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MOORE v. DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY

June 24, 1999

JOSEPH MOORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge.

  OPINION

This matter is before the court on the motion of defendant, the Delaware River Port Authority ("DRPA"), for summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(b). Plaintiff, Joseph Moore, claims that the DRPA wrongfully discharged him from employment in breach of its published Work Rules, which Moore contends created an implied contract of employment. The DRPA argues that, as a bi-state agency created by interstate compact between the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania pursuant to the Commerce Clause of Article I of the Constitution, it is not subject to the common law of New Jersey and, therefore, that it is entitled to summary judgment on Moore's common law breach of contract and wrongful discharge claims. The principal issue to be decided on this motion is whether the common law of New Jersey regarding implied contracts of employment is "substantially similar in nature" to that of Pennsylvania so as to be enforceable against the DRPA. Because the court finds that it is not, the DRPA cannot be subject to the common law of New Jersey on this claim, and the court grants the DRPA's motion for summary judgment and dismisses plaintiff's Complaint.

BACKGROUND

The DRPA was created in 1931 when the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania entered into an interstate compact ("the Compact") pursuant to the Compact Clause of Article I of the Constitution to form the Delaware Joint Commission ("the Joint Commission"). N.J.S.A. 32:3-1, et seq.; Pa. Stat. Ann. Tit. 36 § 3503, et seq. Congress duly approved the Compact in 1932. Pub. Res. No. 26, Chapter 258, 47 Stat. 308 (1932).

The purpose of the Joint Commission was to construct, operate and maintain interstate transportation routes between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. See N.J.S.A. 32:3-2; Pa.Stat.Ann.Tit. 36 § 3501, Article I. The Joint Commission was authorized to build bridges, establish connective roads and provide transportation services within the Delaware Port District. Id.

In 1951, New Jersey and Pennsylvania agreed to change the name of the Joint Commission to the Delaware River Port Authority.

In April 1976, the DRPA hired Moore as a union electrician. In 1986, the DRPA promoted Moore to the non-union supervisory position of Assistant Foreman. Upon his promotion. Moore ceased to be covered by the collective bargaining agreement between the Electrician's Union and the DRPA. In 1993, the DRPA made Moore a Foreman when it eliminated the position of Assistant Foreman.

Moore's duties as a Foreman in the Electrical Department consisted of supervising electricians and assigning work. Except for a relatively brief period from sometime in 1993 or 1994 through November or December of 1995, when Moore was assigned to work at the Walt Whitman Bridge, Moore worked at the Ben Franklin Bridge.

By letter dated March 12, 1997, the DRPA notified Moore that he had been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation for allegedly violating certain DRPA Work Rules. By letter dated April 17, 1997, the DRPA detailed the allegations against Moore and the factual findings of its investigation and notified Moore that a pre-disciplinary hearing would be held on April 22, 1997. Donald A. Piccoli, Manager of the Betsy Ross Bridge, presided over the hearing on April 22, 1997, at which time Moore was provided with a Notification and Explanation of Charges that formally set forth the allegations against him and advised him of his right to appeal any adverse employment determination in accordance with the DRPA's Open Door Policy.

By letter dated May 7, 1997, the DRPA advised Moore that he had been terminated from employment for violating certain DRPA Work Rules, which were identified with particularity in the letter.

On August 7, 1997, Moore commenced this action by filing a Complaint against the DRPA in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County. In Count One of the Complaint, Moore alleges a wrongful discharge claim against the DRPA. In Count Two of the Complaint, Moore alleges a breach of contract claim against the DRPA. In Count Three of the Complaint, Moore alleges that he is entitled to an award of punitive damages. Moore seeks compensatory and punitive damages, interest, attorney's fees and costs of suit, reinstatement with back wages and benefits, and such other relief as the court deems appropriate.

On September 25, 1997, the DRPA removed Moore's case to this court under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and 1446. The DRPA asserts the existence of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the case involves the interpretation of a Congressionally-approved interstate compact between the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under the Compact Clause of Article I of the Constitution.

On November 6, 1997, Moore stipulated to dismissal of his claim for punitive damages (Count Three). The DRPA now moves for summary judgment on the remaining claims asserted in the Complaint — Moore's common law wrongful discharge (Count One) and breach of contract (Count Two) claims.

DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment ...


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