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NYLJ: Judge: No Limit on Adjournments in HC

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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NYLJ: Judge: No Limit on Adjournments in HC

Postby TenantNet » Wed Mar 06, 2002 11:42 pm

Judge Rejects Limit on Adjournments in Housing Court
March 6, 2002
By Tom Perrotta
New York Law Journal

Saying that the Legislature does not have the power to place absolute restrictions on a court's calendar, a Brooklyn judge has challenged the scope of a law that puts a 10-day limit on adjournments in eviction proceedings.

The ruling by Supreme Court Justice Reynold N. Mason came in an Article 78 proceeding brought by a landlord after another Brooklyn judge, Civil Court Judge Bernadette Bayne, adjourned an eviction case against a tenant for 28 days, despite objections from the landlord's attorney. The tenant, Patricia Menkin, had requested an adjournment of unspecified length so she could consult with attorneys at Legal Aid to the Aging.

Meryl L. Wenig, the attorney for landlord Carlton Associates, objected to the duration of adjournment, citing Real Property Action and Proceedings Law §745(1). The rule says an adjournment cannot exceed 10 days unless both parties consent.

In In the Matter of Carlton Associates v. Bernadette Bayne, 27481/01, Justice Mason supported Judge Bayne's decision, writing that the "power to grant a continuance or adjournment does not depend on statute, but is inherent." The judge added: "The courts are not puppets of the Legislature, they are an independent branch of government, necessary and powerful in their sphere as either of the other great divisions."

Ms. Wenig said her client would appeal to the Appellate Division, Second Department. "I think the decision basically says judges can overrule the Legislature," she said. "What's the purpose of the statute if a judge can overrule it because it is inconvenient?" If the Legislature had wanted to give judges discretion, she said, it would have said so in the statute.

Michael McKee, associate director of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, said Justice Mason had "rendered a very logical and well-reasoned decision," and applauded the judge for challenging what he said were arbitrary rules that are "unworkable and unfair."

"Landlords already have a tremendous structural advantage in housing court," he said. Mr. McKee's organization, an advocate for tenants, did not take part in the litigation.

In his ruling Judge Mason said a court has an "inherent power" to control its calendar, as described in Judiciary Law §2-b(3). On several occasions he cited Jones v. Allen, 185 Misc. 2d 443, a decision issued in 2000 by the Appellate Term, Second Department, that says in part, that "[i]t is not competent for the Legislature to preclude absolutely the court's exercise of its inherent power in all cases."

Adopting the landlord's position in this case, the judge wrote, would burden the court and place too many limitations on judges. "Were the court to adopt the petitioner's position, Housing Court would be precluded from granting any tenant an adjournment in excess of 10 days, regardless of the circumstances unless all parties consent," he wrote. "That could leave the court in an untenable position."

Ms. Wenig said she expected to win her appeal. "Judges have to follow the law," she said.

Date Received: March 06, 2002
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