Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Judge Throws Book at the Brooklyn Public Library

It's not every day that a judge paraphrases Mel Brooks in an opinion. But in Rodriguez v. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack did just that. The decision, handed down on November 29, rejected the Library's claim that it was a New York City agency and entitled to the protections that such agencies enjoy. The suit grew out of a traffic accident in which David Rodriguez was injured; he was a passenger in a car hit by a Library van. Rodriguez's injuries required surgery, and he sued the Library about ten months after the accident. The Library sought to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that as a municipal corporation it had to receive notice of the lawsuit within ninety days of the accident.

Justice Schack was scathing in his refusal to recognize the Library as a municipal corporation. He seems to have looked at material beyond what was included in the briefs, and cited the following factors: only 62% of the Library's funding comes from the city; it has private insurance; its employees aren't municipal workers. Furthermore, the Library is running a good-sized deficit (over $1,000,000) despite employing a professional fund raiser "who receives more in compensation than every New York State judge, including the Chief Judge." Paraphrasing Mel Brooks's famous line from History of the World: Part I, "It's good to be the king!", Justice Schack wrote, "It's good to be operating a deficit running non-profit, receiving 62% of its revenue from the financially challenged City of New York!" The Daily News's article about the lawsuit characterized the opinion as a "written tongue lashing," and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's account highlighted Justice Schack's scrutiny of the Library's tax return from 2010, and praised his "witty" decision that included a history of the Library.

The photo accompanying this blog post shows the impressive main doors at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza.

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