Feeney v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp.

Decision Date26 April 1989
Docket NumberNo. 711,TRANS-HUDSON,D,711
Citation873 F.2d 628
PartiesPatrick FEENEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PORT AUTHORITYCORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee. ocket 88-7797.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Richard W. Miller, Islip, N.Y. (Peter M.J. Reilly, O'Hagan & Reilly, Islip, N.Y., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellant.

Arthur P. Berg, New York City, (Joseph Lesser, Anne M. Tannenbaum, New York City, of counsel), for defendant-appellee.

Before KEARSE and WINTER, Circuit Judges, and SWEET, District Judge. *

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

The sole issue in this case is whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ("Port Authority") is immune from suit in federal courts by virtue of the Eleventh Amendment. 1 We conclude that the Eleventh Amendment immunity either does not extend to the defendant or has been waived.

The appellant, Patrick Feeney, is an employee of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation ("PATH"), which operates rail facilities between New York and New Jersey and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Port Authority. Feeney brought this action for damages for personal injuries allegedly suffered in the course of his employment. He asserted these claims under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. Secs. 51 et seq. (1982), the Boiler Inspection Act, 45 U.S.C. Secs. 22 et seq. (1982), and the Safety Appliance Act, 45 U.S.C. Secs. 1 et seq. (1982). PATH moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) for dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that PATH enjoys immunity from suit in federal courts because of the Eleventh Amendment. Judge Ward granted PATH's motion, 693 F.Supp. 34, and Feeney appeals. Feeney claims that the Port Authority is not a state agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes and, in the alternative, that, if it is such a state agency, its Eleventh Amendment immunity has been waived. 2 We agree with both arguments and reverse.

The claim that the Port Authority is not a state agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes requires that we examine it in some detail. The Port Authority is "a body corporate and politic" created in 1921 by an interstate compact between New York and New Jersey. The compact was approved by the United States Congress. N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6404 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-4 (West 1963 & Supp.1988). The Port Authority is to "be regarded as the municipal corporate instrumentality of the two states for the purpose of developing the port [of New York] ...," N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6459 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann Sec. 32:1-33 (West 1963 & Supp.1988), and is authorized to:

purchase, construct, lease and/or operate any terminal or transportation facility within said district; and to make charges for the use thereof: and for any of such purposes to own, hold, lease and/or operate real or personal property, to borrow money and secure the same by bonds or by mortgages upon any property held or to be held by it.

(footnotes omitted). N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6407 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-7 (West 1963).

The powers of the Port Authority are exercised by twelve commissioners, six being selected by each of the participating states. N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6405 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-5 (West 1963). The Commissioners' actions are in turn subject to veto by the governor of either state. See N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 7151 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Secs. 32:2-6 et seq. (West 1963 & Supp.1988). The compact states that "[t]he [P]ort [A]uthority shall not pledge the credit of either state except by and with the authority of the legislature thereof." N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6408 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-8 (West 1963). See also 1930 Report of the Att'y Gen. 124 (bonds issued by Port Authority are not obligations of the state of New York). In the event the Port Authority's revenues are inadequate to meet its expenses, each state is obligated only to "appropriate, in equal amounts, annually, for the salaries, office and other administrative expenses, such sum or sums as shall be recommended by the [P]ort [A]uthority and approved by the governors of the two states, but ... only to the extent of one hundred thousand dollars in any one year." N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6416 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-16 (West 1963). The Port Authority may not incur any obligations for such administrative expenses until such appropriations are made. N.Y. Unconsol. Laws Sec. 6418 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-18 (West 1963).

We conclude that the Port Authority, and therefore PATH, is not a state agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes. In Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 99 S.Ct. 1171, 59 L.Ed.2d 401 (1979), the Supreme Court held that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ("TRPA"), a bi-state authority established by California and Nevada to regulate the development of the Lake Tahoe region, was not a state agency for purposes of Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Court stated:

By its terms, the protection afforded by [the Eleventh] Amendment is only available to "one of the United States." It is true, of course, that some agencies exercising state power have been permitted to invoke the Amendment in order to protect the state treasury from liability that would have had essentially the same practical consequences as a judgment against the State itself. But the Court has consistently refused to construe the Amendment to afford protection to political subdivisions such as counties and municipalities, even though such entities exercise a "slice of state power."

If an interstate compact discloses that the compacting States created an agency comparable to a county or municipality, which has no Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Amendment should not be construed to immunize such an entity. Unless there is good reason to believe that the States structured the new agency to enable it to enjoy the special constitutional protection of the State themselves, and that Congress concurred in that purpose, there would appear to be no justification for reading additional meaning into the limited language of the Amendment.

