Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals
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The case involved two separate lawsuits against the City of New York, where the plaintiffs, Luis Jaime and Adan Orozco, were seeking permission to serve late notices of claim for alleged intentional torts committed by City employees. The claims were based on the General Municipal Law § 50-e (5), which allows for late notices if the court believes the City has actual knowledge of the essential facts constituting the claims.In Orozco's case, he claimed that officials of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the District Attorney's Office obtained a warrant for his arrest without probable cause and used false evidence. Jaime, who was detained at Riker's Island, alleged that he was attacked by correction officers and/or inmates on multiple occasions. Both plaintiffs argued that the City had actual knowledge of their claims due to the involvement of its employees and its possession of related records.The Court of Appeals disagreed with the lower courts' decision to grant the plaintiffs leave to serve late notices of claim. It held that mere participation of City's employees in an intentional tort and the City's possession of related records do not necessarily provide the City with actual knowledge of the essential facts of the claims. The court found that both plaintiffs failed to provide substantive evidence to establish the City's actual knowledge. It also found that their reasons for late filing, such as defending against criminal charges and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, did not constitute a reasonable excuse. Consequently, the Court of Appeals reversed the orders of the Appellate Division, denying the plaintiffs' petitions to file late notices of claim. View "Matter of Jaime v City of New York" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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In this case, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) withheld 11 documents from a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by Appellate Advocates, arguing that the documents were privileged attorney-client communications. These documents had been prepared by DOCCS counsel to train and advise Board of Parole commissioners on how to comply with their legal duties and obligations.The New York Court of Appeals had to determine whether these documents were rightly withheld under the FOIL exemption for privileged matters. The court found that the documents reflected counsel's legal analysis of statutory, regulatory, and decisional law, and were therefore protected attorney-client communications, prepared to facilitate the rendition of legal advice or services in a professional relationship. The court rejected Appellate Advocates' arguments that disclosure was required under FOIL, noting that the privilege applied to proactive advice to assist the client in compliance with legal mandates, and was not limited to communications triggered by a client's disclosure of confidential information or a direct request for advice. The court also rejected the argument that documents identified as Commissioner training materials were categorically not exempt from disclosure.The court concluded that the documents were properly withheld under the FOIL exemption for privileged matters as they were privileged attorney-client communications. The court affirmed the order of the Appellate Division. View "Matter of Appellate Advocates v New York State Dept. of Corr. & Community Supervision" on Justia Law

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An incarcerated individual developed a mass under his armpit and was referred to a surgeon who had a contract with the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). The surgeon performed a biopsy, which was then sent to the pathology department at the Cortland Regional Medical Center (CRMC) for examination. Dr. Jun Wang, the Medical Director of CRMC's pathology department and a member of Cortland Pathology, examined the specimen and determined that the mass was benign. A year later, the patient was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.The patient initiated a medical malpractice lawsuit against CRMC and others, alleging that they misdiagnosed his condition and failed to promptly diagnose or refer him for treatment. Dr. Wang sought defense and indemnification from the State, claiming that he was entitled to coverage under Public Officers Law § 17 and Correction Law § 24-a because his actions arose from treating an incarcerated individual at the request of DOCCS. The Attorney General rejected Dr. Wang's request, stating that he treated the patient through his employment arrangement with CRMC, not directly at the request of the State, and thus the State had no obligation to provide defense or indemnification.The New York Court of Appeals held that the State is not obligated to indemnify or defend Dr. Wang in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The court ruled that under the Correction Law § 24-a, the State's obligation to defend and indemnify only applies when there has been an explicit request by DOCCS for the services of a specific provider—an arrangement or understanding made in advance between DOCCS and the healthcare professional. In this case, no such express request or direct agreement existed between DOCCS and Dr. Wang, therefore, the State had no obligation to defend or indemnify him. The court also stated that the Attorney General's interpretation of the statute was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Hence, the court affirmed the order of the Appellate Division. View "In re Wang v James" on Justia Law

