Circuit reversed, finding that the federal claim was not frivolous.
In Kulick, the plaintiff, a horse owner, brought a civil rights action under Section 1983 claiming he had been evicted from a racetrack without due process of law. At a preliminary injunction proceeding, the plaintiff attempted to demonstrate sufficient state action to satisfy Section 1983. 816 F.2d at 897. Denying the injunction, the district court concluded that state officials had not participated in the decision to evict the plaintiff. Thereafter, the court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction relying on its determination at the injunction proceeding that there was no state action. Id.
In reversing, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reasoned that the factual existence of state action was not a question of jurisdiction and that the plaintiff's claim was plausible and not frivolous. There is no Section 1983 "state action" problem in this case. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, however, did agree that dismissal was proper where the right claimed is "so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy." 816 F.2d at 899 (citations omitted).
Therefore, a federal court may dismiss for lack of jurisdiction if the federal claim underlying an action is without merit or has been foreclosed by previous court decisions. Such is the case with the present Plaintiff's claim of unequal treatment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Any deprivation suffered by Association's retirees has been caused by the state's and the City's classification of the municipal employees and retirees into three different groups: police officers, firefighters and non-uniformed personnel. (Complaint P 7). These groups have been created based on the type of work performed by the different types of municipal employees.
Unless a statute creates a suspect classification or impinges upon a fundamental interest, it will be upheld if the purpose of the classification bears some rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. Price v. Cohen, 715 F.2d 87, 92, 94 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1032, 79 L. Ed. 2d 700, 104 S. Ct. 1300 (1984); Jamieson v. Robinson, 641 F.2d 138, 142 (3d Cir. 1981); Benner v. Oswald, 592 F.2d 174, 181 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 832, 62 L. Ed. 2d 41, 100 S. Ct. 62 (1979).
Also, "[a] statutory discrimination will not be set aside if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it," McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 426, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393, 81 S. Ct. 1101 (1961).
In the instant case, the classifications created by the pension plan and Act 205 based on an individual's occupation are not suspect. Furthermore, there is no fundamental right to receive the same retirement benefits as those received by individuals employed by the same municipality but in different capacities. Therefore, plaintiff's claim will fail if the purpose of the classification bears some rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose.
Under the rational relationship test, it is necessary only that there be a logical rationale whereby the retirement plans under consideration bear a rational relationship to a legitimate state interest. Pennell v. City of San Jose, 485 U.S. 1, 99 L. Ed. 2d 1, 108 S. Ct. 849 (1988). Courts will only countermand state action if "the varying treatment of different groups or persons is so unrelated to the achievement of any combination of legitimate purposes that [they] can only conclude that the . . . actions were irrational." Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 97, 59 L. Ed. 2d 171, 99 S. Ct. 939 (1979); see also Anderson v. City of Philadelphia, 845 F.2d 1216, 1222-23 (3d Cir. 1988).
In addition, the reasons relied upon by the court need not be those actually relied upon by the actor. As long as the court can construct plausible reasons in support of the state action, the action must, under this standard, be upheld. Exxon Corp. v. Eagerton, 462 U.S. 176, 196, 76 L. Ed. 2d 497, 103 S. Ct. 2296 (1983). At all times, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving illegitimacy. Madden v. Kentucky, 309 U.S. 83, 88, 84 L. Ed. 590, 60 S. Ct. 406 (1940).
Municipal employees and retirees have challenged the constitutionality of pension plans previously. In City of New Orleans v. Dukes, 427 U.S. 297, 303, 49 L. Ed. 2d 511, 96 S. Ct. 2513 (1976), the United States Supreme Court held
when local economic regulation is challenged solely as violating the Equal Protection Clause, this Court consistently defers to legislative determinations as to the desirability of particular statutory discriminations.