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June 29, 2018

US Supreme Court holds it has jurisdiction to review decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces of the United States


US Supreme Court holds it has jurisdiction to review decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces of the United States
Ortiz v. United States, Docket: 16-1423, Government & Administrative Law

In addition to "Company Punishment,"* a non-judicial proceeding, the United States “court-martial system” provides for an initial judicial determination of the guilt or innocence of military personnel charged with one or more violations of the federal Code of Military Justice. If the accused is found guilty, the court levies the punishment to be imposed.**

There are four appellate courts: the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) for, respectively, the Army, Navy-Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. CCA decisions may be subject to review by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). CAAF is a “court of record” composed of five civilian judges.

Keanu Ortiz, an Airman First Class, was convicted by a court-martial of possessing and distributing child pornography. The penalty imposed, two years’ imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge. Ortiz asked the CAAF to review the matter, challenging the qualification of one of its members, Colonel Martin Mitchell, to serve on the CCA panel because he had been appointed to the Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR) by the Secretary of Defense. Further, to moot a possible constitutional problem with the assignment, the President (with the Senate’s advice and consent) also appointed the Colonel Mitchell to the CMCR pursuant to §950f(b)(3).

As Judge Mitchell participated in Ortiz’s CCA appeal, Ortiz claimed that Judge Mitchell’s CMCR appointment barred his continued CCA service under both a statute and the Constitution, contending that the appointment violated §973(b)(2)(A), which provides that unless otherwise authorized by law,” an active-duty military officer “may not hold, or exercise the functions of,” certain “civil office[s]” in the federal government. Ortiz also argued that the Appointments Clause prohibits simultaneous service on the CMCR and the CCA.

The CAAF denied Ortiz's appeal.

Ultimately the Supreme Court said that it had jurisdiction to review the CAAF’s decisions, explaining that "The judicial character and constitutional pedigree of the court-martial system enable this Court, in exercising appellate jurisdiction, to review the decisions of the court sitting at its apex."

The Supreme Court's decision notes that Professor Aditya Bamzai had filed a brief amicus curiae with the Supreme Court contending that cases decided by the CAAF do not fall within Article III’s grant of appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, citing Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, said that then Chief Justice Marshall had explained that “the essential criterion of appellate jurisdiction” is “that it revises and corrects the proceedings in a cause already instituted, and does not create that cause.”

Here, said the Supreme Court, Ortiz’s petition asks the Supreme Court to “revise and correct” the latest decision in a “cause” that began in and progressed through military justice “proceedings.”

Unless, opined the court, Chief Justice Marshall’s test implicitly exempts cases instituted in a military court, the case is now appellate. But, the court concluded, "There is no reason to make that distinction. The military justice system’s essential character is judicial. Military courts decide cases in strict accordance with a body of federal law and afford virtually the same procedural protections to service members as those given in a civilian criminal proceeding. The judgments a military tribunal renders “rest on the same basis, and are surrounded by the same considerations[, as] give conclusiveness to the judgments of other legal tribunals.”

Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the court, in which Justices Roberts,  C. J., and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor joined. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion and Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Gorsuch joined., holding that the Court has appellate jurisdiction to review the CAAF’s decisions. "In exercising that jurisdiction, [the majority said] that Judge Mitchell’s simultaneous service on the CCA and the CMCR violated neither §973(b)(2)(A)’s office-holding ban nor the Constitution’s Appointments Clause" and affirmed the judgment below."


* 10 U.S. Code Chapter 47 - UNIFORM CODE OF MILITARY JUSTICE, §815 - Art. 15. Commanding officer’s non-judicial punishment.

** See, generally, 10 U.S. Code Chapter 47, §816 - Art. 16. Courts-martial classified. See, also, New York State Military Law, Article 7 - Code of Military Justice.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension


A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension
Andino v Mills, 2018 NY Slip Op 04273, Court of Appeals

Does a retired New York City police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits are a collateral source that a court must offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension?

The Court of Appeals held that a New York City retired police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits does so operate by [1] replacing earnings during the period when the officer could have been employed absent the disabling injury and then [2] serving as pension allotments. Accordingly, a court must offset the retiree's projected ADR benefits against the jury award for both categories of economic loss.*

Niurka Andino [Plaintiff] is a retired police officer who was injured on duty while riding in a police car that collided with a vehicle owned by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) and operated by NYCTA employee Ronald Mills [Defendants].

Defendants moved to offset the jury award pursuant to CPLR §4545, which permits a court to find that certain awarded damages were or will, with reasonable certainty, be replaced or indemnified from a collateral source. Defendants contended that "when a police officer retires due to an on-the-job injury that leaves the officer disabled, the ADR benefits allotted to that officer for those years when the officer could have been working, if not for the disability, operate as lost earnings. Once the retired officer reaches the age for regular retirement from service, absent the retirement-inducing injury, ADR benefits serve as a pension."

Andino argued that [1] "there is no direct correspondence between her ADR benefits and the categories of economic loss awarded by the jury" and [2] "that ADR displaces Ordinary Disability Retirement (ODR), and the higher amount of ADR benefits as compared with ODR allotments is paid as a reward for services previously rendered." As the Court of Appeals characterized Andino's argument, "... the premium in ADR benefits as compared to ODR benefits is neither "earnings" nor "pension" but paid in gratitude for past services".

