that plaintiffs have an entitlement to such a variance. At most they have a unilateral expectancy which does not constitute a protected property interest. See Yale Auto Parts, 758 F.2d at 59. This being the case, it is irrelevant whether the Town Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying plaintiffs' request. See RRI Realty, 870 F.2d at 918. In addition, because plaintiffs have no protected property interest in the variance, the Town Council's decision-making process is insulated from federal procedural due process attacks, even if, as plaintiffs allege, the Town officials engaged in egregious and politically-influenced procedural irregularities. See Yale Auto Parts, 758 F.2d at 58. Accordingly, the court concludes that plaintiffs have failed to establish a protected property interest in the issuance of a variance from the MHP Law's licensing requirements. As a result they cannot maintain a cause of action against the Town and its officials pursuant to section 1983 on the basis that the Town's denial of the variance violated their due process rights.
B. Defendants' Immunity Defenses
The Town Supervisor and the Town Council members base their request for summary judgment on the doctrine of absolute immunity. In this regard, they depict plaintiffs' claims against them in terms of their legislative act of promulgating the MHP Law. After reviewing plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety, the court disagrees with this characterization. Paragraph 21 of the complaint reads as follows:
Defendant Town of Newfield, through the actions of the individual defendant Supervisor of the Town of Newfield, members of the Newfield Town Council, and defendant Edward Hughes, Code Enforcement Officer, acting under color of law, implemented and/or executed unconstitutional policies, statements, ordinances, regulations and/or decisions officially adopted and or promulgated by the Town of Newfield and/or its Council and Supervisor and Code Enforcement Officer, by refusing to recognize the validity of plaintiffs' vested prior nonconforming use and by refusing to recognize, or even to take into consideration, the economic hardship caused both by such lack of recognition and by the denial of a variance.
See Plaintiffs' Complaint at para. 21 (emphasis added).
Given this language, the court concludes that plaintiffs' claims against the Town Supervisor and the Town Council members pertain to defendants' application of the MHP Law to plaintiffs, not to their enactment of the ordinance. Accordingly, they are entitled only to qualified immunity. See Kinderhill Farm Breeding Assocs. v. Appel, 450 F. Supp. 134, 136 (S.D.N.Y. 1978) (when Town Board engages in application of existing statutory scheme, its actions are not legislative but administrative entitling Town Board members to only qualified immunity); see also Altaire Builders, Inc. v. Village of Horseheads, 551 F. Supp. 1066 (W.D.N.Y. 1982). For the same reason, the Town's Code Enforcement Officer, Mr. Hughes, may raise this defense with respect to his conduct in enforcing the MHP Law.
Having concluded that the doctrine of qualified immunity applies to these defendants, the court now must determine whether defendants are entitled to the protection of this defense under the circumstances of this case. In order for a government official performing a discretionary function to be entitled to qualified immunity, his conduct must not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Natale v. Town of Ridgefield, 927 F.2d 101, 104 (2d Cir. 1991) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, (1982)). In other words, "whether an official protected by qualified immunity may be held personally liable for an allegedly unlawful official action generally turns on the 'objective legal reasonableness' of the action . . . assessed in light of the legal rules that were 'clearly established' at the time it was taken." Cartier v. Lussier, 955 F.2d 841, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 1722, at *6 (2d Cir. 1992) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639, 107 S. Ct. 3034, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523 , (1987) (citing in turn Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818-19, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, (1982))).
In the present case, the court has determined that plaintiffs do not possess a constitutionally protected property interest in the issuance of a variance from the MHP Law's licensing requirements. As such, the Town Council members' and the Town Supervisor's denial of plaintiffs' request for a variance does not violate any clearly established constitutional or statutory right. Therefore, the court concludes that the Town Supervisor and the Town Council members are entitled to the protection of qualified immunity with respect to their application of the MHP Law to plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court grants the Town Council members' and the Town Supervisor's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. A. Civ. P. 56 on the grounds of qualified immunity.
Likewise, because plaintiffs have no right to continue to operate their trailer park in violation of the MHP Law's licensing requirements absent a variance, Mr. Hughes' conduct in issuing appearance tickets to plaintiffs for such violations does not encroach upon any of plaintiffs' constitutional or statutory rights. In fact, subsection 10.1 of the MHP Law specifically provides that "the Enforcement Officer shall have the authority to issue appearance tickets returnable in the Town Justice Court with respect to any violation herein without specific direction of the Town Board." Town of Newfield, N.Y., Local Law No. 2, subsection 10.1 (1989). Therefore, the court concludes that Mr. Hughes is entitled to the protection of qualified immunity because he reasonably believed that he was acting lawfully when he issued these appearance tickets. Accordingly, the court grants his motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. A. Civ. P. 56 on the grounds of qualified immunity.
C. Plaintiffs' State Causes of Action
In addition to their federal cause of action, plaintiffs assert violations of their state constitutional rights. The court need not spend much time discussing these state claims. The only basis for this court's jurisdiction over such claims is the doctrine of supplemental jurisdiction. Having dismissed plaintiffs' federal cause of action, it is within the court's discretion to decline to exercise its jurisdiction over their state constitutional claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); see also Castellano v. Board of Trustees, 937 F.2d 752, 758 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, U.S. , 112 S. Ct. 378, 116 L. Ed. 2d 329 (1991); Powell v. Gardner, 891 F.2d 1039 (2d Cir. 1989). Accordingly, the court declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over these claims and dismisses them pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1367(c)(3).
D. Defendants' Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions
Keeping in mind that plaintiffs at times have appeared pro se in this action and giving them the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions, the court denies defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions without prejudice. However, plaintiffs are advised that this court cannot, and will not, tolerate frivolous suits. If plaintiffs disregard this advise, they are forewarned that the court will entertain, and grant, defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions without hesitation.
Plaintiffs have failed to establish that they have a protected property interest in either a nonconforming use or the issuance of a variance from the MHP Law's licensing requirements. Consequently, they cannot maintain a section 1983 cause of action against the Town of Newfield and its officials based on a claim that their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights have been violated. In addition, the court concludes that it was reasonable for the Town Supervisor, the Town Council members, and the Code Enforcement Officer to believe that their application of the MHP Law to plaintiffs was within constitutional and statutory bounds. Therefore, they are entitled to the protection of the qualified immunity defense with respect to their official actions toward plaintiffs. Accordingly, the court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Furthermore, having disposed of plaintiffs' federal cause of action, the court declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state claims and dismisses them pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 1367.
Finally, the court denies defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions without prejudice and with leave to renew should plaintiffs fail to heed the court's advise with respect to this issue.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: April 4, 1992
Syracuse, New York
Neal P. McCurn
Chief, U.S. District Judge