By: Daily Record Staff//April 29, 2010
By: Daily Record Staff//April 29, 2010//
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Administrative Proceedings – Judicial Review
Wasser v. New York State Office of Vocational and Educational Services
Appealed from the Eastern District of New York
Background: Plaintiff-appellant Michael J. Wasser, appearing pro se, appeals from a judgment entered on Aug. 28, 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The judgment followed an August 2008 memorandum and order dismissing plaintiff’s claims brought pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act.
Plaintiff, who suffers from a progressive form of muscular dystrophy functionally rendering him a quadriplegic, is a practicing attorney with the New York City Law Department, where he is employed as an assistant corporation counsel. VESID began working with plaintiff in 1992 to help him achieve his vocational goal of becoming a corporate lawyer. Throughout plaintiff’s undergraduate studies at Brooklyn College and his legal studies at Brooklyn Law School, VESID provided plaintiff with a variety of services including computers and transportation adapted to his needs. VESID also paid plaintiff’s law school tuition up to the amount of tuition at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. In March 2000, after plaintiff had graduated from law school and informed VESID that he was employed by the City Law Department, VESID closed his case. This litigation follows from the dispute with VESID.
Ruling: The court’s opinion addresses only the appropriate standard of review that district courts should apply when a plaintiff commences a civil action under 29 U.S.C. §722(c)(5)(J) seeking review of a final decision of either a state hearing officer or a state reviewing official. The court holds that district courts should apply a modified de novo standard of review, engaging in an independent review of the administrative record while according substantial deference to the policy views of the New York State Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities and the findings of state administrative proceedings. The district court’s order dismissing the claims is affirmed.
Michael J. Wasser, pro se appellant and Monica Wagner Assistant NYS Solicitor General, for the appellees