Monday, June 29, 2015

Guidelines for the promulgating of rules and regulations by an administrative agency


Guidelines for the promulgating of rules and regulations by an administrative agency
Greater N.Y. Taxi Assn. v New York City Taxi & Limousine Commn., Court of Appeals, 2015 NY Slip Op 05514

In this case the Court of Appeals addresses the separation of powers doctrine in cases where a legislative body delegates to an administrative agency the power to “fill in the details” of the legislation by adopting rules and, or, regulations. 

The basic standard: the rules or regulations adopted by an administrative agency to implement a statute may not be inconsistent with the statutory language nor inconsistent with the underlying purposes of the legislation authorizing the promulgation of such rules or regulation.

The genesis of the case was the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission’s [TLC] efforts to replace the Checker cab -- "the iconic taxi of yesteryear "– with “an iconic Taxi of Tomorrow” [ToT] by adopting certain rules setting new standards for such vehicles.

An association of medallion owners and an individual owner of a taxi fleet commenced a combined CPLR Article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action, seeking to invalidate the ToT rules and obtain a related declaration. The complaint alleged, among other things, that the TLC lacked authority to enact the ToT rules and violated the separation of powers doctrine in doing so.

Supreme Court held that the TLC had exceeded its authority under the City Charter and had violated the separation of powers by intruding in the City Council's domain. The court then declared that the ToT rules were invalid [42 Misc 3d 324]. The Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court’s decision [see 121 AD3d 21].

Citing Boreali v Axelrod, 71 NY2d 1, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division’s ruling.

The court said that the issues of delegation of power and separation of powers overlap and are often considered together, noting that “if an [administrative] agency was not delegated the authority to enact certain rules, then it would usurp the authority of the legislative branch by enacting those rules,” explaining that “[t]he constitutional principle of separation of powers . . . requires that the [l]egislature make the critical policy decisions, while the executive branch's responsibility is to implement those policies." Further, said the court, “as long as the legislature makes the basic policy choices, the legislation need not be detailed or precise as to the agency's role.”

In Boreali, the Court of Appeals set out four "coalescing circumstances" that are non-mandatory, somewhat-intertwined factors for courts to consider when determining whether an administrative agency has crossed the hazy "line between administrative rule-making and legislative policy-making:"

1. Did the agency do more than "balanc[e] costs and benefits according to preexisting guidelines," but instead made "value judgments entail[ing] difficult and complex choices between broad policy goals" to resolve social problems?”

2. Did the agency merely fill in details of a broad policy or "wrote on a clean slate, creating its own comprehensive set of rules without benefit of legislative guidance?"

3. Was the legislature unsuccessfully in reaching reach agreement on the issue, which would indicate that the matter is a policy consideration for the elected body to resolve?

4. Whether the agency must use its special expertise or competence in the field to develop the challenged rules or regulations.

In this case the Court of Appeals concluded that “[g]iven the broad statutory powers granted to the TLC to set policy as guided by enumerated safeguards and guidelines, the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commissiondid not exceed its authority or intrude on the City Council's domain in violation of the separation of powers doctrine by enacting the ToT rules.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

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Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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