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Baumgart v. Stony Brook Children's Service

July 6, 2006

STEPHEN BAUMGART, M.D.; JOSEPH D. DECRISTOFARO, M.D.; ICHAEL A. FRIEDMAN, M.D.; ALAN R. SPITZER, M.D.; MEMORANDUM AND ORDER SHANTHY SRIDHAR, M.D.; RITA P. VERMA, M.D.; AND THOMAS E. WISWELL, M.D., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STONY BROOK CHILDREN'S SERVICE, P.C.; STONY BROOK CLINICAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT PLAN; STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT STONY BROOK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE; STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK; UNITED UNIVERSITY PROFESSIONS; STONY BROOK CPMP GOVERNING BOARD; RICHARD N. FINE, M.D.; NORMAN EDELMAN, M.D.; AND MICHAEL A. POREMBSKI, DEFENDANTS.



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

The Court dismissed the present case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in a Memorandum and Order dated September 9, 2005 (the "September 9, 2005 Order").*fn1 Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 6.3 of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, plaintiffs move for reconsideration of that decision. Defendants oppose the motion. Upon re-reading the parties' original motion papers, and consideration of the papers submitted as to the current motion, plaintiffs' motion is denied for the reasons indicated infra. However, given the importance of the core issues in this case which have not previously been directly addressed in a reported federal decision, coupled with the provocative, albeit unavailing arguments crafted by plaintiffs, the Court will review, and more expansively explain its earlier holding.

COURT'S DECISION OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2005

The facts, including the nature of plaintiffs' complaint, the identity and relationship between and among the parties, as well as the more significant legal arguments advanced by respective counsel, are recited in the Court's earlier decision. However, to place the present motion in context, the following partial synopsis of that decision is provided:

1. The first, and sole federal cause of action in plaintiffs' multi-claim complaint is based on Section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185, which provides in pertinent part that "[s]uits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization . . . may be brought in any district court of United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties";*fn2

2. Under that cause of action, plaintiffs allege (a) that the State University of New York and the State University of New York at Stony Brook School of Medicine ("State" or "State defendants"), as well as the non-State defendants, breached the collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") that the State had with defendant United University Professions ("Union" or "UUP") regarding the management and distribution of clinical practice income to the physician-plaintiffs, and (b) that the Union breached its duty of fair representation via its failure to pursue plaintiffs' grievance challenging defendants' violations of the CBA;

3. None of the non-State defendants, viz., Stony Brook Children's Services, P.C. ("Children's Services, P.C."), Stony Brook Clinical Practice Management Plan ("Stony Brook CPMP"), and the Stony Brook CPMP Governing Board ("Governing Board")(collectively "CPMP" or "CPMP defendants"), is a signatory or a party to the CBA;

4. Moreover, neither of the State defendants falls within the definition of an "employer" under the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 152(2), nor are the plaintiffs "employees" or UUP a "labor organization" under the Act's definitions. Id. § (3), (5);

5. As explained in the Court's September 9th Order:

The Complaint describes the Union as "a labor organization representing nearly 28,000 academic and professional faculty at 29 State-operated SUNY campuses," that "has been the exclusive bargaining representative . . . of employees employed in the State University Professional Services Negotiating Unit, including Plaintiffs." Complaint at ¶¶ 29-30. Thus, "[a]s professors at Stony Brook, Plaintiffs are employees in the State University Professional Services Negotiating Unit, and are represented by the Union." Complaint at ¶ 58 (emphasis added). And it is an "undeniable fact," add the Plaintiffs, that "Article XVI of the Policies is itself the product of collective bargaining negotiations between the [Union] and the State of New York, and is specifically incorporated into the CBA." Pls.' Mem at 18 (emphases added). (Sept. 9, 2005 Order at 13.)

6. Based primarily on the foregoing, the Court held:

Thus, it is immaterial whether the present dispute arises out of the Plaintiffs' private employment, and whether the CBA and Policies impose upon the Union a duty to fairly represent the Plaintiffs in this dispute. The CBA and Policies governing the Plaintiffs' clinical employment were entered into and enforced by the State. The Union's duties under the CBA and Policies are the product of its negotiations with the State, and thus, of its representation of the Plaintiffs as public employees. Since the LMRA does not confer federal jurisdiction on hybrid claims arising out [of] a Union's representation of public employees, the Plaintiffs' sole purported federal cause of action fails. (Id. at 13-14.)

APPLICABLE LAW RE RECONSIDERATION MOTION

Plaintiffs' motion is submitted pursuant to Local Civil Rule 6.3. In order to succeed on a motion for reconsideration, the movant must show that "the Court overlooked controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before it on the underlying motion." Local Civil Rule 6.3. "The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration 'is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked, in other words, matters that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court.'" L.I. Head Start Child Dev. Servs., Inc. v. Kearse, 96 F. Supp. 2d 209, 211 (E.D.N.Y. 2000) (quoting Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 256-57 (2d Cir. 1995)). Neither "arguments already briefed, considered and decided" nor "new facts, issues or arguments not previously presented" provide legitimate grounds for the motion. Schonberger v. Serchuk, 742 F. Supp. 108, 119 (S.D.N.Y. 1990) (citations omitted).

Applying these standards to the instant application, it is clear that plaintiffs have failed to establish a ground for reconsideration. Simply put, absent from plaintiffs' motion are citations to controlling law or factual matters that the Court overlooked which might reasonably be expected to alter the outcome of the September 9th Order.

PLAINTIFFS' POSITION

In seeking reconsideration, plaintiffs argue:

[T]he Court misconstrued relevant authority as well as overlooked important facts that were addressed in Plaintiffs' Brief in concluding that Defendant United University Professions (the "Union") represents Plaintiffs only as public employees, despite the fact that this case arises out of collectively bargained terms and conditions that govern their private clinical work with the CPMP Defendants, an undisputed private employer.

Specifically, Plaintiffs submit that the Court overlooked (I) the factual and legal significance of the joint employer relationship between the CPMP Defendants and the State Defendants, (ii) the CPMP Defendants' obligation to adhere to specific provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), including, but not limited to, the Policies, and (iii) the Union's duty to administer and enforce the Policies through the grievance arbitration provision of the CBA in connection with Plaintiff[s'] private employment with the CPMP Defendants, as distinct from its separate duty of fair representation in the negotiation of the CBA. Rather, the Court summarily concluded, without citation to any legal authority, that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims under the LMRA solely because the CBA and Policies were negotiated between the Union and the State. Order at 13-14. Not only did the Court base its decision to dismiss the Complaint on grounds that were not briefed by any party in the underlying motions, but we respectfully submit that the Court's conclusion is contrary to established law and disregards the factual realities of this case.

Moreover, it is respectfully submitted that the Court misapplied Johnson v. Port of Seattle, 261 F. Supp. 2d 1243 (W.D. Wash. 2003), when it concluded that Section 301 of the LMRA does not afford a basis for jurisdiction simply because a political subdivision is a party to the CBA.

Finally, the Court's expansion of the exclusion of a "State or political subdivision thereof" from the definition of "Employer" under the LMRA effectively precludes Plaintiffs from seeking relief in any forum against the Union for the violation of its fair representation duties in the enforcement of the Policies through the grievance arbitration provision of the CBA. Because the CBA explicitly states that the Policies, as applied to Plaintiffs' private clinical employment, must be enforced through the grievance arbitration ...


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