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The Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers v. the State of New York

December 3, 2012

THE POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF THE NEW YORK STATE TROOPERS, INC., THOMAS H. MUNGEER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF THE POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION OF THE NEW YORK STATE POLICE, INC., DANIEL M. ROMANO, MARK ROBILLARD, ROLAND J. RUSSELL, JOHN P. MORETTI JR, RICKY D. PALACIOS, ROBERT WELSH, AND FREDERICK W. SCHEIDT AND ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK, ANDREW M. CUOMO, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK STATE CIVIL SERVICE DEPARTMENT, PATRICIA A. HITE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK STATE CIVIL SERVICE DEPARTMENT, NEW YORK STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, CAROLINE W. AHL AND J. DENNIS HANRAHAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS COMMISSIONERS OF THE NEW YORK STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, ROBERT L. MEGNA, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF THE BUDGET, AND THOMAS P. DINAPOLI, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COMPTROLLER OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AND NEW YORK STATE AND LOCAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs commenced the within action alleging that defendants unilaterally increased the percentage of contributions that plaintiffs, active and retired employees, are required to pay for health insurance benefits in retirement and violated the Contracts Clause and Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, impaired plaintiffs' contractual rights under the terms of their Collective Bargaining Agreement, and violated state law. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, declaratory judgments and monetary damages. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 14). Plaintiffs have opposed the motion.*fn1 (Dkt. No. 18).

BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association (" NYSTPBA") is the collective bargaining representative for members of the Division of State Police including Troopers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Captains and Majors. Plaintiff Thomas H. Mungeer is the President of NYSTPBA and an active employee of the State of New York receiving benefits through the New York State Health Insurance Program ("NYSHIP") and is a vested member of the New York State Police and Fireman's Retirement System ("PFRS"). Plaintiffs John P. Moretti and Mark Robillard are active employees of the State of New York and members of NYSTPBA and receive benefits through NYSHIP. Plaintiffs Roland J. Russell ("Russell"), Ricky D. Palacios ("Palacios"), Daniel M. Romano ("Romano"), Robert Welsh ("Welsh"), Frederick W. Scheidt ("Scheidt") are former State employees, former members of NYSTPBA and retirees covered by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement between NYSTPBA and the State of New York who receive benefits through NYSHIP.*fn3 During the relevant time, defendant Patricia Hite ("Hite") was Acting Commissioner of the Civil Service Department and Acting President of the Civil Service Commission. Defendants Caroline W. Ahl ("Ahl") and J. Dennis Hanrahan ("Hanrahan") were members of the Civil Service Commission. Defendant Robert Megna ("Megna") was the Director of the New York State Division of the Budget. Defendant Thomas P. DiNapoli ("DiNapoli") was the Comptroller of the State of New York and responsible for the administration of the New York State and Local Retirement System including the monthly payment of pensions to eligible retired State employees, less any deductions for the payment of retiree health insurance premium costs.

Article XI of the New York State Civil Service Law ("CSL") provides for a statewide health insurance plan for eligible State employees and retired State employees known as the New York State Health Insurance Plan ("NYSHIP" or "Empire Plan"). New York Civil Service Law § 167(1) assigns the State contribution rate towards the cost of health insurance premium or subscription charges for the coverage of State employees and retired State employees enrolled in NYSHIP. Prior to 1983, the State was required to pay the full cost of premium or subscription charges for the coverage of State employees and retired State employees enrolled in NYSHIP. Chapter 14 of the Laws of 1983 amended Civil Service Law § 167(1)(a) to limit the amount that the State was required to pay towards the cost of premium or subscription charges for the coverage of State employees and retired State employees enrolled in NYSHIP, by providing that the State was required to contribute only ninety percent (90 %) of the cost of such premium or subscription charges for the coverage of State employees and retired State employees retiring on or after January 1, 1983. The State would continue to contribute seventy-five percent (75 %) for dependent coverage for State employees and retired State employees.

The Governor's Program Bill Memorandum regarding the 1983 amendment provided:

The State and the employee organizations representing State workers have agreed to a reduction of the State's contribution for the premium or subscription charges for employees enrolled in the statewide health insurance plan.

Between 1983 and 2011, Civil Service Law § 167(8) provided, inter alia, [n]otwithstanding any inconsistent provision of law, where and to the extent that an agreement between the state and an employee organization entered into pursuant to article fourteen of this chapter so provides, the state cost of premium or subscription charges for eligible employees covered by such agreement may be increased pursuant to the terms of such agreement.

NYSTPBA and the State of New York entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Interest Arbitration Award effective April 1, 2007 through March 31, 2011. Article 11 of the CBA governs the coverage of Health, Dental and Prescription Drug Insurance.*fn4 Section 11.1 of the CBA provides:

The State shall continue to provide all the forms and extent of coverage as defined by the contracts in force on March 31, 1995, or as modified by the Tripartite Arbitration Panel Awards covering the periods 1995-1999, 1999-2001, 2001-2003, and 2003-2007 Collective Bargaining Agreement unless specifically modified or replaced pursuant to this agreement.

