Municipal and Governmental Liability and Counsel
Goldberg Segalla is proud to offer comprehensive counsel to a wide range of municipal entities and to defend them in state and federal courts, as well as in all types of alternative dispute resolution. Whether our clients need day to day advice on issues affecting municipalities, or representation in litigation, our team has the depth and experience to help. Our team includes former government attorneys knowledgeable in all facets of government including, but not limited to, budgeting, legislative proceedings and resolutions, open meetings law, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), civil service, constitutional claims, General Municipal Law 207-a and 207-c and the many unique issues affecting state and local governments. We guide municipalities through compliance with applicable state codes and laws, and we have a strong track record of successfully representing them in claims stemming from alleged violations of those codes and statutes.
Our clients include towns, cities, villages, counties, school districts and boards, public colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, jails, fire districts, public utilities, and other governmental agencies. We have successfully defended these clients in premises liability actions, motor vehicle negligence and other torts, constitutional challenges, excessive force allegations, labor and employment matters, employment discrimination and harassment claims, sexual abuse claims, Title VII and Title IX actions, and construction defect claims. We also represent municipal entities in matters involving collective bargaining and labor relations, contract negotiation, capital improvement undertakings, risk management, zoning, administrative investigations and proceedings, accident investigation, and insurance coverage.
Public Service Commitment
Our attorneys work closely with our clients to share the wealth of experience we have in the municipal field, providing alerts, news, and commentary on current issues and developments that could affect them, and offering in-house training on subjects spanning employment policies, risk management, insurance, and civil rights, as well as emerging issues like data breaches and cyber liability and the use of body cameras in law enforcement. We are able to offer these educational opportunities because many of Goldberg Segalla’s municipal attorneys hold leadership positions in both state and national municipal associations, including:
- Defense Research Institute (DRI) Governmental Liability Committee and Law Enforcement Sub-Committee
- International Municipal Lawyers Association
- Association of Towns
- County Attorneys Association of NY
- Organization of Public Employer Negotiators
- New York State Bar Association, Local and State Government Law Section
- New York State Public Employer Labor Relations Association
- National Public Employer Labor Relations Association
Working closely with our Constitutional and Civil Rights and Appellate Practice Groups, our municipal attorneys have defended numerous government agencies, elected officials, police officers, corrections officers, and counties and local governments in civil rights suits in federal and state courts. We’ve successfully defended free speech claims, allegations of police misconduct, and general municipal liability claims.
Our attorneys proactively counsel on policies and matters related to violations of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the due process and equal protection clauses, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 1983, and 1985. We also have extensive experience handling the unique challenges presented by the complex, myriad laws found in state constitutions as well as local ordinances. Our capabilities range from cases involving state-specific human rights laws to the codes impacting project finance, development, and land use. Our team has extensive experience representing governments facing challenges in state court, for example in New York CPLR Article 78 proceedings, arising out of government decision making, whether through enacting local laws, or through other agency action. We also have extensive experience bringing and defending proceedings to vacate and confirm arbitration awards. Besides representing clients in court, our attorneys regularly deliver presentations and seminars to individual municipal clients and regional and national organizations of municipal entities on the full range of civil rights and discrimination claims, and frequently author articles for leading publications on subjects ranging from the use of body cameras in law enforcement to FOIL requests.
As trusted counselors to a vast number of public employers, large and small, we can help our clients avoid unnecessary litigation involving the workplace issues facing public employers with a unionized workforce. At Goldberg Segalla, we represent numerous employers, offering assistance with:
- Contract negotiations and disputes
- Civil Service administration
- General Municipal Law section 207-a and 207-c benefits
- Hiring and termination under collective bargaining agreements or Civil Service Law § 75
- Requests for reasonable accommodations, FMLA administration and leave administration
- Discrimination and civil rights claims
- Developing and updating employment policies
- Social media, cloud computing, and other technology policies
- Conducting mandatory sexual harassment training for management personnel
- Conducting workplace violence training, as well as counseling on investigations conducted by PESH or OSHA
- Creating a workplace free from any violations of any state and/or federal codes
- Workers’ Compensation
Goldberg Segalla also provides full representation in any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or State Division of Human Rights (DHR) claims. We aggressively defend any charges brought against employers in all administrative proceedings and judicial forums. Our team of knowledgeable litigators has had great success in defending claims based on alleged age, sex, and race discrimination, as well as claims based upon alleged retaliation. Of course, our defense of these claims also includes training our clients so that they may avoid claims and litigation in the future.
Our attorneys counsel educational institutions, school and district administrators, and school district boards and boards of trustees on a wide variety of matters, including:
- Student disciplinary procedures and codes
- Tenure denial and other faculty employment issues
- Title IX administration and compliance, including training and policy development
- Compliance issues arising out of applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations
- Disciplinary proceedings under New York Education Law § 3020-a
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other privacy matters
- Labor, employment, and employee benefit issues, including matters involving administrators and staff
- Discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims
- Federal and state tax exemption
- Corporate and governance matters
With issues involving students, our experience allows us to review student disciplinary procedures and codes, assist in hearings related to student discipline, and render advice regarding search and seizures in the school, as well as drug testing. Our experienced litigators have handled numerous cases involving student injuries on campus or in the classroom, and we have the experience to assist school districts in investigating these claims.
