Irresistible impulse as a defense in a disciplinary action
Perry v Comm. of Labor, 283 AD2d 754
Readers may recall that in the 1959 movie Anatomy of a Murder actor James Stewart successfully defended an individual indicted for murder on the theory his client's actions were the product of an “irresistible impulse.”
Unemployment insurance claimant John K. Perry was not as successful with this theory in challenging a determination by the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board denying him benefits after finding that his employment was terminated due to his misconduct.
The nature of Perry's alleged misconduct: his misuse of his employer's computer equipment.
Perry, a human resource specialist, was terminated after his employer discovered that he used his computer terminal to frequently access pornographic websites during working hours.
Perry's defense: his behavior was nonvolitional given his “impulse control disorder”. He produced a letter from his psychologist indicating that he suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder displayed in the form of obsessive behavior such as accessing pornographic websites. However, said the court, the evidence failed to establish that Perry was unable to control this impulse while working.
The Appellate Division's conclusion:
Since Perry disregarded his employer's policy against accessing inappropriate websites at work, substantial evidence supports the Board's decision that Perry lost his employment due to disqualifying misconduct.