UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
May 26, 1978
PAMELA GOODRICH and WAYNE GOODRICH, Plaintiffs,
EDWIN GONZALEZ, AUXILIARY POLICE OFFICER, WOODROW HUNDLEY, AUXILIARY POLICE OFFICER, FRANCIS P. BRADY, POLICE OFFICER, PETER McBRIDE, POLICE OFFICER, NICHOLAS FERRARO, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF QUEENS, STATE OF NEW YORK, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: NEAHER
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NEAHER, District Judge.
In this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs have, in effect, sought advance rulings of law by way of two separate motions for partial summary judgment, Rule 56(a), F.R.Civ.P., and one of the defendants, the District Attorney for Queens County, has moved for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the claims against him, Rule 12(c), F.R.Civ.P. For the reasons stated below, these motions are disposed of as follows:
1. Plaintiffs' motion for an order "adjudicating that, as a matter of law, at all times relevant to this action" the defendant New York City auxiliary police officers "acted 'under color of law' within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983," is denied.
2. Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment in their favor on their claims against the defendant District Attorney for declaratory and injunctive relief is denied.
3. The defendant District Attorney's motion for judgment on the pleadings and an order dismissing the claims against him is granted.
Plaintiffs' motion for an order "adjudicating" that the defendant auxiliary police officers acted under color of law. In Counts I and II of their amended complaint, plaintiffs seek an award of substantial compensatory and punitive damages against the defendant police officers and auxiliary police officers, who they claim caused or brought about their unlawful search, arrest, "booking," and incarceration on State criminal charges. Given the current posture of this action, it is apparent that a ruling by the court that the auxiliary police officers acted under color of law would not at this time be conclusive of any claim asserted by plaintiffs. Hence, consideration of plaintiffs' first motion for partial summary judgment would contravene the policy of the courts of this Circuit to refrain from entertaining, under Rule 56, motions which seek the determination of issues "which are not dispositive of any claim or part thereof." Yale Transport Corp. v. Yellow Truck & Coach Mfg. Co., 3 F.R.D. 440, 441 (S.D.N.Y. 1944). See Uniroyal, Inc. v. Heller, 65 F.R.D. 83, 86 (S.D.N.Y. 1974); Bernstein v. Universal Pictures, Inc., 379 F. Supp. 933, 936 (S.D.N.Y. 1974), rev'd on other grounds, 517 F.2d 976 (2 Cir. 1975); Seacoast Liquor Distributors, Inc. v. Kips Bay Brewing Co., Inc., 8 F.R.D. 74, 75 (S.D.N.Y. 1947). Indeed, even if treated as a motion to strike a defense, the application is untimely because interposed more than 20 days after service of the answers. See Rule 12(f), F.R.Civ.P. Accordingly, this motion, which in any event would not serve to advance the litigation of plaintiffs' claims, must be denied.
The District Attorney's motion for judgment on the pleadings; plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on their claims against the District Attorney. In Count III of their amended complaint, plaintiffs seek an order (1) declaring invalid and unconstitutional the Queens District Attorney's practice of conditioning his consent to adjournments of criminal actions in contemplation of dismissal, pursuant to N.Y. CPL § 170.55,
upon waiver by the defendants of any civil right of action they may have as a result of their arrest and prosecution; and (2) permanently enjoining the District Attorney and his subordinates from enforcing N.Y. CPL § 170.55 "in such manner as to condition the dismissal of criminal charges against plaintiffs upon plaintiffs' waiver of their civil remedies." Amended Compl. para. 27.
The District Attorney has moved for judgment on the pleadings dismissing the claims against him, and plaintiffs have cross-moved for summary judgment in their favor.
