Thursday, November 18, 2010
The controlling statute of limitations for filing an Article 78 petition challenging an administrative decision may be set out in another law
Hayes v City of NY Dept. of Citywide Admin. Servs., 2010 NY Slip Op 20289, Decided on July 20, 2010, Supreme Court, New York County, Judge Alexander W. Hunter
New York City Fire Captain Robert Hayes applied for and took the Promotion to Battalion Chief Examination No. 8511.
The Test Validation Board rating this examination initially advised the candidates that it proposed the correct answers to questions 15, 46, and 85 as A, A, and D, respectively, Hayes had selected these as correct answers to these questions. However, the final determination by the Test Validation Board allowed A, B, C, and D as correct answers for each of the three questions.
Hayes objected to the Board’s decision, contending that in allowing A, B, C, and D to be deemed correct answers for each of these questions rather allowing only alternate answers that were as good as or better than the proposed answers upon protest, the Board effectively deleted the three questions thereby exceeding its authority under Civil Service Law §50-a.*
Judge Hunter dismissed Hayes’ Article 78 petition seeking to vacate the Board’s final decision as untimely. Although Hayes had filed his petition within the “four month statute of limitations” typically applicable in challenging an administrative determination, in this instance §50-a required that such a petition had to be filed within thirty days “of service of the notice of availability of the determination of the test validation board upon the protesting candidate….”
In the words of the court, “Hayes was given notice of the validation board's determination on December 17, 2009 and did not file a petition under Article 78 until April 12, 2010, nearly four months later, and nearly three months after the 30-day requirement as set forth in Civil Service Law § 50-a. Therefore, this petition is outside of the statute of limitations and is hereby dismissed.”
As to Hayes’ argument that the time limits set out in §50-a did not apply in this instance, Judge Hunter explained that although “The purpose of an Article 78 proceeding, utilizing C.P.L.R. §7803 as this case does specifically, is to permit the aggrieved candidate an opportunity to argue why the determination of the administrative agency was ‘made in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law or was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion .’ … This is precisely the issue at bar and within the scope of Civil Service Law §50-a.”
N.B. Exceptions to “the ususal” statutes of limitations are sometimes set out in law. For example, although an Article 75 petition seeking to confirm or vacate an arbitration award “must be filed ninety days after its delivery,” Education Law Section 3020-a(5) requires that an Article 75 petition challenging the arbitration award resulting from a Section 3020-a disciplinary hearing to be filed “Not later than ten days after receipt of the hearing officer's decision” in order to be timely.
* Civil Service Law §50-a authorizes “test validation boards” to determine the correct scoring of civil service examinations for positions in the competitive class within the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Personnel and provides that “the test validation board shall make a determination whether the answers elected by the protesting candidates are as good as or better than the proposed key answers or whether the rating guide should be modified and shall give reasons therefor in an opinion in writing.
The decision is posted on the Internet at:http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_20289.htm
Reprinted with permission New York Public Personnel Law
Mitchell H. Rubinstein