The Court of Appeals explained that ADR benefits, and the text and legislative intent of CPLR §4545, as interpreted by the court in Oden v Chemung County, 87 NY2d 81,** provide the basis for concluding that "ADR benefits operate sequentially as payment for future lost earnings and pension benefits." Accordingly, said the court, on a motion pursuant to CPLR §4545, "a court must apply ADR benefits, dollar-for-dollar, to offset the jury award for future lost earnings during the period they represent lost earnings, and future lost pension during the period they represent lost pension."

The court also rejected Andino's alternative argument that "ADR benefits are a 'reward' for the retiree's service which may not be offset against a jury award" as unpersuasive, explaining that "there is no support in the Administrative Code or CPLR §4545 or any available legislative history to treat ADR benefits as a category on its own, exempt from mandatory offset." In any event, said the court, "even if the Legislature sought to reward service members like Andino, who suffer an injury in the line of duty, that would not change the classification of ADR benefits as a replacement for lost earnings and pension allowances" as there is no legal justification for treating a portion of ADR benefits as a reward based on the 25% differential between ODR and ADR benefits. In the words of the Court of Appeals, "CPLR 4545 anticipates a dollar-for-dollar  offset" and that offset "is based on the category of reimbursement, not on a stratification of the collateral source total amount."

The case was remitted Supreme Court for further proceedings "in accordance with the opinion herein and, as so modified, affirmed," Judges Wilson dissenting in an opinion in which Judge Fahey concured.

* By stipulation, the parties agreed to set the period for future lost earnings at 19.24 years and future lost pension at 17.7 years.

** The specific facts of Oden, said the court, explain why that decision provides a different disposition than is called for Andino's case. In Oden, the plaintiff's private sector retirement pension benefits could not offset the jury's award for his future lost earnings because the pension allotments did "not necessarily correspond to any future earning capacity plaintiff might have had," because Oden "would have been free to earn income from his labor in other capacities without loss of his disability retirement pension benefits."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



June 27, 2018

Employees of a state or a political subdivision of a state may not be required to pay an agency-shop fee to a union unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay such a fee

Employees of a state or a political subdivision of a state may not be required to pay an agency-shop fee to a union unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay such a fee
Janus v American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al, 85 U. S. ____ (2018).

Petitioner Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee whose collective bargaining unit is represented by a public-sector union [Union], refused to join the Union because he opposes many of its positions, including those taken by the Union in the course of collective bargaining. Janus, however, was required to pay an "agency shop fee" in lieu of paying "regular dues" to Union. The Governor of Illinois also opposed to many of the Union's positions and attempted to join in the litigation as a plaintiff but was held to "lack standing."

Janus, contending that the state law authorizing agency fees to be paid to a union representing state employees in collective bargaining was unconstitutional, sued the State of Illinois.

The United States Supreme Court held that the State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violated the First Amendment, overruling its earlier decision in Abood v Detroit Board of Education, 431 U. S. 209.

In Abood the high court ruled that an agency shop fee may cover a union's expenditures attributable to those activities “germane” to the union’s collective-bargaining activities, referred to as chargeable expenditures, but may not cover the union’s political and ideological projects, i.e., nonchargeable expenditures.

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts  and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and, Gorsuch joined. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion and Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and Sotomayor joined.

In the words of the majority, "... States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Individual whose position has been abolished must prove that the appointing authority abolished the position in bad faith or in an effort to circumvent the Civil Service Law


Individual whose position has been abolished must prove that the appointing authority abolished the position in bad faith or in an effort to circumvent the Civil Service Law
Matter of Terry v County of Schoharie, 2018 NY Slip Op 04612, Appellate Division, Third Department

Petitioner in this CPLR Article 78 action alleged that Schoharie County [Schoharie] had abolished her position in violated Civil Service Law §80 as it was done in bad faith and, with respect her federal claims, violated her constitutional rights to due process, equal protection and political affiliation.

Schoharie removed the proceeding to Federal District Court and that court ultimately dismissed all of Plaintiff's federal claims on the merits. The District Court, however, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims and remanded them back to Supreme Court. Supreme Court then granted Schoharie's motion for summary judgment dismissed Plaintiff's petition and Plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Division, indicating that "A public employer may, in the absence of bad faith, collusion or fraud, abolish positions for the purposes of economy or efficiency",  noted that Schoharie had argued that Petitioner's position was abolished as part of a cost-saving measure due to fiscal restraints resulting from flooding caused by Hurricane Irene and was experiencing a loss of population as well as a shrinking tax base and had eliminated positions and restructured several County departments by consolidation or separation of functions. To rebut such proof the Appellate Division said that Petitioner was required to prove "that the abolition of [her] position was brought on by bad faith or in an effort to circumvent the Civil Service Law."

Addressing the issue of Schoharie's alleged bad faith, the Appellate Division said "hat issue was squarely addressed and decided by the District Court in its resolution of Petitioner's federal claims." In dismissing the federal claims, grounded upon the same allegations as those underlying the claimed Civil Service Law violations, the District Court "expressly held that the evidence submitted by [Schoharie] established that Petitioner's position was abolished as a cost-saving measure and that there was no evidence to support Petitioner's "self-serving testimony that [Schoharie] acted in bad faith" or in retaliation for Petitioner's change of political party enrollment.

