April 5, 2016

Additional judicial scrutiny required in reviewing a compulsory arbitration proceeding


Additional judicial scrutiny required in reviewing a compulsory arbitration proceeding
Hamilton v Alley, 2016 NY Slip Op 01928, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

William E. Hamilton, a tenured administrator  employed by Jordan-Elbridge Central School District [District], was terminated from his position following a disciplinary hearing conducted pursuant to Education Law §3020-a(5). Hamilton initiated an Article 75 action challenging his dismissal by the District, seeking a court order directing his reinstatement to his former position with the District.*

With respect to Thomas’ contention that Supreme Court “failed to apply the correct standard of review,” the Appellate Division said that in its view the lower court “properly identified and applied the ‘additional layer of judicial scrutiny’ applicable to a compulsory arbitration proceeding,** and it recognized and appropriately decided the matter on the basis that the arbitrator's decision had evidentiary support and was not arbitrary and capricious.”

As the court held in City School District of New York v McGraham, 17 NY3d 917, such “additional layer of judicial scrutiny” involves the court finding that the award has “evidentiary support” and “neither being arbitrary nor capricious.”

Although the Appellate Division concluded that “there was no rational basis for the Hearing Officer to apply the crime exception with respect to amended charges Nos. 7 and 8” and modified the order accordingly, this did not affect the penalty imposed on Thomas, termination.

Although Thomas contended that the Hearing Officer had imposed an inappropriate penalty, termination,” the Appellate Division opined that "[i]n light of the litany of specifications proven against [Thomas], the penalty of dismissal does not shock the conscience."

* The Appellate Division noted that Supreme Court erred in determining that Thomas’ special proceeding was not timely commenced and that his supporting papers and amended petition were not timely served. However, said the court, in any event Supreme Court addressed the merits of Thomas’ amended petition.

** See Powell v Board of Educ. of Westbury Union Free School Dist., 91 AD3d 955, summarized at http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2012/02/where-arbitration-is-statutorily.html

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
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