257 F.Supp.2d 446 (D. Puerto Rico 2003), Civ. 01-2702, Educadores Puertorriquenos en Accion v. Hernandez

Docket NºCiv. 01-2702(JAG).
Citation257 F.Supp.2d 446
Party NameEDUCADORES PUERTORRIQUE
Case DateFebruary 27, 2003
CourtUnited States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Puerto Rico

Page 446

257 F.Supp.2d 446 (D. Puerto Rico 2003)

EDUCADORES PUERTORRIQUEÑOS EN ACCION, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

Cesar Rey HERNANDEZ, et al., Defendants.

No. Civ. 01-2702(JAG).

United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.

Feb. 27, 2003

Page 447

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Francisco R. Gonzalez-Colon, F.R. Gonzalez Law Office, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiffs.

Rafael Escalera-Rodriguez, Beatriz Annexy-Guevara, Reichard & Escalera, San Juan, PR, Maria Santiago-De-Vidal, Dept. of Justice, Federal Litigation Division, San Juan, PR, Eileen Landron-Guardiola, Eduardo Vera-Ramirez, San Juan, PR, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

GARCIA-GREGORY, District Judge.1

Plaintiffs Educadores Puertorriqueños en Accion ("EPA"), an employee association of the Puerto Rico Department of Education ("DE"), Carmen R. Castillo-Rodriguez, Angel A. Marti-Lopez, Elsie Atresino-Martinez, Luis Cores-Babilonia, Eranio Collazo-Ocasio, Santos M. Mercado Sorrentini, Angel A. Valentin Feliciano, Wilfredo Soto-Gonzales, Angel Marrero-Colon, and Griselle Hernandez-Batallar (collectively, "plaintiffs") brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Cesar Rey Hernandez, ("Rey"), Secretary of the DE, and other DE employees, (collectively, "defendants") for political discrimination under the First Amendment and for due process violations under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs claim that Rey declared their personnel transactions null and void in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Rey moved to dismiss, arguing that he was merely complying with state law. He further contends that the transactions took place during the electoral prohibition period, during which government agencies and municipalities may not make personnel movements such as appointments, promotions, demotions, employee category changes, and transfers. Rey also claims that since the transactions were illegal, plaintiffs lacked any property rights over their positions. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants defendants' motion.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, who are members of the New Progressive Party ("NPP"), the past administration, work as career supervisors within the DE. (Docket No. 1 at 10, 11.) Following the Puerto Rico general elections on November 7, 2000, the Popular Democratic Party ("PDP") became the new administration in power.

In or about December 2000, the DE appointed plaintiffs to new positions within the Department, such as Assistant Superintendent III.2 (Id. at 2-3, 9.) These appointments occurred during the pre-and post-electoral prohibition established in Section 4.7 of the Puerto Rico Public Service Personnel Act, 3 P.R. Laws Ann. § 1337. (Id. at 12.) This statute states that "during the period before and after elections, the authorities shall abstain from making any movement of personnel involving areas essential to the merit principle, such as appointments, promotions, demotions, transfers, and changes in the category of the employees." 3 P.R. Laws Ann.

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§ 1337 . This prohibition applies "two (2) months before and two (2) months after General Elections are held in Puerto Rico." Id.

In or about November 2001, plaintiffs received letters signed by Rey stating that the appointments made during the prohibition period were illegal. As a result, Rey informed plaintiffs that the DE would return them to their previous positions.3 (Docket No. 1 at 12-13.)

Plaintiffs brought suit claiming that defendants actions were a pretext to discriminate against them on the basis of their political affiliation, in violation of their First Amendment rights. (Id. at 12.) Furthermore, plaintiffs claim that since they had a property right over their new positions, Rey violated their due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 17.)

On June 11, 2002, Rey filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that plaintiffs had failed to state a claim for political discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Rey argued that plaintiffs did not meet the heightened pleading standard requirement set forth in Judge v. City of Lowell, 160 F.3d 67, 72-74 (1st Cir. 1998). (Docket No. 15 at 8-9.) Additionally, Rey claimed that even if plaintiffs had established a prima facie case of political discrimination, he would have declared the transactions null and void in any event, because they were illegal. (Id. at 9.) As a corollary, Rey argued that because the personnel transactions were illegal, plaintiffs lacked a property right over their new positions. (Id. at 12.)

DISCUSSION

A. Rule 12(b) (6) Standard for a Motion to Dismiss

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (6), a complaint may not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Prods., Inc., 68 F.3d 525, 530 (1st Cir. 1995). The Court accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and...

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