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WARDEN v. PATAKI

February 11, 1999

LAWRENCE A. WARDEN, ROBERT JACKSON, RAISA CASTILLO, EDWIN PETERS, ROBERT LIZARDO, LOUISA CHAN, VENICE ANGLERO, MARTHA ESPINAL, INDIVIDUALLY AND PURSUANT TO RULE 23 OF THE FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GEORGE PATAKI, AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, SHELDON SILVER, AS SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, JOSEPH BRUNO, AS SPEAKER OF THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, THE ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RUDOLPH GIULIANI, AS MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, EDWARD F. STANCIK, AS COMMISSIONER OF INVESTIGATION FOR THE CITY OF NEW YORK, RUDOLPH CREW, AS CHANCELLOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF WEST PAGE 355 EDUCATION, WILLIAM C. THOMPSON, JR., IRENE H. IMPELLIZZERI, JERRY CAMARATA, CAROL GRESSER, SANDRA E. LERNER, LUIS O. REYES, NINFA SEGARRA, AS MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS. LOUISA M. CHAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND PURSUANT TO RULE 23 OF THE FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE, PLAINTIFF, V. GEORGE PATAKI, AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RUDOLPH GIULIANI, AS MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, WILLIAM THOMPSON, JR., IRENE H. IMPELLIZZERI, JERRY CAMARATA, CAROL GRESSER, SANDRA LERNER, LUIS REYES, NINFA SEGARRA, AS MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, RUDOLPH CREW, AS CHANCELLOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mukasey, District Judge.

  OPINION AND ORDER

These cases present broad attacks on the current system of governance for, and administration of, New York City's public schools. In 97 Civ. 7027, plaintiffs (the "Warden plaintiffs") bring a class action against various state officials (the "State Defendants") and municipal officials (the "Municipal Defendants"), alleging that the method of selecting members for the city Board of Education (the "city board"), recent amendments to N.Y. Educ. Law § 2590 and actions of defendant New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy Crew violate numerous statutes and constitutional provisions. In 98 Civ. 2879, plaintiff pro se Louisa M. Chan raises nearly identical claims against substantially the same defendants, also as a class action.

In an earlier opinion, familiarity with which is assumed, a three-judge panel granted summary judgment for the Municipal Defendants with respect to the Warden plaintiffs' claim that the method for selecting members of the city board violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1971 et seq. See Warden v. Pataki, 12 F. Supp.2d 325 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) (three-judge panel).*fn1 The Municipal Defendants now move, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, for summary judgment in both cases, on all remaining claims. In addition, the State Defendants move, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), to dismiss both actions for failure to state a claim. Because Chan is a named plaintiff in both actions, and the two cases raise substantially the same issues, the parties have agreed that all papers submitted should be considered in reference to both cases wherever relevant.

For the reasons stated below, defendants' motions are granted in their entirety, and the complaints in both cases are dismissed.

I.

The New York City public school system is unique within the State of New York. Established pursuant to Article 52-A of the New York Education Law, the system is divided into 32 community school districts, each of which is governed by a community school district board ("community board"). See N Y Educ. Law § 2590-b (McKinney 1995 & 1999 Supp.). Each community board is composed of nine members, elected for three-year terms. See id. § 2590-c. Overseeing all 32 community boards is the city board, which is composed of seven members, a member appointed by each of the five elected borough presidents and two members appointed by the mayor. See id. § 2590-b.1(a). Finally, the city board appoints a Chancellor, who serves for a term not to exceed by more than one year the term of the city board which appointed him. See id. § 2590-h. The respective duties and powers of the city board, the community boards and the Chancellor are set forth in detail in New York Education Law Article 52-A.

In these cases, plaintiffs challenge several aspects of the system established by New York Education Law Article 52-A. One category of claims, part of which was disposed of by the three-judge panel, relates to the composition of the city board. Insofar as plaintiffs challenge the statute on its face, their remaining claims all relate to amendments passed by the state legislature and signed by defendant Governor George Pataki in 1996. See 1996 N.Y. Laws ch. 720. The 1996 amendments, which became effective in 1997, altered the relationship between the city board, the community boards and the Chancellor, for the most part by enhancing the powers of the city board and Chancellor at the expense of the community boards. (E.g., Chan Compl. Ex. 1) To the extent relevant to plaintiffs' claims, the 1996 amendments limited the role of community board members over the hiring and firing of school personnel; created a mandatory training requirement for all new community board members; and enhanced the Chancellor's powers to suspend or remove community board members for misfeasance or nonfeasance.*fn2

