187 A.D.2d 16, Grumet v. Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village School Dist.

Citation:187 A.D.2d 16, 592 N.Y.S.2d 123
Party Name:Grumet v. Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village School Dist.
Case Date:December 31, 1992
Court:New York Supreme Court Appelate Division, Third Department

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187 A.D.2d 16

592 N.Y.S.2d 123

Law Rep. 685

Louis GRUMET, Individually and as Executive Director of the

New York State School Boards Association Inc., et al., Respondents,



DISTRICT et al., Appellants.

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

December 31, 1992.

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[592 N.Y.S.2d 125] Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin (Lisa Burget, of counsel, and George Shebitz of George Shebitz, P.C., of counsel), Washington, D.C., for Board of Educ. of Kiryas Joel Village School Dist., appellant.

Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger, Reich & Scricca (Lawrence W. Reich, of counsel), Northport, for Board of Educ. of Monroe-Woodbury Central School Dist., appellant.

Jay Worona (Pilar Sokol, of counsel), New York State School Boards Ass'n, Albany, respondent.

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Robert Abrams, Atty. Gen. (Julie S. Mereson and Peter H. Schiff, of counsel), Albany, pursuant to Executive Law § 71.

Bernard F. Ashe (Gerard John De Wolf, of counsel), Albany, for New York State United Teachers, amicus curiae.

Marc D. Stern and Lois C. Waldman, New York City, for American Jewish Congress, amicus curiae.

Stanley Geller (Lisa Thurau, of counsel), New York City, for Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty, amicus curiae.


CASEY, Justice.

Appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court (Lawrence Kahn, J.), entered February 10, 1992 in Albany County, which, inter alia, granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and declared the Laws of 1989 (ch. 748) unconstitutional, 151 Misc.2d 60, 579 N.Y.S.2d 1004.

The Laws of 1989 (ch. 748) (hereinafter chapter 748) created a new school district, the Kiryas Joel Village School District (hereinafter the Village District), consisting of the territory of the Village of Kiryas Joel (hereinafter the Village), a community of Satmarer Hasidim located wholly within the boundaries of the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District (hereinafter the Monroe-Woodbury District) in Orange County. The statute reflects a political solution to a lengthy dispute between the Monroe-Woodbury District and the residents of the Village, most of whose children attend private religiously affiliated schools within the Village, concerning the provision of special educational services to the Village's handicapped children.

Despite earlier efforts at accommodating the undisputed needs of the Village's handicapped children, resolution of the dispute, which centered on where the services had to be offered, was sought by way of litigation. The Court of Appeals ultimately held that the Monroe-Woodbury District "is neither compelled to make services available to private school handicapped children only in regular public school classes and programs, nor without authority to provide otherwise" (Board of Educ. of Monroe-Woodbury Cent. School Dist. v. Wieder, 72 N.Y.2d 174, 187, 531 N.Y.S.2d 889, 527 N.E.2d 767). The court also rejected the Villagers' claim that the services had to be provided within their private schools or at a neutral site (id., at 187-189, 531 N.Y.S.2d 889, 527 N.E.2d 767). Unfortunately, the dispute was not resolved, for the Monroe-Woodbury District continued to offer the services at its public schools and the Villagers refused to permit their children to attend the public schools. The creation of the Village District, which could establish its own public school to provide the

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services within the Village, was viewed as "a good faith effort to solve this unique problem" (Governor's Mem approving L. 1989, ch. 748, 1989 McKinney's Session Laws of N.Y., at 2430).

Plaintiffs, the New York State School Boards Association (hereinafter the Association) and two officers of the Association, commenced this action against several State officials, including the Commissioner of Education and the Comptroller, seeking a judgment declaring chapter 748 unconstitutional. The two school districts moved to intervene as defendants and their motions were granted. Thereafter, the parties stipulated to the discontinuance of the action as to the State officials, although the Attorney-General continued to defend the constitutionality of the statute pursuant to [592 N.Y.S.2d 126] Executive Law § 71. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment and Supreme Court declared the statute unconstitutional, resulting in this appeal.

