whether legislative immunity attaches in this case, a determination must be made as to whether Defendants followed accepted legislative procedure in proposing and adopting the 1994 Greenburgh budget. If proper procedure was in fact followed, Plaintiffs' allegations concerning any purported illegitimate motives behind the budget proposal are absolutely irrelevant. Id. at 1156.
Plaintiffs argue that in order for legislative immunity to apply, accepted and established legislative procedures must be followed. Plaintiffs claim that there was a deviation from the normal historical practice and procedure utilized in the regular budget process and this deviation strips Defendants of legislative immunity. Plaintiffs have provided nothing to support their claim. While it appears from the submissions that the historical practice utilized when proposing a budget was not followed in 1993, this has no effect whatever on whether or not absolute legislative immunity attaches to the defendants in their individual capacities.
In order to defeat absolute legislative immunity Plaintiffs must show that Defendants did not follow legally accepted legislative procedure in the adoption of the 1994 Greenburgh budget. Plaintiffs have failed to make such a showing. A deviation from historical practice is not sufficient to defeat a claim of absolute legislative immunity, so long as the procedures followed are legally correct.
Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that New York's State Town Law § 106 was not complied with, thereby stripping Defendants of absolute legislative immunity. Section 106, in pertinent part, requires that the budget officer, in this case Defendant Feiner, must review a proposed budget, prepare a tentative budget, and present that tentative budget to the town board before the tenth day of November. New York Town Law § 106 (McKinney 1987). Defendant Feiner reviewed proposed budgets from Judges Katz and Klein, prepared a tentative budget, and presented it to the Town Board. It is clear from Plaintiffs' own submissions that § 106 was in fact satisfied. (See, for example, Plaintiffs' 3(g) Statement Par. 8 at 7).
The acts of proposing, voting on, and adopting the 1994 budget which eliminated Plaintiff's jobs, were purely legislative acts to which absolute legislative immunity applies. The budget proposal and its ultimate adoption were both substantively legislative and procedurally legislative.
Plaintiffs further contend that Judge Katz's personal problems with Plaintiff Gordon were the underlying reason for the elimination of her position. Plaintiff Gordon bases her First and Fourteenth amendment charges on the allegation that Judge Katz retaliated against her because she spoke out in opposition to the necessity of a full-time town justice. Taking all this as true, absolute legislative immunity still attaches. In Orange v. County of Suffolk, 830 F. Supp. 701, 705 (E.D.N.Y. 1993), the court held that the loss of a job does not convert a legislative budget cut into an administrative decision. Furthermore, the court held that even though certain defendants had admitted that the plaintiffs' termination "stemmed from political rather than budgetary reasons, the court held that such accusations did not suffice to pierce the shield of absolute legislative immunity." Id.
Plaintiffs contend that Defendants Feiner and Katz should not be afforded legislative immunity even in the event the court finds the remaining Defendants immune. Plaintiffs argue that as Town Supervisor, Feiner's duties were administrative and that as Town Justice, Judge Katz's duties were also administrative. This argument, however, fails to take into account the "functional analysis" test as set forth in Orange v. County of Suffolk and reiterated in Rini v. Zwirn, 886 F. Supp. 270 (E.D.N.Y. 1995). The functional analysis test provides that whether legislative immunity applies is determined not by the Defendant's position or title, but rather by the function performed. Orange at 706 (A County Executive was afforded legislative immunity because "his right to such immunity is not determined by his position in the executive branch, but by the function he performed regarding the operative facts". Id.); See also Rini v. Zwirn, 886 F. Supp. at 283, ("Active participation in the legislative process entitled an executive to absolute immunity."). Judge Katz's act of proposing the budget and Feiner's act of voting on it are both functionally legislative and protected by absolute legislative immunity.
Plaintiffs base their argument on the misplaced contention that Plaintiffs Gordon and Martin were wrongfully fired. This argument is unconvincing. Judge Katz lacked the power to unilaterally terminate any town employee. Judge Katz only proposed a budget, which was submitted, along with two other proposed budgets, to the Town Board. The Town Board ultimately adopted Judge Katz's budget which eliminated the two positions. The job abolition resulted from a purely legislative act to which immunity attaches.
