The Court of Appeals has defined "final and binding" in terms of completeness and exhaustion of administrative remedies as follows: "[f]irst, the agency must have reached a definitive position on the issue that inflicts actual, concrete injury and second, the injury inflicted may not be . . . significantly ameliorated by further administrative action or by steps available to the complaining party."*
Petitioner [Plaintiff] commenced this CPLR Article 78 proceeding seeking to compel the New York State Department of Education [DOE] to issue a school building leader certificate for which he had applied in 2014. DOE, contending that Plaintiff had not paid a necessary fee before the applicable deadline, had declined to issue the certificate and issued a notice of uncompleted requirements for certification on
July 23, 2014. Plaintiff was also advised that he would be required to meet newly-enacted examination requirements.
In June 2016 inquiry Plaintiff contacted DOE concerning the status of his application. DOE responded, citing its July 2014 notice of uncompleted requirements. Ultimately DOE, in response to Plaintiff additional inquiry and request for "an official appeal," sent Plaintiff two documents dated December 9, 2016 entitled "Notice of Uncompleted Requirements for Certification" explaining that Plaintiff's application had been disapproved and restated that there was "no legal means by which [DOE could] overlook" the initial missed deadline for the required payment.** Plaintiff was also advised that should he wish "to further pursue the certification, he would need to reapply and meet all additional requirements."
DOE moved to dismiss Plaintiff's petition as untimely because the proceeding was commenced on
April 28, 2017, more than four months after DOE's issued its December 9, 2016 determination. In rebuttal, Plaintiff contended that the statute of limitations began to run when he received the second, identical, notice dated January 3, 2017. Supreme Court granted DOE's motion to dismiss the petition, and Plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court's ruling, explaining that the definitive position stated in DOE's January 2017 notice is no different from that DOE expressed in its initial December 2016 notice. Further, said the court Plaintiff "does not argue that he was attempting to pursue further administrative remedies or took any additional action after the December 2016 notice was issued."
Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's petition as untimely was correct, noting that DOE's determination became final and binding and the statute of limitations period began to run on
December 9, 2016. Further, said the court, although there is a potential for prejudice in a case where a petitioner receives a subsequent, additional notice and then provides that postdated determination to his or her attorney, in this instance the Appellate Division opined "that no such prejudice has been alleged, nor was any justification for petitioner's failure to commence a proceeding based upon the December 2016 notice provided."
* See Walton v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 8 NY3d 186, quoting Matter of Best Payphones, Inc. v Department of Info. Tech. & Telecom. of City of N.Y., 5 NY3d 30.
** The Appellate Division's decision notes that "for reasons still unknown and unexplained within the record or briefs," DOE issued the second identical notice dated
January 3, 2017.
The decision is posted on the Internet at: