STORY BY JANIE ROSMAN
While it canceled the July 28 meeting earlier this week, the East Ramapo school board will have to face its own legal bills, per last month’s New York State Supreme Court ruling that the district overpaid its attorneys $2,055,345.50 (more than 10 times a reasonable amount).
According to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria, the school’s legal fees should have been $187,500, a total which would have covered an hourly rate of $375 for 500 hours. However, the board paid ten times that amount, a total New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal [NYSIR], which covers the district’s legal liabilities, refused to pay. Bucaria wrote, “A reasonable fee for the legal services provided is $187,500, based upon 500 hours and an average hourly rate of $375, including all expenses. Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment is granted to the extent of $187,500, plus interest from September 13, 2012, to March 12, 2014.”
The district asked for the $2.2 million it spent defending school board members in a class-action civil rights lawsuit between 2012 and 2014. According to School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl, the district expects to enter talks with NYSIR to determine what the school insurance program owes.
The legal fees, owed to the firms of Proskauer Rose and Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, stemmed from ongoing civil rights lawsuit filed by public school parents against both the largely Orthodox school board and its individual members for allegedly sending public funds to private religious schools. The Rockland County Times detailed this lawsuit — Montesa v. Schwartz, 12-cv-06057, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) — on July 16, 2015, in “Hoping for a Jury Trial: Lawsuit against East Ramapo School District continues.”
Judge Bucaria ruled that the case did not present any novel challenge to the district’s law firm and thus the exorbitant costs could not be justified.