Defending and indemnifying officers and employees of the State involved in litigation
Public Officers Law §§17 and 19
In the event an officer or an employee of the State as the employer is sued in connection some alleged act or omission in the performance of his or her official duties, he or she may seek representation by the State and indemnification in the event he or she is held liable for damages and fees under certain circumstances.*
§17 of the Public Officers Law applies with respect to civil proceedings and provides for the defense and indemnification of officers and employees as defined in Subdivision 1 of §17 in the event such an individual is in a civil action or proceeding in any state or federal court arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred or is alleged in the complaint to have occurred while the individual was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties; or which is brought to enforce a provision of 42 USC 1981 or 42 USC 1983 [Federal Civil Rights Acts]. This duty, however, does not arise where the civil action or proceeding is brought by or on behalf of the State.
The State’s duty to defend or indemnify and save harmless the individual is subject to the following conditions::
1. The individual’s delivery of the original or a copy of any summons, complaint, process, notice, demand or pleading within five days after he or she is served with such document to the Attorney General or an Assistant Attorney General at an office of the Department of Law in the State, and
2. The full cooperation of the individual in the defense of such action or proceeding and in defense of any action or proceeding against the State based upon the same act or omission, and in the prosecution of any appeal.
The timely delivery of such documents is deemed a request by the individual that the State provide for his or her defense and indemnification pursuant to §17.
§19 of the Public Officers Law applies in criminal actions and provides for the State to pay reasonable attorneys' fees and litigation expenses incurred by or on behalf of an officer or employee of the State as the employer in his or her defense of a criminal proceeding in a State or Federal court:
1. arising out of any act which the individual was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties upon his or her acquittal or upon the dismissal of the criminal charges against him or her or
2. incurred in connection with an appearance before a grand jury which returns no true bill against the individual where the individual's appearance was required as a result of any act which occurred while the individual was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties if such appearance did not occur in the normal course of the public employment or duties of the individual.
However, such reimbursement is also conditioned on (a) the individual’s timely delivery of a written request for such reimbursement of expenses together with, in the case of a criminal proceeding, the original or a copy of an accusatory instrument within ten days after he or she was arraigned pursuant to such instrument or, in the case of an appearance before a grand jury, written evidence of such an appearance. Such an item is to be delivered to the Attorney General or an Assistant Attorney General at an office of the Department of Law in the State.
In the event a request for reimbursement for reasonable attorneys' fees or litigation expenses or both made by, or on behalf of, the individual, the Attorney General is to investigate and review of the facts and circumstances involved and determine whether such reimbursement shall be paid. The Attorney General is to then notify the individual in writing of that determination.
Another condition to be met by the individual:seeking such reimbursement is his or her full cooperation in the defense of any action or proceeding against the State based upon the same act, and in the prosecution of any appeal.
* §18 of the Public Officers Law authorizes a political subdivision of the State to adopt a law, by-law, rule, resolution or regulation providing for the defense and indemnification of the entity’s officers and employees.