White Plains law firm Tilem & Associates won a major Court victory yesterday when a Supreme Court Justice granted the firm’s application and issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Town of Greenburgh’s enforcement of its local law regulating massage establishments. In 2015 the Town of Greenburgh, New York in Westchester County passed an ordinance which required massage establishments to obtain special permits from the Town in order to operate within the unincorporated part of the Town. During consideration of the ordinance by the Town Board, the proposed legislation was not without controversy. In fact the Town Board received a letter from the New York State Department of Education letting the Board know that licensed massage therapists were wholly regulated by the State of New York and were licensed by the State Department of Education and that the regulation by the State preempted any such regulation by the Town and unfairly burdened professionals licensed by the State.
Notably, the Greenburgh ordinance regulates licensed massage therapists not unlicensed massage therapists and requires those that are already licensed to obtain a Greenburgh License. Also notably, the Greenburgh ordinance defines Massage, a term already defined in sec 7801 of the New York State Education Law.
Based upon the clear preemption of these regulations by New York State Law, the American Massage Therapy Association brought a lawsuit to invalidate the Greenburgh Law in 2016. However, after a significant amount of litigation that lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality. On September 29, 2016, Acting Supreme Court Justice Helen Blackwood ruled that “what appears to be a meritorious claim fails due to petitioners’ lack of standing.” Standing is a legal principle that requires a litigant to demonstrate some injury before they can bring a lawsuit. Since neither the American Massage Therapy Association nor an individual petitioner had been directly affected or harmed by the new law Judge Blackwood ruled that they could not maintain the original action.