Two separate lawsuits filed against Southampton Village and village officials by the same ex-cop were the subject of state and federal appeals courts' decisions this month.
A state appeals court agreed with a lower court that had tossed out former Sgt. Christopher Broich's $1 million defamation lawsuit against three Village Board members. But a federal appeals court, ruling the same week on a separate case, said that a District Court erred in determining that Broich did not provide sufficient evidence that he was discriminated against based on race when he was passed over for a promotion.
Federal Discrimination Case
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court’s , but only in part, in a decision rendered Feb. 15. The Court of Appeals will require the District Court to take another look at Broich’s claim that the Southampton Village Police Department and Village Board failed to promote him because of his race.
The District Court had determined that "the record is devoid of any direct evidence of racial animus and … there is insufficient circumstantial evidence from which a jury can infer that defendants intentionally discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race with respect to the failure to promote him in February 2005."
The Appeals Court held that there is sufficient evidence for a factfinder to infer that Broich was passed over for promotion with discriminatory intent.
Broich is white and of German ancestry, and he contends that an African-American with less time-in-rank and supervisory experience was promoted over him to provide political advantage to a mayoral candidate.
The Appeals court affirmed the District Court’s determination that Broich had not provided sufficient evidence that his firing in December 2007 was in retaliation for whistle-blowing, or because of his political affiliations.
Read the decision at leagle.com.
State Defamation Lawsuit
In February 2011, a State Supreme Court that he initiated in 2008 against Mayor Mark Epley, Trustee Nancy McGann and then-Trustee Paul Robinson claiming the three had defamed him in statements made during a village debate, to this reporter and to a village voter. Broich claimed the statements damaged his reputation and ability to find work. Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. granted the three defendants a summary judgment in their favor, determining that regardless of whether the alleged statements were true, Broich had failed to prove malice.
Baisley said that the statements were protected because they were made during political campaigns while either the defendants or Broich himself were candidates for village office.
Broich , but in a decision render this Feb. 14, a panel of justices affirmed that the allegedly slanderous statements are privileged speech and that Broich failed to prove malice and to show that further fact-finding would help his case.