Floyd v. City of New York

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This appeal addresses whether public-sector unions may intervene into a litigation where the actual parties to that litigation have agreed to a settlement. On August 12, 2013, after a bench trial, the district court found that the City of New York (“City”) had violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by acting with “deliberate indifference” toward the New York City Police Department’s (“NYPD”) practice of making suspicionless “stops” and “frisks” and by adopting “a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for ‘stops’ and ‘frisks.’” Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F. Supp. 2d 540, 562 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). The district court issued an order imposing remedies in the form of various reforms to the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” practices. In September of 2013, various police unions filed notices of appeal moved to intervene in the district court. Thereafter, a newly elected mayor reached a settlement with the Plaintiffs. The district court issued an order denying the police unions’ motion to intervene finding that the motions were untimely and that they did not assert a legally protectable interest.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. To be granted intervention as of right or by permission, an applicant must (1) timely file an appeal, (2) show an interest in the action, (3) demonstrate that the interest may be impaired by the disposition of the action, and (4) show that the interest is not protected adequately by the parties to the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(b). Failure to satisfy any one of the four requirements is sufficient ground to deny the application. The Court of Appeals concluded that the district court acted within its discretion in denying the unions’ motions to intervene as of right and by permission.

The court held that the unions did not timely move to intervene because they knew or should have known of their asserted interests in their members’ reputations and collective bargaining rights well before they filed their motions. Since there was years of extensive public filings and intense media scrutiny, the unions should have been put on notice of the potential dangers that these cases posed on their interests. The court also agreed with the district court that by allowing the unions to intervene this late would substantially prejudice the existing parties and unduly encroach upon the City’s inherent discretion to settle disputes against it.

Lastly, the court held the unions’ interests in their members reputations and collective bargaining rights are, as a matter of law, too remote from the “subject of the action” to warrant intervention as a “party.” The interest in their members’ reputation is too remote because the lawsuits principally targeted the City, not individual police officers. The interest in the unions’ collective bargaining rights are too remote because the remedial order did not have an impact on questions of workload, or staffing and employee safety, that are within the unions’ collective bargaining rights.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling.

770 F.3d 1051 (2d Cir. 2014)

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