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August 30, 2017

Applying the doctrine of primary jurisdiction


Applying the Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction
2017 NY Slip Op 02192, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

In 2003 the petitioner-plaintiff [Petitioner] was notified by her employer,  Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services [BOCES], that her position as a tenured teacher of gifted and talented elementary school students had been abolished. Petitioner's name was then placed on a preferred eligible list for reappointment to the same or a similar position in accordance with Education Law §3013(3)(a).

Petitioner subsequently learned that BOCES had created a teacher position in a universal prekindergarten [UPK] program in one of the BOCES' component school districts. Despite declining offers of that position in December 2007 and June 2008, Petitioner brought this "hybrid plenary action and CPLR Article 78 proceeding"

In her petition-complaint, Petitioner advanced various theories alledging that BOCES violated her "recall from the preferred list" rights under the Education Law and sought "reappointment to the UPK teacher position, with back pay and benefits and restored pension credit, retroactive to 2005," at which time BOCES had allegedly established the UPK position. Supreme Court, after granting Petitioner's motions to reargue, dismissed her petition in its entirety based on the Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction.* The court had concluded that the issue of whether the former and new positions are similar for the purposes of §3013(3)(a) is for the Commissioner of Education to resolve in the first instance. Petitioner appealed Supreme Court's decision to the Appellate Division.

The Appellate Division sustained the lower court's rulings with respect to Petitioner's motions to reargue, which had been granted, holding that Supreme Court, in the person of the newly assigned Individual Assignment System (IAS) Judge, properly entertained and granted Petitioner's motion for leave to reargue. The Appellate Division then said the Supreme Court, after granting Petitioner motions to reargue, properly dismissed her petition relying on the Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction.

The Appellate Division explained that in this instance the Commissioner of Education "has the specialized knowledge and expertise" to resolve the factual issue of whether Petitioner's former position with BOCES  as a teacher of gifted and talented elementary school students and the new UPK teacher position are similar within the meaning of §3013(3)(a) of the Education Law.

Citing Hessney v Board of Education of Public Schools of Tarrytowns, 228 AD2d 954, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court properly dismissed Petitioner's action as she had failed to timely appeal the matter to the Commissioner of Education.

* Applying the Doctrine of Primary Jurisdiction permits a court to refer an issue to an administrative agency for its determination when the issue is within the agency's purview and expertise. Should a party challenge the administrative determination, the administrative agency's decision may be, if timely appealed, addressed by the court.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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