285 F.3d 201 (2nd Cir. 2002), 01-7161, Munafo v Metropolitan Transp. Authority

Docket Nº:Docket No. 01-7161
Citation:285 F.3d 201
Party Name:CHARLES MUNAFO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, STATEN ISLAND RAPID TRANSIT OPERATING AUTHORITY, ALFONSE W. SORRENTINO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, PETER ARGENZIANO INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, SAMUEL HOLMES, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JOHN M
Case Date:March 26, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 201

285 F.3d 201 (2nd Cir. 2002)

CHARLES MUNAFO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, STATEN ISLAND RAPID TRANSIT OPERATING AUTHORITY, ALFONSE W. SORRENTINO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, PETER ARGENZIANO INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, SAMUEL HOLMES, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JOHN MCCABE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, OWEN P. SWORDS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DAVID C. FILIMON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ROSEMARY HEALY, A/K/A ROSEMARY LAKE, JOHN DOES 1-4 AND JANE DOES 1-4, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS,

LOUIS RUSSO, MARTIN SCHEINMAN, AND MICHAEL CAPUTO, DEFENDANTS.

Docket No. 01-7161

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 26, 2002

Argued: September 10, 2001

Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Jack B. Weinstein, Judge, which denied appellants' motions for summary judgment dismissing, on grounds of qualified immunity and lack of merit, plaintiff's claims of due process violations and retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights.

Reversed in part; appeal dismissed in part.

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Scott A. Korenbaum, New York, New York, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Ira J. Lipton, New York, New York (Hoguet, Newman & Regal, New York, New York, Mary Jennings Mahon, General Counsel, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Barbara C. Neale, New York, New York, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellants.

Before: Kearse, Miner, and F.I. Parker, Circuit Judges.

Kearse, Circuit Judge

Defendants Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("MTA") et al. appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Jack B. Weinstein, Judge, denying their motions pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Charles Munafo, brought principally under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994), asserting that he was subjected to discipline and to termination of his employment in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights and in violation of his right to due process. The district court denied appellants' motions for summary judgment on the ground that there are factual issues to be tried. On appeal, the individual defendants-appellants pursue their contention that they were entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity; the institutional defendants seek summary judgment on the ground that Munafo cannot show a violation of his federal rights. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the district court should have granted the individual appellants' motions to dismiss the due process claims on qualified immunity grounds because Munafo failed to present a cognizable claim against those defendants for violation of due process. In all other respects, we dismiss the appeals for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

MTA is a public benefit corporation created by New York State law, charged with operating public transportation in the New York City metropolitan area. Defendants Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority ("SIRTOA") and New York City Transit Authority ("NYCTA") are Page 205

operating units of MTA (collectively the "corporate defendants").

Munafo was employed by MTA from 1987 until March 1999 and was assigned to SIRTOA, where he held various positions in the Maintenance of Way Department ("Track Department"). During that period, Munafo lodged a series of complaints about what he perceived to be safety problems in Track Department operations. He was also subject to a number of disciplinary actions, culminating in the termination of his employment in 1999.

During the pertinent period, most of the individual defendants- appellants (hereinafter the "individual defendants") were managerial employees at SIRTOA. Defendant Alfonse W. Sorrentino was a supervisor in the Track Department and was Munafo's supervisor. Defendants Peter Argenziano, John McCabe, Samuel Holmes, and David C. Filimon were SIRTOA officials who presided over various phases of the disciplinary proceedings against Munafo. Defendant Owen P. Swords was SIRTOA's Superintendent or General Superintendent of Operations and approved several of the disciplinary findings and actions taken against Munafo. Defendant Rosemary Healy was a SIRTOA secretary who transcribed the disciplinary hearing that culminated in Munafo's termination.

In the present case, Munafo seeks redress for the disciplinary actions taken against him. He contends that those actions were taken because of his persistent criticisms of unsafe practices and conditions at SIRTOA and because of his union activities. Defendants contend that the disciplinary actions were taken because Munafo was repeatedly disobedient and insubordinate. The record, taken in the light most favorable to Munafo as the party against whom summary judgment was requested, may be summarized as follows.

