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October 22, 2012

Court rules that it lacks jurisdiction to consider a motion to vacate an arbitrator’s action absent a “final award”


Court rules that it lacks jurisdiction to consider a motion to vacate an arbitrator’s action absent a “final award”
Jordan-Elbridge Central School District v Anonymous, RJI #33-12-2305, Index #2012-35852, Supreme Court Onondaga County, Justice Donald A. Greenwood

An Education Department-appointed Section 3020-a arbitrator directed the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District to produce e-mails exchanged between and among ten individuals over a three-year period demanded by Anonymous, upon whom disciplinary charges had been served, in the course of discovery.*

The school district, claiming that the arbitrator had exceed his authority in directing it to provide copies of these e-mails to Anonymous, asked Judge Greenwood to vacate the arbitrator’s order.

Anonymous, in rebuttal, asked the court to dismiss Jordan-Elbridge’s petition on the grounds that the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the matter. The court agreed, commenting that “The law is well settled that in order for [it] to intervene or even entertain a suit seeking court intervention there must be an [arbitration] award within the meaning of [CPLR 7511],“ citing Mobile Oil Indonesia v Asamora Oil, 43 NY2d 276.

Further, said Justice Greenwood, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, addressed this issue in Geneva City School District v Anonymous, 77 AD3d 1365, and held that the hearing officer’s granting summary judgment dismissing eleven of sixteen then pending disciplinary charges constituted an “interim award” rather than a final determination and thus the court did not have jurisdiction to consider the district's objections to such dismissals at that time.

Accordingly, the court granted Anonymous’ motion to dismiss the school district’s petition for lack of jurisdiction.

* Although discovery is not generally available in administrative disciplinary proceedings, Education Law §3020-a.3 c.(iii)(C) , which controls in the discipline of educators, however, specifically provides for discovery.

The court’s ruling is included in a newspaper report of the decision by reporter Catie O’Toole appearing in the Syracuse Post-Standard, October 19, 2012 and posted on the Internet at:
http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2012/10/jordan-elbridge_school_distric_13.html

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