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Monday, February 18, 2013

Opportunity to cross-examination witnesses a critical element to due process in quasi-judicial administrative proceedings


Opportunity to cross-examination witnesses a critical element to due process in quasi-judicial administrative proceedings
Barber v New York State Off. of Victim Servs, 2013 NY Slip Op 00958, Appellate Division, Third Department

An individual [Applicant] installed certain security and surveillance devices in response to alleged stalking and harassment the Applicant had experienced. Applicant filed a request for reimbursement for the cost of such devices with the State’s Office of Victim Services, which application was rejected on the ground that Applicant failed to prove that a crime had been committed.

Applicant appealed and a hearing was conducted by a three-member panel of the Office of Victim Services. The panel affirmed the disallowance of Applicant ‘s claim.

In response to Applicant‘s challenging the panel’s determination, the Appellate Division said that notwithstanding the substantial evidence in the record to support Victim Service’s denial of Applicant’s claim, reversal of the ruling was required because Applicant was not provided with the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses providing testimony at the hearing.

According to the decision, although the panel was advised that Applicant was waiting in the lobby for the hearing to begin, the panel members conducting the hearing made the affirmative decision to take the testimony from one of the witnesses without the Applicant being present. Further, Applicant was only invited to attend the hearing following the conclusion of that witness's testimony and Applicant was asked to leave the hearing after testifying. Then, said the court, testimony was taken from a second witness without Applicant being present.

The Appellate Division ruled that as Applicant was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, the panel’s determination must be annulled and the matter remitted to Victim Services for a new hearing.

The court explained that "Regardless of the merits in a particular case, a party whose rights are being determined at a quasi-judicial administrative hearing must be given the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses," citing Matter of Seeger v Moduform, Inc., 146 AD2d at 923.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_00958.htm

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