Public policy precludes the arbitrating of court's directing the removal of assigned personnel in alleged violation of the terms of a CBA

Public policy precludes the arbitrating of court's directing the removal of assigned personnel in alleged violation of the terms of a CBAMatter of County of Broome v New York State Law Enforcement Officers Union, Dist. Council 82, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, 2011 NY Slip Op 00325, Appellate Division, Third Department Timothy Mooney is a correction officer with the Broome County Sheriff's Office. In January 2009, the Administrative Judge for the Sixth Judicial District sent a letter to Broome County Sheriff David Harder directing, on behalf of the Broome County Judges, that Harder "immediately and permanently remove Officer Timothy Mooney from all assignments at Broome County court facilities." Subsequently, the Administrative Judge informed Harder that "under no circumstances will the court allow Officer Mooney to reassume his previous role at or in any Broome [County] court facility." Harder complied with these directives, and reassigned Mooney from his duties – which included, among other things, guarding inmates in the holding cell at the courthouse and during court appearances. Council 82 filed a grievance on Mooney's behalf, contending that the reassignment violated the party's collective bargaining agreement [CBA]. The grievance was denied and the union demanded arbitration pursuant to the CBA. As a remedy it sought Mooney's reinstatement to his previous courthouse assignment. The County initiated an Article 75 proceeding seeking to stay arbitration. Supreme Court, concluding that public policy prohibits arbitration of this matter, granted the County's application to stay arbitration and Council 82 appealed. The Appellate Division said that "Under the two-prong inquiry governing arbitrability of disputes, courts must ascertain [first] whether the parties may arbitrate their dispute and, if so, whether they agreed to do so" As the Appellate Division found that subject matter of the dispute satisfied the test, it said that it must now determine "whether there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance." Noting that "judicial intervention on public policy grounds constitutes a narrow exception to the otherwise broad power of parties to agree to arbitrate all of the disputes arising out of their juridical relationships," the Appellate Division said that in this instance it concluded that that public policy prohibits arbitration of Council 82's grievance. The court explained that public policy implicated here derives from the courts' inherent authority to maintain the integrity of the judicial process, manage their judicial functions, and guarding their independence. Thus, said the court, the Administrative Judge was acting within his responsibility when he directed that Harder, an officer of the court* permanently reassign Mooney from duties that would require him to enter a Broome County courthouse. Although Council 82 contended that such reassignment of Mooney constituted a disciplinary action taken without resort to the bargained-for disciplinary procedure and sought Mooney's immediate reinstatement to his bid assignment of court holding officer, the Appellate Division concurred with Supreme Court view that that "Mooney's reinstatement to his former court officer duties by an arbitrator would encroach upon the authority of judges to manage their courtrooms." Despite Council 82's argument that the inherent authority of judges to control their courtrooms does not implicate a public policy interest, the Appellate Division said that "such an encroachment upon the court's authority is, in our view, contrary to strong public policy and would frustrate the orderly administration of justice."** As there was no dispute that Mooney was reassigned to a position with the same schedule and pay rate that he had in his court holding officer position and there was no allegation that Mooney was aggrieved in any manner beyond his reassignment from his duties at the Broome County Courthouse, the Appellate Division said that "Under these circumstances, the granting of any relief would violate public policy and, accordingly, Supreme Court properly stayed arbitration of this matter." * County Law §650 ** The Appellate Division also rejected Council 82's contention that the application to stay arbitration was premature because the arbitrator could fashion relief that would not violate public policy. The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_00325.htm

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