Noting that the doctrine of collateral estoppel "precludes a party from relitigating an issue which has previously been decided against [him or] her in a proceeding in which [he or] she had a fair opportunity to fully litigate the point," regardless of whether the tribunals or causes of action are the same, the Appellate Division observed that the factual issue of bad faith "was raised, necessarily decided and material in the [District Court], and [Petitioner] had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue." Thus, said the court, Petitioner is barred by the principles of collateral estoppel from relitigating that issue in the course of her Article 78 action.

In the absence of bad faith, Schoharie's showing of an economic justification for the elimination of Petitioner's position could only be countered by proof that "no savings were accomplished or that someone was hired to replace [Petitioner]." Petitioner, however, did not dispute that the reorganization of her department and the concomitant elimination of her position, resulted in fiscal savings to the County or that Schoharie did not replace her.

Although Petitioner contended that many of her duties that Petitioner had been assumed by another Senior Planner and that Schoharie violated the prohibition in Civil Service Law §61(2) against assigning civil servants to out-of-title work by assigning supervisory responsibilities to that Senior Planner, the Appellate Division found that such work "either falls within the official duties set forth in the Senior Planner job classification or is a reasonable and logical outgrowth of those duties."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division concluded that Petitioner failed to raise an issue of fact in response to Schoharie's showing that its actions "were part of a good faith effort to reorganize a municipal department for the purposes of reducing costs and increasing efficiency," her petition was properly dismissed by Supreme Court.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Considering the employee's personnel history is setting a disciplinary penalty


Considering the employee's personnel history is setting a disciplinary penalty
Brizel v City of New York, 2018 NY Slip Op 03755, Appellate Division, First Department

Educator was served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Education Law §3020-a. The Arbitrator found the teacher, who had a 27-year career with the New York City Department of Education, guilty of misconduct and terminating his employment.

The Appellate Division confirmed the arbitration award, noting that the Educator's career, "was not without incident, as evidenced by his 2008 settlement of disciplinary charges." The court then observed that the Arbitrator "properly considered" an earlier settlement of those charges in setting the disiplinary penalty in this instance. In addition the Appellate Division noted that the Educator failed to acknowledge the gravity of his misconduct, continues to deny wrongdoing, and attempted to shift blame to his students.

Considering an employee's personnel history in setting a disciplinary penalty is permitted provided, as the Court of Appeals held in Bigelow v Trustees of the Village of Gouverneur, 63 NY2d 470 and Doyle v Ten Broeck, 52 NY2d 625, the individual is advised that this will be done and is given an opportunity to comment on the contents of his or her personnel file.

Further, as the court noted in Shafer v Board of Fire Commr., Selkirk Fire Dist., 107 AD3d 1229, a series of petty offenses by a single individual may have a cumulative impact in the setting of a penalty. In fact, courts have approved the dismissal of an employee for a series of misdeeds that if considered individually would not have been viewed as justifying termination.

In determining the appropriate penalty to be imposed, relevant issues include considering if this is the employee’s first offense of this nature, or is there a pattern of such offenses and had the employee been disciplined or served with disciplinary notice in the past.

In sustaining the Arbitrator's determination as to the penalty to be imposed in this instance, the Appellate Division said that "Under the circumstances presented, the penalty of termination does not shock our sense of fairness," citing Bolt v New York City Department of Education, 30 NY3d 1065.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

June 26, 2018

Benefits available to certain New York City management personnel modified by subsequent personnel order issued by the mayor


Benefits available to certain New York City management personnel modified by subsequent personnel order issued by the mayor
Matter of Kinach v de Blasio, 2018 NY Slip Op 04425, Appellate Division, First Department

The New York City Mayor's Personnel Order No. 2016/1 established certain paid leave benefits and modified a planned salary increase and reduced the amount of annual leave for managers with 15 or more years of experience. In addition, the order provided that, effective December 22, 2015, such New York City personnel subject to the order would be entitled to 30 days paid parental leave (PPL) every 12-month period for the birth of a child, adoption, or foster care.

MPO 2016/1 modified MPO 2015/1 and MPO 2015/2 by eliminating a 0.47% wage increase scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017 and modified the annual leave schedule for covered titles by eliminating the accrual of the 26th and 27th annual leave days, capping the accrual of annual leave days at 25 days, in order to fund these benefits.

Petitioners, five managers all over the age of forty (40) and not in a collective bargaining unit within the meaning to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law, advanced a number of challenges MPO No. 2016/1 with respect to the modification of the benefits set out in MPO 2015/1 and MPO 2015/2.

Addressing Petitioners' claims of unlawful discrimination based on age, the Appellate Division held that Petitioners "failed to state a claim of age discrimination" as defined in the Administrative Code of City of NY §8-107, the New York City Human Rights Law or Executive Law §296[1][a] the New York State Human Rights Law and the adverse action alleged by Petitioners did not occur under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.

The court explained that the Petitioners' claim [a] was based upon the false premise that women over 40 years of age cannot bear children, [b] ignored the fact that PPL benefits were available to biological fathers, regardless of age, who becomes a parent through adoption or by fostering, and [c] was undercut by Petitioners' submission of data reflecting that members of their age group received PPL benefits.

In the words of the Appellate Division, "MPO No. 2016/1 is facially neutral and applies equally to all covered employees, regardless of age ... and no disparate impact has been shown" by Petitioners.

Addressing Petitioners equal protection argument, the court said Petitioners failed to demonstrate any violation of Article 1, §11 of the New York State Constitution as "MPO No. 2016/1 treats all similarly situated employees alike." Further, the Appellate Division found that the State's "non-impairment clause" set out in Article V, §7, of the State Constitution was "not implicated as the challenged action does not involve a change directly related to retirement benefits.

