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OMNI GROUP FARMS, INC. v. CTY. OF CAYUGA

June 12, 1991

OMNI GROUP FARMS, INC., CAYUGA MEADOWS, INC. AND MICHAEL O'NEILL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE COUNTY OF CAYUGA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCURN, Chief Judge.

  MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

On November 7, 1990 the plaintiffs, Omni Group Farms, Inc., ("Omni"), Cayuga Meadows Inc. ("Meadows") and Michael O'Neill ("O'Neill"), filed a complaint against defendant County of Cayuga ("County") alleging that the defendant passed legislation which interfered with certain existing and possible future contract rights of the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' first cause of action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claims that the defendant has enforced certain town ordinances in a discriminatory manner against them, thereby violating plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection of the law. Plaintiffs' second cause of action claims that the legislation at issue imposes an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce, and was adopted by the County in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Plaintiffs further allege that as a result of this legislation, they have been damaged in the amount of $3 million.

On December 3, 1990, the defendant brought this motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, this court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss both causes of action without prejudice to the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.

Background

Omni and Meadows are closely-held corporations which are licensed to do business under the laws of the State of New York and which have their principal places of business in Skaneateles, New York. O'Neill is the president and principal shareholder of both Omni and Meadows. The defendant County of Cayuga is a municipal corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York.

In 1986, Omni, Meadows and O'Neill leased 400 acres of land in Cayuga County. The following year, Omni acquired fee title to approximately 50 acres of land in this same County. The plaintiffs allege that they acquired all of this land for the express purpose of landspreading and composting certain types of sludge, primarily food processing, brewery, winery and cannery waste.

On October 29, 1987, Omni entered into a contract with Anheuser-Busch, Inc. ("Anheuser-Busch") wherein Omni agreed to landspread and/or compost Anheuser-Busch's brewery waste on the Omni property in return for that company's promise to pay Omni an estimated $12,000 per month, over a one year period, for such landspreading.*fn1 In order to fulfill their respective obligations under this contract, the plaintiffs and Anheuser-Busch each obtained permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") which allowed Omni to landspread the waste. Soon thereafter, the defendant adopted Local Law # 5 for the year 1987, ("Local Law # 5") which has been in full force and effect since the date of its adoption. Section 1 of this law provides that:

  [It] shall be unlawful for any person, firm,
  corporation, partnership or other legal entity to
  deposit sludge which originated

  or was collected outside the territorial limits of
  Cayuga County in any town or village (all
  municipalities outside of the City of Auburn),
  located in the County of Cayuga, henceforth.

On or about March 16, 1988, the defendant adopted Local Law # 4 for the year 1988 ("Local Law # 4"). Section 3 of this ordinance makes it unlawful for any entity to bring into the County any solid waste for disposal at a landfill. Those convicted of violating these ordinances may be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for a period of no longer than one year. Additionally, these laws provide that each day during which a violation occurs is to be deemed a separate violation of the same.

The materials which the plaintiffs have contracted to landspread and compost are sludge and/or solid waste as these terms are defined by Local Laws # 4 and # 5. Plaintiffs contend that the defendant enacted these ordinances with the specific purpose of preventing them from depositing the waste they receive from Anheuser-Busch in Cayuga County. Plaintiffs further claim that these laws have impaired their contractual obligations with Anheuser-Busch, and that they have been deprived of the income they would have realized pursuant to said contract by the defendants' local laws. Specifically, plaintiffs' first cause of action alleges that William Catto ("Catto"), the Director of the Cayuga County Health Department, advised plaintiff O'Neill that the defendant would enforce Local Law # 5 against the plaintiffs. They also contend that, upon information and belief, the County has chosen not to enforce Local Laws # 4 and # 5 against other business entities which have deposited solid waste and sludge obtained from outside of the territorial limits of Cayuga County in the County.*fn2 They further allege that the defendant's failure to enforce these local laws against individuals other than the plaintiffs has been intentional, purposeful, arbitrary and in violation of the their equal protection rights afforded by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs' second cause of action alleges that these laws create an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce and that such violations are redressable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The County brings the instant motion seeking dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint. The defendant contends that: (i) the County is not a "person" within the meaning of § 1983; (ii) the contract rights of which the plaintiffs seek redressment are not redressable under § 1983; and (iii) claims alleging violations of the Commerce Clause can not be brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Discussion

(a) The standard for review of plaintiffs' complaint.

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim tests only the sufficiency of the complaint. Green v. Maraio, 722 F.2d 1013, 1015 (2nd Cir. 1983), quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). It is well established that a complaint should not be dismissed unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Green, 722 F.2d at 1015-1016, quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 40 (2d Cir. 1983). However, a civil rights complaint must contain more than conclusory, vague or general allegations of constitutional deprivation. Alfaro Motors, Inc. v. Ward, 814 F.2d 883, 887 (2d Cir. 1987); Neustein v. Orbach, 732 F. Supp. 333, 346 (E.D.N Y 1990); Thomas v. Beth Israel Hosp. Inc., 710 F. Supp. 935, 942 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Such allegations must be amplified by specific instances of misconduct, Ostrer v. Aronwald, 567 F.2d 551, 553 (2d Cir. 1977), or some specific allegations of fact indicating a deprivation of ...


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