Section 17 & 19
Statutory Defense and Indemnification for State Employees in Civil and
Criminal Proceedings (Public Officers Law §§ 17 and 19)
Section 17 of the Public Officers Law provides that the State, through the Office of the Attorney General, will defend State employees in any civil action or proceeding commenced in any state or federal court arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, while the employee was acting within the scope of his or her public employment. State employees are entitled to be represented by private counsel of their choice, at State expense, if the Attorney General determines that representation by the Attorney General’s Office would be inappropriate, or when a court determines that a conflict of interest exists between the State and the employee.
Section 17 further provides that the State of New York will indemnify its employees in the amount of any judgment rendered or settlement reached with respect to any such civil action or proceeding, provided that the act or omission complained of arose within the scope of the employee’s public employment. The duty to indemnify does not arise where the injury or damage complained of resulted from intentional wrongdoing on the part of the employee. The Attorney General’s Office is vested with the authority to determine on a case by case basis in accordance with the statutory criteria, whether the coverage available under section 17 will be provided to an employee in any given circumstance.
To invoke the protection of the statute, the individual employee must deliver to the Attorney General the original or a copy of the summons, complaint, or other process served upon the employee within five days after service as well as cooperate fully with the Attorney General in the defense of the claim.
Section 19 provides for reimbursement for criminal defense expenses incurred by State officers and employees upon acquittal or dismissal of criminal charges brought against the officer or employee. These expenses include reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses incurred by a State officer or employee in the defense of a criminal proceeding in a State or Federal Court or in connection with an appearance before a Grand Jury. The criminal proceeding must arise out of an act which occurred while the officer or employee was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties.
Reimbursement will be provided only after the officer or employee is acquitted or the criminal charges are dismissed. The Attorney General is empowered to determine, after investigation and review of the facts and circumstances of the criminal proceeding, whether an officer or employee’s application for reimbursement should be granted. In the event the entitlement to reimbursement or the amount of reimbursement is disputed, a court will resolve the issue.
In order to obtain this protection in criminal cases an officer or employee must deliver a written request to the Office of the Attorney General, together with an original or copy of any accusatory instrument within ten days after the officer or employee is arraigned (enters a plea) upon such instrument. The officer or employee is also required to provide his or her full cooperation to the Attorney General in the prosecution of any criminal appeal or in the defense of any civil lawsuit arising out of the same occurrence.