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COFFRAN v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY

January 7, 1994

WILLIAM COFFRAN, Plaintiff
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NEW YORK CITY PENSION FUND, RAYMOND C. KELLY, as Police Commissioner, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund, the Article II Medical Board, ELOISE ARCHIBALD, Director, Psychological Services Division, N.Y.C.P.D., and ROBERT E. THOMAS, Supervising Chief Surgeon, N.Y.C.P.D., Defendants.


KEENAN


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN F. KEENAN

JOHN F. KEENAN, United States District Judge:

 Before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, alleging that defendants' procedures for determining whether plaintiff should be retired from the New York City Police Department on a psychiatric disability violate his civil and due process rights. Defendants have cross moved for summary judgment, alleging that their procedures are consistent with plaintiff's rights. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion is granted. Defendants' motion is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff William Coffran is employed by the New York City Police Department as a sergeant of police. Defendant Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund ("Trustees") is charged by state and local law with the administration of the police pension fund pursuant to the Administrative Code of the City of New York, section B18-13-0 et seq. Defendant Police Commissioner Raymond E. Kelly is the Chairman of defendant Trustees. Defendant Article II Medical Board ("Medical Board") is a body created pursuant to the New York City Administrative Code. Defendant Robert Thomas is the Chief Medical Officer of the New York City Police Department. Defendant Eloise Archibald is the Director of the Psychological Services Division, New York City Police Department.

 Coffran has been a police officer since January of 1981. He was promoted to sergeant in December of 1984. After completing his probationary term as sergeant, Coffran achieved tenure. Coffran served in this capacity satisfactorily until July 11, 1989. He has passed the examination for promotion to lieutenant of police. He has received consistently "above standards" performance evaluations. He has also received various citations, including eight for Excellent Police Duty, one for Meritorious Duty, and has additionally been named "Cop of the Month." Coffran has never been subjected to discipline relating to the performance of his job duties.

 During 1989 and 1990, while still married but separated from his wife, Coffran was involved in another "boyfriend/girlfriend" relationship, this time with Debra Herman. Herman filed complaints against Coffran in June and in November of 1989, alleging assault and harassment. Herman has apparently filed such complaints against others before Coffran. On November 9, 1989, Coffran was placed on restricted duty by the Psychological Services Unit and his firearms were taken away. Coffran received a disciplinary charge relating to these complaints, to which he entered a nolo contendere plea. Coffran subsequently was referred to the Counseling Unit, which recommended a return to full duty on January 24, 1990.

 Coffran returned to full duty. In June of 1990 while off duty, Coffran was charged with third degree assault on a male neighbor of Herman. The criminal charges were dismissed outright. The administrative charges relating to this incident were handled in a departmental trial, after which Coffran was found "not guilty." Those trying Coffran were influenced by the fact that Herman failed to testify at this trial, that the male accuser was not credible, that the male accuser had approached Coffran first, that Coffran suffered by far the greater injuries, and that Coffran himself called the police. On February 14, 1991, Coffran was again psychiatrically evaluated for duty. That examination found that there was "nothing to prevent Sgt. Coffran from returning to full duty and having his firearms restored." Carroll Affirmation, exhibit G.

 Shortly thereafter, on February 25, 1991, Herman filed another complaint against Coffran alleging assault. A neighbor called the police and made a report after hearing Herman screaming and finding her with a torn shirt and bruises. Departmental charges were again lodged against Coffran. After another departmental trial, Coffran was again found to be "not guilty." Again, Herman and two other witnesses failed to testify,

 On April 5, 1991, Coffran was again psychiatrically evaluated. The evaluation noted Coffran's problems, and diagnosed: "Antisocial Personality Disorder characterized by conflicts with authority, duplicity in personal relationships, difficulty in sustaining work performance and failure in parental responsibilities." Finke Affirmation, exhibit 13. On October 1, 1991, as a result of this evaluation, a staff psychologist made a recommendation, endorsed by defendant Archibald, for an involuntary psychiatric retirement survey of Coffran. The New York City Police Department submitted an application for involuntary psychiatric retirement for Coffran. Defendant Thomas, on October 15, 1991, recommended that in lieu of this survey, alternative administrative procedures could be considered because charges were still pending at that time. Defendant Kelly, however, endorsed the recommendation for the survey and defendant Thomas took no steps to further avoid the survey.

 On March 2, 1992, pursuant to the direction of defendant Kelly, Coffran was examined by the Medical Board. Previously, on February 5, 1992, Coffran had requested his Psychological Services Division file but was not provided with it prior to the March 2, 1992 examination. Coffran was not permitted to have either his lawyer or a medical professional present at the March 2, 1992 examination. Thereafter, at the March 2, 1992 examination, the Medical Board recommended the Ordinary Disability Retirement of Coffran, with a diagnosis of Personality Disorder with Anti-Social and Impulsive Features.

 On June 2, 1992, the Trustees remanded the application to the medical record for reconsideration based on letters submitted by Coffran's privately retained psychiatrist, who recommended that Coffran be returned to full duty. On July 2, 1992, the Medical Board examined Coffran again, and re-affirmed their previous recommendation, citing off-duty incidents with women that reflected poor judgment and unpredictable behavior on Coffran's part.

 In August of 1992, Coffran submitted new evidence against involuntary retirement, consisting of psychiatric opinion, psychological testing, a psychological evaluation and decisions of the Trial Commissioner in disciplinary proceedings. The Trustees remanded the matter a second time to the Medical Board for consideration of Coffran's new evidence. On March 1, 1993, the Medical Board re-affirmed its prior recommendation for involuntary psychiatric retirement.

 On May 10, 1993 another remand was requested and on May 13, 1993, the matter was remanded to the Medical Board for a third time. On August 23, 1993, the Medical Board once again reaffirmed its earlier decision to retire Coffran on ordinary disability. The Trustees have adopted a "two automatic remands" rule. Inasmuch as this application has been remanded more than two times already, the application may not be remanded again unless the Trustees so desire. On November 10, 1993, the Trustees considered the application and tabled it for one month. At the December 1993 meeting, the Trustees voted to retire Coffran. That retirement will become effective approximately thirty days after the meeting.

 In addition to being retired, Coffran has been passed over for promotion to lieutenant of police allegedly because of his restricted duty status and the pending application for retirement. Coffran has been monitored on the job since 1989 by his superiors--the monitoring reports reflect no serious problems. Coffran states that he wants to continue his law enforcement career. If Coffran applies for other New York City municipal employment, he will be required to disclose his prior employment with the police department, and will be required to authorize the release of his termination records, if he hopes to obtain employment with the City. If Coffran applies to any other police department, they will require disclosure of these records as well.

 DISCUSSION

 To demonstrate a violation of Section 1983, it must be shown that a person acting under color of state law deprived an individual of the rights, privileges, or immunities guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. See Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 835, 73 L. Ed. 2d 418, 102 S. Ct. 2764 (1982); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986). Coffran contends that his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights have been violated. Coffran argues that his liberty and property interests that are implicated by an involuntary psychiatric retirement are not sufficiently safeguarded so as to accord him due process of law.

 Coffran alleges that the procedures used by defendants for consideration of the Police Commissioner's application for involuntary psychiatric retirement deprive Coffran of his property interest in continued employment. Coffran additionally contends that his liberty interests have been violated--he is precluded from pursuing his chosen profession in law enforcement, and his good name and professional reputation have been damaged. Coffran argues that these alleged denials of due process violate his civil rights as assured by the ...


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