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NEW YORK v. 11 CORNWELL CO.

February 18, 1981

PEOPLE OF the STATE OF NEW YORK et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
11 CORNWELL COMPANY et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PRATT

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant 11 Cornwell Company moves under FRCP 12(b)(1) & 12(b)(6) to dismiss the state's complaint on two grounds: (1) for failure to state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); and (2) because the state lacks standing to assert a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) even if the court determines that one exists. For reasons set forth below, this court concludes that the complaint does state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and that the state has standing to assert the claim.

 FACTS

 Plaintiff, the State of New York, brings this action in its parens patriae capacity on behalf of its mentally disabled citizens and all other citizens generally. Defendants are residents of Rockville Centre, New York, who have banded together to form the 11 Cornwell Company, and defendant Samuels is the former owner of the property located at 11 Cornwell Street in Rockville Centre.

 The complaint alleges that the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), acting pursuant to state law, negotiated a sale for defendant Samuels' house at 11 Cornwell Street. Upon learning that a sale to OMRDD was imminent, and that the house would be used as a community residence for the mentally retarded, defendants formed a partnership known as the 11 Cornwell Company and purchased the house from defendant Samuels. The complaint alleges that Samuels sold the property to 11 Cornwell Company for a lesser amount than OMRDD had offered to pay, and that the sale took place to prevent the home from being used as a residence for the mentally retarded. It further alleges that 11 Cornwell Company seeks to resell the property, but has refused to negotiate with OMRDD for the sale. Complaint para. 11-15.

 The state asserts that these allegations, if proved, show that defendants conspired (1) to deny New York State's mentally disabled citizens equal protection of the laws; and (2) to prevent and hinder the state authorities from providing its mentally disabled citizens with equal protection of the laws, both in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). Complaint para. 16. In addition, the state alleges that defendants' actions violate New York State Executive Law § 296(5)(a), which guarantees mentally disabled persons equal access to housing accommodations in New York State. Complaint para. 17, 19. The validity of this pendent state law claim is not now before the court.

 REQUISITES FOR A CAUSE OF ACTION UNDER § 1985(3)

 As outlined above, the state alleges two distinct causes of action under s 1985(3). Since the underlying problem on this motion is whether there is federal jurisdiction and the court concludes that the complaint does state a cause of action under the "preventing or hindering" clause of § 1985, thereby providing federal jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343, the court need not at this time address the state's first contention, that the complaint also sets forth a cause of action that defendants conspired to deprive mentally deprived persons of equal protection of the laws.

 The relevant portion of § 1985(3) provides that

 
If two or more persons in any State or Territory conspire * * * for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of any State or Territory from giving or securing to all persons within such State or Territory the equal protection of the laws * * * the party so injured or deprived may have an action for the recovery of damages, occasioned by such injury or deprivation, against any one or more of the conspirators.

 Here the complaint alleges that defendants conspired to prevent the state from securing equal protection for its mentally retarded citizens. The state contends that defendants prevented the OMRDD from purchasing the Samuels' home in order to keep mentally retarded persons from living in the house, and that defendants are intentionally discriminating against a class of persons by seeking to sell the house to someone other than the OMRDD.

 Defendants argue that in order to invoke the preventing or hindering clause the state must show that defendants' actions prevented them from performing

 
a constitutional duty under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to provide its mentally retarded citizens with community residential facilities. * * * (T)he state can only have such a duty if the persons upon whose behalf it is asserted, the potential residents of 11 Cornwell Street, have a constitutional right under the Equal Protection Clause to a community residential facility. Defendants' reply memorandum at 6.

 In the Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6001 et seq., Congress includes a provision entitled "Congressional Findings Respecting Rights of ...


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