Court Should Not Have Summarily Determined Declaratory Judgment Action In Absence of a Request to Do So/The Mootness Doctrine Precluded Court Rulings on an Expired Contract/The Open Meetings Law Was Violated by the Town
The Third Department determined Supreme Court should not have summarily considered the declaratory judgment aspect of this hybrid action without a request to do so and without converting the proceeding to a summary judgment action. The Third Department further determined the mootness doctrine precluded the Supreme Court from ruling on the provisions of an expired contract, and the town had violated the Open Meetings Law by holding closed sessions. The action concerned the use of property for motorcycle events. Local property owners brought the action alleging that the events violated the allowed use of the land:
It is well settled that a court’s jurisdiction extends only to live controversies” …, and a matter becomes moot “unless the rights of the parties will be directly affected by the determination of the [claim] and the interest of the parties is an immediate consequence of the judgment” … . Where, as here, the passage of time or “a change in circumstances prevents a court from rendering a decision that would effectively determine an actual controversy,” the claim must be dismissed … . The 2013 agreement, by its own terms, pertained solely to Safety Track’s land uses and events that occurred during the 2013 track season and expired at the end of that year, thereby rendering the challenges to the 2013 agreement moot … . Further, we do not agree with Supreme Court’s finding that the exception to the mootness doctrine was satisfied… . …
In a hybrid proceeding and action, separate procedural rules apply to those causes of action which are asserted pursuant to CPLR article 78, on the one hand, and those which seek declaratory relief, on the other hand” … . In the absence of a formalized motion requesting the “summary determination of the causes of action which seek . . . declaratory relief, it is error for [a court] to summarily dispose of those causes of action” … .
It is undisputed that there was no pending motion for summary disposition of the declaratory judgment action when Supreme Court rendered its 2014 judgment. Nor did the court provide notice to the parties that it was considering the summary disposition of the declaratory judgment action, such that the parties would be afforded an opportunity to further develop the evidentiary record and offer competent proof supportive of their respective positions … .
… Generally, “[e]very meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public, except that an executive session of such body may be called and business transacted thereat in accordance with [Public Officers Law § 105]” (Public Officers Law § 103 [a]). While a governing body may enter into an executive session, it may do so only for certain purposes, including, as is relevant here, the consideration of an appointment or to engage in private discussions relating to proposed or pending litigation (see Public Officers Law § 105  [f]…). However, the body must “identify the subject matter to be discussed . . . with some degree of particularity”… . * * * As the Town failed to demonstrate that it comported with the relevant statutory provisions when conducting the instant executive sessions, such sessions were violative of the Public Officers Law … . Matter of Ballard v New York Safety Track LLC. 2015 NY Slip Op 01845, 3rd Dept 3-5-15