Section 11.10 of the 2007-2011 NYSTPBA CBA is entitled Premium Contribution and provides:

(a) The State agrees to pay 90 percent of the cost of individual coverage and 75 percent of dependent coverage, provided under the Empire Plan. The State shall pay 90 percent for individual prescription drug coverage and 75 percent for dependent prescription drug coverage under the Empire Plan.

(b) The State agrees to pay 90 percent of the cost of individual coverage and 75 percent of dependent coverage, toward the hospital/medical/mental health and substance abuse components of each HMO, not to exceed, 100 percent of its dollar contribution for those components under the Empire Plan. The State will pay 90 percent of the cost of individual prescription drug coverage and 75 percent of the cost of dependent prescription drug coverage under the Health Maintenance Organizations.

On August 17, 2011, the legislature passed Chapter 491 of the Laws of 2011 ("Chapter 491"). Chapter 491 amended § 167(8) and replaced the word "increased" with the word "modified". The amendment further provided:

The president [of the Civil Service Commission], with the approval of the director of the budget, may extend the modified state cost of premium or subscription charges for employees or retirees not subject to an agreement referenced above and shall promulgate the necessary rules or regulations to implement this provision.

In August 2011, the New York State Civil Service Department issued an Empire Plan Special Report announcing the implementation of new reduced State contribution rates in NYSHIP for New York State Retirees, Vestees and Dependent Survivors and Employees of the State of New York designated as Management/Confidential (M/C) and Legislature employees.

On September 21, 2011, defendant Hite requested defendant Megna's approval to extend the modified contribution rates. On September 22, 2011, Megna approved the extension of modified contribution rates.

On October 1, 2011, defendants implemented new reduced State contribution rates which resulted in a two percent (2 %) reduction in the State contribution rates for Individual coverage, from ninety percent (90 %) to eighty-eight percent (88 %), and Dependent Coverage, from seventy-five percent (75 %) to seventy-three percent (73 %), for enrolled State retirees, including NYSTPBA retirees, who retired on or after January 1, 1983.

Defendants approved and filed emergency regulations to implement the reduction in State contribution rates effective October 1, 2011, and a further reduction in State contribution rates for employees retiring from State service on or after January 1, 2012, including NYSTPBA members, which will result in a six percent (6 %) reduction in the State contribution rates for individual coverage from ninety percent (90 %) to eighty-four percent (84 %) and dependent coverage from seventy-five percent (75 %) to sixty-nine percent (69 %) for those retirees retiring from a title Salary Grade 10 or above, from a position equated to Salary Grade 10 or above, or for those who retire from a position which is not allocated or equated to a Salary Grade, based upon the wages or salary paid as compared to the salary schedule set forth in the CSEA Agreement.

On January 21, 2012, plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 8) asserting causes of action for impairment of contract in violation of the United States Constitution and New York State Constitution, violation of due process, violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and breach of contract. Plaintiffs also claim that Civil Service Law § 167(8) is unconstitutional as applied and assert that defendants Hite and Megna lacked authority under § 167(8) to approve and implement the reduction in State contribution rates. Plaintiffs seek judgment pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules. Plaintiffs commenced this action against the individual defendants in both their individual and official capacities.

DISCUSSION

Standard on a Motion to Dismiss under 12(b)(1)

In contemplating a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the Court must "accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint[.]" Atl. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Balfour MacLaine Int'l Ltd., 968 F. 2d 196, 198 (2d Cir.1992). The Court may consider evidence outside the pleadings, e.g ., affidavit(s), documents or otherwise competent evidence. See Kamen v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 791 F.2d 1006, 1011 (2d Cir.1986); Antares Aircraft v. Fed. Rep. of Nigeria, 948 F.2d 90, 96 (2d Cir.1991). "The standards for considering a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) are substantively identical." Lerner v. Fleet Bank, N.A., 318 F.3d 113, 128 (2d Cir. 2003).

Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) arguing that the Eleventh Amendment precludes the Court from obtaining subject matter jurisdiction over the following claims: (1) all of plaintiffs' claims against the State of New York and its agencies; (2) plaintiffs' claims against defendants in their official capacities; and (3) plaintiffs' Article 78 cause of action. Defendants also allege that the principals of the Younger doctrine require abstention in this matter.

