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April 7, 2011

A party seeking a writ of prohibition barring a judicial or quasi-judicial tribunal from acting on a matter before it has the burden of persuasion

A party seeking a writ of prohibition barring a judicial or quasi-judicial tribunal from acting on a matter before it has the burden of persuasion
Matter of North Syracuse Cent. School Dist. v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 2011 NY Slip Op 02604, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The significant issue in this action: Should Supreme Court have granted North Syracuse Central School District’s petition seeking a “writ of prohibition” barring the New York State Division of Human Rights from taking further action on a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination filed with it.*

The Appellate Division decided that Supreme Court should not have issued such a writ, explaining that "[t]he Court of Appeals has held that a writ of prohibition is not an appropriate vehicle to be used to bar [respondent] from conducting an investigation because the [r]emedy for asserted error of law in the exercise of [respondent's] jurisdiction or authority lies first in administrative review' " [Matter of Tessy Plastics Corp. v State Div. of Human Rights, 47 NY2d 789].

As the Division "has jurisdiction to investigate complaints of discrimination and any error of law in the exercise of that jurisdiction must first be challenged by administrative review before judicial review pursuant to §298 of the Executive Law is available . . . The extraordinary writ of prohibition does not lie to challenge [respondent's] initial acceptance of jurisdiction over a complaint of discrimination.”

Finding that North Syracuse had not established the "futility of the administrative remedy; irreparable harm in the absence of prompt judicial intervention; or a claim of unconstitutional action," the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court “erred in prohibiting [the Division] from taking further action on the complaint.

* The writ of prohibition is one of number of the ancient “common law” writs and is issued by a higher tribunal to a lower tribunal to "prohibit" the adjudication of a matter then pending before the lower tribunal on the grounds that the lower tribunal "lacked jurisdiction."  Other such ancients writs include a writ a writ of mandamus, granted by a court to compel an official to perform "acts that officials are duty-bound to perform;" the writ of injunction - a judicial order preventing a public official from performing an act; the writ of "certiorari," compelling a lower court to send its record of a case to the higher tribunal for review by the higher tribunal; and the writ of “quo warranto” [by what authority]. The Civil Practice Law and Rules sets out the modern equivalents of the surviving ancient writs.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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