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September 12, 2017

Procedural errors to avoid in an appeal submitted to the Commissioner of Education


Procedural errors to avoid in an appeal submitted to the Commissioner of Education
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,166

In this appeal the School District contended, among other things, that the Petitioner's application was untimely, constituted a "class appeal," and that the Petition had not been properly verified. In addition, with respect to Petitioner's reply, the School District claimed that it "should not be considered to the extent it raises new assertions or contains new exhibits."

The School District's objection to a "class appeal"

Addressing the issue of a "class appeal", the Commissioner said Petitioner's attempt to bring this appeal on behalf of individuals who “either reside or own properties within" the School District, such an appeal may only be maintained on behalf of a class where [1] the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable and [2] where all questions of fact and law are common to all members of the class.

The Commissioner denied class status, explaining that other than identifying the proposed class as residents or property owners within the district, Petitioner’s pleadings did not include any allegations meeting the requirements for a class appeal set out in 8 NYCRR §275.2.  In particular, the Commissioner noted that the Petitioner failed to identify the number of class members and offered no explanation of how all questions of fact and law would be common to all residents and property owners of the School District.

The School District's Objection to the verification of the petition

With respect to the School District 's claim that the petition was not properly verified, the Commissioner, citing 8 NYCRR §275.5[a], said that such a petition must be verified by the oath of a petitioner. However, in this instance the petition had been verified by the attorney for the Petitioner and the attorney was not a party to the appeal. Accordingly, said the Commissioner, the verification was improper.

The School District's objection to the Petitioner's reply

As to the School District's objections with respect to Petitioner's reply, the Commissioner said the Petitioner's “Reply Affidavit” included additional facts and exhibits concerning the School District that were not in the petition.

A reply, said the Commissioner, "is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been in the petition." Accordingly, the Commissioner said that she would not considered those portions of the reply that contained "new allegations or exhibits that are not responsive to new material or affirmative defenses set forth in the answer" in her review of Petitioner's reply.

Finally, the Commissioner ruled that the petition was timely but that even had not be dismissed on procedural grounds, "it would be dismissed on the merits."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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