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X William J. Blasi v. New York City Board of Education; Harold Levy

August 10, 2012

X WILLIAM J. BLASI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION; HAROLD LEVY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHANCELLOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION; SUSAN FRIEDMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PRINCIPAL AT SHEEPSHEAD BAY HIGH SCHOOL; ELAINE FARRAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL OF SOCIAL STUDIES OF SHEEPSHEAD BAY HIGH SCHOOL; JOYCE COPPIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOLS; AND THE CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS. X WILLIAM J. BLASI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION ALSO KNOWN AS NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; JOEL KLEIN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHANCELLOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION; SUSAN FRIEDMAN, INDIVIDUALLY (FORMER PRINCIPAL AT SHEEPSHEAD BAY HIGH SCHOOL); JOYCE COPPIN, INDIVIDUALLY (FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOLS AND CURRENTLY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE DIVISION OF HUMAN RESOURCES AT THE NYC BOARD OF EDUCATION); LYNN OLSEN PAGANO, INDIVIDUALLY (FORMER INTERIM PRINCIPAL AT INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL 223); DENNISA TORRES, INDIVIDUALLY (STAFF ATTORNEY IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE TRIAL UNIT IN THE OFFICE OF LEGAL SERVICES OF THE NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION); AND THE CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se William J. Blasi brings these two consolidated actions claiming, inter alia, that the captioned defendants discriminated against him as a white Christian male with respect to his employment as a social studies teacher in the New York City public school system. Plaintiff brings claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986; the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL"); the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and Article I, § 6 of the New York State Constitution; as well as a claim for breach of contract.

Defendants collectively moved for summary judgment on all claims. (Doc. No. 149.)*fn1

After an extended briefing schedule, this Court referred the motion to the Honorable Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go. Now before the court are Judge Go's lengthy and detailed Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. No. 163), plaintiff's objections thereto ("Obj.") (Doc. No. 165), and defendants' response ("Resp.") (Doc. No. 167).

Judge Go recommended that this Court grant defendants' motion for summary judgment on each of plaintiff's claims. For the reasons that follow and those in the R&R, the Court adopts Judge Go's recommendation. In the interest of brevity, the Court will not repeat the factual and procedural background of plaintiff's complaints but will simply refer the parties to the R&R, which accurately recites the undisputed facts and favorable inferences underlying plaintiff's suits. (See R&R at 3--13.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a magistrate's Report and Recommendation, the Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court must make a de novo determination to the extent that a party makes specific objections to a magistrate's findings. Id.; see United States v. Male Juvenile,121 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 1997). Objections must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate's proposal. See Camardo v. Gen. Motors Hourly-Rate Employees Pension Plan,806 F. Supp. 380, 381--82 (W.D.N.Y. 1992). When a party makes conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates the original arguments, the Court will review the report only for clear error. See, e.g., Frankel v. City of New York,No. 06 Civ. 5450, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14864, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2009); Camardo,806 F. Supp. at 382. Similarly, "objections that are merely perfunctory responses argued in an attempt to engage the district court in a rehashing of the same arguments set forth in the original [papers] will not suffice to invoke de novo review . . . ." Vega v. Artuz,No. 97 Civ. 3775, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18270, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2002).*fn2 Although "[t]he objections of parties appearing pro se are 'generally accorded leniency' and should be construed 'to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest,'" nevertheless "even a pro se party's objections to a Report and Recommendation must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate's proposal, such that no party be allowed a second bite at the apple by simply relitigating a prior argument." DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F. Supp. 2d 333, 340 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (citations omitted).*fn3

ANALYSIS

The Court has reviewed the parties' respective submissions in connection with the defendants' motion, as well as the R&R, applicable law, plaintiff's objections, and defendants' response. Having reviewed de novo all portions of the R&R to which plaintiff specifically objects, and having reviewed the remainder of the R&R for clear error, the Court finds no basis for departing from Judge Go's recommendation that defendants be granted summary judgment on all claims.

Plaintiff challenges Judge Go's findings that he (A) is collaterally estopped from raising certain due process claims previously adjudicated in state court; (B) failed to establish a prima facie case of racial, gender, or religious discrimination regarding his termination from Sheepshead Bay High School ("Sheepshead Bay"); and (C) failed to establish a claimof discrimination regarding the refusal of the Department of Education ("DOE") to hire him again after his termination. As set forth below, plaintiff's objections are unavailing.

A. Due Process Claim

Judge Go concluded that plaintiff's 2002--2005 adjudication of his equal protection and due process claims in a state proceeding under Article 78 of New York's Civil Practice Law and Rules ("Article 78") now bars him from bringing those claims in this court. (R&R at 17--19.) Plaintiff objects to this finding. (Obj. at 11--14.)

Plaintiff's teaching licenses and certificates were terminated after a hearing held pursuant to Chancellor Regulation C-31. (R&R at 10--11; see Chiu Dec., Ex. FF.) In a subsequent Article 78 petition, plaintiff alleged inter alia that the hearing and termination violated his equal protection and due process rights. (R&R at 11; see Chiu. Dec. (Doc. No. 15) Ex. D.) The New York Supreme Court denied that petition on September 27, 2005. (R&R at 11, 17--18; see Chiu Dec. Ex. F.) Plaintiff does not contest that the equal protection and due process claims he now raises are the same as those raised in his Article 78 petition. (See 03-CV-3836 Comp. ¶ 49; Chiu. Dec., Ex. D., ¶¶ 3, 25, 51.) Plaintiff also does not challenge Judge Go's recommendation with respect to his equal protection claim, but objects only as to his due process claim.

Under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1738, a federal court must give preclusive effect to a state court judgment whenever the courts of that state would do so. See Ferris v. Cuevas, 118 F.3d 122, 125--26 (2d Cir. 1997). Accordingly, New York law governs the preclusive effect of plaintiff's Article 78 judgment. Under New York law, collateral estoppel (alternatively "issue preclusion") bars consideration of an issue when "(1) the issue in question was actually and necessarily decided in a prior proceeding, and (2) the party against whom [issue preclusion] is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the first proceeding." Hoblock v. Albany Cnty. Bd. of Elections,422 F.3d 77, 94 (2d Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); accord Hill v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. of N.Y., 786 F.2d 550, 552--53 (2d Cir. 1986) (citing Ryan v. N.Y. Tel. Co., 62 N.Y.2d 494, ...


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