May 31, 2019

An objection to a statement in a court's opinion that is determined to be "dicta" does not provide a basis for appeal


The views of a judge expressed in his or her opinion that do not have any impact or are required for the resolution or determination of a specific case before the court are referred to as dicta. They constitute statements in a court's opinion that go beyond the facts before the court and thus only reflect only the views of the writer of the opinion and although they might be interesting, and possibly instructive, they are not binding in subsequent cases as legal precedent. This appeal from a CPLR Articel 78 decision by Supreme Court concers an appeal of a statement by Supreme Court that the Appellate Division deemed to constitute dicta. 

College student A, attending College X, filed a complaint pursuant to College X's "Student Sexual Misconduct Policy" [Policy] alleging that another college student [Student B] attending College Y had violated the Policy during an incident that occurred off-campus. College X subsequently advised Student B that, after a thorough investigation, it had determined, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Student B had violated College X's Policy and that College X would contact College Y and provide it with a redacted copy of the investigation report and record documents.

Student B initiated a CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking, among other things, [1] to annul College X's determination, contending that it was arbitrary and capricious and [2] to enjoin College X from giving the complaint and investigation record to College Y.

Supreme Court granted Student B's petition, finding that, because petitioner was not a student at College X and the alleged misconduct took place off campus, College X lacked jurisdiction under the Policy and, as such, College X's  determination was arbitrary and capricious.  In addition, Supreme Court opined that it "f[ound] that the conduct demonstrated by [College X] towards [Student B] during the initial course of this investigation was a clear violation of [Student B's] constitutional rights."

College X appealed the Supreme Court's ruling but only for the purposed of vindicating itself with respect to that part of the Supreme Court's decision that stated that College X had violated Student B's constitutional rights.

The Appellate Division, noting that College X did not challenge Supreme Court's holding that its decision was arbitrary and capricious, concluded College X's appeal sought only to vacate that part of the Supreme Court's decision finding that College X violated Student B's constitutional rights,

The Appellate Division, citing Pollicino v Roemer & Featherstonhaugh, 277 AD2d 666, pointed out that the focus of College X's appeal, therefor was appealing dicta, as the inclusion of that statements was "not necessary to resolve [the] issue." On the other hand, noted the Appellate Division, College X did to challenge Supreme Court's holding that College X's actions in this instance were arbitrary and capricious. As "disagreement with dicta does not provide a basis to take an appeal" the court said that "this issue is not properly before us", implying that neither was the issue concerning Supreme Court's holding that College X's actions were arbitrary and capricious as College X had not appealed that branch of the Supreme Court's ruling.

Although Student B, in effect, prevailed in the appeal of the Supreme Court's ruling filed by College X, the Appellate Division declined to issue sanctions, explaining that although [College X's] argument lacks merit, we do not find it to be frivolous."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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