Lake Country, 440 U.S. at 400-01, 99 S.Ct. at 1176-77 (footnotes omitted).

In denying the TRPA the protection of the Eleventh Amendment, the Court cited the following factors: (i) the compact referred to the TRPA as a political subdivision of the states; (ii) six of the ten governing members of TRPA were appointed by counties and four by the states; (iii) TRPA's funding was provided by counties, not by the states; (iv) TRPA's function, the regulation of land, is traditionally a function of local, not state, government; (v) the states had no veto over the actions of the TRPA; and (vi) TRPA's obligations were not binding on the states. Id. at 401-02, 99 S.Ct. at 1177-78.

Taking factors (i)-(v) into account, it appears that the case for denying Eleventh Amendment immunity to TRPA was stronger than is the case for denying it to PATH. Favoring non-application of the Eleventh Amendment immunity to PATH is the fact that the compact between New York and New Jersey describes the Port Authority as a "municipal corporate instrumentality," N.Y.Unconsol.Laws Sec. 6459 (McKinney 1979) and N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 32:1-33 (West 1963), language consistent with its being a political subdivision. Moreover, the Port Authority is to be self-sustaining financially, and its functions are localized and focus only on the port of New York. Favoring application are the facts that all of the Port Authority Commissioners are appointed by the states, and the governors of the two states have a veto over the Commissioners' actions.

We do not believe, however, that the differences between the Port Authority and the TRPA constitute the requisite "good reason," Lake Country, 440 U.S. at 401, 99 S.Ct. at 1177, to conclude that the Port Authority was intended to be a state agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes. In particular, we believe that factor (vi), whether liability will place the state treasury at risk, although not exclusively determinative, is the single most important factor. See Trotman v. Palisades Interstate Park Comm'n, 557 F.2d 35, 38 (2d Cir.1977); see also Comment, Eleventh Amendment Immunity and State-owned Vessels, 57 Tul.L.Rev. 1523, 1528 (1983) (in determining whether to extend the Eleventh Amendment to a state agency "[t]he essential, but not exclusive, test is whether a monetary judgment against the agency would be satisfied out of the state treasury") (footnotes omitted). In cases where doubt has existed as to the availability of Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Supreme Court has emphasized the exposure of the state treasury as a critical factor. In Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662, reh'g denied, 416 U.S. 1000, 94 S.Ct. 2414, 40 L.Ed.2d 777 (1974), for example, the Supreme Court stated that "[i]t is ... well established that even though a State is not named a party to the action, the suit may nonetheless be barred by the Eleventh Amendment.... [T]he rule [that] has evolved [is] that a suit by private parties seeking to impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury is barred by the Eleventh Amendment." Id. 415 U.S. at 663, 94 S.Ct. at 1355 (citations omitted); see also Lake Country, 440 U.S. at 400-01, 99 S.Ct. at 1176-77.

We believe it clear that a judgment against PATH would not be enforceable against either New York or New Jersey. The Port Authority is explicitly barred from pledging the credit of either state or from borrowing money in any name but its own. Even the provision for the appropriation of moneys for administrative expenses up to $100,000 per year requires prior approval by the governor of each state and an actual appropriation before obligations for such expenses may be...

To continue reading

Request your trial
47 cases
  • Tm Park Ave. Associates v. Pataki
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of New York
    • 21 Octubre 1997
    ...Auth., 86 F.3d 289, 292-96 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 117 S.Ct. 481, 136 L.Ed.2d 375 (1996); Feeney v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 873 F.2d 628, 630-31 (2d Cir.1989), aff'd on other grounds, 495 U.S. 299, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 109 L.Ed.2d 264 (1990); see also Lake Country Estates, ......
  • Carnegie v. Miller, 86 Civ. 8658 (KMW).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • 12 Enero 1993
    ...subject to liability under § 1983 under Monell and "is not a state agency for Eleventh Amendment purposes." Feeney v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 873 F.2d 628, 630 (2d Cir.1989), aff'd, 495 U.S. 299, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 109 L.Ed.2d 264 2 "Ex. —" refers to attachments to the affidavit of Bruc......
  • Port Authoritycorporation v. Feeney
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 30 Abril 1990
    ...the phrase "judicial district, established . . . by the United States" sets forth consent to suit in federal court. Pp. 304-309. 873 F.2d 628 (CA2 1989) and 873 F.2d 633 (CA2 1989), O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Part I, and the opinion of the Cour......
  • Boyland v. Wing
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • 27 Marzo 2007
    ...practice, have generally accorded this factor dispositive weight.'")(collecting cases)(internal citations omitted); Feeney v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 873 F.2d 628, 631 (2d Cir.1.989) ("In cases ;where doubt has existed as to the availability of Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Suprem......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT