State Counsel Division
Learn more about:
Civil Recoveries Bureau
The Civil Recoveries Bureau recoups money owed to state agencies through affirmative litigation. The bureau's work is carried out by 10 units, five based in The Capitol in Albany, and five based at or near the state hospitals. The bureau also recovers the cost of care at the state's four veterans homes in Montrose, Batavia, Oxford, and St. Albans, through our Helen Hayes Hospital office.
Civil Recoveries Albany Units
The Bankruptcy Unit represents state entities in bankruptcy proceedings, primarily in the northern and western districts, as well as all federal judicial districts in the country.
The Mental Hygiene Unit recovers the cost of care in state mental hygiene facilities, in addition to commencing guardianships and creating supplement needs trusts.
Note: If you are contacting the unit to discuss a debt, and you are not the debtor, we must receive written permission (by fax or email) from the student debtor before discussing their case with you, as required by the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Civil Recoveries Public Hospital Units
The Claims Bureau, with locations in New York City and Albany, defends the state and certain state authorities in the Court of Claims. The bureau also defends individual state officers and employees in Supreme Court in civil actions for money damages arising in tort, medical or dental malpractice, unjust conviction, and breach of contract.
The Litigation Bureau, with locations in New York City and Albany, represents the state, its officers, and its agencies in state and federal courts in actions involving almost every substantive area of the law. The bureau protects the public interest by defending constitutional challenges to state statutes, regulations, policies, and practices and by bringing actions to enforce state laws and regulations.
Real Property Bureau
The Real Property Bureau is based in Albany and employs a team of attorneys, legal assistants, support staff, and title searchers, located in our regional offices around the state. The bureau also has a satellite litigation office in Hauppauge. Originally called the Title Bureau, the bureau was established in 1915 and functions today as the state’s title company for state agencies and other state entities by providing legal assistance when acquiring or disposing of state lands.
The Real Property Litigation Unit protects and defends the public’s interest in real property, representing various state agencies, authorities, or other public-benefit corporations in federal, state, and local courts. The unit primarily defends state agencies in eminent-domain proceedings brought in the Court of Claims. The unit also defends or prosecutes trespass, nuisance, or quiet title actions involving state property. It may also represent the state agencies in local courts in summary proceedings.
Real Property Bureau work
New York State, acting through a state agency or entity, has the power to acquire private property for a public purpose. The Real Property Bureau provides advice and legal counsel to state agencies exercising the state’s power of eminent domain.
Once a state agency has identified a property to be acquired by eminent domain and appraised its value, the Real Property Bureau is required by statute to review the title for that property. As a part of this review, a title searcher examines the records affecting that property in the county clerk’s office where the property is located. An attorney then reviews the information obtained by the title searcher to identify any parties with a legal interest in the property who may be affected by the eminent domain acquisition and certifies them as interested parties to the relevant state agency. Representatives from that state agency coordinate with the relevant parties to execute closing papers, to resolve any title issues, and to enable payment of just compensation. When all required closing papers have been executed and returned to our office, an attorney will review the documents to verify proper execution and prepare paperwork to request payment by the New York State Office of the Comptroller.
When agreements cannot be reached for just compensation, both property owners and the state have well-defined rights under the New York’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL). Parties contacted about an eminent domain taking (condemnees) are encouraged to obtain private legal counsel to represent their interests in court, as their interests will necessarily be different than the state’s interests.
The Real Property Bureau is acutely aware of the hardships to individuals or businesses when all or a portion of their property is acquired for a public purpose. We take our statutory responsibility very seriously and perform our role as defined by the EDPL in a manner that is consistent with the New York State Constitution, which mandates that property owners receive just compensation for property acquired by the State’s power of eminent domain in a fair and expeditious manner.
If you are concerned about an upcoming or ongoing eminent domain acquisition involving your property, contact the agency or governmental body in charge of the project for more information.
Most of our eminent domain work involves highway projects for the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT). For questions regarding such appropriations, please contact your DOT Regional Office.
Several state agencies have the power to purchase and manage land on behalf of the People of New York. For example, land might be purchased to add to the state forest preserve, a SUNY campus, or a state park. Typically, the state acquires full ownership of the land in fee simple, although sometimes the state acquires lesser interests, such as fishing easements or conservation easements. In all cases, the land is obtained for the benefit of the public. The state agency will negotiate a land-purchase agreement with a willing seller, and then refer the transaction to the Real Property Bureau for the examination and closing of the land title. Real Property Bureau personnel prepare an abstract of title after a review of the county land records, including maps, deeds, mortgages, judgements, surrogates court records, and county tax rolls. Staff attorneys then review the title abstract, together with other title material; prepare the instruments necessary to clear title, and then close and acquire title in the name of the People of the State of New York. The role of the Attorney General regarding state land purchases is twofold: to facilitate the acquisition of land by state agencies for the benefit of the public, and to ensure that the People acquire good, clear title.
