The McNamee Lochner P.C. Obtains Judicial Annulment

The McNamee Lochner P.C. Obtains Judicial Annulment of an Adirondack Park Agency Decision That Penalized a Farmer

The Appellate Division, Third Department in Albany has unanimously affirmed the judgment of Acting Supreme Court Justice Richard Meyer, who had annulled an administrative decision by the Adirondack Park Agency against an organic farm in the Town of Essex. Lewis Family Farm, Inc. was successfully represented in the challenge by McNamee Lochner P.C. senior partner John J. Privitera, Esq., with the assistance of Jacob F. Lamme, Esq.

In this case, the Adirondack Park Agency imposed a $50,000 fine against the Lewis Family Farm, a premier, 1,200 acre organic farm in the Champlain Valley, because it constructed farm worker housing without an Agency permit. The Agency ordered the Lewis Farm to submit to the Agency's jurisdiction on all matters of farm development and further directed the Farm to apply for an "after the fact permit" for a single family "residential subdivision" for the three farm worker houses built by the Farm near its barns.

McNamee Lochner P.C. maintained that the Agency lacked jurisdiction over farm buildings; that New York State's Right-to-Farm Law protected the Lewis Family Farm as against all land use regulations; that no residential subdivision had occurred because the farm worker houses were part of the farm operation; and, that the penalty was illegal. McNamee Lochner P.C. also raised, for the first time in New York's history, the Farm Conservation Clause in the State Constitution, leading to the first judicial reference to this important constitutional clause. The courts upheld the Lewis Family Farm on all counts and annulled the Agency's action. Lewis Family Farm, Inc. v. Adirondack Park Agency, 20 Misc.3d 1114, 867 N.Y.S.2d 375 (Sup. Ct. Essex County 2008); Lewis Family Farm, Inc. v. Adirondack Park Agency, 64 A.D.3d 1009, 883 N.Y.S.2d 782 (3d Dep't 2009).

The unanimous decision of the Third Department is so definitive that the New York State Attorney General declined to seek review by the New York Court of Appeals.

Drawing upon its administrative law experience, McNamee Lochner P.C. had petitioned the Commissioner of the New York State Department Agriculture and obtained a determination that the three farm worker houses on the Lewis Family Farm were an agricultural use of the land in accordance with New York State's Right-to-Farm Law. McNamee Lochner P.C. also reached out to New York Farm Bureau, Inc., seeking support for the defense of the Lewis Family Farm. The Farm Bureau filed a series of Friend of the Court Briefs in support of the Lewis Family Farm during the course of the litigation, all of which were written by Albany appellate lawyer, Cynthia Feathers, Esq.

The case received significant media and policy attention because New York's Right-to-Farm Law protects and conserves productive farm land, an important segment of New York's economy. A series of stories appeared in the New York Times: A Bumper Crop of Bureaucracy, New York Times, April 14, 2008, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/14/nyregion/14farm.html Farmer Wins Court Fight Against State Regulators, New York Times, November 20, 2008 p. A39, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/nyregion/20farm.html; Hi-ho the Derry-o the Farmer Beats the State, New York Times, July 16, 2009, available at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/16/hi-ho-the-derry-o-the-farmer-beats-the-state/; State Folds on Farm Case, but still Faces Suit, New York Times, August 20, 2009, available at http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/state-folds-on-farm-case-but-still-faces-suit/.

McNamee Lochner P.C. has core strengths in litigation and dispute resolution and is well-situated in the State Capital to provide zealous and efficient advocacy on state regulatory matters.