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Constitutional Torts: MacFall v. City of Rochester

By: Daily Record Staff//October 29, 2010

Constitutional Torts: MacFall v. City of Rochester

By: Daily Record Staff//October 29, 2010//

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U.S. District Court, Western District of New York

Constitutional Torts

Public Employment

MacFall v. City of Rochester
Judge Larimer

Background: The action is rooted in an altercation involving two groups of people and several officers of the Rochester Police Department in the early morning hours of June 1, 2007. An event that “might have seemed at the time like an unexceptional late-night ruckus that would soon be forgotten ended up garnering considerable attention in the news media, spawning public accusations of ‘gay bashing’ against the police officers, and generating no less than three lawsuits.” Two of those three suits were brought by five of the civilians who were involved in the June incident, against some of the RPD officers and various other governmental defendants. In this, the third action, four of the officers — David MacFall, Stephen Tortora, Stephen Ward, and Michael Yodice — sued the City of Rochester, Police Chief David Moore and several other individuals, alleging due process and other constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The defendants moved to dismiss. Among several allegations, the plaintiffs allege that as a result of the charges against them, they were deprived of opportunities to earn overtime pay. Ward, a sergeant, also alleges that after he pleaded not guilty to the internal charges, he was removed from an out-of-title assignment to work at the rank of lieutenant as a field training coordinator.

Ruling: Not every contractual benefit rises to the level of a constitutionally protected property interest. It is neither workable nor within the intent of §1983 to convert every breach of contract claim against a state actor into a federal claim, according to the court, which finds the plaintiffs’ due process claim fails on the ground that they have not identified any constitutionally protected property interest. With respect to overtime, all the plaintiffs have alleged is that they were suspended temporarily with pay and that during their suspensions they were unable to earn overtime pay. A §1983 claim based on alleged negligence in hiring, training or supervision of municipal employees will not lie in the absence of an underlying constitutional violation. Without such an underlying violation, that cause of action must be dismissed. First Amendment and other claims also are rejected. The complaint is dismissed.

Jeffrey Wicks of Jeffrey Wicks PLLC for the plaintiffs; William G. Bauer of Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP for the defendants

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