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January 04, 2011

Judicial review of a disciplinary action

Judicial review of a disciplinary action
Horgan v Safir, 273 AD2d 135; Motion for leave to appeal denied, 95 NY2d 765

A court’s review of an administrative decision following a hearing is significantly more limited than would be the case when a higher court considers an appeal from a trial court’s ruling. This limitation proved critical in the Appellate Division, First Department’s consideration of the Horgan case.

New York City police officer John Horgan was found guilty of using discourteous and disrespectful remarks concerning race following an administrative disciplinary hearing. The penalty imposed: forfeiture of 20 days of vacation. Horgan appealed the Police Commissioner’s determination.

The Appellate Division dismissed Horgan’s appeal. The court, however, specifically commented that it had to dismiss the appeal despite the fact that if the Commissioner’s determination was reviewed under the standards applicable to a trial court decision, it would have been disposed to annul it as against the weight of the credible evidence.

The Appellate Division said that courts have very limited review powers over administrative agency determinations. Accordingly, it said that it was constrained to confirm [the Commissioner’s] findings in the disciplinary hearing, citing Berenhaus v Ward, 70 NY2d 436.

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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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