December 18, 2020

Courts will accept an agency's interpretation of its statutory authority if it determines that agency's interpretation of the statute is rational

The New York City's Administrative Code §13-254(a) provides that the New York City's Police Department's Medical Board [Board] may require "any disability pensioner, under the minimum age or period for service retirement elected by him, to undergo medical examination," and if the Board concludes that he or she "is able to engage in a gainful occupation," it certifies the pensioner to the appropriate civil service commission, which places the pensioner "as a preferred eligible on such appropriate lists of candidates as are prepared for appointment to positions for which [the pensioner] is stated to be qualified."

A retired New York City police officer [Petitioner] submitted an application for reinstatement to the New York City Police Department [NYPD]. NYPD rejected the Petitioner's application. Petitioner initiated an action pursuant to CPLR Article 78 challenging NYPD's decision. Supreme Court granted NYPD's motion to dismiss the proceeding and Petitioner appealed.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court's ruling. Noting the Board's authority to reinstate a disability pensioner "is limited to members under the age of 55 or who have not reached the service retirement contribution period (20 0r 25 years) they elected upon joining the pension fund," the court opined that the Board's interpretation of §13-254(a) was rational.*

As was undisputed that when Petitioner joined NYPD he elected a minimum service retirement period of 20 years. It was also conceded that when he requested reinstatement to the NYPD, he was no longer under the minimum 20-year period for service retirement elected by him.

Accordingly, the Appellate Division held that Supreme Court correctly found that the Board's denial of Petitioner's application for reinstatement was "a rational determination based on  the Board's rational interpretation of its statutory authority."

* Encarta® World English Dictionary© defines the term "rational" as being "reasonable and sensible: governed by, or showing evidence of, clear and sensible thinking and judgment, based on reason rather than emotion or prejudice".

The decision is posted on the Internet at