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February 14, 2014

A court’s review of an administrative hearing conducted pursuant to law is limited


A court’s review of an administrative hearing conducted pursuant to law is limited
2014 NY Slip Op 00663, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Civil Service Law §75 disciplinary hearing officer found the employee against whom disciplinary charges and specifications had been filed [Petitioner] guilty of certain disciplinary charges and recommended that the employee be terminated from the position. The Board of the Public Library adopted the hearing officer’s findings and recommendation as to the penalty to be imposed and dismissed Petitioner.

The Appellate Division confirmed the Board’s action on the merits and dismissed Petitioner’s Article 78 compliant seeking to overturn the Board’s decision, with costs. 

The court said “Judicial review of an administrative determination made after a hearing at which evidence is taken pursuant to direction of law is limited to a consideration of whether that determination was supported by substantial evidence upon the whole record,” citing 300 Gramatan Ave. Assoc. v State Div. of Human Rights, 45 NY2d 176 and other decisions.

Quoting from Matter of Berenhaus v Ward, 70 NY2d 436, the Appellate Division explained that in the event there is conflicting evidence or different inferences may be drawn from the evidence, "the duty of weighing the evidence and making the choice rests solely upon the [administrative agency]. The courts may not weigh the evidence or reject the choice made by [such agency] where the evidence is conflicting and room for choice exists."

In this instance any credibility issue was resolved by the hearing officer and the Appellate Division found no basis upon which to disturb the hearing officer's determination as it was supported by substantial evidence.

Rejecting Petitioner's argument to the contrary, the court ruled that under the circumstances presented, the penalty of termination of Petitioner's employment was not so disproportionate to the offense committed as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness, citing the Pell Doctrine [Pell v Board of Educ. of Union Free School Dist. No. 1 of Towns of Scarsdale & Mamaroneck, Westchester County, 34 NY2d 222].

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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