pursuant to section 101 of the New York Labor Law. Defendants' exh. O. Significantly, plaintiff did not timely file such an appeal.
The Department's Division of Labor Standards then prepared a prosecution recommendation, consisting of the orders to comply, the compliance conference report, supporting depositions signed by the complainants, and a February 5, 1990 inter-office memorandum. The prosecution recommendation was transmitted to the New York Attorney General's Office which prepared a criminal information. On April 3, 1990, defendant Jakubowski signed and swore to the criminal information charging plaintiff with five counts of violating section 191(1)(d) of New York's Labor Law.
Defendants' exh. Q. On January 31, 1992, while being represented by counsel, plaintiff pleaded guilty in the City Court of Rome, New York to the five counts alleged in the criminal information. See Defendants' exh. R (transcript of plea).
Before turning to the merits of defendants' motion, the court will review the somewhat twisted procedural history of this case to clarify which of the numerous defendants originally named in this action are still proper parties hereto. Plaintiff initiated this action on June 4, 1990, naming the following state employees as defendants: Director of the Division of Labor Standards, Richard Polsinello; Supervising Labor Standards Investigator, Diane Fiano; Senior Labor Standards Investigator, Joseph Jakubowski; Division of Labor Standards Supervisor, Michael Java; and the Department's Assistant Commissioner for Labor, Florio Vitullo. Plaintiff also named as defendants a number of his former employees who had complained to the Department about his failure to pay wages: Beatrice Hoffman, Cynthia Smith, Brenda Tullis, Lisa Desgrosielliers, Laura Hartmark, Laureen Williams, Cindy Fregin, and Christina Risi. Finally, plaintiff named the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards, and the State of New York as defendants. Only Brenda Tullis, Joseph Jakubowski, Florio Vitullo and Cynthia Smith answered that complaint. On November 28, 1990, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(j)
, the court dismissed this action as to Richard Polsinello, Diane Fiano, Michael Java, Lisa Desgrosielliers, Laura Hartmark, Laureen Williams, Cindy Fregin, Christina Risi, and the New York State Department of Labor. Docket entry 11. On December 18, 1990, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal from that order. Docket entry 12. However on April 29, 1991, plaintiff's appeal was dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction. Docket entry 19.
Defendants Jakubowski and Vitullo moved for summary judgment on October 19, 1992, but before considering that motion, on November 24, 1992, the court pursuant to Local Rule 11 dismissed the complaint for failure to prosecute.
In light of that order, the summary judgment motion by Jakubowski and Vitullo was rendered moot. Docket entry 27.
Plaintiff then moved to vacate the court's November 24, 1992 order dismissing the complaint. The court granted that motion and on February 5, 1993, the court reinstated the motion for summary judgment by Jakubowski and Vitullo and directed that it be taken on a submit basis. The end result is that there are now only five of the original defendants left in this action: Joseph Jakubowski, Florio Vitullo, Beatrice Hoffman
, Cynthia Smith,
and Brenda Tullis.
In bringing this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C § 1983, 1985, and 1986, plaintiff accuses his former employees of filing "false wage claims." Complaint at 4. Plaintiff further accuses the state defendants of "ignoring plaintiff's demands for his constitutional rights" including his First Amendment and due process rights. Id. at 5. Finally, plaintiff believes that his former employees have organized "a conspiracy to falsely accuse plaintiff of non payment of wages". Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law at 5. Despite his plea of guilty, plaintiff is now claiming that he does not owe wages to any of the defendant employees. Plaintiff also claims that he has been harassed by the complaints of his former employees, as well as by the remedial procedures instituted by the Department of Labor and the State.
On this summary judgment motion, defendants Jakobowski and Vittulo contend that by his guilty plea plaintiff is collaterally estopped from relitigating in this action the issue of his failure to pay wages. They further argue that plaintiff's claim of denial of due process is unwarranted since the collection letters and the compliance conference provided plaintiff with reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard. Finally, defendants Jakubowski and Vitullo contend that they are entitled to qualified, good faith immunity since the Department's procedures did not violate clearly established law.