It should be noted that plaintiffs have not addressed this cross-motion to their claims against the defendant regular and auxiliary police officers. Certainly, had plaintiffs moved solely with respect to those claims, the court would be constrained to decline to consider the motion, as it would amount to an improper use of summary judgment procedure to obtain dismissal of the police defendants' affirmative defenses of release and waiver. See Uniroyal, Inc. v. Heller, supra; Bernstein v. Universal Pictures, Inc., supra; Seacoast Liquor Distributors, Inc. v. Kips Bay Brewing Co., Inc., supra. It is unnecessary to determine the further consequences of this omission, however, since it appears that plaintiffs' claims against the District Attorney fail "to satisfy the threshold requirement of Art. III of the Constitution that those who seek to invoke the power of the federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy," O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493, 38 L. Ed. 2d 674, 94 S. Ct. 669 (1974), citing Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968); Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 23 L. Ed. 2d 404, 89 S. Ct. 1843 (1969), and must therefore be dismissed.
There is no question here that because of the lapse of time, plaintiffs are no longer subject to prosecution on the charges originally brought against them in New York City Criminal Court, Queens County.
Moreover, plaintiffs do not allege that there is any likelihood that they will again be subjected to the District Attorney's allegedly unlawful waiver practice, nor do they seek to hold the District Attorney answerable in damages for having exacted such a waiver from them.
Hence, plaintiffs' claims against the District Attorney must be deemed moot, because "the controversy between the parties has . . . clearly ceased to be 'definite and concrete' and no longer 'touches the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests.'" DeFunis v. Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312, 317, 94 S. Ct. 1704, 40 L. Ed. 2d 164 (1974), quoting from Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-41, 81 L. Ed. 617, 57 S. Ct. 461 (1937). As the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, "the federal courts are without power to decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them." North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246, 30 L. Ed. 2d 413, 92 S. Ct. 402 (1971). See O'Shea v. Littleton, supra; Hall v. Beals, 396 U.S. 45, 24 L. Ed. 2d 214, 90 S. Ct. 200 (1969); Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 306-08, 11 L. Ed. 2d 347, 84 S. Ct. 391 (1964); United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 4 L. Ed. 2d 524, 80 S. Ct. 519 (1960); Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 55 L. Ed. 246, 31 S. Ct. 250 (1911); Liverpool, N.Y. & P.S.S. Co. v. Commissioners, 113 U.S. 33, 28 L. Ed. 899, 5 S. Ct. 352 (1885). That plaintiffs pray for declaratory, as well as injunctive, relief does not require a different result. See United Public Workers of America v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 89, 91 L. Ed. 754, 67 S. Ct. 556 (1947); 28 U.S.C. § 2201. See also Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle, 416 U.S. 115, 121-22, 40 L. Ed. 2d 1, 94 S. Ct. 1694 (1974); Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113, 89 S. Ct. 956 (1969); Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 61 S. Ct. 510, 85 L. Ed. 826 (1941); Romer v. Leary, 305 F. Supp. 366 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 425 F.2d 186 (2 Cir. 1969).
Finally, the court finds unpersuasive plaintiffs' contention that their claims against the District Attorney raise issues "capable of repetition, yet evading review," thereby permitting a decision on the merits, despite the apparent want of a present case or controversy. See Super Tire Engineering Co. v. McCorkle, supra, 416 U.S. at 125-26. See also Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393, 42 L. Ed. 2d 532, 95 S. Ct. 553 (1975); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147, 93 S. Ct. 705 (1973); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 31 L. Ed. 2d 274, 92 S. Ct. 995 (1972). In Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147, 46 L. Ed. 2d 350, 96 S. Ct. 347 (1975) (per curiam), the Supreme Court, relying on its earlier decision in Sosna v. Iowa, supra, identified two "elements" which must obtain before the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" doctrine may be invoked to preserve or confer federal court jurisdiction over an otherwise moot individual suit:
"(1) the challenged action was in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to its cessation or expiration, and (2) there [is] a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party [will] be subjected to the same action again." 423 U.S. at 149.
It is plain that the claims against the District Attorney do not supply the second of these elements: as noted above, plaintiffs do not maintain that they are likely again to be required to choose between waiving their right to bring a civil action or being held to answer allegedly unfounded criminal charges. It is unnecessary, therefore, to consider whether these claims satisfy the first element of the Weinstein test.
Accordingly, the defendant District Attorney's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and the claims against him are dismissed for want of an actual case or controversy upon which this court may act, and plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.
/s/ EDWARD R. NEAHER / U.S.D.J.