A. Safety Complaints by Munafo in 1994

Prior to June 15, 1994, SIRTOA used forms known as "vehicle condition reports" to document the condition of SIRTOA equipment. In an affidavit submitted in opposition to defendants' motions for summary judgment, Munafo stated that at a 1993 training session conducted by NYCTA,

I, and other SIRTOA employees, were directed to complete, for the purpose of ensuring the health and safety of employees, "vehicle condition reports" for "anything that has an engine."...

11. Given the important safety-related implications of these forms, I adhered to [the NYCTA instructor's] directions as strictly as possible, regularly completing vehicle condition reports for vehicles which I operated.

12. The vehicle condition reports revealed numerous safety problems with SIRTOA's vehicles. For example, employees were required to operate some vehicles with hydraulic leaks and without brakes, endangering their own, and the general public's safety. (Affidavit of Charles J. Munafo dated October 23, 2000 ("Munafo Aff."), ¶¶ 10-12.)

On or about June 15, 1994, SIRTOA issued a directive instructing employees to make their reports with respect to certain equipment in maintenance log books, and "prohibiting the completion of vehicle condition reports" (id. ¶ 13). Munafo, however, believed the vehicle condition reports were superior, allowing employees to record more accurately the condition of the vehicles. Although he began making reports in the maintenance log books as instructed by management, he also continued to file vehicle condition reports:

14. Concerned with documenting the unsafe conditions of the vehicles, I continued to complete the vehicle condition Page 206

reports. As instructed by management, I also completed another "form," called the "maintenance log book," in addition to, not in lieu of, the vehicle condition report.

15. Unlike the "vehicle condition reports," the "maintenance log books" did not include space to report crucial pre-trip and post-trip safety problems....

16. Because "maintenance log books" did not include "carbon copies," and would frequently go "missing," the reporting employee would have no way to prove that he had reported unsafe conditions. "Vehicle condition reports" included carbon copies, enabling the reporting employee to document the fact that safety issues had been reported.

17. Given SIRTOA management's refusal to acknowledge receipt of "vehicle condition reports," the carbon copies retained by reporting employees served as the only evidence of the unsafe conditions of SIRTOA vehicles.

18. I continued to complete and submit both the "maintenance log books" and the "vehicle condition reports" to SIRTOA management. (Id. ¶¶ 14-18.) Munafo insisted on filing both types of reports because he "refused to hide or disguise the unsafe conditions of the vehicles." (Id. ¶ 20.)

B. Disciplinary Actions Against Munafo

One week after SIRTOA ordered that there be no further vehicle condition reports, the first of the disciplinary actions of which Munafo principally complains occurred.

1. The 1994 "Tire Incident"

On June 22, 1994, while Munafo was operating a piece of equipment, he heard a "pop" and believed that a tire on his machine had gone flat. The tire was repaired by SIRTOA mechanics; Munafo filled out a vehicle condition report. That afternoon, Sorrentino instructed Munafo to prepare an "incident report," a document that becomes a potentially adverse part of the employee's personnel file.

Sorrentino returned later in the day to collect the incident report but discovered Munafo had not prepared it. The next morning, Sorrentino again instructed Munafo to fill out such a report. Believing that no other employees had been required to file incident reports for flat tires, Munafo accused Sorrentino of trying to punish him for continuing to document and protest against unsafe conditions. Munafo refused to fill out an incident report unless Sorrentino provided a written statement of his reasons for requesting it. On the same day, June 23, Munafo filed a complaint with the MTA Office of Inspector General, protesting that Sorrentino's actions were harassment in retaliation for Munafo's safety-related protests.

On June 24, Sorrentino sent Munafo a written notice, charging him with insubordination for the refusal to comply with Sorrentino's direct orders of June 22 and June 23 to prepare an incident report on the tire, and stating that a hearing would be held on July 1. The hearing, postponed at Munafo's request in order to allow him to obtain counsel, was held on July 14. Argenziano presided; Munafo and Sorrentino, along with several witnesses called by Munafo, testified. Munafo complains that Argenziano refused to call six of the 11 persons on Munafo's proposed witness list.

Following the hearing, Argenziano issued a written decision upholding the...

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