Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

MACFARLANE v. VILLAGE OF SCOTIA

March 3, 2000

TIMOTHY MACFARLANE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
THE VILLAGE OF SCOTIA, NEW YORK, AND JAMES DENNEY, MAYOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David N. Hurd, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Timothy Macfarlane ("Macfarlane" or "plaintiff") commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985, alleging that the defendants, the Village of Scotia ("Village") and Mayor James Denney ("Denney"), violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. The defendants have moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, or alternatively, to dismiss, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment. Oral argument was heard on January 28, 2000 in Albany, New York. Decision was reserved.

II. FACTS

On or about April 11, 1995, plaintiff wrote a letter to the Village Board of Trustees ("Trustees") regarding the implementation of the 911 system and dispatching of 911 calls in the Village. The letter also contained critical remarks against the provisional Chief of Police, Paul Boyarin.*fn1 As a result of this letter, the Trustees, comprised of four Trustees and Denney, commenced disciplinary charges against plaintiff for misconduct. The hearing officer recommended that Macfarlane be suspended without pay for ten days. The Trustees adopted the hearing officer's recommendation. Denney abstained from voting. Plaintiff returned to the rank of patrolman effective April 25, 1995.

Plaintiff commenced an Article 78 proceeding challenging the hearing officer's findings. On July 3, 1997, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department ("Third Department"), found that the majority of the disciplinary charges against plaintiff were supported by substantial evidence, and that plaintiff was not entitled to First Amendment protection because his interest in speaking on a matter of public concern was outweighed by the Village's interest in promoting the efficiency of the public service it performs through its employees. MacFarlane v. Village of Scotia, 241 A.D.2d 574, 659 N.Y.S.2d 351 (3d Dep't), appeal dismissed, 90 N.Y.2d 1008, 688 N.E.2d 1384, 666 N.Y.S.2d 102 (1997). However, the court remitted the matter to the Trustees for reconsideration of the penalty to be imposed, noting that the ten-day suspension without pay "was unduly harsh." Id. at 576, 659 N.Y.S.2d at 354. On October 28, 1997, the Trustees again imposed the ten-day suspension, which was later vacated by the New York State Supreme Court, Schenectady County. (See Cremo Aff. in Opp'n Ex. G.)

On or about June 19, 1995, the PBA filed an improper practice charge on Macfarlane's behalf with the New York State Public Employment Relations Board ("PERB"), claiming that plaintiff's reduction in rank from sergeant to patrolman was due to his union activities. The charge was initially dismissed by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). However, the full PERB board reversed the ALJ's decision, finding that plaintiff was acting on behalf of the union when he wrote the letter, he was demoted for writing it, and the letter was protected under the Public Employees' Fair Employment Act (the "PEFEA"), N.Y. Civ. Serv. Law §§ 200-214 (McKinney 1999). On March 18, 1998, the Third Department affirmed the PERB's determination. See Village of Scotia v. New York State Pub. Employment Relations Bd., 241 A.D.2d 29, 670 N.Y.S.2d 602 (3d Dep't 1998). However, the Third Department annulled the PERB's determination to restore Macfarlane to the position of sergeant with back pay and remitted to the PERB for further consideration the issue of appropriate remedial action.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir. 1991). The moving party carries the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990). Facts, inferences therefrom, and ambiguities must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Project Release v. Prevost, 722 F.2d 960, 968 (2d Cir. 1983).

When the moving party has met the burden, the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586. At that point, the non-moving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56: Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. at 250; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. To withstand a summary judgment motion, evidence must exist upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248-249; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. Thus, summary judgment is proper where there is "little or no evidence . . . in support of the non-moving party's case." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1223-1224 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).

B. Plaintiff's Freedom of Speech Claim

The defendants claim that MacFarlane's First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association claims are barred by collateral estoppel because the Third Department has already held that ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.