The preliminary issue to be addressed is the question of standing. Defendants maintain that the Association and its officers, in their capacity as representatives of the Association, do not have standing to maintain this action. We agree. There is nothing in the record to establish that the Association itself is a citizen-taxpayer within the meaning of State Finance Law article 7-A and there is no claim that the Association has sustained any injury in fact. Accordingly, the Association does not have standing in its own right to maintain this action (see, Matter of Otsego 2000 v. Planning Bd. of Town of Otsego, 171 A.D.2d 258, 260, 575 N.Y.S.2d 584, lv. denied 79 N.Y.2d 753, 581 N.Y.S.2d 281, 589 N.E.2d 1263). Nor has it been shown that the Association meets the three requirements for associational or organizational standing (Society of Plastics Indus. v. County of Suffolk, 77 N.Y.2d 761, 775, 570 N.Y.S.2d 778, 573 N.E.2d 1034). As units of municipal government, the Association's member school boards do not have the substantive right to raise constitutional challenges to a State statute, particularly in the absence of any claim that compliance with the statute will force one or more of the member school boards to violate a constitutional proscription (see, Matter of Jeter v. Ellenville Cent. School Dist., 41 N.Y.2d 283, 287, 392 N.Y.S.2d 403, 360 N.E.2d 1086). The only two school districts that might arguably have standing, the Monroe-Woodbury District and the Village District, are parties to this action and the Association clearly does not represent their interests. We conclude, therefore, that the Association and the officers of the Association lack standing to maintain this action. We note that plaintiffs' reliance on New York State School Bds. Assn. v. Sobol, 168 A.D.2d 188, 570 N.Y.S.2d 716, aff'd 79 N.Y.2d 333, 582 N.Y.S.2d 960, 591 N.E.2d 1146, is misplaced, for the issue of the

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Association's standing to maintain that action was neither raised nor decided.

The two individual plaintiffs, Louis Grumet and Albert W. Hawk, are named as party plaintiffs individually, as well as in their capacity as officers of the Association. In their individual capacity, each clearly meets the definition of citizen-taxpayer contained in State Finance Law § 123-a and, therefore, they have statutory standing to maintain an action for declaratory or injunctive relief to prevent the unconstitutional disbursement of State funds (State Finance Law § 123-b[1]. It is undisputed that the Village District created by chapter 748 will receive State funding and, therefore, the constitutionality of that statute can be challenged in a citizen-taxpayer action (see, Matter of Cario v. Sobol, 157 A.D.2d 172, 175, 557 N.Y.S.2d 592). The fact that the action was discontinued as to the State officials when the two school districts intervened as party defendants does not alter this conclusion, for the expenditure of State funds remains an issue and the Attorney-General continues to appear in the action pursuant to Executive Law § 71.

Turning to the merits, we agree with Supreme Court that chapter 748 violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and N.Y. Constitution, article XI, § 3. The tripartite analysis under the Establishment Clause introduced in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 2111, 29 L.Ed.2d 745, which the United States Supreme Court declined to reconsider in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. ----, ----, 112 S.Ct. 2649, 2655, 120 L.Ed.2d 467, requires: "[f]irst, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion * * * [and third], the statute must not foster 'an excessive governmental entanglement with religion' " (Lemon v. Kurtzman, supra, 403 U.S. at 612-613, 91 S.Ct. at 2111, quoting Walz v. Tax Commn., 397 U.S. 664, 668, 90 S.Ct. 1409, 1411, 25 L.Ed.2d 697 [citation omitted].

According to defendants, the statute has the secular purpose of providing special educational services to handicapped children who are not receiving those services. [592 N.Y.S.2d 127] This argument ignores two undisputed facts: the handicapped children of the Village were already entitled to receive those services pursuant to existing Federal and State law (see, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.; Education Law § 4401 et seq.), and those services were actually available to the Village children from the Monroe-Woodbury District, within which the Village was located. The only reason that the children did not receive the services is their parents' refusal to let them attend the public schools of

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the Monroe-Woodbury District where the services were available. The stated reason for this refusal is the fear and trauma allegedly sustained by the children upon leaving the language, lifestyle and environment of the Village and mixing with others (Board of Educ. of Monroe-Woodbury Cent. School Dist. v. Wieder, 72 N.Y.2d 174, 188, 531 N.Y.S.2d 889, 527 N.E.2d 767,supra ). The challenged statute, therefore, was designed not merely to provide special educational services to the handicapped children of the Village, but to provide those services within the Village so that the children would remain subject to the language, lifestyle and environment created by the community of Satmarer Hasidim and avoid mixing with children whose language, lifestyle and environment are not the product of that religion. The dissent finds a secular...

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