Considering the Petitioners' arguments challenging the "cost-cutting" measures the City elected to use "to pay for the PPL benefit," the Appellate Division held that the method selected by the City was not arbitrary and capricious and, notwithstanding Petitioners' claim that less extreme cost-cutting measures should have been taken, the court explained that such a belief "does not render [the City's] determination irrational."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated


Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated
Matter of The Professional, Clerical, Tech. Empls. Assn. (Board of Educ. for Buffalo City Sch. Dist.), 2018 NY Slip Op 04128, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Supreme Court granted the petition submitted by The Professional, Clerical, Technical Employees Association [Association] seeking to confirm an arbitration award and denied the Board of Education for Buffalo City School District's [Board] cross petition seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award.

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's ruling, on the law, and vacated the arbitration award, explaining:

1. The arbitration proceeding arose from Board's plan to transfer* certain employees previously assigned to work at a single location to new positions requiring them to alternate between two different work locations.

2. The arbitrator's opinion and award, among other things, found that Board had  involuntarily transferred the Association's grievants "to new positions" in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, and directed the Board to compensate the grievants "for work performed at more than one location from November 30, 2013 until the end of the 2016 Budget Year."

3. Vacatur of the arbitration award is appropriate where the award failed to set forth the manner of computing monetary damages as CPLR Article 75 provides, in pertinent part, that an arbitration award "shall be vacated" where the arbitrator "so imperfectly executed [the award] that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made."**

The court noted that the Board's affidavit in support of the cross petition contained a statement that "none of the affected employees was terminated or had his or her compensation reduced as a result of the allegedly wrongful transfers."

However, said the Appellate Division, the arbitration award does not explain the basis for the arbitrator's directing the Board provide compensation allegedly owed to the grievants, nor does the award detail how that compensation should be calculated. Rather, said the court, "[i]t appears that the arbitrator merely copied verbatim the remedy requested by [the Association] rather than making findings of his own."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division reverse the Supreme Court's order, denied the Associations petition, granted the Association's cross petition, vacated the arbitration award, and remitted the matter to Supreme Court.

In addition, Supreme Court was instructed to then remit the matter to the arbitrator to determine whether any compensation is due the Association's grievants, and, if so, "to determine the amount of such compensation or how it can be calculated with reasonable precision."

* Although the term "transfer" is used to describe the personnel change that resulted in the submission of this grievance, the term "reassignment" would be a more accurate of the personnel change in this instance. A movement of an individual from one position to a second position subject to the jurisdiction of the same appointing authority is typically described as a "reassignment." In contrast, the movement of an employee from one position to a second position under the jurisdiction of a different appointing authority would constitute a "transfer" [see Rules for the Classified Civil Service of the County of Erie, Rule XVI].

** An award is indefinite or nonfinal within the meaning of the statute only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights and obligations; if it does not resolve the controversy submitted; or if it creates a new controversy.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

June 25, 2018

Commissioner of Education found it unnecessary to certify "that respondent appeared to have acted in good faith" for the purposes indemnifying them for costs and expenses


Commissioner of Education found it unnecessary to certify "that respondent appeared to have acted in good faith" for the purposes indemnifying them for costs and expenses
Appeal of William King Moss III regarding a staff appointment, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,409

Although the Commissioner dismissed this appeal for failure to serve a "necessary party" -- here the staff member whose appointment was challenged by Mr. Moss -- the Commissioner addressed an administrative matter.

The respondents in this appeal to the Commissioner had requested that the Commissioner "certify that “all board members” and the superintendent acted in good faith within the meaning of Education Law §3811(1) thereby authorizing the board to indemnify certain individuals for legal fees and expenses incurred in defending a proceeding arising out of the exercise of their powers or performance of duties.
 
Education Law §3811, in relevant part, provides that "Whenever the trustees or board of education of any school district ... [shall] defend any action brought against them ...  all their costs and reasonable expenses, as well as all costs and damages adjudged against them, shall be a district charge and shall be levied by tax upon the district."

Although the Commissioner observed that is appropriate to issue such certification unless it is established on the record that the requesting respondent[s] acted in bad faith, in this instance the Commissioner found it unnecessary to so certify because, in the words of the Commissioner, respondent’s costs in defending this proceeding are, by operation of statute, a cost upon the district, and no claims are interposed against any individual board members."

Accordingly, as respondent’s costs in defending an action or proceeding against the board are deemed a cost upon the district by Education Law §3811 and no individual board members are a party to this appeal, the Commissioner found that she "need not certify that respondent appeared to have acted in good faith."

In addition, the Commissioner found it unnecessary to grant respondent’s request with respect to the superintendent as he is not a party to the instant proceeding and, thus, was  not obligated to defend himself within the meaning of Education Law §3811.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Rejection of a hearing officer's finding of fact and determination by the appointing authority


Rejection of a hearing officer's finding of fact and determination by the appointing authority
Kelly v New York State Justice Ctr. for The Protection of People With Special Needs, 2018 NY Slip Op 03407, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Petitioner in this action was employed by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities at the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Service Office as a treatment aid.

The New York State Justice Center for The Protection of People With Special Needs [Justice Center] received a report alleging that Petitioner "committed acts of neglect when [she] breached [her] duty towards multiple service recipients by failing to use appropriate and professional language in their presence."