Plaintiff responds by arguing that he should not be collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of his failure to pay wages because the issues are not the same, and he was never given a full and fair opportunity to litigate that issue in the state court criminal proceeding. Additionally, although plaintiff's complaint is not the model of clarity, it appears that he is also contending that his due process rights were violated somehow because he could no longer contract with his former employees. Finally, plaintiff argues that the state defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because they acted in bad faith.
I. Collateral Estoppel
The court will first address the defendants' collateral estoppel argument, because if they are successful on that argument, then obviously there will be no need to consider the other arguments raised by defendants in support of their summary judgment motion. As the Supreme Court recognized in Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56, 104 S. Ct. 892 (1984), "it is now settled that a federal court must give to a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered. " Id. at 81. This court must therefore apply New York law in ascertaining the preclusive effect, if any, of plaintiff Burk's state court guilty plea upon this subsequent civil litigation.
The doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents a party from relitigating an issue of fact or law that has been decided in an earlier action. Metromedia Co. v. Fugazy, 983 F.2d 350 (2d Cir. 1992). The Supreme Court has squarely held that collateral estoppel applies to a plaintiff in a section 1983 action who attempts to relitigate in federal court issues already decided against him or her in a state criminal proceeding. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 102, 66 L. Ed. 2d 308, 101 S. Ct. 411 (1980). The Supreme Court in Allen found, inter alia, nothing in the legislative history to section 1983 which evinces any purpose to "afford less deference to judgments in state criminal proceedings than to those in state civil proceedings." Id. at 104 (footnote omitted).
Two requirements must be satisfied before a party is entitled to invoke the collateral estoppel doctrine in New York, and those were articulated in the seminal case of Schwartz v. Pub. Adm'r of Bronx. 24 N.Y.2d 65, 71, 298 N.Y.S.2d 955, 960, 246 N.E.2d 725 (1969). First there must be an identity of issues which were necessarily decided in the prior action. Id. Second, the party precluded from relitigating the issue must have had a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination. Id.; see also Kaufman v. Eli Lilly and Company, 65 N.Y.2d 449, 456, 492 N.Y.S.2d 584, 588, 482 N.E.2d 63 (1985) (citation omitted); Ryan v. New York Tel. Co., 62 N.Y.2d 494, 500-02, 478 N.Y.S.2d 823, 826-27, 467 N.E.2d 487 (1984) "The party seeking the benefit of collateral estoppel bears the burden of proving the identity of the issues, while the party challenging its application bears the burden of showing that he or she did not have a full and fair opportunity to adjudicate the claims involving those issues." Khandhar v. Elfenbein, 943 F.2d 244, 247 (2d Cir. 1991) (citing Kaufman, 65 N.Y.2d at 456, 492 N.Y.S.2d at 588) (other citation omitted).
With respect to the first Schwartz factor, it should be noted that "[a] guilty plea is accorded the same preclusive effect in a subsequent civil proceeding as is a conviction after trial, which conclusively establishes the underlying facts in a subsequent action." U.S. v. Private Sanitation Industry Ass'n, 811 F. Supp. 808, 813 (E.D.N.Y. 1992). Thus a guilty plea may satisfy the identity of issues requirement. Gerney v. Tishman Const. Corp., 136 Misc.2d 1051, 1053, 518 N.Y.S.2d 564, 567 (Sup.Ct. N.Y. Co. 1987). That is so because even though "there has not been actual litigation of the essential issues and elements of the crime, the issues would have been necessarily judicially determined by the plea." Id. Thus, as the court soundly reasoned in Gerney:
He [the defendant] must accept the consequences of his action and 'should not expect the courts to look behind convictions based on such pleas in order to relieve them from adverse civil consequences which may follow. As long as the guilty plea stands, the defendant is guilty and cannot be heard to say otherwise.'