"It is no secret that I left for financial reasons," Holdman, who is now general counsel for the West Legend Corp., said in an interview this week. "It was a decision that I made for my family but I absolutely would have stayed on as a judge if I had known this. To ensure a lifetime of health insurance, with me having three kids under five, I would have eked out three more years as a judge."
Holdman had been reappointed by then-governor David Paterson in 2005 to a term on the Court of Claims that would have expired at the end of 2019.
Holdman contended before the Court of Claims that the state should be estopped from going back on its initial advice, even though that advice was erroneous.
But Marin said a ministerial error by the state or a municipality acting in its governmental capacity, as opposed to its proprietary capacity, is "immune from suit unless a special relationship running to the individual, rather than the public at large can be seen." The judge said no such special relationship exists in Holdman's case as the Court of Appeals defined it in Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255 (1987).
Marin noted that the Court of Appeals, to prevent fraud and avoid a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers, has held that generally, "government agencies are not subject to the defense of estoppel" [see Matter of E.F.S. Ventures v. Foster, 71 NY2d 359 (1988)].
He added, "if incorrect information dispensed by a governmental entity (or entities), at variance with a given statutory/regulatory scheme, can readily be converted into an enforceable promise, such would undermine, if not eviscerate, not only the Court of Appeals' holdings on governmental estoppel" in E.F.S. Ventures, but those on immunity enunciated in McLean v. City of New York, 12 NY3d 194 (2009) and Valdez v. City of New York, 18 NY3d 69 (2011).
Marin said Holdman has failed to present an "unusual set of facts and resulting injustice…that would give rise to an enforceable promise against the State by estoppel."
Holdman said he was considering whether to appeal.
Since his case came before the Court of Claims, Holdman said he knows former colleagues who had similarly investigated what the status would be of their health care coverage if they left the Judiciary and who were under the same misapprehension that previous public employment outside the courts would count toward vestment.
"I think that was something that a number of my colleagues had no idea about until they learned about my situation," Holdman said.