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LEFFORD v. MCCALL

January 31, 1996

GARY LEFFORD, Plaintiff, against H. CARL McCALL, Comptroller of the State of New York, THE NEW YORK STATE LOCAL RETIREMENT SYSTEMS -- POLICE AND FIRE RETIREMENT SYSTEM, FREDERICK J. ANDERSON, Ombudsman of the City of Jamestown, New York, RICHARD KIMBALL, Mayor of the City of Jamestown, New York, THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK, and THE CITY OF JAMESTOWN, NEW York. Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Gary Lefford commenced this action by filing a complaint on June 9, 1994, wherein he alleged that defendants revoked his disability pension without due process in violation of the 14th Amendment. Defendants countered, inter alia, that plaintiff improperly obtained approval for the pension because he is not actually disabled. The Court subsequently addressed cross-motions for summary judgment by all parties and rendered a decision from the bench that was memorialized in an Order dated February 5, 1995. In that Order, the Court granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendants H. Carl McCall and the New York State Local Retirement Systems ("State Defendants"); denied the motion by State Defendants against plaintiff; and granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Frederick Anderson, Richard Kimball, the City Council of the City of Jamestown, and the City of Jamestown ("Jamestown Defendants").

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. POWER OF REVIEW

 As an initial matter, the Court is disturbed to find itself reviewing a state administrative decision such as the one at issue, would not ordinarily do so, and is reluctant to do so here. However, it is well-settled that federal courts "have the power, and the duty, to make their intervention effective." Smith v. Sullivan, 611 F.2d 1039, 1044 (5th Cir. 1980). As a result, once a constitutional violation has been proved a court may, if necessary, exert its equitable power to prevent repetition of the violation. Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1156 (5th Cir. 1982). In this case, plaintiff already has established in this Court that defendants have committed a constitutional violation against him, in the form of a denial of his due process. The Court consequently has both the power and the duty to examine plaintiff's motion and State Defendants' procedures to ensure that no further violation of plaintiff's rights has occurred.

 B. DUE PROCESS ANALYSIS

 In general, the Court's prior Order directed State Defendants to provide plaintiff with due process before they revoked his benefits. Thus the issue on this motion is whether the hearing granted to plaintiff actually represents "due process." Admittedly, the Court's Order failed to specify exactly what procedures were required of defendants because it merely stated that they provide a hearing at which they would bear the burden of proof. *fn1" Defendants are not laymen, however, and certainly were aware that this incomplete guidance did not free them to implement any procedure as long as it arguably could be categorized as a "hearing." They still were required, as they always are, to ensure that the process afforded plaintiff adequately protected his rights in two ways -- first, through a proper hearing, and second, through sufficient evidence adduced at that hearing. *fn2"

 1. Hearing Procedures

 The Court addressed the first issue to a certain extent in its bench decision preceding the Order of February 5, 1995, but will do so again here. The Supreme Court consistently has held that, absent the necessity of quick action by the state, "some kind of hearing" is required before an individual is finally deprived of a property interest. See, e.g., Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542, 84 L. Ed. 2d 494, 105 S. Ct. 1487 (1985). Moreover, the "fundamental fairness" requirement of due process represents the opportunity to be heard "at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner." Mathews v Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18, 96 S. Ct. 893 (1976). Despite these admonitions, due process "remains a flexible concept . . . and calls only for such procedural protection as the particular situation demands." Moore v. Warwick Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 29, 794 F.2d 322, 327 (8th Cir. 1986).

 Resolution of the issues of what process is due and whether a particular procedure is constitutionally sufficient requires analysis of the governmental and private interests that are affected. As the Supreme Court stated in Mathews,

 
identification of the specific dictates of due process generally requires consideration of three distinct factors: First, the private interest that will be affected by the official action; second, the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards; and finally, the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirements would entail.

 Id., 424 U.S. at 335. This three-factor balancing test has long been the standard under which procedural due process claims have been ...


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