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SLAVSKY v. NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEP'T

June 16, 1997

SAMUEL SLAVSKY and EDWARD SLAVSKY, Plaintiffs, against THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; THE CITY OF NEW YORK; HOWARD SAFIR, Police Commissioner of the City of New York and Chairman, Police Pension Fund, Article II; and BOARD OF TRUSTEES, POLICE PENSION FUND. Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KOELTL

 JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge:

 The plaintiffs, Samuel and Edward Slavsky, retired as New York City police officers and were subsequently employed by the New York City Board of Education. Section 1117 of the New York City Charter prevents them from receiving their police pensions while simultaneously receiving compensation for employment by New York State or New York City. The plaintiffs have sued New York City and the Police Pension Fund under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants acting under color of state law have denied to them their constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws and to substantive and procedural due process. The plaintiffs and the defendants have both moved for judgment on the pleadings under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).

 I.

 On a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of the complaint are to be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are construed in the plaintiff's favor. See Gant v. Wallingford Bd. of Educ., 69 F.3d 669, 673 (2d Cir. 1995); Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 836, 115 S. Ct. 117, 130 L. Ed. 2d 63 (1994). When reviewing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court applies the same standards as on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. The Court "must view the pleadings in the light most favorable to, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of, the nonmoving party." Davidson v. Flynn, 32 F.3d 27, 29 (2d Cir. 1994); Madonna v. United States, 878 F.2d 62, 65 (2d Cir. 1989); see also National Ass'n of Pharmaceutical Mfrs., Inc. v. Ayerst Labs., 850 F.2d 904, 909 n.2 (2d Cir. 1988) (indicating that the Court treats a motion for judgment on the pleadings as if it were a motion to dismiss). A court should dismiss a complaint only "if 'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992, 998 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99, (1957)).

 II.

 There is no dispute with respect to the following material facts. The plaintiffs Samuel and Edward Slavsky retired from the New York City Police Department on ordinary disability retirements in January, 1977, and December, 1980, respectively. (Verified Compl. PP 12, 15.) Thereafter, both commenced employment as teachers with the New York City Board of Education in 1983, and 1989, respectively. (Verified Compl. PP 13, 16.) As a result of an audit of the New York City Police Pension Fund in 1992, the City Comptroller discovered that the plaintiffs were receiving disability pensions from the Police Pension Fund and receiving salaries from New York City as a result of their employment as teachers in violation of New York City Charter § 1117.

 In or about December, 1992, the plaintiffs were notified of the suspension of their police pensions effective January 1, 1993. (Verified Compl. P 19.) The plaintiffs filed a Verified Complaint on September 9, 1996, alleging deprivations of their constitutionally protected rights to equal protection of the laws, procedural due process, and substantive due process.

 III.

 
If a person receiving a pension or a retirement allowance made up of such pension and an annuity purchased by the pensioner from the city or any agency, or out of any fund under the city or any agency by reason of such person's own prior employment by the city or any agency, shall hold and receive any compensation from any office, employment or position under the state or city or any of the counties included within the city or any municipal corporation or political subdivision of the state, except the offices of inspector of election, poll clerk or ballot clerk under the election laws or commissioner of deeds or notary public or jury duty, the payment of said pension only shall be suspended and forfeited during and for the time such person shall hold and receive compensation from such office, position, or employment; but this section shall not apply where the pension and the salary or compensation of the office, employment, or position amount in the aggregate to less than one thousand eight hundred dollars annually.

 Unless a statute "employs a classification that is inherently invidious or that impinges on fundamental rights, areas in which the judiciary then has a duty to intervene in the democratic process," the Court exercises only a limited review power over the representative body through which the public makes democratic choices among alternative solutions to social and economic problems. Schweiker v. Wilson, 450 U.S. 221, 230, 67 L. Ed. 2d 186, 101 S. Ct. 1074 (1981). Economic legislation, such as New York City Charter § 1117, is entitled to a strong presumption of constitutionality, and will be upheld so long as it bears any rational relation to a legitimate state objective. See id. at 238; Mathews v. de Castro, 429 U.S. 181, 184, 50 L. Ed. 2d 389, 97 S. Ct. 431 (1976); Poggi v. City of New York, 109 A.D.2d 265, 273, 491 N.Y.S.2d 331, 337 (1st Dep't 1985).

 The burden rests on the plaintiffs to show that § 1117 has no rational basis, that the classifications it draws are wholly irrelevant to the achievement of the City's legitimate objectives. See Schweiker, 450 U.S. at 234; Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 485, 25 L. Ed. 2d 491, 90 S. Ct. 1153 (1970); Western & S. Life Ins. Co. v. State Bd. of Equalization, 451 U.S. 648, 668, 68 L. Ed. 2d 514, 101 S. Ct. 2070 (1981); McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 425, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393, 81 S. Ct. 1101 (1961). Economic legislation "does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because classifications made by its laws are imperfect." Dandridge, 397 U.S. at 485. The Supreme Court has "consistently refused to invalidate on equal protection grounds legislation which it simply deemed unwise or unartfully drawn." United States R.R. Retirement Bd. v. Fritz, 449 U.S. 166, 175, 66 L. Ed. 2d 368, 101 S. Ct. 453 (1980). The deference to the legislature embodied by the rational basis standard is "true to the principle that the Fourteenth Amendment gives federal courts no power to impose upon the states their views of what constitutes wise economic or social policy." Dandridge, 397 U.S. at 486.

 Section 1117 has been in effect in various forms since 1901. It is similar to a provision of the New York State Civil Service Law, § 150, which similarly suspends certain state retirement benefits during public employment. On its face, § 1117 furthers the legitimate public purpose of limiting the total amount of benefits that any single retiree can obtain. Put another way, § 1117 prevents "double dipping" and suspends retirement benefits of those recipients with less need for them because those recipients are receiving active employment ...


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