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August 20, 2010

Pre-determination hearings not required unless a deprivation of a property or liberty interest is threatened

Pre-determination hearings not required unless a deprivation of a property or liberty interest is threatened
Taylor v NYS Dept. of Correctional Services, 248 A.D.2d 799

A psychologist advised a correctional facility’s superintendent that State Corrections Officer Mark Taylor “was dangerous and may lose impulse control at any time.” Taylor “became belligerent and abusive” when the psychologist refused to give him a copy of a report that he had prepared for Family Court. Taylor refused repeated requests to leave the psychologist’s office and ultimately police officers were called and escorted him from the office.

The superintendent then prohibited Taylor from carrying a concealed weapon while off-duty.*

Taylor complained that he was denied due process because he was not provided with a “predetermination hearing” before the superintendent prohibited him from carrying a weapon while he was off duty

The rules of the state Correctional Services Department allow it to prohibit an employee from carrying a weapon while off duty if it determines “the employee’s mental or emotional condition is such that his or her possession of a weapon represents a threat to the safety of the employee, the facility or the community.”

According to the Appellate Division’s ruling in the Taylor case, the right to a pre-determination hearing depends on whether or not the individual can demonstrate that administrative decision constituted involved some deprivation of a “property interest” or a “liberty interest.” The Appellate Division said the superintendent had not deprived Taylor of any such “liberty interest.”

The Court next addressed the “property interest” aspect of the case. How does an individual establish a property interest? By showing, said the Court, that he or she has a “legitimate claim of entitlement to it.”

The Appellate Division pointed out that it had previously ruled that the exemption set out in Section 265.20 “is not a vested right.” Accordingly, it did not constitute a property interest for the purposes of invoking claims to any right of due process.

Finding that the superintendent had a rational basis for the action and thus was neither arbitrary nor capricious, the Appellate Division dismissed Taylor’s appeal.

* Section 265.20 of the State Penal Law gives State correction officers a statutory exemption from prosecution for criminal possession of a weapon.

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New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
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