Summary judgment shall be granted 'if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits ... show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.' Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). 'The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.' (citation omitted). While the court must view the inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, (citation omitted), a party may not 'rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment.' (citation omitted). The non-moving party may defeat the summary judgment motion by producing sufficient specific facts to establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. (citation omitted). Finally, 'mere conclusory allegations or denials' in legal memoranda or oral argument are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a genuine issue of material fact where not would otherwise exist. (citation omitted).
Lipton v. The Nature Company, No. 94 Civ. 9123 (2d Cir. November 28, 1995).
It has been held that the motivation behind a legislative act is irrelevant. Even if Plaintiffs could convincingly show that the legislative act was fueled by an attempt to strip Plaintiffs of constitutionally guaranteed rights, and that such action created a valid claim that their rights to freedom of speech had been violated, plaintiffs still must fail on summary judgment. Plaintiff Cordon appears to claim that the elimination of her position was at least in part a retaliatory act because she spoke up in opposition to Judge Katz's request for a fulltime town justice. Nowhere, however, in Plaintiffs' submissions is there a specific allegation sufficient to rise to the level of establishing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Only conclusory allegations, speculation, and conjecture have been provided by Plaintiffs. This is insufficient to support a valid § 1983 claim.
I find that Defendants each acted within the scope of their legitimate legislative duty and in accordance with New York State Town Law in the proposal and adoption of the 1994 budget. Even assuming an illegitimate motive, Defendants are entitled to absolute legislative immunity for their legislative acts. See Rini v. Zwirn, 886 F. Supp. 270, 283 (E.D.N.Y. 1995). All of the federal law-based claims asserted against all Defendants in their individual capacities are barred by the doctrine of absolute legislative immunity.
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is therefore GRANTED and the claims against all Defendants in their individual capacities are dismissed.
In connection with Plaintiffs' attempt to impose liability on Defendants in their official capacities and to impose liability on the Town of Greenburgh under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, such liability cannot rest on a theory of respondeat superior Drayton, 699 F. Supp. at 1157, and there is no immunity defense, whether qualified or absolute, available to a municipality, Orange, 830 F. Supp. at 706. Rather, there must be a showing of some municipal custom, policy, law, or usage which caused the alleged injury. see Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 98 S. Ct. 2018, 2035-36, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978). Even interpreting the complaint in its broadest sense, Plaintiffs have failed to provide any evidence of a municipal custom, policy, law, or usage which deprived them of any rights guaranteed to them under the constitution. Accordingly, all federal claims against all Defendants in their respective official capacities and all claims against the Town are dismissed.
The issue remains as to whether the Court should exercise jurisdiction over the pendent state claims in this case.
The Supreme Court thoroughly reviewed and discussed pendent jurisdiction in Carnegie-Mellon University v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 348-353, 98 L. Ed. 2d 720, 108 S. Ct. 614 (1988) and specifically ruled that
under [United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383, U.S. 715 (1966)], a federal court should consider and weigh in each case, and at every stage of the litigation, the values of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity in order to decide whether to exercise jurisdiction over a case brought in that court involving pendent state-law claims. When the balance of these factors indicates that a case properly belongs in state court, as when the federal-law claims have dropped out of the lawsuit in its early stages and only state-law claims remain, (footnote omitted) the federal court should decline to exercise jurisdiction by dismissing the case without prejudice. Id., at 726-727, 86 S. Ct. at 1139. As articulated by Gibbs, the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction thus is a doctrine of flexibility, designed to allow courts to deal with cases involving pendent claims in the manner that most sensibly accommodates a range of concerns and values.
Id. at 350.
I have considered the factors set forth above and have elected to exercise the court's discretion to dismiss the pendent state-law claims. In 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c), Congress granted the district courts discretion to decline the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction if the district court has dismissed all claims over which it had original jurisdiction.
In view of the foregoing,
- Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED;