OATH extends hours for Brooklynites to fight civil summonses

September 21, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is the latest attempt by Judge Fidel F. Del Valle to make OATH fairer to New Yorkers since he took over the department. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese
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It just got easier for Brooklynites to pay or fight their civil summonses as the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) announced a pilot program that will extend their hearing hours.

The pilot, which is only running in Brooklyn, extends regular hours to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays, and introduces Saturday hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. OATH, which is the city’s independent administrative law court that handles civil summonses from nearly all city enforcement agencies, will have its full range of services, including walk-in hearings, available during these extra hours of operation.

“As the city court where nearly all NYC agencies file their summonses for hearings and where nearly all New Yorkers have the potential to be summoned, OATH must always be working towards ensuring that the hearing process is fair and broadly accessible,” said Commissioner and Chief Administrative Law Judge Fidel F. Del Valle.

“New Yorkers charged with breaking a city rule or law have an absolute right to a hearing where they can tell their side and give their defense to a neutral, independent decision-maker whose duty it is to issue the decision in their case,” Del Valle continued. “OATH’s goal through this experiment is to learn whether providing different hours of operation could make it easier for people to assert that right and fight the charges that have been filed against.”

Summonses eligible for walk-in hearings include all summonses that do not require the issuing agency to be present at the hearing. That includes most civil summonses issued by NYPD, the Parks Department, the Department of Sanitation and the Health Department.

Del Valle was appointed as the chief judge and commissioner of OATH by Mayor Bill de Blasio with the goal of making the city summons process more transparent and fair.

During a Brooklyn Bar Association continuing legal education seminar last May, Del Valle explained the problems with the agency that he took over and discussed ways that he wanted to make the summons process fairer for New Yorkers who had been given a fine. This is an effort to make hearings more accessible.

“When an inspector from a particular agency issues 27 summonses all returnable at 8:30 in the morning all at the same day, and then you have people sitting there at 2 p.m. that are holding summonses that say 8:30 a.m., it’s not hard for them to imagine that was a deliberate attempt to discourage them from their due process rights,” Del Valle said last May.

The pilot program will run through Jan. 30, 2018. Brooklyn’s OATH Hearings Division is located at 9 Bond St. on the sixth floor.

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