New York County Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe has issued an order and judgment granting an Article 75 petition filed by Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC. The petition was filed after a 3020-a hearing was held on charges brought against a tenured New York City school teacher by the Department of Education. The hearing officer sustained the charges and determined that cause existed to terminate the teacher. Justice Jaffe’s decision vacated and annulled the hearing officer’s decision.
In reaching the decision, the Court agreed with many of the arguments offered in briefs and oral arguments by F&W partner, Matt Weinick. Most notably, the Court rejected the DOE’s argument that the Court’s review was limited to the four narrow categories of review established by Article 75 and agreed with Weinick that binding legal authority established that the Court should review the decision under the broader, yet still tough, arbitrary and capricious standard of Article 78.
After discussing the appropriate review standard, the Court turned to the facts of the case and again agreed with Weinick that the hearing officer’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and that the penalty of termination shocks the conscience. In finding the decision arbitrary and capricious, the Court found, among other things, that the DOE did not follow its procedures in reviewing and rating the teacher’s performance, that the hearing officer improperly applied a “rule of reasonableness” where no authority exists for such a rule, and that the author of the teacher’s observations and ratings acted in a manner which “brings into question the objectivity of his rating and evaluations.” In summing up the evidence, the Court stated that F&W had shown by “clear and convincing evidence” that the teacher was not incompetent.
Further, the Court found that in light of the teacher’s 11 years of competent service and the DOE’s failure to follow procedure which would have given the teacher an opportunity to improve, the penalty of termination shocks the conscience.
The full decision is available here. If you have questions about this decision, Article 75 proceedings, Article 78 proceedings, or teachers’ rights, contact an employment lawyer at Famighetti & Weinick, PLLC at 631-352-0050 or visit our website at https://www.linycemploymentlaw.com.