Moodie filed a complaint in federal court based on the same incident. His claims were dismissed on the ground that pursuant to New York Executive Law section 297(9) his prior election of state administrative remedies prevented a subsequent application to any court. Id. at 882.
In Moodie, the State Division was an appropriate forum because it had subject matter jurisdiction. It could have made a valid determination but for the lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The statutory doctrine of election applied because Moodie could have been fairly said to have made an election between the two possible forums--the State Division and the courts.
The case illustrates two different aspects of "jurisdiction". Competence of a local commission on human rights is analogous to federal question or diversity "jurisdiction" in the federal court, rather than to in personam "jurisdiction" over the defendant. See, e.g., Charles Alan Wright, The law of Federal Courts, 22 ff. (4th ed., 1983). Moodie was an in personam case. This is a competence case.
IV. Application of law to Facts
In the instant case it is undisputed that the events complained of occurred outside of New York City. The City Commission had no subject matter jurisdiction over the alleged discrimination since its territorial jurisdiction does not extend to employment outside of New York City. This fact should have been obvious to the City Commission staff member who drafted plaintiff's complaint. It could do nothing but dismiss the complaint because it lacked competence. Thus, the City Commission was not an appropriate alternative agency where plaintiff's complaint could be received. Because filing with the City Commission was not a valid option, plaintiff could not have been said to have made an election.
Here, the plaintiff was denied relief by the City Commission because of its lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The statute's design will not be jeopardized if this court hears the case.
There must be one place where this case can be heard. Plaintiff is entitled to have his right to a remedy adjudicated in a competent forum. This court is the first competent forum in which he has sought relief.
Summary judgment for defendants is denied.
Jack B. Weinstein
Senior District Judge
Dated: March 13, 1997
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