If you would like to sell or donate a parcel of land, an easement, or other property interest to the state, please contact the state agency you believe might have an interest in your property.
The sale of state land is accomplished primarily through the Office of General Services (OGS). Once state land is deemed no longer necessary for public use, OGS may sell it at a public auction pursuant to the state Public Lands Law. The role of the Attorney General is to approve the form of the conveyance of unappropriated state land (by letters patent) to the successful bidder. Although most state land sales are accomplished through OGS, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has separate authority to sell state land formerly appropriated for highway use but abandoned by the state for that purpose. DOT may sell such land to the public pursuant to the state Highway Law. The role of the Attorney General is to approve the form of the conveyance of surplus highway land (by quitclaim deed) to the state’s purchaser.
Coeyman’s Wildlife Management Area
(Proc. 9449, SLP Albany 26.02)
Land purchase from the City of Albany for +/- 361 acres in Coeymans, Albany county, for $814,000. The City of Albany acquired these three contiguous parcels in 2006 in hopes of developing the property as a landfill; however, the local community of Coeymans was opposed, many years passed, and nothing progressed. Shortly after Mayor Sheehan took office, it was decided Albany would scrap that idea and offer the land to DEC instead. The parties struggled to come to an agreement over the value of the property for many years and, as a result, the City of Albany decided to market the property to someone other than the State of New York. That deal ultimately fell through, and the city approached DEC again with this offer to sell.
These lands consist of frontage on Coeymans Creek and an abundance of wetlands and other wildlife habitat, which is what appealed to DEC’s wildlife staff. Coeymans Creek has a self-sustaining population of wild brown trout from the Helderbergs to the Hudson (upstream of Coeymans, the creek is known as the Onesquethaw Creek) and preserving this land in its natural state is a great step in protecting the quality and aquatic habitat of this wild trout stream. Shad, alewives, and herring use the creek’s tidal pool at the Hudson for spawning, and the American eel is found all the way upstream to Clarksville. Protecting the quality of this tributary will help protect the quality of the Hudson River, enhance fishing, and create additional opportunities for observing wildlife, including deer, osprey, and bald eagles.
Addition to the Hand Hollow State Forest
(Proc. 9183, TR Columbia 45.01 and 45.08)
Land purchase from Open Space Institute Land Trust for +/- 524 acres in New Lebanon, Columbia county, for $2,096,000. This acquisition adds acreage to the existing Hand Hollow State Forest, will expand public recreational opportunities, and contains an extensive trail network running through forestland and meadows, and past ponds, streams and wetlands. The acquisition will also protect regional ecological habitat and watershed quality.
Wildlife Management Area in Columbia County
(Proc. 9183, Columbia 48.02)
Land purchase from private sellers for +/- 375 acres in Ancram, Columbia county, for $1,915,600. These lands will provide important areas of additional habitat for the New England Cottontail which is designated as a state species of special concern. Several other species, such as the ruffed grouse, American woodcock, wild turkey, and white tailed deer will also benefit from the preservation of this large parcel. The public will enjoy additional opportunities for hunting and wildlife observation.
New Lands in the Finger Lakes
(Proc. 9846, Onondaga 63)
Transfer of lands from Honeywell to the state (DEC) pursuant to federal consent decree regarding the cleanup of Onondaga Lake. This parcel is located in Lysander, Onondaga County. As part of the consent decree, in addition to transferring title to these lands, Honeywell constructed a boat launch to provide public access to the Seneca River and New York State Barge Canal.
Extinguishment of Private Mineral Rights in Allegany State Park
(Proc. 6171, Project Nos. 02-911 and 02-33)
Separate purchase agreements with owner and lessee of mineral rights within lands constituting part of Allegany State Park. As part of the agreements, the wells were capped to state standards. These transactions restored the previously severed mineral estate to approximately 270 acres of state parkland.
Expansion of Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park
(Proc. 5265, Project No. 04-912)
The state (OPRHP) filed an application for surplus federal property consisting of the former Lema-Whyman U.S. Army Reserve Center administration building and large maintenance garage located on approximately 3.47 acres in Canandaigua, Ontario County, early in 2018. The property is intended to facilitate the expansion of the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park and repurpose the former Reserve Center into a new visitor center. The property features a beautiful 425-foot-long limestone wall, built circa 1907, and is complemented by a row of mature Sycamore trees, in a historic residential area.
Sex Offender Management Bureau
The Sex Offender Management Bureau (SOMB) was created by the Attorney General to represent the State of New York in all Article 10 litigation. SOMB works in concert with the Article 10 partners, the Office of Sex Offender Management within the Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York State Department of Community and Correctional Services, New York State Office of Mental Health, and New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to develop statewide protocols to further the goals of Article 10 in ensuring public safety.
