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September 17, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Greenburgh massage laws rub appellate court the right way

Photo by Toa Heftiba

A state appellate court has upheld Greenburgh massage laws designed to rub out prostitution.

The Second Appellate Division decided June 19 that a Westchester Supreme Court judge was correct in finding that state licensed massage therapist Domanic Guzman and the American Massage Therapy Association do not have standing to sue.

“The local law does not apply to Guzman because it exempts solo practitioners,” four appellate justices concurred, “and any injuries that Guzman allegedly could suffer as a result of the statute are no more than conjectural.”

Greenburgh enacted the laws in 2015, according to court records, because of extensive public outrage over the town’s prostitution problem. The town requires massage therapists to get a license and massage establishments to get a special zoning permit.

Guzman, of Elmsford, and American Massage, an association based in Evanston, Illinois representing 4,300 massage therapists, sued.

New York state law regulates massage therapists, they argued, and preempts local massage laws.

Guzman claimed that Greenburgh’s massage laws harmed him because they associated the practice of massage therapy with prostitution, human trafficking and other illicit or immoral conduct. He claimed he would be unable to grow his practice or find a place to rent in town.

Greenburgh filed for summary judgment, arguing that neither Guzman nor the massage association had standing to sue.

Guzman had to establish that he would actually be harmed and that the injury was more than conjectural. The association had to show that at least one member had standing.

“If the court finds that Mr. Guzman lacks standing,” Westchester Supreme Court acting Justice Helen M. Blackwood stated in her 2016 decision, “so does the AMTA.”

She ruled that Guzman’s alleged injuries were not concrete enough.

“Mr. Guzman has failed to make any actual showing that the massage laws have diminished his license or caused damage to his practice,” she wrote. “What appears to be a meritorious claim fails due to petitioner’s lack of standing.”

The appellate panel agreed.

“There is no evidence in the record that Guzman or any other member of the AMTA would have standing to sue.”

Guzman now practices in Broomfield, Colorado, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Greenburgh was represented by town attorneys Timothy Lewis and Michael Pflaum. Guzman and the association were represented by Albany attorneys Thomas Capezza and Thomas Mercure and Saratoga Springs attorney Elizabeth Coreno.