The Fourth Department determined municipalities are not “persons” and cannot sue under the due process clause of the US or New York Constitutions to declare a statute unconstitutional. Here the counties sought to have a law prohibiting reimbursement for certain Medicaid expenses (section 61) overturned:
Here, petitioners contend that respondents’ enactment of section 61 impermissibly deprived them of vested rights to repayment under Social Services Law § 368-a, in violation of their rights under the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides in relevant part that “[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Similarly, article I, § 6 of the New York State Constitution provides in relevant part that “[n]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Thus, the constitutional provisions share a common link, i.e., they protect a “person” (id.; see US Const, 14th Amend, § 1).
Contrary to petitioners’ contentions, we conclude that they are not persons within the meaning of the constitutional due process provisions. This principle was stated clearly by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which concluded that “[m]unicipalities cannot challenge state action on federal constitutional grounds because they are not persons’ within the meaning of the Due Process Clause” (City of East St. Louis v Circuit Court for Twentieth Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County, Ill., 986 F2d 1142, 1144). Other decisions, without using the term “person,” also support the conclusion that a municipal body may not use the due process clause to challenge legislation of the municipality’s creating state. Thus, “[i]t has long been the case that a municipality may not invoke the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment against its own state . . . A municipality is thus prevented from attacking state legislation on the grounds that the law violates the municipality’s own rights . . . Moreover, while municipalities or other state political subdivisions may challenge the constitutionality of state legislation on certain grounds and in certain circumstances, these do not include challenges brought under the Due Process . . . Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . This is because a municipal corporation, in its own right, receives no protection from the . . . Due Process Clause vis-a-vis its creating state’ ” … . Matter of County of Chautauqua v Shah, 2015 NY Slip Op 02245, 4th Dept 3-20-15