Ultimately Justice Center informed Petitioner that after reviewing the evidence presented, it determined that a preponderance of the evidence supported a finding of abuse or neglect pursuant to Social Services Law §494 and the matter involving Petitioner's alleged "acts of neglect" was referred to Respondent's Administrative Hearings Bureau.

Following the hearing, an Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] concluded that the evidence did not establish that Petitioner had committed an act of neglect. Justice Center, however, rejected the ALJ's recommendation, finding that, "by a preponderance of the evidence," Petitioner had committed neglect. Petitioner then commenced an CPLR Article 78 proceeding challenging Justice Center's determination, which was transferred to the Appellate Division.

Petitioner argued that the Justice Center was required to adopt the ALJ's recommended decision.* The Appellate Division held that Petitioner's argument was "without merit."  It also disagreed with Petitioner's contention that Justice Center's regulation 14 NYCRR 700.13 conflicts with Social Services Law §494(1)(b), noting that the statute does not require that the ALJ's decision be final and binding upon Justice Center. Instead, the statute merely states that, in the event that a petition is not sustained by the ALJ, such finding must be reflected upon an amended record.

Addressing the authority of Justice Center's "Chief of Staff" to render a final determination, the Appellate Division ruled that "the death of Justice Center's Executive Director did not diminish the Chief of Staff's authority to act as a designee of the Executive Director and, as such designee, render a final determination."

Public Officers Law §9, in pertinent part, provides ... Deputies, their appointment, number and duties. Every deputy ... in case of [the officer's] absence from the office or  his [or her] inability to act, or in case of a vacancy in the office, and if he [or she] shall fail to make such designation, the deputy ... shall so act. If a vacancy in a public office shall be caused by the death of the incumbent, the deputies shall, unless otherwise provided by law, continue to hold office until the vacancy shall have been filled in  accordance with law.

* With respect to court upholds appointing authority's rejection of hearing officer findings, In the Matter of Linda Ziehm, 90 A.D.2d 677, Affd, 59 N.Y.2d 757, the Appellate Division held that where the record contained substantial evidence affording a rational basis for the appointing authority determination, the appointing authority's determination will be sustained. See, also, Delgrande v Greenville Fire Dist., 126 AD3d 968 and Perfetto v Erie Co. Water Auth., 298 A.D.2d 932.  [The appointing authority may reject the findings and recommendations of a hearing officer if its decision is supported by substantial evidence.] Further, in Weill v New York City Dept. of Educ., 61 AD3d 407, the decision notes that the administrative body, rather than its attorney, must indicate the basis for its administrative action or decision.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


June 22, 2018

An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision


An adminsitrative tribunal may not rely on evidence not in the record in arriving at its decision
Kaplan v New York City Tr. Auth., 2018 NY Slip Op 04068, Appellate Division, Third Department

It is "black letter law" that all administrative agencies must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it.

In this case the Workers' Compensation Board [Board] ruled that the employee's death did not arise out of and in the course of his employment* and denied his survivor's [Claimant] application for workers' compensation death benefits.

The Appellate Division, noting that as required of every administrative agency, the Board must render decisions based on the evidence contained in the record pertaining to the particular case before it said that here the Board relied on medical records "apparently contained in the case file for a separate claim" filed by decedent based on a 2014 fall at work and that one page is the only medical record from 2014 that was included in the current record.

The Board, said the court, relied heavily upon medical records contained in the case file for the 2014 claim although the employer did not request that the Board rely on those 2014 records. Further was the procedure for introducing additional evidence into the administrative appeal that was not before the Workers' Compensation Law Judge was not complied with and the Board's rule provides that, if that procedure is not followed, the Board "will not" consider such new evidence.

The Appellate Division said that Claimant was prejudiced because she was not on notice  until she received the Board decision that the Board would rely on documents from another case file.

The employer contended that 2014 medical reports cannot be objectionable because they accurately reflect the treatment rendered. The court said it could not verify that claim without reviewing those reports.

The Appellate Division also rejected the employer's argument "that no response to the medical records would change the strength of either side's argument"  as constituting "mere speculation" and had those records been properly introduced, either party "may have chosen to submit additional medical records reflecting on decedent's medical treatment from November 2014 until his death in July 2015 had the parties been on notice that this period of treatment would be at issue."

Finally, the court said it could not assume that the Board would have reached the same decision had it not considered the medical records from the earlier case file in view of the fact that "[t]he Board referred to more than one of those medical records, indicated that it considered at least 27 pages and quoted at length from one 2014 document that it found to be 'most telling with respect to the cause of the decedent's death,'" noting that "[i]n one specific finding, the Board stated that any presumption of compensability was rebutted by Brief's medical opinion and the medical evidence in the case file associated with the other claim."

Finding that the Board improperly relied upon documents outside the record, which were not before Court for its review, the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's ruling dismissing Claimant's appeal and remitted the matter to the Board "for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* To be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law, an accidental injury must arise both out of and in the course of employment. In situations where there an unwitnessed or unexplained death occurs during the course of employment is involved, the claimant is relieved of the obligation to submit prima facie medical evidence of a causal relationship but that presumption "may be rebutted if substantial evidence demonstrates that the death was not work related."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Adjudicating the impact of a statute or a regulation that impairs obligations of the parties set out in collective bargaining agreements


Adjudicating the impact of a statute or a regulation that impairs obligations of the parties set out in collective bargaining agreements
Buffalo Teachers Fedn., Inc. v Elia, 2018 NY Slip Op 04061, Appellate Division, Third Department

This appeal sought court review of three determinations of the Commissioner of Education resolving disputes between the Buffalo Federation of Teachers [Federation] and the Buffalo City School District [District] concerning the negotiation of a receivership agreement pursuant to the Education Transformation Act of 2015* which provided for the "[t]akeover and restructuring of failing schools."

