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MIHALICH v. PENNSYLVANIA

May 9, 1985

LEONARD A. MIHALICH, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants; ROBERT M. RODERICK, et al., Plaintiffs v. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CALDWELL

 I. Introduction

 The above-captioned matters have been informally consolidated for the purpose of deciding the summary judgment motions filed by Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Union defendants, *fn1" as well as the cross motions filed by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs have not opposed Union defendants' motion with respect to dismissing the claims against all defendants except Council 13. Accordingly, all references to AFSCME in this memorandum, unless otherwise specified, are to Council 13. Additionally, plaintiffs do not oppose Commonwealth defendants' motion that summary judgment be granted in their favor with regard to plaintiffs' claims under state law and for monetary damages, because such claims are barred by the eleventh amendment. Thus the sole remaining matters subject to the summary judgment motions are claims against the Commonwealth defendants in the form of declaratory and injunctive relief and claims against AFSCME Council 13.

 II. Background

 The civil rights complaints in these two matters were filed by ten investigators in two divisions of the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. *fn2" Plaintiffs in Mihalich are employed with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) and those in Roderick work for the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control (BNI). Basically the complaints allege a violation of plaintiffs' rights under the equal protection and due process clauses of the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution and under comparable provisions of the Pennsylvania constitution.

 The situation giving rise to these claims originated when defendant Zimmerman assumed office on January 20, 1981, as Pennsylvania's first elected Attorney General. Zimmerman had hoped to provide pay increases to all of the investigators in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), but decided to focus initially on raises within the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), rather than for the investigators in MFCU and BNI. Moreover, the job specifications for these three groups were rewritten so as to reflect the kinds of duties each was to perform. Also furloughed investigators from one group could no longer "bump" less senior investigators in another group.

 Negotiations by personnel from the OAG and AFSCME (the collective bargaining unit for the investigators) began during mid-1981, and an agreement was signed on November 18 of that year. Pursuant to the agreement, BCI investigators were reclassified as Special Agents, received salary increases, and retained the seniority they had earned as criminal investigators. Some of the MFCU and BNI investigators who sought Special Agent status filed classification grievances, which were denied through the first four steps of the collective bargaining agreement's procedure. Thereafter AFSCME proceeded to advisory arbitration.

 The OAG did not implement the decision resulting from the advisory arbitration but rather resumed negotiations which resulted in an agreement signed on November 10, 1983. The BNI investigators were reclassified as Narcotics Agents and the MFCU investigators were given the title of Medicaid Investigators. All retained the seniority earned under their previous classifications and received the same pay raise accorded to Special Agents. The salary increase, however, was not retroactive.

 Plaintiffs in the present matter seek both declaratory and injunctive relief and specifically seek pay and benefit increases, and equivalent reclassification, retroactive to the effective date of the changes for Special Agents (formerly BCI investigators).

 III. The Current Motions

 The current motions, as all motions for summary judgment filed in federal court, are subject to the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. A court cannot grant such motions unless no genuine issues of material fact exist and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Under the legal requirements governing summary judgment matters, courts cannot resolve factual disputes or credibility issues but rather must concentrate on whether the undisputed facts show that a judgment in favor of one party or the other is appropriate.

 In the present cases insofar as they relate to the Commonwealth defendants, it is agreed that the proper constitutional test to be applied to defendants' actions is the rational relationship one. This test requires that the government action "classify the persons it affects in a manner rationally related to legitimate governmental objectives." Schweiker v. Wilson, 450 U.S. 221, 230, 101 S. Ct. 1074, 67 L. Ed. 2d 186, 195 (1981). Plaintiffs have conceded that this standard is not a difficult one to meet but yet argue that the classificatory scheme at issue in the present matters cannot survive even this most lenient constitutional analysis.

 Plaintiffs have cited the two-pronged procedure utilized by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Delaware River Basin Commission v. Bucks County Water & Sewer Authority, 641 F.2d 1087 (3d Cir. 1981) in applying the rational relationship test. Plaintiffs agree that the classification system now before us meets the first prong in that the Commonwealth defendants' goals in setting up the scheme were legitimate. The second prong, the means used to achieve the goals, is the subject of defendants' challenge. In the ...


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