Article 78 Proceedings: Judicial Oversight of State and Local Government Bodies

Updated August 9, 2023.

For litigation attorneys in New York State, the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) is our toolbox and procedural guide on lawsuits and proceedings in state courts.  Article 78 of the CPLR details the procedure for appealing or challenging the decisions or actions of administrative agency determinations, public bodies, or officers.  

 

An Article 78 proceeding can force government officials to take certain actions which they have refused to do, despite being required to do so by law. This is called a writ of mandamus.  CPLR 7803(1)

 

The proceeding can also be used to prohibit a government official from acting. A writ of Prohibition can be filed where a government official acts without jurisdiction or in excess of their lawful powers.  CPLR 7803(2)

Article 78 actions can also appeal or challenge certain decisions of government agencies made in violation of lawful procedure but affected by an error of law, without factual basis or which was “arbitrary and capricious,” or in which the agency abused their discretion.  These proceeding can be used to appeal decisions from countless state agencies- including local Zoning Boards of Appeals, the Department of Labor, Department of Environmental Conservation, and more.    CPLR 7803(3)

Finally, Article 78 actions can be brought to contest a decision made by a governmental agency hearing if that decision was not supported by “substantial evidence.”

Often times, Article 78 actions are used to protect the expectations of property owners and developers who hope to use property in a certain way, but are denied the ability to do so by a local Zoning Board.  The same applies for individuals who have been denied any kind of license by a government agency, or had licenses revoked.

Real property rights can be affected by improper decisions of applicable Code Enforcement Officers and Zoning Boards of Appeals.  It is important for landowners to act quickly following a decision that negatively impacts their property rights because short time limits apply.  Generally, a party has four (4) months from the agency’s final decision to bring an action under Article 78 if they would like to appeal. In order to properly bring an article 78 proceeding, a petitioner must have first exhausted their administrative remedies. 

Due to the very technical nature of these claims, as well as the strict time limits that apply, it is important to contact a lawyer familiar with this area of law for assistance.  The attorneys at Lacy Katzen LLP have been helping protect clients’ rights for over 70 years.  Please contact our office for a free consultation.

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