Hefferan v. Corda
A union's alleged breach of the duty of fair representation may not excuse lack of compliance with a 30-day period in the collective bargaining agreement. The defendant, the Board of Education for the City of Norwalk, hired the plaintiff, Timothy Hefferan, to work as a teacher. The board brought disciplinary proceedings. Hefferan alleged that the board violated his substantive and procedural due-process rights and that the union breached the duty of fair representation. The District Court found that Hefferan failed to file a grievance within 30 days. It granted summary judgment to the board on Hefferan's due-process claims. Hefferan claimed that the union's breach of the duty of fair representation should excuse lack of compliance with the 30-day period in the collective bargaining agreement. "[A] procedural due process violation cannot have occurred when the governmental actor provides apparently adequate procedural remedies and the plaintiff has not availed himself of those remedies," pursuant to the 2nd Circuit's decision in N.Y. State Nat'l Org. for Women v. Pataki. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision that Hefferan failed to establish a 14th Amendment due-process violation. Absent evidence of conduct that shocked the conscience or that constituted a gross abuse of government authority, Hefferan also failed to establish the Norwalk board of education violated his substantive due-process rights. He did not prove that adequate process was not available, as required to establish a §1983 stigma-plus claim, which requires proof of a stigmatizing statement plus a deprivation of a tangible interest. The District Court did not abuse its discretion when it granted summary judgment to the board on Hefferan's federal causes of action. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the District Court's decision on federal claims and remanded with directions to decline to exercise jurisdiction on Hefferan's state-law claims that the union breached its duty of fair representation. "[I]f a plaintiff's federal claims are dismissed before trial, the state claims should be dismissed as well," pursuant to the 2nd Circuit's decision in Brzak v. United Nations.