The Act restricts the subject matter of the receivership agreement to "the length of the school day; the length of the school year; professional development for teachers and administrators; class size; and changes to the programs, assignments, and teaching conditions in the school receivership." The Act further provides that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement with regard to "unresolved issues" must ultimately be submitted to the Commissioner for resolution, whereupon "the Commissioner has five days to resolve the issues in accord with standard collective bargaining principles."

One of the question presented in this appeal was whether the Act was "reasonable and necessary to further the significant and legitimate public interest in 'maximiz[ing] the rapid achievement of students' at schools deemed to be persistently struggling and struggling" with respect to the impairment of provisions set out in a collective bargaining agreement between the parties.

Citing Energy Reserves Group, Inc. v Kansas Power and Light Co., 459 US 400, the Appellate Division observed that "[g]enerally, where a statute or regulation impairs a private contract, courts will defer to a legislature's rationale with regard to its necessity."

In contrast, said the court, less deference is warranted [to the legislature's rationale] where the statute or regulation "is self-serving and impairs the obligations of [the state's] own contracts" because "a [s]tate is not completely free to consider impairing the obligations of its own contracts on a par with other policy alternatives." Further, the Appellate Division continued, "less deference [to the legislature's rationale] may be warranted even where, as here, the state is not a party to an impaired public contract."

The tests applied in determining if an impairment is reasonable and necessary under a "less deference scrutiny" analysis, must be shown that the state did not:

"(1) consider impairing the contracts on par with other policy alternatives; or

"(2) impose a drastic impairment when an evident and more moderate course would serve its purpose equally well; nor

"(3) act unreasonably in light of the surrounding circumstances."

Assuming, without deciding, that the "less deferential standard" applied in this instance, the Appellate Division found that applying the relevant provision of the Education Law was  reasonable and necessary both on its face and as applied, explaining that "the receivership agreement was necessary in order to implement available methods to address the immediate issues that were facing the struggling or persistent struggling schools."

The court observed that the statute provides that the Superintendent of Schools must act in accordance with the existing collective bargaining agreement and, "where, as here, a receivership agreement is requested, the statute limits the scope of the agreement — and impairment." Further, "no modification or impairment can be unilaterally imposed but instead must be negotiated."

The Appellate Division concluded that "As applied, although an agreement was not reached with regard to all issues, the modifications imposed were applicable to the affected schools only for the time limited by the statute" which applied prospectively and limited the scope, application and duration of any modifications to existing agreements, while prohibiting any adverse financial impact. This, said the court, "was reasonably designed and necessary to further the goal of helping students to succeed."

Noting that the Federation contended that there were "means and methods that would be much more effective," the Appellate Division decided that "the relative wisdom of the statute is not for [it] to consider" and  remitted the matter to State Education Department for "further proceedings not inconsistent with this Court's decision."

* Laws of 2015, Chapter 56, Part EE, Subpart H, §§1 and 2.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

June 21, 2018

A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension


A police officer's accident disability retirement benefits are to be offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension
Andino v Mills, 2018 NY Slip Op 04273, Court of Appeals

Does a retired New York City police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits are a collateral source that a court must offset against the injured retiree's jury award for future lost earnings and pension?

The Court of Appeals held that a New York City retired police officer's accident disability retirement (ADR) benefits does so operate by [1] replacing earnings during the period when the officer could have been employed absent the disabling injury and then [2] serving as pension allotments. Accordingly, a court must offset the retiree's projected ADR benefits against the jury award for both categories of economic loss.*

Niurka Andino [Plaintiff] is a retired police officer who was injured on duty while riding in a police car that collided with a vehicle owned by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) and operated by NYCTA employee Ronald Mills [Defendants].

Defendants moved to offset the jury award pursuant to CPLR §4545, which permits a court to find that certain awarded damages were or will, with reasonable certainty, be replaced or indemnified from a collateral source. Defendants contended that "when a police officer retires due to an on-the-job injury that leaves the officer disabled, the ADR benefits allotted to that officer for those years when the officer could have been working, if not for the disability, operate as lost earnings. Once the retired officer reaches the age for regular retirement from service, absent the retirement-inducing injury, ADR benefits serve as a pension."

Andino argued that [1] "there is no direct correspondence between her ADR benefits and the categories of economic loss awarded by the jury" and [2] "that ADR displaces Ordinary Disability Retirement (ODR), and the higher amount of ADR benefits as compared with ODR allotments is paid as a reward for services previously rendered." As the Court of Appeals characterized Andino's argument, "... the premium in ADR benefits as compared to ODR benefits is neither "earnings" nor "pension" but paid in gratitude for past services".

The Court of Appeals explained that ADR benefits, and the text and legislative intent of CPLR §4545, as interpreted by the court in Oden v Chemung County, 87 NY2d 81,** provide the basis for concluding that "ADR benefits operate sequentially as payment for future lost earnings and pension benefits." Accordingly, said the court, on a motion pursuant to CPLR §4545, "a court must apply ADR benefits, dollar-for-dollar, to offset the jury award for future lost earnings during the period they represent lost earnings, and future lost pension during the period they represent lost pension."