I. Eleventh Amendment

The Eleventh Amendment provides that "[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." State Emp. Bargaining Agent Coalition v. Rowland, 494 F.3d 71, 95 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing U.S. Const. amend. XI). The Eleventh Amendment bars federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over claims against states absent their consent to such a suit or an express statutory waiver of immunity. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 90--100 (1984); see also Huminski v. Corsones, 386 F.3d 116, 133 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Although the plaintiff generally bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction, the entity claiming Eleventh Amendment immunity bears the burden to prove such. See Woods v. Rondout Valley Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 466 F.3d 232, 237 (2d Cir. 2006).

Section 1983 imposes liability for "conduct which 'subjects, or causes to be subjected' the complainant to a deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws." Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370--71 (1976) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). It is well-settled that states are not "persons" under section 1983 and, therefore, Eleventh Amendment immunity is not abrogated by that statute. See Will v. Mich. Dep't. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).

A. Federal Claims against State of New York, New York State Civil Service Department, New York State Civil Service Commission and New York State and Local Retirement System Regardless of the type of relief sought, the Eleventh Amendment bars this Court from assuming jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims asserted against the State of New York and its agencies. When the state or one of its "arms" is the defendant, sovereign immunity bars federal courts from entertaining lawsuits against them "regardless of the nature of the relief sought." Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 100. In this case, the State has neither waived its immunity, nor has Congress exercised its power to override Eleventh Amendment immunity. Accordingly, plaintiffs' claims against the State of New York, New York State Civil Service Department, New York State Civil Service Commission and New York State and Local Retirement System are dismissed. See McGinty v. New York, 251 F.3d 84, 100 (2d Cir. 2001) (dismissing the claims against the Retirement System for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based upon the Eleventh Amendment).

B. Federal Claims Against State Officials in their Official Capacity

Plaintiffs also assert claims against defendants Cuomo, Hite, Ahl, Hanrahan, Megna and DiNapoli in their official capacities. Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state officials sued in their official capacities for retrospective relief. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). Actions for damages against a state official in his or her official capacity are essentially actions against the state, and will be barred by the Eleventh Amendment unless: (1) Congress has abrogated immunity, (2) the state has consented to suit, or (3) the Ex parte Young doctrine applies. See Will, 491 U.S. at 71. In this matter, the issues presented before this Court involve the third exception.

In Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Supreme Court established an exception to state sovereign immunity in federal actions where an individual brings an action seeking injunctive relief against a state official for an ongoing violation of law or the Constitution. This doctrine provides "a limited exception to the general principle of sovereign immunity [that] allows a suit for injunctive relief challenging the constitutionality of a state official's actions in enforcing state law under the theory that such a suit is not one against the State, and therefore not barred by the Eleventh Amendment." Ford v. Reynolds, 316 F.3d 351, 354-55 (2d Cir. 2003). Under the doctrine, a suit may proceed against a state official in his or her official capacity, notwithstanding the Eleventh Amendment, when a plaintiff, "(a) alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and (b) seeks relief properly characterized as prospective." See In re Deposit Ins. Agency, 482 F.3d 612, 618 (2d Cir. 2007) (quotations and citations omitted); see also Santiago v. New York State Dep't of Corr. Serv., 945 F.2d 25, 32 (2d Cir. 1991) (holding that such claims, however, cannot be brought directly against the state, or a state agency, but only against state officials in their official capacities).

In Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 653 (1974), the Supreme Court expanded upon Ex Parte Young and held that even when a plaintiff's requested relief is styled as an injunction against a state official, if "the action is in essence one for recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants." Retroactive relief is that relief "measured in terms of a monetary loss resulting from a past breach of a legal duty on the part of the defendant state officials" regardless of how the relief is fashioned. Id. at 668. "Prospective relief includes injunctive relief that bars a state actor from engaging in certain unconstitutional acts or abates ongoing constitutional violations as well as the 'payment of state funds as a necessary consequence of compliance in the future with a substantive federal question determination.'" Id. The "general criterion for determining when a suit is in fact against the sovereign is the effect of the relief sought, namely, would the relief abate an ongoing violation or prevent a threatened future violation of federal law?" Id. In Edelman, the majority concluded:

It is one thing to tell [a state official] that he must comply with the federal standards for the future if the state is to have the benefit of federal funds in the program he administers. It is quite another thing to order the [state official] to use state funds to make reparation for the past. The latter would appear to us to fall afoul of the Eleventh Amendment if that basic constitutional provision is to be conceived of as having any force.

Id. at 695. (quotation omitted).

In order to determine whether the Ex parte Young exception allows plaintiffs' suit against the officials, this Court must first determine whether the complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and second, whether plaintiffs seek relief properly characterized as prospective. See Verizon Md., Inc. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Md., 535 U.S. 635, 645 (2002)). "[T]o successfully avoid the Eleventh Amendment bar, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant's violation of federal law is of an ongoing nature as opposed to a case 'in which federal law has been violated at one time or another over a period of time in the past.'" Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 277--78 (1986). The inquiry for determining whether an "ongoing violation" exists is, "does the enforcement of the law amount to a continuous violation of plaintiffs constitutional rights or a single act that continues to have negative consequences for plaintiffs." New Jersey Educ. Ass'n v. New Jersey, No. 11-5024, 2012 WL 715284, at *4 (D.N.J. Mar. 5, 2012).

