I believe still.

I would like to dispel emphatically any such notion and as quickly as I can.

I'll take just a minute to plea.

I'd like to discuss, sir, but very briefly the municipality and its geography.

Somers is a township called "Towns of New York State," organized in 1788.

It comprises approximately 26,000 acres and some points are eight miles distance -- distant from others.

It is not a homogenous community.

A considerable portion of its population is to be found in so-called Somer developments, housing families from New York City.

Generally, they are adjacent to lakes, privately owned by the property owners associations.

One of several in the community is Lake Purdy, where the property of Nora Brainard, the incompetent here, is situated.

Another is Lake Shenorock, where Mr. King lives, five miles distant.

I have a country home in Hamlet called Granite Springs, seven miles distant from Lake Purdy.

Another community is Lake Lincolndale in the north-central portion of the town.

South Somers is seven miles distant from Lake Purdy's and that is where Mr. Chambers lived.

The town is bisected with lakes belonging to the water supply of New York City.

It takes more than the equivalent time per mile to get from place to place as it would say in Arizona or California.

The town house or seat of government is two miles from Lake Purdy in a building known as the Elephant Hotel, built by Bailey of circus fame to commemorate an elephant he brought into this country.

None of the elected officials from the Town of Somers come from Lake Purdy.

The first attorney for the town in this litigation, Mr. Stanley Anderson, has never lived in the town.

At the time of his employment, he lived at Katonah in the Town of Bedford adjoining, which was the home and place where he died of -- the first Chief Justice of this great Court.

Also living in Katonah in another township is Mr. Covey, the Committee.

He is a lawyer too of this incompetent.

As I have said there is no elected official, public official in the Somers Government from Lake Purdy.

Now, this is not to suggest that Somers official then do not know people in Lake Purdy, they most certainly do.

But everybody's -- everyone's business is not every other person's business in a far flung township as would be the case in a small more closely confined rural town.