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Prentice v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 23, 2017


          Reynold A. Mauro, Esq. Attorney for the Plaintiff.

          Office of the General Counsel The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Attorneys for the Defendant, By: Karla D. Denalli, Esq.


          ARTHUR D. SPATT United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court in this employment discrimination case is a motion by the Defendant Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the “Port Authority”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ. P.”) 56, seeking summary judgment and dismissal of the complaint.

         For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted as to the federal claims over which the Court has original jurisdiction, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law cause of action.

         I. Background

         A. The Current Record

         Before turning to the salient facts, the Court makes a few initial observations regarding the record in this case.

         First, the Court's recitation of the material facts is based solely on the Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement and the Court's evaluation of the supporting evidence in the record.

         In this regard, despite being served with the Defendant's Local Rule 56.1 Statement on May 16, 2016, and October 21, 2016, the Plaintiff, apparently in violation of the Local Civil Rules and this Court's Individual Motion Practices, never served a counter-statement of facts or otherwise materially disputed the Defendant's version. See Local Civil Rule 56.1(b); Individual Motion Practices of Judge Arthur D. Spatt § IV(D)(i).

         Thus, given the Plaintiff's failure to respond, the Defendant's version of the material facts, to the extent it is well-supported by the evidence in the record, is deemed admitted for purposes of this motion. See Local Civil Rule 56.1(c).

         Further, again in apparent violation of the relevant rules, the eight-page attorney affirmation that the Plaintiff submitted in opposition to the present motion does not include a statement of facts; does not attach any supporting evidence; and does not specifically cite to supposedly disputed portions of the Defendant's evidence. Rather, the Plaintiff cites extensively to the complaint, and asks the Court to simply deem those allegations as provably true. However, this approach is patently insufficient to defeat a properly-supported motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A) (requiring that “a party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of the materials in the record”); see also Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 485 (2d Cir. 1996) (noting that a plaintiff opposing summary judgment may not rely on his complaint to defeat the motion).

         Also, the Plaintiff has interposed an unauthorized surreply, which, in its discretion, the Court declines to consider. See Kapiti v. Kelly, No. 07-cv-3782, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20135, at *3 n.1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2008) (noting that “the decision to permit a litigant to submit a surreply is a matter left to the Court's discretion, since neither the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nor the Local Civil Rules of this Court [and the Eastern District] authorize litigants to file surreplies”).

         Against this backdrop, the Court notes the following facts, which are materially undisputed.

         B. The Relevant Facts

         The Plaintiff is an African-American male and an observant member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

         On November 1, 1993, he was hired by the Port Authority as a police officer recruit. After graduating from the academy, he spent approximately 14 years working various details at JFK International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

         1. The Plaintiff's Temporary Assignment to the Criminal Investigations Bureau

         It is undisputed that on or about October 3, 2007, the Plaintiff was temporarily assigned to the Criminal Investigations Bureau (“CIB”), as part of an initiative informally called the Silver Shield program. The Silver Shield program was designed to supplement the detective ranks in CIB with plainclothes police officers from the Public Safety Department, such as the Plaintiff.

         The Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he joined the Silver Shield program subject to certain expectations given to him by the Deputy Superintendent George Johansen. In particular, the Plaintiff was apparently made to believe that his participation in the program guaranteed his eventual promotion to detective. However, other than his own testimony, there is no evidence in the record to corroborate the Plaintiff's understanding of the opportunities for advancement within the Silver Shield program.

         On the other hand, the Port Authority contends that participation in the Silver Shield program is, by definition, temporary; that a police officer's participation is not a guaranteed entrée to detective; and, conversely, that participation in the program is not a prerequisite to being promoted, so that officers who do not participate are also eligible to be made detectives.

         Consistent with its contention, the Port Authority produced a memorandum from Deputy Chief of Staff Michael P. Valenti to Police Office Gus Danese, the President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, entitled “Temporary Assignment - Police Officer William Prentice (#39260) JFK - Assigned to Criminal Investigations Bureau.” As its title suggests, this memo set forth certain agreed-upon terms between the Port Authority and the PBA regarding the Plaintiff's temporary assignment to CIB.

         In relevant part, the memo indicated that the Plaintiff's assignment would commence on October 3, 2007 and would continue for one year, unless extended by agreement of the parties. It further stated that, at the conclusion of his assignment, the Plaintiff would return to his former position as a Port Authority police officer at JFK airport. During his assignment, the Plaintiff would retain his title and all police officer benefits, and he would remain eligible for any promotion or transfer opportunities that arose during his assignment for which he was otherwise qualified. Also, during this time, although he was not eligible for voluntary overtime as a police officer at his permanent facility, namely, JFK airport, he remained eligible to perform voluntary overtime as a police officer at other facilities, and in CIB.

         On October 2, 2007, Danese signed the memo to “indicate [his] concurrence” with the terms outlined therein.

         2. The March 2012 Promotion Opportunity

         On March 23, 2012, while the Plaintiff was working in CIB, the Port Authority announced that it was seeking to identify qualified candidates for a promotion to detective.

         On March 26, 2012, the Plaintiff applied for this position by submitting a written statement of interest, nicknamed a “handwritten.” In a supporting affidavit, Michael Ford, the Manager for Assessment Services in the Port Authority's Human Resources Department, described the process by which candidates were evaluated. Namely, after receiving the “handwrittens” of all interested candidates, a random selection process monitored by the Office of the Inspector General was used to generate a candidate pool of 160 applicants.

         From there, a Promotion Review Board performed additional screening of those in the candidate pool, utilizing a number of performance-based factors, including attendance history and patterns; discipline history; number, nature and history of Civilian Complaint Investigations Unit, criminal, or civil actions; and Internal Affairs complaints or other pending allegations.

         Then, the most competitive candidates were selected to proceed to an interview with members of the Public Safety and Human Resources Departments, at which time their commanding officers were also required to complete a Promotion/Developmental Appraisal form. The Promotion Review Board then reviewed the finalists' overall qualifications and made promotional recommendations to the Superintendent of Police.

         On May 11, 2012, Brian Oberhelm, a Strategic HR Partner in the Port Authority's Human Resources Department, notified the Plaintiff in a memo that he had not been among the initial 160 candidates randomly-selected to proceed in the evaluation process. Therefore, he was removed from consideration for the promotion.

         The Court notes that a computer printout of the names randomly-selected at the first stage of this hiring process was submitted with Ford's affidavit, and does not include the Plaintiff's name.

         3. The Conclusion of the Plaintiff's ...

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