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HAHN v. COUNTY OF OTSEGO

May 5, 1993

KENNETH C. HAHN & ELLEN HAHN, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF OTSEGO, OTSEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEP'T, OTSEGO COUNTY SHERIFF MARTIN A. RALPH, "JOHN DOE" and "JOHN ROE", the names "JOHN DOE" and "JOHN ROE", being fictitious and being intended to represent officers and individuals whose identities are unknown at this time but who were officers, agents or employees of the defendants, JOHN E. KURDZIOLEK, COOPERSTOWN ASSEMBLY OF GOD CHURCH, and the NEW YORK DISTRICT OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD CHURCH, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID N. HURD

 United States Magistrate Judge

 MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

 Presently before this court is a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint by defendants County of Otsego, Otsego County Sheriff's Department, Otsego County Sheriff Martin A. Ralph ("Otsego County defendants"). There is also before this court a cross-motion made by defendants John E. Kurdziolek ("Rev. Kurdziolek"), Cooperstown Assembly of God Church, and the New York District of the Assemblies of God Church ("Church defendants"), to dismiss the three causes of action against them.

 FACTS

 The plaintiffs, Kenneth Hahn and Ellen Hahn, husband and wife, prior to July 1990, were members in good standing of the Cooperstown Assembly of God Church ("Church"), Town of Otsego, Otsego County, New York. Plaintiff, Kenneth Hahn, was the treasurer of the Church. In February 1990, Rev. Kurdziolek became pastor of the Church. Plaintiffs contend that as pastor of the Church, Rev. Kurdziolek engaged in debatable behavior in his operation of the Church. He alleges that after he began to question Rev. Kurdziolek about his conduct, "the defendant set out [on] a deliberate and planned course of action to publicly humiliate, shame and embarrass both myself and my wife which ultimately resulted in the wrongful termination of our membership in that church." See Affidavit of Kenneth C. Hahn, at P 4.

 On February 10, 1991, plaintiffs attended a Sunday morning service at the Church with the intentions of addressing the congregation about the alleged wrongful conduct of Rev. Kurdziolek. *fn1" While attending the service, plaintiffs claim that they conducted themselves in an orderly manner, simply requesting permission to address the congregation. Their request was rejected by Rev. Kurdziolek. Plaintiffs maintain that at no time did they disrupt the service.

 The Church defendants allege that plaintiffs were terminated as members of the Church due to a dispute which arose in February 1990. Approximately one year later, on February 10, 1991, plaintiffs attended the Sunday service, and just when Rev. Kurdziolek began his sermon, they became loud and disruptive. Plaintiffs were then asked to leave the Church but refused to do so. Because of this disruption, Rev. Kurdziolek canceled the morning service. Defendants allege that plaintiffs told the Church members that they would return each Sunday until they were allowed to speak. After the plaintiffs left, the Church contacted the Otsego Sheriff's Department to complain of plaintiffs' conduct. Shortly thereafter Deputy Sheriff Glenn Davis ("Davis") arrived at the Church and, after a discussion, James A. Ainslie ("Ainslie"), secretary of the Church, advised Davis that the Church desired to prosecute plaintiffs for the misdemeanor crime of disrupting or disturbing a religious service. *fn2"

 On February 11, 1991, after obtaining an executed criminal complaint from Ainslie, Davis proceeded to the residence of the plaintiffs and escorted them back to the Sheriff's Department. *fn3" Plaintiffs were then formally charged with aggravated disorderly conduct. Plaintiffs contend that at no time were they allowed give an account of their side of the events which occurred on February 10, 1991. Plaintiffs then appeared before Town Justice James F. Wolff and pled not guilty to aggravated disorderly conduct. Justice Wolff also issued a Temporary Order of Protection, preventing plaintiffs from any contact whatsoever with Rev. Kurdziolek and the governing board of the Church. Subsequently, in May 1991, the charges against plaintiffs were dismissed on the motion of the District Attorney, in the interest of justice, upon their representation that they would refrain from any such conduct in the future. *fn4"

 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

 A motion for summary judgment may be granted only when the moving party carries its burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Goldman, Antonetti, Ferraiuoli, Axtmayer & Hertell, Partnership v. Medfit Int'l, Inc, 982 F.2d 686, 689 (1st Cir. 1993); Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). "Ambiguities or inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion." Id. In other words, a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 shall be granted only when the pleadings, evidence obtained through discovery, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Company, 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d Cir. 1991). Therefore, "summary judgment will not lie if the dispute about a material fact is genuine, that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 Thus, if the nonmoving party can not produce sufficient evidence to support the jury verdict, summary judgment is proper. Id. at 249. "In determining how a reasonable jury would decide, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences against the moving party." Lang, 949 F.2d at 580. However, when the moving party has met the burden, the nonmoving party must do more than "simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Electric Industrial Company v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986); see also Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247-48. At that point, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. "The judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter," Liberty Lobby, at 248, "such is the prerogative of the finder of fact." Murphy v. Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, ...


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