The question of whether Sorlucco knowingly signed a statement withdrawing her charges against Mielko goes directly to the question of whether those charges were true. Her sworn denial that she knowingly signed that statement raises the strong inference that she perjured herself on that critical issue. Sorlucco argued at trial that her initial statements to the Nassau County police implicating an unidentified jogger instead of Mielko had resulted from rape trauma syndrome, one type of post-traumatic stress disorder, which manifested itself in her inability to discuss the details of the assault soon after it occurred. She presented an expert who testified that her behavior and those initial statements were consistent with that psychological phenomenon. (Tr. 436-38, 441, 473-74; PX 40) However, she maintained that she had then identified her assailant truthfully as Mielko and that the difference between the way the Department dealt with her and the way it dealt with Mielko gave rise to an inference of discrimination.
In Bevevino v. Saydjari, 574 F.2d 676, 684 (2d Cir. 1978), the Court of Appeals in this Circuit approved and adopted the standard described in Moore's Federal Practice for deciding a new trial motion, as follows:
The trial judge, exercising a mature judicial discretion, should view the verdict in the overall setting of the trial; consider the character of the evidence and the complexity or simplicity of the legal principles which the jury was bound to apply to the facts; and abstain from interfering with the verdict unless it is quite clear that the jury has reached a seriously erroneous result. The judge's duty is essentially to see that there is no miscarriage of justice. If convinced that there has been then it is his duty to set the verdict aside; otherwise not.
See J.W. Moore and J.D. Lucas, 6A Moore's Federal Practice, para. 59.08, at 59-150-59-152 (1991). A verdict based on perjury is one example of the injustice to be avoided through the grant of a new trial, if necessary. Isley v. Motown Record Corp., 69 F.R.D. 12, 16-17 (S.D.N.Y. 1975); cf. Chambers v. Nasco, Inc., 115 L. Ed. 2d 27, 111 S. Ct. 2123, 2132 (1991) (noting a federal court's inherent power to set aside a judgment upon proof that a fraud has been perpetrated upon it).
Two of plaintiff's arguments on this point warrant mention if not extended discussion. The first is simply that it is impossible to conclude with certainty that she was lying when she denied at trial that she knowingly signed a statement withdrawing the charges against Mielko; she may have believed her testimony was true. The problem with that argument is that it is simply fanciful; not even the testimony of plaintiff's rape trauma expert went so far as to suggest that that syndrome would have led plaintiff to deny at trial what she had acknowledged in 1983 to a psychologist about an event that was not a part of the underlying trauma. (Tr. 457, 469) There is no evidence to support plaintiff's theory; there is overwhelming evidence in the form of Dr. Archibald's notes and her testimony to support the opposite conclusion.
Plaintiff suggests also that it is irrelevant whether plaintiff lied about knowing she signed a statement withdrawing her charges against Mielko, an event plaintiff pronounces "completely immaterial to the core issues at trial." (Pl. Mem. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(d), p.8.) Plaintiff urges that "the jury's verdict finding defendant liable was not based on Ms. Sorlucco' testimony regarding . . . the signing of the blank piece of paper but was based on the discriminatory treatment suffered by Ms. Sorlucco." Id. at 7-8 (emphasis in original). In a sense, plaintiff is correct; but in no sense is she right. To be sure, discrimination or its absence turns on a defendant's state of mind, not on a plaintiff's. Theoretically, if a defendant acted for discriminatory reasons, plaintiff's state of mind would have no bearing on whether discrimination occurred. However, such reasoning, extended as plaintiff urges, would permit this plaintiff to recover even if the charges against Mielko were false, the issue on which the testimony in question bears directly. That, in turn, would mean that a statute created to redress injury from discrimination would allow a plaintiff to use a false accusation as the occasion for testing the purity of a defendant's motivation, even if the "injury" plaintiff suffered was no more than was justified by the truth. To read this statute in that way would be to permit not simply an ordinary injustice such as a verdict against the weight of evidence, but an exquisite refinement of injustice.
I believe the Court of Appeals at least implicitly declined in this case to read the statute in the way plaintiff suggests when it reversed a summary judgment for defendant and held that "it is for a jury to determine whether Sorlucco's charges against Mielko were true and, if so, whether the discipline meted out to her was unlawfully disparate to that received by her male fellow officer." Sorlucco v. New York City Police Dep't., 888 F.2d 4, 8 (2d Cir. 1989) (emphasis added). If not, the discipline presumably was not unlawfully disparate. But whether or not Sorlucco's argument was rejected implicitly in the earlier Court of Appeals opinion, it is rejected explicitly now in this Court for the reasons stated above.
* * *
To summarize: Defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict with respect to plaintiff's § 1983 claim is granted; judgment will be entered as well for defendant on plaintiff's Title VII claim. Alternatively, defendant's motion for a new trial on plaintiff's § 1983 claim is granted. To the extent the above opinion determines plaintiff's Title VII claim, it will constitute my findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a).
Michael B. Mukasey,
U.S. District Judge
Dated: New York, New York
January 7, 1992