675 F.Supp.2d 411 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), 09 Civ. 3595(RJS), New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Transit Authority

Docket Nº:09 Civ. 3595(RJS).
Citation:675 F.Supp.2d 411
Opinion Judge:RICHARD J. SULLIVAN, District Judge:
Party Name:NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.
Attorney:Christopher Dunn and Arthur Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY, for Plaintiff. Richard Schoolman and Valerie Ferrier, New York City Transit Authority, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendant.
Case Date:December 23, 2009
Court:United States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Southern District of New York
 
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Page 411

675 F.Supp.2d 411 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)

NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, Plaintiff,

v.

NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

No. 09 Civ. 3595(RJS).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

December 23, 2009

Page 412

Christopher Dunn and Arthur Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Richard Schoolman and Valerie Ferrier, New York City Transit Authority, Brooklyn, NY, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD J. SULLIVAN, District Judge:

Plaintiff New York Civil Liberties Union (" Plaintiff" or " NYCLU" ) brings this action against Defendant New York City Transit Authority (" Defendant" or " NYCTA" ), challenging the legality of the policy that governs the public's access to the hearings conducted by New York City's Transit Adjudication Bureau (" TAB" ). Members of the public are prohibited from attending these hearings, which adjudicate transit violations for New York City's public transit system, unless the person being accused of a transit violation consents to their attendance. Plaintiff alleges that this public access policy violates its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, as well as under federal common law, and asserts these federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also brings state law claims pursuant to " the common law and public policy of the State of New York." (Am. Compl. ¶ 67.)

Before the Court are two motions. Plaintiff has moved for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Rule 65(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Defendant has moved for dismissal of Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction on its claims brought pursuant to the First and Fourteenth Amendments and denies Defendant's motion to dismiss.

Page 413

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's amended complaint, as well as the affidavits and declarations submitted in support of and in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. The relevant facts drawn from these various submissions are largely undisputed, and to the extent factual disputes do exist, their resolution is unnecessary to the disposition of these motions. As such, the Court finds that no evidentiary hearing is necessary to resolve Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. See Md. Cas. Co. v. Realty Advisory Bd. on Labor Relations, 107 F.3d 979, 984 (2d Cir.1997) ( " Generally, the district court is not required to conduct an evidentiary hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction when essential facts are not in dispute." ).

A. Facts

1. The Parties

Plaintiff NYCLU is a nonprofit corporation the mission of which " is to defend civil rights and civil liberties in New York and to preserve and extend the constitutionally guaranteed rights of those whose rights have historically been denied." (May 29, 2009 Dunn. Decl. ¶ 2.) Defendant NYCTA is a municipal board and public-benefit corporation established by the laws of New York state. See N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law § 1200 et seq. 1 In 1984, the New York State Legislature created TAB as part of the NYCTA in order to, inter alia, " hear and determine[ ] charges of transit infractions." Id. § 1209-a(4)(1). Although statutorily created in 1984, TAB did not commence adjudication of transit violations until March 1986. (Dewan Decl. ¶ 1.)

The NYCTA operates, maintains, and controls the public mass transportation system in New York City, a system that, as of 2008, consisted of 27 subway lines, 243 bus routes, 6,494 subway cars, and 4,576 buses. (Horan Decl. Ex. 1 at 3.) 2 The system also contains 468 subway stations-the largest number of public transit subway stations of any such system in the world. ( Id. Ex. 2 at 2.) In 2008, New York City's public transportation system recorded more than 2.3 billion rides, with an average weekday bus and subway ridership of 7.6 million. ( Id. Ex. 3 at 1.)

2. The NYCTA's " Rules of Conduct"

Passengers using New York's transit system are subject to so-called " Rules of Conduct" (" Rules of Conduct" or the " Rules" ), which are promulgated by the NYCTA and are set forth in New York's Official Compilation of Codes, Rules, and Regulations. See N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 1050 et seq. 3 " These rules

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[were] established by the [NYCTA] to promote safety, to facilitate the proper use of the transit facilities of the authorities, to protect those transit facilities and their passengers, and to assure the payment of fares and other lawful charges for the use of their systems." Id. § 1050.1(b). The Rules of Conduct prohibit, inter alia, fare evasion, vandalism, unauthorized commercial activity, carrying liquids in open containers, littering, smoking, gambling, drinking alcohol, carrying weapons or other dangerous instruments, entering restricted areas, and riding on the platform between subway cars. See id. § 1050. The Rules of Conduct have existed, in one form or another, since 1966. See N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 701 et seq. (1966).4

