What is the Waterfront Commission and what do they do?
The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor (WCNYH) is a bi-state agency that has been empowered by the laws of New York and New Jersey to “administer and enforce the provisions” of the Waterfront Commission Act. The WCNYH has the power to conduct investigations, and its investigators are vested with the powers of a peace or police office of the states of New York and New Jersey.
Does the Commission have to follow any rules when conducting their investigations?
Should I hire a lawyer to go with me if the Waterfront Commission has called me down?
Yes, in my opinion. Your job is a tremendously valuable asset and you have the potential to make a great deal of money over a very long period of time. If the Commission is calling you down to talk to you, it is usually because of a problem. Maybe you were arrested. Maybe you were seen hanging around with the wrong group of people. Maybe you didn’t meet the work requirements. The Commission has a serious job to do and they do it well and most of the time you will be questioned by an experienced attorney who might recommend that your registration as a longshoreman or a checker be revoked or canceled. If they have someone with experience questioning you, you should have a lawyer with experience working to protect you.
Should my lawyer have experience dealing with the Waterfront Commission. My Brother-in-Law is a Real Estate Lawyer, can he represent me before the Commission?
Yes. As I said above, your job is a very valuable asset that you should take great care to protect. Any lawyer can represent you before the Waterfront Commission but the Waterfront Commission Act and the Waterfront Commission Rules and Regulations are complex and confusing and usually involve matters of Criminal Law and Procedure. Because of that, you should probably consider a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with the Waterfront Commission and who is also experienced in handling Criminal Cases. Tom Tormey, has extensive experience in both of these fields. Ask the lawyer you’re considering hiring how often they appear at the Waterfront Commission.
Why do I need a lawyer? I’ve only been called down for an Article IV interview. If they’re just going to interview me, why do I need a lawyer?
An Article IV Interview is not like a job interview. The primary weapon that the WCNYH uses in enforcing the provisions of the act, is the Article IV Interview. The letters “IV” in the name “Article IV Interview” are Roman Numerals and they stand for the number “4.” The Article IV interview is more than just an interview. It is an interrogation where you will be cross-examined by an experienced lawyer and everything will be recorded on tape or taken down by a court reporter. You will be put under oath and one of the worst things to have happen in the interview is to be caught in a lie or a misrepresentation or even a mistake that may be interpreted as a lie. Under the Waterfront Commission Act and the Rules and Regulations, Fraud, Deceit or Misrepresentation are grounds to take away your registration as a longshoreman and an intentional lie could subject you to arrest and prosecution for perjury.
I was notified that I have to appear for an Article IV interview. I was arrested for a DUI. The Article IV interview will be only about that arrest, right?
No. Not necessarily. At the Article IV Interview, you will be put under oath and probably cross-examined about the arrest, but the Commission has the power to investigate anything that might be a violation of the act. So, even if you were arrested for a DUI in New Jersey and are called down for an interview by the Commission, you can be questioned about a wide range of topics, including questions about your initial application, issues of child support, unemployment insurance, other crimes, drug use, and, the most troublesome topic for some people, whether you know, or whether you associate with members of organized crime. You should never go down to the Commission without a lawyer and Tom Tormey has tremendous experience in dealing with the Commission.
I didn’t break the law, I just failed to make my hours. Why do I need a lawyer for an interview about that?
Article IX of the Waterfront Commission Act and Part 8 of the Waterfront Commission Rules and Regulations cover the work requirements for Longshoremen and Checkers and failure to comply with those provisions can result in “Decasualization.” Decasualization for failing to meet the work requirements results in a longshoreman’s or checker’s removal from the register and therefore they can no longer work on the waterfront. After a longshoreman or checker is decasualized, except for very limited exceptions, they must wait a year before they can reapply for reinstatement. If a longshoreman or a checker has been notified that they are subject to decasualization, the worker must submit a Request for Retention and they must demonstrate good cause at an interview why they were unable to meet the work requirements. After the interview, there is often a lot of follow-up that must be done. The process is complicated, and the consequences are serious. Why not give yourself the best shot at keeping your job? Hire a lawyer who is experienced in this field to help you through this process.
I received a Notice of Hearing. What is a Notice of Hearing and do I need a lawyer?
If you get served with a Notice of Hearing you should contact an attorney immediately. Before a longshoreman, or anyone else who is licensed by the Waterfront Commission, has their registration revoked, suspended or cancelled, they must be given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing. The hearing is a full-blown hearing, before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The rules governing the hearing are set forth in Part 6 of the Waterfront Commission Rules and Regulations. Hearings can be long or short but they are always very serious and you should never go to a hearing without an attorney who is experienced in dealing with the Waterfront Commission.
What happens at a hearing at the Waterfront Commission?
A hearing at the Waterfront Commission is just like a trial and Part 6 of the Rules and Regulations explains what happens and how it happens.
Just like a trial, the Commission attorney will make an Opening Statement. You, or your lawyer have the opportunity to make one as well. Some lawyers waive their opening, in other words, they give up their right to make an opening. In my opinion, a lawyer should never waive their opening.
Just like a trial, the Commission may call witnesses who they will question and who will be the subject to cross-examine by your lawyer. The Commission will offer exhibits into evidence against you and you have the right to offer exhibits in support of your defense.
You will then have to testify and be subjected to Cross Examination by the Commission attorney who is highly experienced and always prepared.
At the conclusion of the case, you or your lawyer will make Closing Arguments, sometimes called a Summation, and then that will be followed by a Summation by the Commission Attorney.
The Administrative Law Judge may ask that the closing arguments be submitted in writing and they will set up a schedule by when the papers must be submitted.
After the arguments are in, the ALJ will then prepare a Report and Recommendation to the Commissioners. This Report will set forth the judge’s findings of fact and the judge’s conclusions of law and it will set forth a recommendation to the Commissioners as to whether your registration should be revoked, suspended or canceled or whether you should just be reprimanded.
After the judge prepares and serves the parties with their Report and Recommendation, the parties have the right to submit exceptions to the report. Exceptions are governed by Part 6 and they have strict time limits attached to when they must be submitted.
After the submission of exceptions, the Commissioners review the entire case and come to a decision as to what should happen to you.
As you can see from the above, hearings take a lot of work and a lot of time if the attorney is going to do it correctly. Make sure your lawyer knows what needs to be done and make sure they have done it in the past in order to give yourself the best chance at success.
What happens if I lose the hearing and my registration is revoked?
There are a number of things that can be done if your registration is revoked, including an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of New York under Article 78 of the CPLR.
Under certain limited circumstances, you may also have the possibility to reopen the hearing, or petition for a rehearing or even Petition the Commission for Restoration.
You may decide to accept the decision and then later reapply to be restored after waiting the appropriate period of time.
After reading everything above, I’ve decided that it’s a lot more complicated dealing with the Commission then I thought, and my job is too valuable to go down to the Commission without a lawyer. Can I call you to discuss representation?
Yes. Good decision. Call now and we’ll set up an appointment and get working on your case right away.