4th Department: Pinnacle Charter Sch. v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of State of N.Y.

In April 2012, defendant Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York (“Board of Regents”) denied the application of plaintiff Pinnacle Charter School (“Pinnacle”) to renew its charter to operate a school in the City of Buffalo. Pinnacle and the individual plaintiffs—parents of infant students enrolled at Pinnacle—sought preliminary and permanent injunctions enjoining the Board of Regents from enforcing the denial of the application and permitting Pinnacle to continue operating its charter school. Plaintiffs alleged that the decision of the Board of Regents to deny their applications was made in violation of their rights to due process, the requirements of the state Administrative Procedure Act, and the rights of the individual plaintiffs’ children to a sound basic education under the Education Article of the State Constitution. Plaintiffs alleged further that section 2852(6) of New York’s education law statute is unconstitutional to the extent that it limits judicial and administrative review of the Board of Regents’ action.

Defendants appealed the Supreme Court of Erie County’s decision to grant Plaintiffs’ motion seeking a preliminary injunction. The appellate division held that the supreme court erred in granting Plaintiffs’ motion because Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits with respect to any of their claims. The court found that, although the supreme court properly granted defendants’ cross motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action for negligent misrepresentation, it should have gone further and granted defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety.

With respect to the first and second causes of action—violation of due process rights under the State and Federal Constitution—the Court agreed with defendants’ argument that the New York Charter Schools Act creates no constitutionally protected property interest in the renewal of a charter. The court ruled that the first and second causes of action failed to state a cause of action. Here, the court reasoned that Pinnacle’s charter expressly provided that nothing required the Board of Regents to approve renewal. Further, the court reasoned that the limitation on administrative review set forth in section 2856(6) does not effect an unconstitutional denial of due process inasmuch as Pinnacle has no constitutional right to an administrative appeal.

With respect to Plaintiffs’ third cause of action—the alleged violation of the state Administrative Procedure Act—the court found that the Board of Regents acted pursuant to its discretionary authority in denying Pinnacle’s application and that it was not required to promulgate any rules pursuant to the Act. The court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the fourth cause of action, inasmuch as Plaintiffs did not have the special relationship or privity required with the Department.

As to the fifth cause of action—that denial of the renewal application violated individual Plaintiffs’ children’s rights to a sound basic education—the Court reasoned that even assuming the Plaintiffs had standing to allege a violation of the Education Article based upon the failure of the Buffalo School District to offer a sound basic education, Plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action for such a violation.

The court vacated the lower court’s preliminary injunction and granted defendants’ cross motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety.

View Full Decision on Westlaw

108 A.D.3d 1024, 969 N.Y.S.2d (4th Dep’t 2013)

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