August 31, 2012

Using hearsay evidence in a disciplinary hearing


Using hearsay evidence in a disciplinary hearing
Saunders v City of New York, App. Div., First Dept., 273 A.D.2d 103, motion for leave to appeal denied, 95 N.Y.2d 766

A New York City police officer was terminated from his position after being found guilty of having "assaulted and caused physical injuries” to two individuals.

The officer appealed, contending that the Commissioner's determination was not supported by substantial evidence because it was based on hearsay. The Appellate Division disagreed, holding that "[t]he hearsay statements of the complainants were sufficiently probative to constitute substantial evidence."

According to the decision "[h]earsay may constitute substantial evidence where, as here, it is sufficiently reliable and probative on the issues to be determined."

This, in turn, depends on the credibility of the witnesses. The issue of the credibility of the witnesses at the officer's departmental disciplinary hearing, said the court, "was a matter to be assessed by the Deputy Commissioner who presided at the trial.”

Accordingly, said the court, determinations concerning the credibility of witnesses "is largely beyond our power of review."

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