Judge Need Not Have Reason To Reject Corrections Officer

Tim Mooney is a corrections officer for Broome County, New York. 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.” When the Sheriff complied with the order and reassigned Mooney, Mooney’s labor organization challenged the reassignment by filing a grievance.

A New York Appeals Court ruled that the grievance could not be arbitrated because a granting of the grievance would necessarily violate public policy. The Court reasoned that “the public policy implicated here derives from the Courts’ inherent authority to maintain the integrity of the judicial process, manage their judicial functions, and guard their independence. That inherent authority is reflected in the responsibility of the administrative judges to ensure the orderly administration of the courts within the area of their administrative responsibility. 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.”

The Court did not even require that the Administrative Judge have a particular reason, much less a good one, for the reassignment. Rather, the Court found that “Mooney’s reinstatement to his former court officer duties by an arbitrator would encroach upon the authority of judges to manage their courtrooms. While respondent argues that the inherent authority of judges to control their courtrooms does not implicate a public policy interest, 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.”

County of Broome v. New York State Law Enforcement Officers Union, 2011 WL 166921 (N.Y. A.D. 2011).

This article appears in the March 2011 issue.