Frequently asked questions
Any sex offender in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), or New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), or under the supervision of New York State Division of Parole (DOP) is subject to civil management review if they are serving a sentence for a qualifying sex offense. Also, certain felonies, which are nonsexual in nature, can be qualifying offenses if they are sexually motivated.
The process begins when a sex offender is referred to the Office of Mental Health (OMH) to be considered for civil management. The two most common referrals would be when a sex offender is either about to be released from prison or is about to be released from parole after having served the parole time.
The next step involves a screening of the case by the OMH multi-disciplinary team. Some cases are then referred to a case review team established by OMH for further evaluation. The case review team, based on a review and assessment of records and a psychiatric exam, considers whether the offender is a sex offender requiring civil management. If the case review team and the psychiatrist or psychologist who has evaluated the offender determine that the offender should be civilly managed, the case is referred to the Office of the New York State Attorney General.
After the case is referred to the Office of the New York State Attorney General by the case review team, the Attorney General reviews the case. The Attorney General decides whether to file a petition requesting civil management of the sex offender.
Less than 3% of those cases reviewed by the Office of Mental Health are referred to the Office of the New York State Attorney General for civil management proceedings.
Yes, the sex offender is entitled to an attorney. If the sex offender is financially unable to afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the sex offender. Most of the sex offenders are represented by the Mental Hygiene Legal Service.
Once the petition for civil management is filed, the Office of the New York State Attorney General is required to make the sex offender's records available to the attorney for the sex offender after deleting victim names, addresses, or other identifying information. The court holds a hearing after the petition is filed, without a jury, to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the sex offender is a sex offender requiring civil management. If the court finds probable cause and determines that the sex offender should be held in a secure treatment facility pending trial, the sex offender is placed in OMH custody pending trial.
A sex offender is entitled to a 12-person jury trial. The Attorney General must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the sex offender is a sex offender who suffers from a mental abnormality. The jury must find by a unanimous verdict that the Attorney General has proved the sex offender is a sex offender who suffers from a mental abnormality. If the verdict is not unanimous, the court may conduct a second trial. If the jury at the second trial cannot find by a unanimous verdict that the sex offender suffers from a mental abnormality, the court will dismiss the petition.
The sex offender can waive a jury trial and can opt to have the case heard by only the judge.
The law defines mental abnormality as a condition or disease that affects a person’s capacity in a way that predisposes the individual to commit sex offenses and that causes that person to have serious difficulty in controlling that behavior.
The judge has only two options when a mental abnormality is found. The judge must decide whether the sex offender is dangerous so as to be confined, or may release the offender to strict and intensive supervision and treatment (SIST) under the supervision of the Division of Parole.
A dangerous sex offender requiring confinement is a person who suffers from a mental abnormality involving such a strong predisposition to commit sex offenses, and such an inability to control behavior, that the person is likely to be a danger to others and commit sex offenses if not confined to a secure treatment facility under the supervision of the OMH.
There are two secure treatment facilities under the supervision of OMH:
- Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, NY
- St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, NY
Under the supervision of the Division of Parole, the individual must submit to sex offender treatment and other conditions. Conditions could include GPS monitoring, no contact with victims, polygraph monitoring, and other conditions ordered by the court. Each case is examined on an individual basis and the offender's treatment plan is tailored to that individual's case. Strict and intensive supervision is intended only for those individuals who can safely live in the community. For many of these people, strict and intensive supervision will be imposed only after they have served their time in prison and are ready to be released or have completed their sentence of parole.
Pursuant to Article 10, a sex offender placed in an OMH secure treatment facility is entitled to an annual review of the order of confinement. If the OMH determines that the individual is no longer a dangerous sex offender requiring confinement, then the OMH can file a petition in court for the individual's discharge or release to SIST. Additionally, the committed offender may file a petition with the court at any time to be released from the facility. Those placed on SIST can petition the court every two years for modification or termination of the SIST conditions.
SIST can be revoked if the individual violates a condition of the sentence or if a treating professional indicates that the individual may be a dangerous sex offender requiring confinement. The parole officer may take the person into custody and transport the person to a secure treatment or correctional facility for a psychiatric examination. After the person is in custody, the Attorney General may file either a petition for confinement or a petition to modify the conditions of SIST. If a petition is filed, the court proceeds with another hearing.
The sex offender cannot appeal the probable cause finding. If no probable cause is found, then the Attorney General may appeal to a higher court. Either the Attorney General or the sex offender can appeal the final order of the court. If the sex offender is found to suffer from a mental abnormality and the judge orders the sex offender to be confined or released to strict and intensive supervision and treatment, then the sex offender can appeal the judge's decision.