In 2018, we reported that CMM litigators Patrick McCormick and Richard DeMaio, representing the St. James Fire District, successfully defended a petition that sought to punish the District for allegedly not complying with a multitude of conflicting F.O.I.L. requests – a victory that saved the District significant funds. In yet another victory, we are pleased to report that the 2018 decision was affirmed on appeal by the Appellate Division, Second Department more than three years later thanks to CMM’s hard work.
Between December 2017 and January 2018, Petitioner and his counsel, Cory Morris, Esq., made a series of requests to the Fire District pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (F.O.I.L.) for over 40 categories of records spanning years. The claimed purpose of the requests was to provide the public with information concerning a proposal to sell the Fire District’s 100-year-old firehouse on Route 25A to the St. James Fire Department. In March 2018, Petitioner commenced a special proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking to compel the Fire District to comply with the requests, as well as pay him costs and fees.
In lieu of answering the petition, CMM’s litigation team moved to dismiss the proceeding, contending that the petition was moot because the Fire District responded timely to the voluminous requests – and that it did so notwithstanding that Petitioner had made multiple overlapping and duplicative requests with conflicting instructions and modifications. After a hearing and upon review of CMM’s detailed motion papers, the Supreme Court found that the Fire District responded timely, “notwithstanding the confusion and inconsistencies of position engendered by [Petitioner] and his counsel.”
Petitioner appealed, and the Appellate Division, Second Department, ultimately heard oral argument in October 2021. DeMaio’s oral argument, as well as McCormick and DeMaio’s appellate brief, demonstrated to the Court that the lower court decision should be affirmed. Indeed, the Court noted in its decision that (1) the Supreme Court properly determined that the branch of the petition seeking to compel production of the subject documents was rendered moot by the Fire District’s eventual disclosure; (2) the petitioner was not entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs; and (3) the Supreme Court had properly denied the branch of the petition seeking to retrain certain employees of the Fire District with respect to their F.O.I.L. obligations.