904 F.2d 90 (1st Cir. 1990), 89-1023, Rodriguez-Garcia v. Davila

Docket Nº:89-1023.
Citation:904 F.2d 90
Party Name:Edwin RODRIGUEZ-GARCIA, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Esteban DAVILA, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Case Date:May 22, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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904 F.2d 90 (1st Cir. 1990)

Edwin RODRIGUEZ-GARCIA, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,

v.

Esteban DAVILA, etc., et al., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 89-1023.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 22, 1990

Heard Oct. 31, 1989.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Frank Rodriguez Garcia, with whom Francisco J. Rodriguez Juarbe, were on brief for plaintiffs, appellants.

Gilberto Mayo Aguayo, with whom Mayo & Mayo, were on brief for defendants, appellees.

Before TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, and LAFFITTE, [*] District Judge.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granting summary judgment and dismissing appellants' claims based in 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and Sec. 1985(3), together with a diversity jurisdiction claim. 1 Appellants also appeal an award of costs in favor of appellees. Because we

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find that no state action was involved in appellants' dismissals, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment, as well as its award of costs to appellees.

I. BACKGROUND

The Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Authority, which is perhaps better known as Navieras, is an agency of the government of Puerto Rico which was created to facilitate maritime transportation of cargo and passengers to and from Puerto Rico. 23 L.P.R.A. Sec. 3051, et seq. To promote this objective, the Puerto Rican government purchased three shipping companies, Sea Land Service, Inc., Transamerican Trailer Transport, Inc., and Sea Train, Inc. By statute, Navieras has authority to enter into contracts with private enterprises for the management of its operations. Id.

Such a management contract was entered into with Puerto Rico Maritime Management, Inc. (PRMMI) in 1976. PRMMI was organized and incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware in 1974 as a private entity. At the time of incorporation, it had no initial capitalization. Under the terms of the management contract, PRMMI agreed to provide management services for Navieras for a period of five years, the term of which was to expire on the last day of the 1981 fiscal year.

After the New Progressive Party (NPP) won the 1976 gubernatorial elections in Puerto Rico, Navieras' Enabling Act was amended to permit the government to sell Navieras, with the consent of the Legislature. During 1977, the NPP government also made the decision to acquire PRMMI, and to convert it into a subsidiary of Navieras. This acquisition was completed in 1978, with the payment of $2.8 million to PRMMI's stockholders. 2 The denouement of this purchase was, of course, that both PRMMI and Navieras were operated as an arm of the Puerto Rican government from 1978 until at least December 13, 1984.

On November 4, 1984, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) won the general elections in Puerto Rico, and a transition committee was formed. Members of the committee included members of the new administration of Navieras and certain of those who would later become PRMMI officers, including appellee Esteban Davila. On December 5, 1984, Roberto Lugo D'Acosta, the Executive Director of Navieras and Chief Officer of PRMMI, reported to the committee and detailed the economic difficulties facing Navieras. According to this report, as of June 30, 1984, Navieras had accumulated an operational deficit of $138,178,000 and had a projected operational deficit for the fiscal 1984-1985 year of $40,245,000. Based on this financial presage, as well as the deficit, the report recommended a 25% reduction in Navieras' workforce. PRMMI was not specifically mentioned.

Following D'Acosta's report, the committee considered a plan for reorganizing Navieras' operations. The district court found that, "[t]his 'reorganization team' considered all aspects of the reorganization of Navieras, but concentrated, at least at times, on personnel matters." On January 4, 1985, Esteban Davila was appointed to the position of Executive Director of Navieras. Shortly thereafter, Davila designated Sergio Casaine as President of PRMMI.

On March 4, 1985, PRMMI, with no tangible assets, was sold to a private corporation, TNT Containerships, Inc., for $1,000. At that time, Navieras and PRMMI entered into a management contract which gave PRMMI "exclusive control" over management matters, although Navieras retained certain veto powers over appointments of the president, the executive vice president, and the vice president for administration of PRMMI. Also on that date, Gerald Toomey was made PRMMI's President. Sergio Casaine was

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later shifted from the presidency to Vice-President of Human Resources of PRMMI.

On March 29, 1985, Jose R. Vargas, Vice President of Marketing of PRMMI, delivered to appellants Edwin Rodriguez Garcia and Lino Vega letters which immediately terminated their employment in the sales and marketing force of PRMMI. Appellants claim that their dismissals were a direct result of the change in political administration which occurred in Puerto Rico in 1984. Appellees on the constitutional claims are Sergio Casaine and Jose R. Vargas, vice-presidents of PRMMI, and Gerald Toomey, President of PRMMI. They are each named both in their individual capacities and as officers of PRMMI. Esteban Davila, President of Navieras, and his wife, Ibis Davila, are appellees on the appeal from the award of costs. 3 Neither Navieras nor PRMMI were named as party defendants.

Appellants assert that they have voluminous evidence supporting their contentions that they were fired solely for political reasons. The district court rejected their arguments, finding that the claims were merely conjectural. Appellants both contend that they were well qualified for their former jobs.

Appellants raise several issues for review. We will examine them seriatim.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The appellate chapter of this story opened with the district court's grant of appellees' motion for summary judgment. As is made perspicuous by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriately granted when the pleadings, depositions, and other submissions "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Because the instant action involved 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1983 and 1985 claims, the issue addressed by the district court initially was whether appellants had alleged facts sufficient to demonstrate state action.

A claim for relief under section 1983 must include at least two elements: first, appellants must demonstrate that they were denied some right "secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States and, second, they must show that appellees deprived them of this right while acting "under color of state law." E.g., Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 1733, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978). The inquiry undertaken by the district court on the second requirement, that of state action, is "necessarily fact based," Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 939, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 2755, 73 L.Ed.2d 482 (1982), but it can properly be the subject of summary judgment.

In this circuit, the standard of review for grants of summary judgment is unambiguous. As we have often stated, upon review, we will view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovants, in this case, to the appellants. E.g., King v. Williams Industries, Inc., 724 F.2d 240, 241 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 980, 104 S.Ct. 2363, 80 L.Ed.2d 835 (1984); Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Ditmore, 729 F.2d 1, 4 (1st Cir.1984); Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.2d 461, 464 (1st Cir.1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 904, 96 S.Ct. 1495, 47 L.Ed.2d 754 (1976). Thus, "[a]mong other things, apart from that which may be inherently incredible, the nonmoving party is entitled 'to have the credibility of his evidence as forecast assumed, his version of all that is in dispute accepted, [and] all internal conflicts in [the evidence] resolved favorably to him....' " Greenburg v. Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Auth., 835 F.2d 932, 936 (1st Cir.1987) (citing Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir.1979)). But, after taking the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, "Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment

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against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

After careful review of the record, and application of relevant legal standards, this court is convinced that PRMMI, at least after its sale in 1985, is not an arm of the state within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 4 and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985. 5 That being the case, the district court appropriately granted summary judgment to appellees. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

III. STATE ACTION

The critical question in the instant case is whether appellees' conduct constituted state action under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. 6 It is, by this time, well settled that neither section 1983 nor the Fourteenth Amendment reaches private actions. Thus, the validity of appellants' claims hinges on a demonstration of state action. E.g., Lugar...

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