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In 2018, a worker, Thomas Lazalee, filed a claim for benefits after suffering a right thumb injury and carpal tunnel syndrome, for which he underwent surgery. His employer, Wegman's Food Markets, Inc., did not challenge the claim and compensated Lazalee at the temporary total disability rate. In 2019, Lazalee was diagnosed with similar injuries to his left hand, and again, Wegman's compensated him at the temporary total disability rate. Lazalee then requested a hearing to amend the previous award to include these additional injuries.At the hearing, Wegman's accepted liability but sought to cross-examine Lazalee's doctor regarding the degree of impairment during Lazalee's most recent period out of work. The Workers' Compensation Law Judge (WCLJ) denied this request, ruling that Lazalee's 11.2-week absence was not excessive. This decision was affirmed by the Workers' Compensation Board and the Appellate Division, with the latter finding that Wegman's request to cross-examine the doctor was disingenuous because it came after Wegman's had already paid Lazalee at the total disability rate until his return to work, and was based solely on the employer's counsel's interpretation of the medical reports without any credible medical evidence to the contrary.However, the New York Court of Appeals reversed these decisions, holding that under the rules of the Workers' Compensation Board, if an employer wishes to cross-examine an attending physician whose report is on file, the referee must grant an adjournment for such purpose. The court found that the WCLJ did not have the discretion to deny Wegman's request for cross-examination made at the hearing before the WCLJ had rendered a decision on the merits. The case was remitted to the Appellate Division with instructions to remand to the Workers' Compensation Board for further proceedings in accordance with the Court of Appeals' opinion. View "Matter of Lazalee v Wegman's Food Mkts., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the appellate division reversing the decision of Supreme Court granting Plaintiffs summary judgment and enjoining enforcement of New York City Administrative Code 10-181, which makes criminal the use of certain restraints by police officers during an arrest, holding that Administrative Code 10-181 does not violate the New York Constitution on either preemption or due process grounds.After Administrative Code 10-181 became law Plaintiffs - law enforcement unions - commenced this action seeking a declaration that the local law was unconstitutional because it was field and conflict preempted by a combination of state laws and that it was void for vagueness and seeking to enjoin the law's enforcement. Supreme Court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs and enjoined enforcement of section 10-181. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) section 10-181 was a valid exercise of the City's municipal law-making authority because the legislature has not preempted the field; and (2) Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief on their vagueness challenge. View "Police Benevolent Ass'n of City of New York, Inc. v. City of New York" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the legislature's grant of rulemaking authority to the Commission on Forensic Sciences was sufficient to authorize the Commission's promulgation of the Familial DNA Search (FDS) Regulations codified at 9 N.Y.C.R.R. 6192.1 and 6192.3.In 2017, the DNA Subcommittee submitted to the Commission a recommendation to authorize familial DNA searches. The Commission adopted the recommendation, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) formally adopted the recommendation as part of the FDS Regulations. Petitioners brought this N.Y. C.L.P.R. 78 proceeding arguing that Respondents lacked statutory authority to promulgate the FDA Regulations, therefore violating the New York Constitution's separation of powers doctrine. Supreme Court denied the petition on the merits, and the appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Commission had the statutory authority to promulgate the FDS Regulations. View "Stevens v. N.Y. State Division of Criminal Justice Services" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that warrantless inspections authorized by New York regulations adopting a rule promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requiring the installation of electronic logging devices (ELD) in commercial motor vehicles fell within the administrative search exception to the warrant requirement.The FMCSA promgulated the rules at issue in 2015, and the rules were permanently incorporated into New York law in 2019. Petitioner commenced this combined N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action challenging New York's adoption of the rule. Supreme Court granted Respondents' motion to dismiss, concluding that the searches authorized by the rule were valid under the exception to the warrant requirement for administrative searches. The appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed as modified, holding (1) the lower courts properly determined that the ELD rule is constitutional; but (2) Supreme Court should have declared the rights of the parties rather than dismissing the complaint. View "Owner Operator Independent Drivers Ass'n v. N.Y. State Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the appellate division concluding that the underlying challenge to Local Law No. 9-2014 was not time barred by either a four-month or a six-year statute of limitations, holding that there was no error.Local Law No. 9-2014 was adopted by the Town Board of the Town of Clarkstown in 2014 and purportedly set an eight-year term limit for all Clarkstown elected officials and required a supermajority vote of the Town Board to repeal. Appellees brought this action seeking a determination that the law was invalid because it was not subjected to a referendum of the Town's voters. Appellants filed a motion to dismiss based on statute of limitations grounds. The appellate division declined to dismiss the actions. The Court of Appeals affirmed in each case, holding that, under the circumstances, the actions were not time barred. View "Hoehmann v. Town of Clarkstown" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division dismissing Plaintiffs' claims that Taxi and Limousine Commission and New York City breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and engaged in deceptive business practices under N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law 349, holding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim.Plaintiffs, entities that purchased government licenses to operate taxis at an auction, brought this action alleging that Defendants (1) breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by failing to enforce certain licensing requirements against smartphone applicate-based competitors such as Uber Technologies, Inc. and Lyft, Inc.; and (2) engaged in deceptive business practices in their promotion of the auction. Supreme Court granted in part Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Appellate Division reversed in part and concluded that both claims should be dismissed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiffs did not adequately plead a claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and (2) Plaintiffs failed to plead the type of conduct covered by N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law 349. View "Singh v. City of New York" on Justia Law