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New York Appellate Court Reverses and Dismisses Case Based on Defendant Alleging Lack of Jurisdiction


(Matter of N. v NY Office of Children & Family Services, NY Slip Op 04379)

June 18, 2018

The court rules that this decision should be reversed, and the petition dismissed without costs. Despite the defendant’s argument, the court does indeed have jurisdiction over this appeal considering the dual dissent of the appellate decision is a question of law ( CPLR 5601), Matter of Kelly v Safir 96 NY2d 32, 38 [2001]. The question the courts must determine is whether there is a rational reason for the action, or whether it is arbitrary (Matter of Peckham v Calogero 12 NY3d 424, 431 [2009]. The court remarked that an arbitrary action is without a sound reason or basis, and is often made without consideration of the facts involved. If the reviewing court finds there is a rational basis, the reviewing court must sustain the determination even if the court believes it would have achieved a different result.

In this instance, it was logical for the administrative judge to have decided that the child was placed in a situation with an imminent risk of harm, and which constituted maltreatment (Family Court Act 1012 [f][i][b]; Social Services Law 412 [2][a]; Nicholsen v Scoppetta 3 NY 3d 357, 368, and that the petitioner’s actions are related to their work in the child care field (Social Services Law 422 [8][a][ii]. The question here is whether the child was used in a shoplifting scheme. The question then becomes, was the action so egregious to create an imminent risk of harm to the child (Matter of Natasha W. v. NY State Office of Children and Family Services 145 AD3d 401, 411.

In this instance, there was potential for a physical confrontation during the theft from the department store. This court agrees to utilize a child to commit a crime and teaching the child that it is acceptable can only have a detrimental effect on the child, and impact their physical and mental well being.

Wilson, J., dissenting

The defendant here is a single mother, living with her parents. Her child is five years of age. At the time of the crime, she was enrolled in a reputable four-year college program. Then seemingly out of the blue, took her son to Bloomingdales, outfitted him and herself in all new, stolen clothes, and proceeded to leave the store. She was subsequently arrested. The store security guard handled it calmly and even sent the boy away with new shoes for free.

Natasha’s shoplifting charge was resolved in contemplation of dismissal and was assured that she would have no criminal record. After this, however, the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment referred the case to a local child protective agency, ACS.

The agency subsequently conducted a two-month long investigation. In interviews, Natasha’s family reported that she had never stolen before, and her son was well taken care of.

A social worker that was interviewed said that she had never observed anything unusual with the child. Paradoxically, however, on the report, it was indicated that Natasha had mistreated her child. This, in turn, caused her name to be added to the child abuse register.

The defendant appealed, which was denied.

The majority of this court reverses, claiming the governing standards of review were violated.

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