NYS Justice Derails State’s Attempt To Railroad Prominent Real Estate Appraisers
NYS Case Against Steven M. Knobel and Jeffrey Jackson Annulled As Improper
In her decision, Justice Schlesinger states that the actions of the Deputy Secretary “certainly raised a question in my mind as to its propriety.”
In a major victory for appraisers Steven M. Knobel and Jeffrey Jackson, who are founding partners of Mitchell, Maxwell & Jackson, a State Supreme Court Justice has found that the New York Department of State improperly sought to revoke their licenses.
According to the Jan 31, 2014 decision [NYS Supreme Court Index 100753/2013 http://bit.ly/1o57OfL ] by Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger, the State failed to provide due process, appeared to willfully ignore evidence in Knobel and Jackson’s favor, and woefully failed to prove their case whatsoever and failed to establish any wrongdoing by Knobel or Jackson.
“We are pleased justice has been served,” said Jackson, adding, “However, although we were able to obtain a stay to prevent revocation of our licenses, the damage was done as many lending institutions preemptively withdrew their business with the firm. As a result, we were forced to lay off many qualified professionals and loyal employees. In addition much of our former business has now gone to appraisal management companies from other states.”
On May 24, 2013, Messrs. Knobel and Jackson commenced an Article 78 proceeding against the Department of State on the grounds that the decisions against them were not only arbitrary and capricious, but also were lacking in due process. At the heart of the appeal was the fact that they were deprived of the basic right to a fair hearing which prejudiced their ability to prepare a meaningful defense.
In her decision, Justice Schlesinger states that the actions of the Deputy Secretary “certainly raised a question in my mind as to its propriety.” She chastised the State for the “complete paucity of proof that Knobel and Jackson individually or jointly were behind this so-called nefarious scheme and/or reaped large benefits from it.”
Justice Schlesinger found that the State Department never properly outlined the charges to Jackson and Knobel, thus depriving them of the opportunity to prepare an adequate defense.
Said Knobel, “The Department of State believes they are above the rules. Perhaps they are used to dealing with individual licensees they can bully. My partner and I had the moral conviction and ability to stand up to them. Thankfully, the court realized that there was not one scintilla of evidence of any wrongdoing.”
Attorneys for Jackson and Knobel noted that the State’s prosecution team withheld its own investigator’s report.
Equally serious, the State chose to rely on the testimony of its sole witness, the disgruntled former appraiser, who had previously made numerous contradictory statements under oath. Remarkably, the State relied on the witness’ testimony and ignored MMJ’s records and the testimony of six disinterested appraisers who swore that this witness’ version of events was false.
“The state has a duty to be fair,” noted Mr. Knobel. “When they found out during the hearing that the witness was not being truthful, they had a moral and legal duty to acknowledge it. I hope the States’s Attorney General’s office investigates whether this is prosecutorial misconduct.”
Shaw & Binder P.C., a Manhattan law firm, filed the Article 78 appeal on behalf of Knobel & Jackson. Attorney Stuart Shaw remarked, “We are currently reviewing our option in regards to a claim for attorney fees due to the State’s ill advised proceeding.” Shaw added, “We were also forced to file another Article 78 against the State [NYS Supreme Court Index 100149/2014 http://bit.ly/1h4WnUW ] to compel them to turn over the State Investigator’s original Investigation Notes.” These notes had been subpoenaed at the hearing and requested through a timely F.O.I.L. [Freedom of Information Law] request. Both requests have been denied by the State.
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