The lawsuit challenging the legality of Suffolk County’s tax map verification fees has ended up before acting State Supreme Court Justice Sanford Berland, husband of Suffolk Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills).
The lawsuit, brought by Elizabeth Cella and others, is seeking class action status. The suit claims the tax map fees are illegal because they far exceed the cost of providing the county service. Suffolk has moved to dismiss the suit.
The case was assigned to Berland after three other judges — Joseph Pastoressa, John Rouse and William Rebolini — recused themselves.
Cameron McDonald, attorney for the Government Justice Center, which is representing the plaintiffs, said the case went to Berland in January. McDonald said Berland’s decision to stay on the case “does seem a little odd,” but he has not asked Berland to recuse himself. “I’m not going to presuppose what the judge’s conclusions may be,” McDonald said.
Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), minority caucus leader, said, “Without any disrespect to Judge Berland or Legis. Berland, the judge should recuse himself to avoid any potential conflicts.”
Cilmi said Susan Berland as a county legislator, “votes on the county budget and the budget contains those fees so there is a direct relationship between the suit and the legislature,” even though she was not a member when the fee was enacted.
Berland said she was unaware the case might be before her husband, but said, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment.”