PT: Judge Denies NYS Motion to Dismiss Suit to Block Relocation of WNY Children's Psychiatric Center

Judge Deniew Motion to Dismiss Children's Psychiatric Hospital Suit
By Nick Niedzwiadek Politico July 27, 2017

BUFFALO — A state Supreme Court justice on Thursday denied the Cuomo administration's motion to dismiss a lawsuit attempting to block the relocation of the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, intervening on behalf of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Office of Mental Health commissioner Ann Sullivan, had asked for the case to be tossed for a variety of reasons, including a lack of standing. Assistant attorney general Christopher Boyd argued that the court should not intervene to infringe on the governor's constitutional right to veto legislation.

"They're asking the court to order the governor to sign a piece of legislation into law," he said during the hearing.

Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto denied the motion after a two-hour hearing and set the next hearing date for Sept. 20.

The children's facility in West Seneca is slated to relocate onto the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which treats adult patients and is located in a more urban locale. The suit, filed by the Coalition to Save the Children's Psychiatric Center, seeks to prevent Cuomo from vetoing a unanimously passed bill that would halt the move. They argue the plan to co-locate the two facilities needed legislative approval, yet OMH acted unilaterally in violation of the state's mental hygiene law.

"We are very pleased Her Honor did not dismiss the complaint," Steven Cohen of Hogan WIllig, the coalition's attorney, said after the hearing. "We're very much alive."

A spokesman for OMH said the department could not comment on pending litigation.

The courtroom was packed with members of the coalition, with some even seated in the jury box. The issue has become a months-long priority for local elected officials like Democratic Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, who sponsored NY A6505 (17R) in the lower chamber.

Kearns this week said he had been lobbying the governor's office to not veto the bill if and when it is sent to his desk for consideration. Cuomo has publicly said he will consider the legislation when his office receives it.

Earlier this month the coalition won a temporary restraining order halting construction work related to moving the children's psychiatric center, but an appellate judge stayed that ruling, and the restraining order expired Thursday.

Panepinto declined to renew the restraining order, allowing the state to continue paying contractors and working on the project.