The court also rejected Andino's alternative argument that "ADR benefits are a 'reward' for the retiree's service which may not be offset against a jury award" as unpersuasive, explaining that "there is no support in the Administrative Code or CPLR §4545 or any available legislative history to treat ADR benefits as a category on its own, exempt from mandatory offset." In any event, said the court, "even if the Legislature sought to reward service members like Andino, who suffer an injury in the line of duty, that would not change the classification of ADR benefits as a replacement for lost earnings and pension allowances" as there is no legal justification for treating a portion of ADR benefits as a reward based on the 25% differential between ODR and ADR benefits. In the words of the Court of Appeals, "CPLR 4545 anticipates a dollar-for-dollar  offset" and that offset "is based on the category of reimbursement, not on a stratification of the collateral source total amount."

The case was remitted Supreme Court for further proceedings "in accordance with the opinion herein and, as so modified, affirmed," Judges Wilson dissenting in an opinion in which Judge Fahey concured.

* By stipulation, the parties agreed to set the period for future lost earnings at 19.24 years and future lost pension at 17.7 years.

** The specific facts of Oden, said the court, explain why that decision provides a different disposition than is called for Andino's case. In Oden, the plaintiff's private sector retirement pension benefits could not offset the jury's award for his future lost earnings because the pension allotments did "not necessarily correspond to any future earning capacity plaintiff might have had," because Oden "would have been free to earn income from his labor in other capacities without loss of his disability retirement pension benefits."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:



June 20, 2018

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits and examinations have been issued


New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following audits and examinations have been issued
Source: Office of the State Comptroller, June 19, 2018

Click on text highlighted in color to access the full report.
For the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2015, auditors identified $1,727,960 in reported costs that did not comply with SED requirements for reimbursement, including $1,519,114 in improperly calculated parent agency administrative allocation costs.
Based on the findings of 35 reports, auditors determined significant cost savings to NYSHIP would occur if more out-of-network providers who improperly waive members’ out-of-pocket costs ended this practice and joined the Empire Plan network. Additionally, out-of-network providers who join the Empire Plan benefit plan members by expanding the number of in-network providers from which members can choose. Auditors recommended that action be taken to recover overpayments and prevent out-of-network providers from improperly waiving members’ out-of-pocket costs.

Department of Health (DOH): Examination of Official Station Designation (2015-BSE1-04)
DOH’s designation of the official station for an employee in calendar years 2013 and 2014 was not made in accordance with the state’s travel rules and regulations. As a result of an improper official station designation, DOH paid $16,089.56 and $22,033.71 in travel expenses during calendar years 2013 and 2014 for the employee to commute between his residence and an alternate work location.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services, working under DSS, did not have adequate written standard operating procedures to guide staff on how to perform and document the required oversight reviews and inventory record-keeping practices at shelter locations. DHS did not consistently comply with its own policies to perform periodic reviews of shelter providers’ security expenditures. Auditors found significant compliance-related issues that accounted for $2.2 million in insufficiently documented and/or questionable security expenses. DHS also did not ensure that providers complied with competitive bidding requirements and maintained adequate supporting documentation.

Find out how your government money is spent at Open Book New York. Track municipal spending, the state's 145,000 contracts, billions in state payments and public authority data. Visit the Reading Room for contract FOIL requests, bid protest decisions and commonly requested data.

June 19, 2018

Determining if a police officer acted within the scope of his or her employment for the purposed of the employer providing for defense and indemnification


Determining if a police officer acted within the scope of his or her employment for the purposed of the employer providing for defense and indemnification
Lemma v Nassau County Police Officer Indem. Bd., 2018 NY Slip Op 04382, Court of Appeals

General Municipal Law § 50-1 provides for defense and indemnification of Nassau County police officers, requiring indemnification for civil "damages, including punitive or exemplary damages, arising out of a negligent act or other tort of such police officer committed while in the proper discharge of [the officer's] duties and within the scope of [the officer's] employment."

In this CPLR Article 78 proceeding, the issue is whether the Nassau County Police Officer Indemnification Board's determination revoking a prior defense and indemnification determination in favor of a Nassau County police officer, [Petitioner] was irrational. To answer that question, the Appellate Division said that it must determine the meaning of the phrase "proper discharge of . . . duties" in the context of this statute. Its conclusion: the Board's finding that Petitioner's conduct was not "proper" within the meaning of the statute was rational.

The genesis of this action was an arrest of one Raheem Crews [Crews] for a crime. A few days later, on June 1, 2005, Petitioner questioned another suspect, who admitted his own involvement but said that Crews was in jail at the time of the robbery. That same day, Petitioner confirmed via a police database search that Crews was incarcerated on the date of the robbery. Despite knowledge that Crews could not have been one of the perpetrators, Petitioner told no one.

It was not until September, after Crews was arraigned on an indictment listing the date of the robbery as March 26, 2005, that defense counsel demonstrated that Crews had been incarcerated on that date, securing his immediate release and dismissal of the charges.

Crews commenced an action in federal court pursuant to 42 USC §1983 against Petitioner, among others and Nassau County, unaware at that time that Petitioner had known and failed to disclose that Crews was in jail on the date of the crime, offered to represent and indemnify Petitioner pursuant to General Municipal Law §50-1, based on the Board's initial determination that any actions taken by Petitioner that might give rise to liability were within the scope of Petitioner's employment and a proper discharge of his duties. When some years later, as the result of Petitioner being deposed in the Crews case, it was revealed for the first time that Petitioner had learned a few days after the arrest that Crews was in jail on the date of the robbery, the Board reopened its decision to indemnify Petitioner and held a hearing. Ultimately the Board voted to revoke defense and indemnification.