3. Enforcement of the Rules of Conduct

Section 1204(5-a) of New York's Public Authorities Law and section 1050.10 of the Rules of Conduct provide that violations of the Rules may be prosecuted in one of two ways-either with summonses returnable to New York City Criminal Court (" New York Criminal Court" or the " Criminal Court" ), or notices of violation returnable to hearings conducted by TAB (" TAB Hearings" or the " Hearings" ). Each forum provides for a different penalty structure. Specifically, the Rules of Conduct provide that:

Pursuant to section 1204(5-a) of the Public Authorities Law, any person committing one or more violations of these rules shall be subject to either:

a. criminal prosecution in the criminal court of the City of New York, which court may impose a fine not to exceed twenty-five dollars or a term of imprisonment for not longer than ten days, or both; or

b. civil penalties imposed by the transit adjudication bureau in an amount not to exceed one hundred dollars per violation (exclusive of interest or costs assessed thereon).5

N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 1050.10; see also N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law § 1204(5-a). The Rules also state that a person who has violated any of the Rules of Conduct is subject to " ejection from the facilities." N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 1050.11.

Officers of the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department are responsible for enforcing the Rules of Conduct. ( See Horan Decl. Ex. 7 at 1 (" Transit Bureau officers ... ensur[e] that all persons are complying both with the usual laws and also with the separate Rules of Conduct." ).) The record indicates that although the primary responsibility for enforcing the Rules may fall on transit officers, all New York City police officers are statutorily empowered to enforce the Rules of Conduct. See N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 1050.12 (" Any New York City police officer ... shall be empowered

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to issue a notice of violation for violation of any of [the Rules of Conduct]." ) These officers have the discretion to return Rules violations either to Criminal Court or TAB Hearings, and no violation appears to be, by definition, only returnable to one of the venues. ( See Horan Decl. Ex. 12, Schnabel Decl. Ex. D (May 13, 2009 Dep. of Martin Schnabel (" Schnabel Dep. Tr." )) at 26:19-28:23, 31:6-16.) The record is silent as to how officers exercise their discretion in determining whether to return violations of the Rules of Conduct to the Criminal Court or to TAB.6

4. The Two Alternate Forums for Enforcement of the Rules of Conduct

a. Criminal Court

New York Criminal Court has possessed jurisdiction over alleged violations of the Rules of Conduct since the first enactment of the Rules in 1966. See N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 702.1 (1966); 1962 N.Y. Laws ch. 967, § 31(2). The criminal penalty for infractions of the Rules of Conduct remains unchanged since 1966: " Any violation of the rules of the New York City Transit Authority shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding $25 or by imprisonment for not longer than 10 days, or both." N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 21, § 702.1 (1966); ( see also Horan Decl. Ex. 5 (the 1966 Rules).)

Members of the public are free to attend any proceedings held before the Criminal Court. See N.Y. Judiciary Law § 4 (" The sittings of every court within this state shall be public, and every citizen may freely attend the same...." ). This has been the law in New York since at least 1879. See Gen. Statute of N.Y. ch. 210, § 5 (1879) (" The sittings of every court within this State shall be public, and every citizen may freely attend the same...." ).

b. TAB Hearings

Under New York law, TAB is not a " court," but rather a " bureau" located within the NYCTA. See N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law § 1209-a; ( see also Schnabel Dep. Tr. at 32:21-24.) Notwithstanding this fact, TAB has possessed concurrent jurisdiction with New York Criminal Court over alleged violations of the Rules of Conduct since TAB was created by the New York legislature in 1984 and began adjudicating transit infractions in 1986. (Schnabel Dep. Tr. at 26:11-23, 32:5-16; Dewan Decl. ¶ 1); see also N.Y. Pub. Auth. Law § 1209-a.

TAB conducts approximately seventy-two hearings per day. (Risi Decl. ¶ 4.) In 2008, TAB conducted over 19,000 in-person hearings, and during the first three months of 2009, there were an average of 1,736 in-person hearings per month. ( See Horan Decl. ¶ 27; see also id. Ex. 15.)

i. TAB's Physical Layout

TAB is...

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