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Cooley v. Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency

argued: June 16, 1987.

COOLEY, WILLIAM, APPELLANT
v.
PENNSYLVANIA HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY; GERHOLD, WAYNE D.; SMITH, KARL C.; AND DONADEE, MICHAEL A.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Scranton, D.C. Civil No. 84-1466.

Seitz and Mansmann, Circuit Judges, and Debevoise, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Mansmann

Opinion OF THE COURT

MANSMANN, Circuit Judge

This appeal comes before us on review of entry of summary judgment in favor of a state agency, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, ("PHFA"), and against a former employee of the agency, William Cooley. Cooley asserted both federal and state claims for damages allegedly suffered as a result of his dismissal from employment with the PHFA.

We will affirm the district court's decision granting summary judgment with respect to the alleged violation of federal constitutional rights, finding no deprivation of protected property and liberty interests. Because we find that extraordinary circumstances exist to justify continuing jurisdiction over the pendent state claims, we will vacate the court's judgment dismissing them and remand for further proceedings on the merits.

I.

William Cooley was employed as a construction representative by the PHFA from October 2, 1978 through September 14, 1984. According to the PHFA, early in 1984 the agency began receiving complaints concerning Cooley's behavior in the course of his employment with both the public sector and internal PHFA staff. When the agency decided to take disciplinary action against Cooley it was determined, because of a belief that Cooley had potential as a valuable employee, that a two-week, no-pay, suspension, rather than a dismissal, should be imposed. To this end, a letter of reprimand was sent to Cooley informing him of the suspension and his placement on probationary status. Cooley, through his attorney, then requested a hearing as to the merits of the suspension. Although no formal hearing was ever held, Cooley met with various officials of the PHFA to discuss his job performance and his suspension.

On August 27, 1984, Cooley was notified that his employment with the agency was terminated. The reasons for his dismissal were outlined in a letter which stated that his conduct on the job had not conformed to acceptable agency standards. Cooley was not provided with a hearing on his dismissal.

Cooley then commenced this action in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania claiming that the allegations on which his separation from employment was based are false, that his dismissal has injured his reputation and hindered him from obtaining other employment, that the Executive Director acted without authority in firing him, and that his dismissal was not effectuated within the guidelines of the PHFA's employee manual in circulation. In support of his request for recovery for violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982), Cooley asserted deprivation of property and liberty interests contrary to the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. His state law claims arise from an assertion that the due process provisions of Pennsylvania's Administrative Agency Law, 2 Pa. C.S.A. § 101 et seq., were not followed.

Over Cooley's objection, the PHFA removed the case to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and discovery commenced.

After discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and, in conjunction, statements of undisputed material facts. The district magistrate recommended dismissal of Count I of the complaint, the state law claims, citing lack of jurisdiction to support their retention. He also recommended that summary judgment be entered against Cooley and for PHFA on Count II of the complaint, wherein the federal causes of action were enumerated. On review de novo, the district court, adopting the report and recommendations of the magistrate, granted the PHFA's summary judgment motion and denied Cooley's motion to remand to state court.

In reviewing the propriety of the entry of a cross-motion for summary judgment, we utilize the identical test the district court was initially required to apply. Our scope of review mandates a determination that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the cross-movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Koshatka v. Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc., 762 F.2d 329 (3d Cir. 1985). In applying the law to the undisputed facts, our review of the grounds for summary judgment is plenary. IUE-AFL-CIO Pension Fund v. Barker & Williamson, Inc., 788 F.2d 118 (3d Cir. 1986).

With regard to the dismissal of the pendent state claims, we must decide whether the dismissal is tantamount to an abuse of discretion by the trial judge. Walck v. American Stock Exchange, Inc., 687 F.2d 778 (3d Cir. 1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 942, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1300, 103 S. Ct. 2118 (1983).

II.

Cooley has characterized his public employment as providing him with a protected property interest, deprivation of which violated the due process mandates of the Fourteenth Amendment. He recognizes that, based upon Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548, 92 S. Ct. 2701 (1972), he must have more than a unilateral expectation of the protected ...


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