The Third Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Peters, determined the controlling Social Services Law statutes did not give the Justice Center for the Protection of Persons with Special Needs (Justice Center) the authority to find make a “neglect” finding against a facility for people with developmental disabilities. When two staff members left a resident unsupervised the resident engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. The resident had acted similarly in the past:
… [T]he issue before us “is one of pure statutory interpretation dependent only on accurate apprehension of legislative intent” … . In performing this function, we are “constitutionally bound to give effect to the expressed will of the Legislature and the plain and obvious meaning of a statute is always preferred to any curious, narrow or hidden sense that nothing but a strained interpretation of legislative intent would discern” … .
… While the Justice Center is indeed permitted to make a “concurrent finding” with respect to a facility or provider agency in conjunction with either a substantiated or unsubstantiated report, the scope of that “concurrent finding” is expressly circumscribed by the statute. By its terms, the only “concurrent finding” that may be made is “that a systemic problem caused or contributed to the occurrence of the incident” (Social Services Law § 493  [b]). Had the Legislature intended to authorize the Justice Center to make a concurrent finding of neglect as against a facility or provider agency, it could have expressly said so. Likewise, if it was the intent of the Legislature to equate a finding “that a systemic problem caused or contributed to the occurrence of the incident” with a finding of “neglect,” it could have easily done so through use of the term “neglect.” It is axiomatic that “new language cannot be imported into a statute to give it a meaning not otherwise found therein” (McKinney's Cons Laws of NY, Book 1, Statutes § 94 at 190), nor can a court “amend a statute by inserting words that are not there” … . Matter of Anonymous v Molik, 2016 NY Slip Op 04288, 3rd Dept 6-2-16
SOCIAL SERVICES LAW (JUSTICE CENTER DID NOT HAVE THE STATUTORY AUTHORITY TO MAKE A NEGLECT FINDING AGAINST A FACILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES)/DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, PEOPLE WITH (JUSTICE CENTER DID NOT HAVE THE STATUTORY AUTHORITY TO MAKE A NEGLECT FINDING AGAINST A FACILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES)/NEGLECT (JUSTICE CENTER DID NOT HAVE THE STATUTORY AUTHORITY TO MAKE A NEGLECT FINDING AGAINST A FACILITY FOR PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES)