ALTHOUGH PETITIONER ULTIMATELY PREVAILED AND WAS PROVIDED WITH THE NASSAU COUNTY TRAFFIC AND PARKING VIOLATIONS AGENCY (TPVA) RECORDS PURSUANT TO ITS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW (FOIL) REQUEST, BECAUSE THE TPVA PERFORMS EXEMPT ADJUDICATORY FUNCTIONS AS WELL AS NON-EXEMPT PROSECUTORIAL FUNCTIONS THE COUNTY HAD A REASONABLE BASIS FOR INITIALLY WITHHOLDING THE RECORDS; $30,000 ATTORNEY’S-FEES AWARD REVERSED (SECOND DEPT).
The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined that, although the petitioner ultimately prevailed in its Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) action, it was not entitled to attorney’s fees. The petitioner sought records re: Nassau County’s photo speed monitoring system. The records were held by the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency (TPVA). Initially the request was denied on the ground that the TPVA is part of the judiciary and therefore was not an “agency” within the meaning of the Public Officers Law. However, the Court of Appeals has clarified that there are aspects of the TPVA which are adjudicatory and aspects which are prosecutorial. Ultimately it was determined the sought records related to the prosecutorial function and were made available to the petitioner. The Supreme Court awarded petitioner over $30,000 in attorney’s fees. But the Second Department reversed:
We disagree with the Supreme Court’s determination to grant the petitioner’s motion for an award of attorney’s fees. Here, the petitioner “substantially prevailed” in the proceeding, inasmuch as the petitioner eventually received the documents sought from the TPVA (see Public Officers Law § 89[c] … ). However, the TPVA had a reasonable basis for denying the petitioner’s request for its records based on its reliance upon the Court of Appeals’ statement that “the TPVA was intended to be an arm of the District Court” … , and FOIL’s express exclusion of “judiciary” from its definition of “agency” (Public Officers Law § 86, ). Although it was ultimately determined that TPVA records concerning its nonadjudicatory responsibilities are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to the Public Officers Law, it remains that TPVA had a reasonable basis in law for withholding the requested materials … . Accordingly, the petitioner’s motion should have been denied. Matter of Law Offs. of Cory H. Morris v County of Nassau, 2020 NY Slip Op 03513, Second Dept 6-24-20