In affirming the Board's decision, the Appellate Division held, among other things, that "the Board rationally interpreted General Municipal Law §50-1 to limit defense and indemnification, reasoning that the word "proper" was "added . . . to exclude indemnification for intentional misconduct."

Petitioner next sought permission to appeal the Appellate Division's ruling and the Court of Appeals granted Petitioner's motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division decision, noting that "Where, as here, no administrative hearing was required, judicial review of an agency determination is limited to whether the Board's determination was irrational or arbitrary and capricious." Citing Williams v City of New York, 64 NY2d 800, the court explaining that an administrative determination of a board or agency involving employee indemnification "may be set aside only if it lacks a factual [or legal] basis, and in that sense, is arbitrary and capricious."

Noting that General Municipal Law §50-1 authorizes Nassau County to defend and indemnify police officers named as defendants in civil actions or proceedings, providing indemnification from "any judgment . . . for damages, including punitive or exemplary damages, arising out of a negligent act or other tort of such police officer committed while in the proper discharge of [the officer's] duties and within the scope of [the officer's] employment" the statute provides that "[s]uch proper discharge and scope shall be determined by a majority vote of a panel" appointed by various Nassau County officials, the Court of Appeals concluded that "[t]he legislature, thus, left the determination of whether the statutory prerequisites are met to the discretion of the Board."

Significantly, the Court of Appeals said that "[t]he decision whether to defend and indemnify a police officer is typically made by the Board at the beginning of litigation or upon discovery of facts previously unknown — long before the facts are litigated and a judgment of punitive damages is ever rendered. The Board may take a different view of the facts than is ultimately adopted by a jury in the underlying civil action against the officer."

Concluding that the Board's determination that Petitioner's conduct was not in the "proper discharge of his duties" was not arbitrary and capricious and that there was evidence supporting the Board's finding the decision notes that "despite knowledge that Crews could not have committed the robbery for which he had been arrested and charged (and for which he remained in pretrial detention for four months), [Petitioner], by his own admission, remained silent — conduct antithetical to proper police work that resulted in a man's loss of liberty."

Holding that the Board's determination was rational, the Court of Appeal held that it was entitled to deference and must be sustained."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

June 18, 2018

Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated


Arbitration award found "imperfectly executed" vacated
Matter of The Professional, Clerical, Tech. Empls. Assn. (Board of Educ. for Buffalo City Sch. Dist.), 2018 NY Slip Op 04128, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Supreme Court granted the petition submitted by The Professional, Clerical, Technical Employees Association [Association] seeking to confirm an arbitration award and denied the Board of Education for Buffalo City School District's [Board] cross petition seeking a court order vacating the arbitration award. The Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's ruling, on the law, and vacated the arbitration award, explaining:

1. The arbitration proceeding arose from Board's plan to transfer certain employees previously assigned to work at a single location to new positions requiring them to alternate between two different work locations.

2. The arbitrator's opinion and award, among other things, found that Board had  involuntarily transferred* the Association's grievants "to new positions" in violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, and directed the Board to compensate the grievants "for work performed at more than one location from November 30, 2013 until the end of the 2016 Budget Year."

3. Vacatur of the arbitration award is appropriate where the award failed to set forth the manner of computing monetary damages as CPLR Article 75 provides, in pertinent part, that an arbitration award "shall be vacated" where the arbitrator "so imperfectly executed [the award] that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made."**

The court noted that the Board's affidavit in support of the cross petition contained a statement that "none of the affected employees was terminated or had his or her compensation reduced as a result of the allegedly wrongful transfers."

However, said the Appellate Division, the arbitration award does not explain the basis for the arbitrator's directing the Board provide compensation allegedly owed to the grievants, nor does the award detail how that compensation should be calculated. Rather, said the court, "[i]t appears that the arbitrator merely copied verbatim the remedy requested by [the Association] rather than making findings of his own."

Accordingly, the Appellate Division reverse the Supreme Court's order, denied the Associations petition, granted the Association's cross petition, vacated the arbitration award, and remitted the matter to Supreme Court.

In addition, Supreme Court was instructed to then remit the matter to the arbitrator to determine whether any compensation is due the Association's grievants, and, if so, "to determine the amount of such compensation or how it can be calculated with reasonable precision."

* Although the term "transfer" is used to describe the personnel change that resulted in the submission of this grievance, the term "reassignment" would be a more accurate of the personnel change in this instance. A movement of an individual from one position to a second position subject to the jurisdiction of the same appointing authority is typically described as a "reassignment." In contrast, the movement of an employee from one position to a second position under the jurisdiction of a different appointing authority would constitute a "transfer" [see Rules for the Classified Civil Service of the County of Erie, Rule XVI].

** An award is indefinite or nonfinal within the meaning of the statute only if it leaves the parties unable to determine their rights and obligations; if it does not resolve the controversy submitted; or if it creates a new controversy.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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Text prepared by Harvey Randall except as otherwise noted. Randall, former Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service, also served as Director of Personnel for the State University System; as Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and as Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. He has an MPA from the Maxwell School, Syracuse University and a J.D. from Albany Law School.