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CANTY v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF NEW YORK

May 4, 1970

Leslie CANTY, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
The BOARD OF EDUCATION, CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant


MacMahon, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MACMAHON

MacMAHON, District Judge.

Plaintiff moves for a preliminary injunction under Rule 65, Fed. R. Civ. P., which would direct defendant, the Board of Education of the City of New York, to reinstate him as a teacher in Junior High School 136 and to pay him the entire amount of his salary that has not been paid since his dismissal on October 10, 1969.

 This action is erroneously brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Title I, Section 2B, a statute concerned with fair housing, riots and civil obedience. In substance, however, the complaint charges a denial of the constitutional right to due process and presumably seeks money damages and a permanent injunction directing defendant to reinstate plaintiff. The action is, therefore, cognizable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

 Plaintiff's present motion for the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction is directed to the sound discretion of the court. The court's exercise of discretion usually turns on four factors: (1) the probability of success on the merits; (2) the immediate and irreparable harm to plaintiff if the preliminary injunction is denied; (3) the injury to defendant if the preliminary injunction is granted; and, if applicable, (4) the affect the decision will have on the public. *fn1"

 The party seeking the motion for a preliminary injunction has the burden of establishing a likelihood of success on the merits, that is, of raising "questions going to the merits so serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful, as to make them a fair ground for litigation and thus for more deliberate investigation." *fn2" The latter three criteria are satisfied if the moving party can demonstrate that the harm inflicted by denying the injunction is immediate and irreparable and outweighs the harm that will be caused by denying the injunction. We turn, now, to consider if plaintiff has made a sufficient showing of a likelihood of ultimate success.

 Plaintiff's claim in this action is rather narrow. He does not allege that the dismissal procedures or any applicable state statutes or local ordinances per se violate due process. Nor does he allege an irrational classification under the equal protection clause. Rather he limits his claim to the allegation that his dismissal was arbitrary and capricious and hence violated his right to due process.

 The terms "arbitrary" and "capricious" embrace a concept which emerges from the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and operates to guarantee that the acts of government will be grounded on established legal principles and have a rational factual basis. A decision is arbitrary or capricious when it is not supported by evidence or when there is no reasonable justification for the decision. *fn3"

 Thus, in order for plaintiff to establish a likelihood of success on the merits, he must be able to demonstrate to the extent, at least, of a reasonable probability that the decision to dismiss him was without evidentiary support.

 The affidavits and exhibits presented by defendant, however, indicate that there was substantial, if not overwhelming, evidentiary support for the Board's dismissal.

 Plaintiff was a substitute teacher from early September 1969 to October 10, 1969 at Junior High School 136 in Manhattan. He was dismissed on October 10, 1969, and the school principal, in a letter sent to plaintiff dated October 14, 1969, explained the reasons for the dismissal. According to the principal, there were complaints from parents protesting plaintiff's holding children in class after hours and claiming that he physically abused one particular young girl. The principal, himself, on complaints from certain of plaintiff's pupils, attempted to observe plaintiff's classroom conduct on September 17, 1969. Plaintiff was not, however, in the class and was instead found sleeping in the teachers' room.

 Plaintiff was also absent on October 6 and 7, 1969 without giving any prior notice or subsequent explanation.

 The crucial event occurred on October 10, 1969 when some of plaintiff's pupils brought to the principal's office a young girl in tears, the same one who previously complained of being physically abused by plaintiff. The young girl now claimed that plaintiff pushed her and consequently injured her. The other youngsters corroborated her claim.

 The principal then went to plaintiff's classroom, which he found to be in total disorder, and relieved plaintiff of his duties.

 Plaintiff, after being informed of the specific reasons for his dismissal, initiated grievance proceedings pursuant to the applicable collective bargaining agreement. At the hearing, held on November 7, 1969, plaintiff claimed that he should not have been ...


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