Defendants argue that Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to state officials but fail to address the Ex Parte Young exception. Here, plaintiffs argue that a "straightforward inquiry" reveals that plaintiffs have alleged a violation of federal law. Plaintiffs allege that defendant officials are engaged in enforcing Chapter 491 of the Laws of 2011, a law that is contrary to federal law because it impairs their rights under Article I, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs also allege that officials are implementing a state statute that violates federal due process. An allegation that state officials are enforcing a law in contravention of controlling federal law is sufficient to allege an ongoing violation of federal law for the purposes of Ex parte Young. See Chester Bross Const. Co. v. Schneider, No. 12-3159, 2012 WL 3292849, at *6 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 2012) (citing Verizon Md., Inc., 535 U.S. at 645). Thus, plaintiffs have satisfied the first prong of Ex Parte Young.

With respect to the nature of the relief sought, plaintiffs seek monetary, injunctive and declaratory relief. The Court will address each request for relief in turn.

1. Monetary Relief

Plaintiffs seek an order requiring defendants to "reimburse the plaintiffs and all other similarly situated retirement eligible members and former members of NYSTPBA, all monies in an amount necessary to make them whole against the State defendants implementation of reduced health insurance contribution rates;" costs and reasonable attorneys fees. Am. Cplt. at ¶¶ 27, 29, 31, 32, 36, 37 and 38.

Plaintiffs cite to Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267 (1977) as support for their claims for monetary damages. In the Milliken case, the district court ordered implementation of student assignment plans and educational components in the areas of reading, in-service teacher training, testing and counseling to effectuate desegregation. The Supreme Court discussed the "prospective-compliance" exception which permits federal courts to enjoin state officials to conform their conduct to requirements of federal law notwithstanding a direct and substantial impact on the state treasury. Id. at 289. In Milliken, there was no money award in favor of the respondent or any member of his class. The Court explained that the case "simply does not involve individual citizens' conducting a raid on the state treasury for an accrued monetary liability." Id. Instead, the decree required state officials to eliminate a segregated school system. Id. The Court reasoned that

[t]hese programs were not, and as a practical matter could not be, intended to wipe the slate clean by one bold stroke, as could a retroactive award of money in Edelman. Rather, by the nature of the antecedent violation, which on this record caused significant deficiencies in communications skills - reading and speaking - the victims of Detroit's de jure segregated system will continue to experience the effects of segregation until such future time as the remedial programs can help dissipate the continuing effects of past misconduct. Reading and speech deficiencies cannot be eliminated by judicial fiat; they will require time, patience, and the skills of specially trained teachers. That the programs are also 'compensatory' in nature does not change the fact that they are part of a plan that operates prospectively to bring about the delayed benefits of a unitary school system. We therefore hold that such prospective relief is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 290.

The facts and relief sought in Milliken are clearly distinguishable from those at hand and thus, the Court is not persuaded that the holding supports plaintiffs' claims herein. To the extent plaintiffs seek monetary relief against defendants acting in their official capacity as agents of the State, such claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Fulton v. Goord, 591 F.3d 37, 45 (2d Cir. 2009) (holding that "in a suit against state officials in their official capacities, monetary relief (unlike prospective injunctive relief) is generally barred by the Eleventh Amendment") (citation omitted).

2. Injunctive Relief

Plaintiffs also seek an injunction: (1) prohibiting the defendants from taking further actions impairing the contract between the plaintiffs and the State; (2) enjoining State defendants from implementing the reduced State contribution rates for retired State employees and prohibiting the irreparable constitutional injury; (3) enjoining defendants from further breach of the CBA; (4) enjoining defendant from further breach of the plaintiff's contract rights; and (5) enjoining State defendants from implementing reduced rates for health insurance. Am. Cplt. at ¶¶ 27, 29, 30, 33, 34, 37 and 38. As discussed supra, defendants did not address Ex Parte Young or the inapplicability/applicability of the doctrine herein. Defendants do not claim that plaintiffs seek improper injunctive relief that is retrospective or designed to compensate for a past violation of federal law. Moreover, defendants did not present any argument regarding the impact such an injunction would have on the state treasury. To the extent that plaintiffs seek prospective injunctive relief against defendants, plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged such claims and thus, based upon the purview of Ex Parte Young, dismissal is not warranted. Finch v. New York State Office of Children and Family Serv., 499 F. Supp. 2d 521, 538 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).

3. Declaratory Judgment

Plaintiffs seek the following declaratory judgments:

a. that the State defendants' actions are unconstitutional in violation of the Contract Clause of Article I, ยง10 of ...


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