If you find yourself in a dispute with a state or local administrative board, agency, or officer in New York State, you may need to take legal action to challenge their determinations. In such cases, Article 78 proceedings under the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (the “CPLR”) come into play. In this blog, we’ll explain what an Article 78 proceeding is, why you might need one, and what must be established to prevail in such a proceeding. We’ll also discuss the importance of having an attorney represent you throughout the administrative process and during the Article 78 proceeding.
An Article 78 proceeding is a legal mechanism in New York State that allows people to challenge the final decisions or actions of state or local administrative body, agency, or officer. We most often see these proceedings used to challenge local administrative actions or zoning and land use decisions. Importantly, such proceedings may only be brought after the person adversely impacted by the decision exhausts all administrative remedies.
These proceedings are named after Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Laws and Rules (the “CPLR”), which governs them. Article 78 proceedings were created by statute to replace the traditional, common law writs of certiorari, mandamus, and prohibition. Relief previously sought through such common law writs are now sought through Article 78 proceedings in New York State.
There are several situations where an Article 78 proceeding may be necessary. For instance:
Reviewing Final Determinations: If an administrative board, agency, or officer has made a final decision that adversely affects someone’s rights, interests, or privileges, an Article 78 proceeding can provide a way to seek a review of that determination.
Challenging Jurisdictional Issues: If the body or officer proceeded without or in excess of their jurisdiction, an Article 78 proceeding can be used to address this matter.
Addressing Procedural Violations or Errors: If the administrative body or officer violated lawful procedures, committed an error of law, acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or abused their discretion, an Article 78 proceeding can be used to challenge the determination.
Lack of Substantial Evidence: If an administrative decision lacks substantial evidence to support it, or its decision is irrational, an Article 78 proceeding can allow someone to contest the decision.
Failure to Perform a Legal Duty: If an administrative body or officer neglected to carry out a duty imposed on them by law, then an Article 78 proceeding can be used to compel performance of the legal duty.
Engaging the services of an experienced zoning and land use attorney is crucial when dealing with administrative proceedings and Article 78 proceedings. Here’s why:
Administrative Level Success: An attorney can represent the applicant, its opposition, or the public before the administrative board, agency, or officer, increasing your chances of success at this initial stage. Or an attorney can represent the board, agency, or officer that is considering the administrative application to help ensure they comply with the law and are in the best position to defend themselves against an article 78 challenge. Experienced zoning and land use attorneys can present strong arguments, navigate complex procedures, and ensure rights are protected.
Building a Strong Record: By involving an attorney at the administrative level, applicants, opponents, the public and administrative boards, agencies, and officers can create a robust record that can be utilized in a subsequent Article 78 proceeding if necessary. An experienced attorney understands what evidence and arguments need to be presented to give you the best chance of success if an article 78 proceeding is subsequently commenced.
Legal Experience: Zoning and land use attorneys possess the relevant knowledge and experience to handle Article 78 proceedings. They understand the intricacies of administrative law, know how to navigate the legal system, and can craft compelling legal strategies tailored to your specific situation.
Article 78 proceedings provide an avenue to challenge the decisions of state and local administrative boards, agencies, and officers in New York State. Understanding the grounds for such proceedings and the importance of legal representation throughout the process is crucial. Retaining an experienced zoning and land use attorney can significantly enhance your chances of success at both the administrative and Article 78 levels, ensuring your rights are protected and your case is effectively presented.
Only persons aggrieved by a state or local administrative actions or decision may challenge the decision in court through an Article 78 proceeding. In such a lawsuit, the Court may annul the challenged decision pursuant to CPLR §7803(3) if it finds that the decision was made “in violation of lawful procedure, was affected by an error of law or was arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.” Although some Article 78 proceedings are subject to a four-month statute of limitations under CPLR Section 217, certain categories of Article 78 proceedings are subject to a much shorter statute of limitations. For example, many local zoning and land use decisions may be challenged through an Article 78 Proceeding, but must be commenced within 30 days after the filing of the decision in the municipality’s clerk’s office. E.g., Town Law §267-c(1); Town Law §274-b; Town Law §282; Village Law §7-712-c(1); Village Law §7-740. This very short time to challenge a ZBA’s decision is another good reason that applicants, opponents, and administrative boards, agencies, and officers should all be represented by counsel, if practicable. The applications and challenges can move very quickly, and so an experienced attorney can help prepare for these challenges and make sure important deadlines don’t get missed.
If you have questions about Article 78 proceedings, contact an experienced attorney at the Zoghlin Group for help. The Zoghlin Group offers a range of legal services related to Zoning and Land Use Law, including help at the administrative level, prosecuting or defending article 78 proceedings (either from the applicant or the opposition’s side), or acting as special counsel to administrative boards, agencies, and officers in defending against such challenges.
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