January 20, 2016

Reliance on case law relating to a provision of a law alleged to be analogous may be misplaced where the issue under consideration is governed by a different statute

Reliance on case law relating to a provision of a law alleged to be analogous may be misplaced where the issue under consideration is governed by a different statute
Gandin v Unified Ct. Sys. of State of N.Y., 2016 NY Slip Op 00186, Appellate Division, Second Department

David Gandin commenced employment as a confidential law secretary to an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, at a salary grade of JG-531. He resigned from that position in 2008, at which time his salary grade was JG-531, with his rate of pay reflecting annual salary increments based upon his two years of service.

More than four years later Gandin returned to the employ of the New York State Unified Court System [UCS] and was appointed as a principal law clerk at a hiring rate salary grade of JG-531. Gandin then requested salary increment credit for the annual salary increments he had earned during his two years of prior service. In a letter dated July 22, 2013, Gandin was advised that his request had been denied by UCS and the Office of Court Administration [OCA].

Gandin sued USC and OCA and Supreme Court granted petition and annulled the UCS and OCA determination and directed that Gandin be paid a salary reflecting a credit for previously earned annual salary increments, and back pay and benefits retroactive to January 2, 2013.

The Appellate Division explained that although "An administrative agency's interpretation of the statute it is charged with implementing is entitled to varying degrees of judicial deference depending upon the extent to which the interpretation relies upon the special competence the agency is presumed to have developed in its administration of the statute" when the interpretation of a statute is one of " pure statutory reading and analysis, dependent only on accurate apprehension of legislative intent, there is little basis to rely on any special competence or expertise of the administrative agency' and the legal interpretation is ultimately the court's responsibility." Further, said the court, “in attempting to effectuate the intent of the Legislature, ‘the best evidence . . . is the plain language of the statute.’"

Turning to the relevant statute, Judiciary Law §37(7), the court noted that §37(7), in pertinent part, provides that "Appointments, transfers and reinstatements to similar grade positions. If an employee is transferred to a similar position, or is appointed or reinstated to a position in the same salary grade . . . [a]n employee so appointed, transferred or reinstated shall be eligible to receive the increments in the schedule established for the new position based upon the number of [the employee's] years of service in the new position and in [the employee's] former position" (emphasis supplied by the Appellate Division).

§37, said the court, does not require that an employee have continuous or uninterrupted employment with the State in order to obtain such salary increment credit and “a fair reading of the language of Judiciary Law §37(7) leads to the conclusion that the [Gandin] was eligible to receive the appropriate salary increment credit when he was appointed to a position in the same salary grade as that which he held when he was previously employed by UCS.

UCS and OCA had contend that a similar, but not identical, provision set out in Civil Service Law §131(4) had been interpreted to require "continuous service" in order for an employee to be eligible for a salary increment credit.

The Appellate Division agreed with the Supreme Court’s rejection of that argument, holding that UCS/OCA’s reliance on case law relating to what was claimed to be an analogous provision in the Civil Service Law was misplaced as “this matter was governed by the Judiciary Law” and dismissed the appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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