As noted, plaintiffs challenge also certain actions of defendant Chancellor Crew. In 1996 and 1997, acting pursuant to his powers to suspend or remove community board members, the Chancellor suspended and/or removed some or all of community boards 5, 7, 9, and 12, in each case citing some combination of misconduct, institutional paralysis or academic failure traceable to the community school district. (Mun. Def. Rule 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 6-38) All four community boards were composed primarily of racial or ethnic minorities. (Warden Compl. ¶ 59) In each case, the Chancellor's actions were ultimately approved by the United States Department of Justice pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c. (Mun. Def. Rule 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 11, 13, 18, 31, 38) of the four community boards at issue, at least two remained in the control of racial or ethnic minorities after the Chancellor's interventions. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 29)

II.

To begin, the State Defendants' motion to dismiss both cases pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim must be granted. The principal basis for plaintiffs' claims against the State Defendants is the State Defendants' role in enacting the legislation at issue. (See Warden Compl. ¶ 26; Chan Compl. ¶ 37) The well-settled doctrine of absolute legislative immunity, however, bars actions against legislators or governors — and, a fortiori, legislatures — on the basis of their roles in enacting or signing legislation. See Supreme Court of Virginia v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 446 U.S. 719, 731-34, 100 S.Ct. 1967, 64 L.Ed.2d 641 (1980); Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 376-79, 71 S.Ct. 783, 95 L.Ed. 1019 (1951); see also Lajoie v. Connecticut State Bd. of Labor Relations, 837 F. Supp. 34, 40 (D.Conn. 1993) (Cabranes, C.J.). The cases cited by the Warden plaintiffs

in their complaint — Spallone v. United States, 493 U.S. 265, 110 S.Ct. 625, 107 L.Ed.2d 644 (1990), and Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board, 138 F. Supp. 337 (E.D.La. 1956), aff'd, 242 F.2d 156 (5th Cir. 1957), (see Warden Compl. ¶ 65) — do not hold otherwise: Bush involved a suit against state agencies, not legislators, and in Spallone, the Supreme Court reversed a contempt order entered against members of a municipal council without even having to reach the question of immunity. See Spallone, 493 U.S. at 266, 110 S.Ct. 625; see also id. at 633 (citing, and thereby reaffirming, Tenney and Supreme Court of Virginia).

The Warden plaintiffs base their claims against Governor Pataki on an additional basis: namely, on the Governor's duty under the New York Constitution to "take care that the laws are faithfully executed." N Y Const. art. 4, § 3. Although there is some authority to support plaintiffs' position, see, e.g., Ass'n of Am. Med. Colleges v. Carey, 482 F. Supp. 1358, 1363 (N.D.N.Y. 1980), the vast majority of courts to consider the issue have held — correctly, in my view — that a state official's duty to execute the laws is not enough by itself to make that official a proper party in a suit challenging a state statute. See, e.g., 1st Westco Corp. v. School Dist., 6 F.3d 108, 113 (3d Cir. 1993) ("General authority to enforce the laws of the state is not sufficient to make government officials the proper parties to litigation challenging the law.") (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1208 (3d Cir. 1988)); Shell Oil Co. v. Noel, 608 F.2d 208, 211 (1st Cir. 1979) ("The mere fact that a governor is under a general duty to enforce state laws does not make him a proper defendant in every action attacking the constitutionality of a state statute."); see also Gras v. Stevens, 415 F. Supp. 1148, 1151-52 (S.D.N.Y. 1976); cf. Mendez v. Heller, 530 F.2d 457, 460 (2d Cir. 1976) (holding that the state attorney general's duty to support the constitutionality of challenged state statutes and his duty to defend actions in which the state is interested do not constitute enforcement of the statute in question). Accordingly, plaintiffs' claims with respect to the State Defendants are dismissed.

III.

As noted, the Municipal Defendants move for summary judgment in both cases. Summary judgment is mandated when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In considering a summary judgment motion, "the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Azrielli v. Cohen Law Offices, 21 F.3d 512, 517 (2d Cir. 1994). Nevertheless, Rule 56 jurisprudence is clear in "provid[ing] that 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." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The non-moving party, therefore, "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the ...


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