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Port Authority v. Port Authority

argued: May 18, 1992.

PORT AUTHORITY POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION, INC.; JOHN TROTTER, LTD., A NEW YORK CORPORATION
v.
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY POLICE DEPARTMENT; PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY; CHARLES KNOX, AS SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE OF THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, JOHN TROTTER, LTD. APPELLANT IN 91-5921 PORT AUTHORITY POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION, INC. APPELLANT IN 91-5922



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. (D.C. Civil No. 91-03997)

Before: Hutchinson, Cowen and Garth, Circuit Judges

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

GARTH, Circuit Judge:

On this appeal, we review the district court's order which dismissed, on Younger abstention grounds, the complaint of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association ("PBA") and Trotter, a fundraising organization employed by the PBA. In their complaint, the PBA and Trotter had, essentially, requested the district court to review the order of a New York state trial court. The order of the New York state court had enjoined the PBA and Trotter from soliciting contributions from Port Authority tenants.

Because the requirements for Younger abstention are satisfied in this case, and because federal district courts may not exercise appellate jurisdiction over orders issued by state courts, we will affirm the district court's dismissal of the complaint of the PBA and Trotter.*fn1

I.

The PBA, a non-profit organization of police officers employed by the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, hired Trotter, a fundraising organization, to solicit contributions. Trotter commenced solicitations on PBA's behalf in January 1991.

Soon thereafter, Donald Lee, the Acting Director of the Port Authority's Public Safety Department, requested the PBA and Trotter to halt its solicitation of donations. Lee based his directive on the Port Authority's General Rules and Regulations, which prohibit unauthorized solicitations by Port Authority employees of Port Authority tenants. The relevant Rule provided in pertinent part:

No employee shall, without the express written approval of the Office of the Executive Director, solicit or accept from any Port Authority patron, tenant or other person doing business with the Port Authority, either for himself or any organization or group, any of the following: a contribution, gift, subscription, or other thing of value -- either directly or through the medium of tickets to benefits or other functions, advertising space in programs, or any device whatever. Application for this approval is made through the Personnel Department. Application from departmental organizations must first pass through department channels.

Port Authority Instruction 15-5.01. The PBA, however, rejected Mr. Lee's request and continued to solicit contributions from Port Authority tenants in violation of the Port Authority's Rules and Regulations.

On June 12, 1991, the Port Authority, seeking to enjoin further solicitations of contributions from Port Authority tenants by the PBA and Trotter, filed a complaint and order to show cause in the Supreme Court of New York, New York County. On July 3, 1991, the PBA filed papers in opposition to the Port Authority's request for injunctive relief. In their papers, the PBA argued that its solicitation of donations constituted protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that the Port Authority's rules regulating solicitation of tenants by Port Authority employees therefore violated the PBA's First Amendment rights.

On July 12, 1991, Judge Tompkins of the New York Supreme Court granted the Port Authority's requested preliminary injunction against PBA and Trotter. The Judge enjoined the PBA and Trotter from:

soliciting funds of any kind, including but not limited to, contributions or donations for a PBA Yearbook and Buyers' Guide from Port Authority tenants, patrons, or other persons doing business with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey . . . .

(A. 23a). On July 23, 1991, the PBA filed a timely notice of appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York from the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction.

On September 16, 1991, the PBA and Trotter filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction which would enjoin the Port Authority from enforcing its regulation prohibiting employee solicitations. The PBA and Trotter raised the same constitutional argument that the PBA had previously raised unsuccessfully in the New York state court. At a September 17, 1991 hearing before the district court, Trotter's counsel conceded that an injunction against the Port Authority would, if granted, effectively enjoin the enforcement of the earlier order of the New York state court which had entered a preliminary injunction against the PBA and Trotter:

THE COURT: The application you have made to the Court in effect is to enjoin the enforcement of a State Court preliminary injunction. That is really what you are looking for, is it not?

Counsel FOR TROTTER: That is the net effect of the ruling, and there is no question about it.

(A. 72-73).

At the September 17, 1991 hearing, the district court denied the motion of the PBA and Trotter for a temporary restraining order. The district court noted that the PBA and Trotter had been on notice since January, 1991 that their conduct violated the Port Authority's internal rules, and that their "dilatoriness in asserting ...


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