United States Federal District Court Dismisses Complaint Filed By Former Longshoreman Peter Monforte and International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1804-1
February 6, 2014
On February 6, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey dismissed the complaint filed by Peter Monforte and International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1804-1 against the Commission and Assistant Counsel Jason Szober in its entirety.
Monforte was a maintenance man who was involved in large-scale marijuana growhouse operations with two other longshoremen. In 2008, he pled guilty to the manufacture and distribution of marijuana, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and was subsequently sentenced to three months’ prison time, followed by a two-year term of supervised release. Monforte subsequently admitted to various violations of the Waterfront Commission Act and his registration as a longshoreman was revoked.
Upon his release from prison, Monforte began working at Apexel, LLC, a stevedore affiliated with Maher Terminals, LLC. The Commission advised Apexel that its continued employment of Monforte would be a reflection that it lacked the requisite good character and integrity to possess a license as a stevedore. Apexel terminated Monforte’s employment. In their complaint, plaintiffs alleged that the Commission (1) violated Monforte’s civil rights, (2) singled Monforte out for exclusion for employment because of his Italian origin and ancestry, (3) tortiously interfered with Monforte’s economic advantage, and (4) tortiously interfered with the Union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Honorable Judge Jose L. Linares, U.S.D.J., found that plaintiffs had not presented any evidence in support of their civil rights claim, and noted that during discovery Monforte actually admitted that he had no facts to support the allegation that he was being discriminated against because of his Italian ancestry. Further, the Court found that plaintiffs had failed to show that the Commission acted with malice, which was an essential element of their tortious interference claim.
The Court recognized that courts must defer to the Commission’s longstanding experience with waterfront problems and defer to the Commission’s judgment as to the appropriate penalty or discipline to be imposed in a given situation. The Court noted, “[t]he Commission could grant a stevedore’s license to Apexel only if it was satisfied that Apexel possessed ‘good character and integrity.’ . . . Apexel’s employment of Monforte, who had recently pled guilty to two drug crimes, reasonably caused the Commission to doubt that Apexel possessed these qualities.” Accordingly, the Court dismissed the complaint.
Plaintiffs, who were represented by George Daggett, Esq., did not appeal the decision. A complete copy of the Court's Opinion is attached.