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In re Application of Crane

Supreme Court, New York County

June 9, 2013

In the Matter of the Application of MARK CRANE, Petitioner,
v.
NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Respondent Index No. 156265/2013

Unpublished Opinion

RECEIVED NYSCEF: 09/10/2013

Present Cynthia S. Kern, J.S.C. Justice

DECISION/ORDER

HON. CYNTHIA S. KERN, J.S.C.

Recitation, as required by CPLR 2219(a), of the papers considered in the review of this motion for:_____

Papers Numbered

Notice of Motion and Affidavits Annexed.................................... 1

Affirmation in Opposition.......................................................... 2

Replying Affidavits...................................................................... 3

Exhibits...................................................................................... 4

Petitioner Mark Crane, pro se, commenced the instant proceeding seeking an Order pursuant to CPLR § 7511(a) vacating the May 23, 2013 arbitration award by arbitrator William F. Hempfling and the February 12, 2012 arbitration award by arbitrator Stephen F. O'Beirne. Additionally, petitioner seeks an order directing respondent to reinstate his job as train operator and directing a rehearing of the still active arbitration of grievance #0-2006-0593. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied in its entirety.

The relevant facts are as follows. Beginning in 2001, petitioner was employed by respondent the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) as a Train Operator. During the course of his employment, petitioner and respondent were involved in several arbitrations over disciplinary action notifications ("DAN") given by respondent to petitioner. Specifically, the instant petition involves two arbitration awards that were rendered on February 12, 2012 (the "February Award") and May 23, 2013 (the "May Award"), which involved DANs that called for petitioner's discharge from employment.

In the February Award, the arbitrator found that respondent did not have cause to discharge petitioner for the allegations of misconduct contained in DAN # 09-2337-00, which was issued when petitioner overran a signal north of 125th St. While the arbitrator found that discharge was excessive under the circumstances, it held that respondent did have cause to impose a thirty day suspension and a final warning for any disciplinary infraction in the conduct/performance track.

In the May Award, the arbitrator considered the disciplinary actions taken by respondent against petitioner stemming from DAN # 1-2333-0034 and DAN # 12-2333-0045. DAN # 10-2333-0034 involved an incident that occurred on or about August 25, 2010 at the Westchester Train Yard Tower, wherein petitioner was supposed to attend a training class entitled "Heightened Security" but showed up late, which allegedly led to an altercation between petitioner and fellow NYCTA employees. DAN # 12-2333-0045 was issued after petitioner failed to make a scheduled stop at the 225th Street Station on May 19, 2012. Ultimately, the arbitrator found that respondent did not have cause to discipline petitioner for the incident that occurred at the Westchester Train Yard Tower. However, the arbitrator found that discharge was the appropriate penalty for petitioner's failure to make the scheduled stop on May 19, 2012. Accordingly, petitioner's employment was terminated.

Petitioner now brings the instant application to vacate the February and May Award and an order directing respondent to reinstate him as a train conductor. Petitioner, who is appearing pro se, raises a host of objections as to how the underlying arbitrations were conducted as grounds for vacating the February and May Award. Respondent argues in opposition that, as an initial matter, the portion of petitioner's application seeking vacatur of the February Award is time barred. Additionally, respondent argues that, in any event, petitioner has failed to state a i proper ground for vacating either the February or May Award pursuant to CPLR 7511.

Pursuant to Article 75 of the CPLR, a party aggrieved by an arbitration award may move to vacate the award. Specifically, CPLR § 7511 (a) states that "[a]n application to vacate or modify an award may be made by a party within ninety days after is [sic] delivery to him." However, it is well settled that the determinations of an arbitration panel are not to be lightly set aside and "judicial review of an arbitration proceeding is extremely limited." Frankel v. Sardis, 16 A.D.3d 136, 139 (1st Dept 2010). Indeed, "[c]ourts may vacate an arbitrator's award only on the grounds stated in CPLR 7511 (b), " which provides

1. The award shall be vacated on the application of a party who either participated in the arbitration or was served with a notice of intention to arbitrate if the court finds that the rights of that party were prejudiced by:
(i) corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award; or
(ii) partiality of an arbitrator appointed as a neutral, except where the award was by confession; or
(iii) an arbitrator, or agency or person making the award exceeded his power or so imperfectly executed it that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made; or
(iv) failure to follow the procedure of this article, unless the party applying to vacate the award continued with the arbitration with notice of the defect and without objection.

Thus, "[e]ven in circumstances where an arbitrator makes errors of law or fact, courts will not assume the role of overseers to conform the award to their sense of justice." Matter of New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Assn. v. State of New York, 94 N.Y.2d 321, 326 (1999).

In the instant action, petitioner's application to vacate the February and May Awards is denied as he has failed to identify a proper ground warranting vacatur. While petitioner states several objections to the overall method by which the arbitrations were conducted and his dissatisfaction with the respective arbitrators decisions to deny his motions for certain discovery, these are not proper grounds upon which a court may vacate an arbitration award.

Additionally, the remaining portion of the petition seeking an order directing "a rehearing of the arbitration of grievance #0-2206-0593" is also denied as petitioner fails to state a ground upon which this relief can be granted.

Finally, the court notes that to the extent respondent argues that the portion of the petition seeking vacatur of the February Award is time-barred, such determination cannot be made at this time as on the record before the court it is not known when the February Award was "delivered" to petitioner.

Based on the foregoing, petitioner's application to vacate the February and May Awards is denied and his petition is hereby dismissed in its entirety. This constitutes the decision, order and judgment of the court.


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