November 23, 2020

A challenge to releasing summaries of disciplinary records of New York City police officers to the public dismissed as moot following the effective date of the repeal of Civil Rights Law §50-a

Following an announcement that redacted summaries of New York City police officers' disciplinary records would be released to the public, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York, Inc. [PBA] filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking a court order permanently enjoining the City of New York City from publicly releasing such summaries.

Supreme Court granted the PBA's petition on the ground that "the public disclosure of the information therein would violate Civil Rights Law §50-a."

New York City appealed the Supreme Court's ruling whereupon the Appellate Division unanimously reversed the lower court's decision "on the law" and dismissed the PBA's petition as moot.

Citing Cornell Univ. v Bagnardi, 68 NY2d 583, the Appellate Division explained that as Civil Rights Law §50-a had been repealed effective June 12, 2020, "the sole basis for the permanent injunction no longer exists." Accordingly, said the court, PBA's petition was rendered moot as the result of the repeal of Civil Rights Law §50-a.

The court noted that the parties had briefed this appeal prior to the repeal of §50-a and opined that it must consider the issue of mootness nostra sponte** "because it is related to [the court's] subject matter jurisdiction."  

As no alternative grounds for relief were raised in the Article 78 petition filed by the PBA nor addressed or reserved by Supreme Court, the Appellate held that the PBA's petition was moot and dismissed its appeal.

* See §1 of Chapter 96 of the Laws of 2020.

** Nostra sponte describes an action by a panel of judges taken on the panel's own initiative and not pursuant to a request by a party in the litigation. In contrast, the term sua sponte is used to describe an action by a single presiding jurist without prompting or suggestion from a party in the litigation then pending adjudication.

The decision is posted on the Internet at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2020/2020_06866.htm

 

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