Our team has extensive experience drafting policies under Title IX and providing advice during internal investigations of charges of harassment and discrimination. We have a strong track record representing and defending institutions during investigations conducted by state and federal agencies, including, but not limited to, the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.
Our experience and knowledge have also allowed us to successfully defend numerous school districts in claims involving sexual abuse or harassment of students by teachers, as well as claims of sexual abuse or harassment committed by one student upon another. Of course, we understand that these are often extremely sensitive issues, and we pride ourselves on handling each case with the dignity and confidentiality required by our clients as well as the courts.
When public colleges and universities call on us for help, our municipal and governmental liability attorneys team up with the attorneys in out Higher Education Practice Group — including seasoned litigators and several lawyers with experience from in-house legal and human relations roles with public educational institutions — to offer comprehensive counsel and meet the unique challenges and liability issues that those clients face.
Our municipal attorneys work seamlessly with the accomplished practitioners in the firm’s Construction Practice Group to provide an extensive array of construction-related legal services for municipalities and school districts. Our experience includes:
- Financing and transactional issues
- Environmental law matters
- Labor issues and disputes
- Negotiating contracts, including subcontract agreements
- Helping with the preparation of bid documents and proposals
Our attorneys are highly skilled in the defense of claims involving all construction issues from the beginning of the bidding, to the inception of the contract, throughout the building process, and to the completion and issuance of the certificate of occupancy. Our experienced team of trial lawyers handles all contract disputes and other claims arising out of the building process, including litigation involving mechanic’s liens and arbitration of disputes.
When our municipal clients face issues involving environmental law or toxic exposures, our municipal and government liability attorneys draw on the insights, resources, and unmatched experience of the firm’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Practice Groups. Our team is at the forefront of toxic tort litigation nationally, and fully equipped to defend environmental contamination and personal injury actions involving exposures including:
- Silica and mixed dust
- Lead paint
- Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE)
- Carbon monoxide
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Caustic chemicals
- Teratogenic substances
- Legionnaire’s disease
Goldberg Segalla’s attorneys also have extensive experience defending generators, transporters, manufacturers, contractors, property owners, and their insurers against claims relating to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and New York’s Navigation Law.
Our municipal clients will benefit from our perspective in handling these types of claims, as well as our experience with issues involving environmental compliance, insurance, and financing of projects. The legal advice we provide encompasses all areas of compliance, including matters involving the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), RCRA, CERCLA, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and other issues. Our attorneys can also help municipalities deal with any recovery costs associated with a clean-up project.
Our attorneys often work with municipalities and boards on applications for developmental projects. Given our experience, we can provide complete guidance to help municipalities and applicants comply with all local and state codes and statutes, including SEQRA. Our attorneys have represented developers, business owners, zoning boards of appeal, and planning and town boards in a variety of settings, including applications for variances, and Article 78 proceedings, and tax certiorari proceedings. Many of our lawyers have firsthand knowledge of the inner working of government agencies from past and present experience as members of zoning, planning, and town boards and city councils.
In addition, the Goldberg Segalla team can assist in all aspects of land use and zoning issues and provide the necessary legal advice in handling all regulatory issues that might arise. Risk assessment and management are built into everything we do at Goldberg Segalla, where our priority is delivering cost-effective value through strategies tailored to the needs of every client. For municipal clients, that means identifying future areas of concern and taking early steps to address them — as, for example, protecting property rights and governmental interests from the very beginning of a rezoning initiative. Should litigation result out of SEQRA claims or other issues involving the actions of a planning or zoning board, our team of attorneys will be available to guide our clients through the process.
High-profile ransomware and malware attacks, breaches, and leaks have brought attention to the major cyber-related risks facing individuals, companies, organizations, and governments. For governments, these risks don’t stop at data loss, disrupted services, and shaken credibility — beyond the initial breach and response lies the potentially greater risk of liability.
With the full support of Goldberg Segalla’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy practice, our attorneys assist all types of municipal and governmental clients in understanding new technologies as they emerge and develop; drafting and updating policies for data storage and security, social media use, and privacy laws and regulations; securing maximum cyber risk insurance coverage and reviewing policies; and crafting training and protocols for breaches or other tech-related crises.
In the unfortunate event of a breach or other crisis, our team delivers vigorous defense and a comprehensive crisis management strategy. As a firm founded by trial lawyers, we bring to each matter the savvy and successful track record of our Business and Commercial, Professional Liability, Global Insurance Services, and Class Action Litigation Practice Groups and other litigation-oriented teams within the firm. Beyond any initial response and trial, our attorneys are also highly skilled at helping municipal bodies recover from data breaches and tech-related crises, helping them to restore credibility and craft stronger technology policies, data breach response procedures, and other protections.
Goldberg Segalla leverages exceptional experience in counseling municipal clients as well as workers’ compensation litigation and claims-handling strategy to craft long-term risk- and cost-reduction plans for a wide variety of governments, agencies, and other public entities.
While we frequently litigate individual workers’ compensation claims for municipalities and public entities, these clients most often call on us for counsel that is strategic, proactive, and sustained. As just one example, we negotiated and implemented a procedure with a major metro law enforcement officers’ union to monitor and manage officers injured at work under New York State General Municipal Law Section 207-c. In fewer than 10 years, we have won over 100 decisions and reduced the average number of officers on IOD from 120 to 14, with contingent savings in decreased overtime pay as well as earlier retirements.
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January 24, 2019
August 30, 2018