Neighborhood Pop-Up Courts is an initiative that was launched in April by the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), which is the City’s independent administrative law court and where all City agencies file their regulatory and enforcement summonses for hearings. The first Pop-Up Court on Staten Island took place in June in the Mid-Island area.
Through this new initiative, OATH travels to neighborhoods across the five boroughs with Hearing Officers in order to conduct hearings directly in the community at Community Boards, libraries, offices of elected officials, and other civic organizations in an effort to increase response rates to City-issued summonses and to make it more convenient for people to access justice at the City’s administrative law court. There are various negative consequences that can occur if a summons is not responded to in the manner required; among them is that if a summons is not responded to on or before the hearing date then a higher penalty is typically imposed. This is due to the fact that City enforcement and regulatory agencies set their penalties in law and most agencies have made the penalty amounts higher for summonses that default or are not responded to in the correct, timely way.
OATH’s Neighborhood Pop-Up Court initiative involves a case-specific, mail marketing outreach campaign in which recipients of summonses issued by the Department of Sanitation and certain summonses issued by the Health Department are sent letters telling them that because their summons has a scheduled hearing date that is on or after the Pop-Up Court, their summons is eligible to be fought at the Neighborhood Pop-Up Court. The Sanitation and Health Department does not appear to argue their case for most of the summonses that those agencies write. This means that the recipient of the summons is able to meet one-on-one with the OATH Hearing Officer and tell him or her why they believe the summons should be dismissed. The decision is written up and mailed to both the enforcement agency and the person who fought the summons within 7 days.
OATH ‘s Public Affairs and Communications Office is estimating that more than 200 letters will be sent out to recipients of summonses that are eligible to have their case heard at the upcoming Pop-Up Court on Staten Island on October 17, 2018.
“I’m pleased to partner again with OATH to bring a second pop-up court to Staten Island,” said BP Oddo. “This neighborhood pop-up court will make it easier for Staten Islanders from the South Shore to fight summonses in a convenient location. I encourage all Staten Islanders who are eligible to take advantage of this opportunity. Thank you to OATH and Council Member Borelli for working with us to bring the pop-up court concept to the South Shore.”
“That someone from my district on the South Shore of Staten Island would have to take a day off and travel to the ferry to fight a ticket is absurd. This is a true step in the right direction in terms of the accessibility of the court and I applaud Commissioner Fidel Del Valle for accommodating Staten Islanders,” said Council Member Borelli.
“As the City’s central independent administrative law court, OATH’s top priority is to make it as easy as possible for those who have been issued summonses from City enforcement agencies to have their day in court,” said OATH Commissioner and Chief Administrative Law Judge, Fidel F. Del Valle. “Our Neighborhood Pop-Up Courts program brings the court to where you work and live so that fighting City summonses and accessing justice at OATH is more convenient and less time consuming.”
In addition to alerting respondents that their case is eligible to be heard at the Pop-Up Court, the letter also informs the recipient of their right to fight the summons remotely online, by phone, by webcam or by mail if they choose not to attend the Pop-Up Court to have their hearing in person. Recipients of summonses can also go to the Staten Island OATH Hearing Office located at 350 St. Marks Place on the North Shore of the Island on the day of their scheduled hearing should they want to contest the summons in person there.
OATH is the independent administrative law court where nearly all City enforcement agencies file their summonses for hearings. The agencies that file summonses at OATH for hearings include the Departments of Sanitation, Buildings, Health, Parks, Environmental Protection, Consumer Affairs, FDNY and NYPD, among many others. Last year, OATH received approximately 850,000 summonses from the City’s various enforcement agencies and during that time 44% of summonses that were fought at OATH hearings were dismissed by OATH Hearing Officers.