month, the Town Board adopted amendments to the Town's zoning ordinances which reduced maximum densities for a number of properties within the Town, including the proposed site for The Commons.
The day following the adoption of the zoning amendments, but before their enactment, plaintiff commenced suit against defendants in their individual capacities in the New York State Supreme Court, Dutchess County. Plaintiff seeks damages including $ 255,000 in acquisition costs, $ 66,333 in professional fees, and $ 13 million in lost profits. Defendants removed the case to federal court based upon the federal claims raised by the plaintiff. Defendants presently move for summary judgment.
A. SUMMARY JUDGMENT
To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that [it] is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The court's function is not to resolve disputed issues of facts but solely to determine if such genuine issues of fact exist. All ambiguities must be resolved and all inferences drawn in favor of the party defending against the motion. Rattner v. Netburn, 930 F.2d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 1991).
Summary judgment is also warranted where non-moving party has no evidentiary support for an essential element on which it bears burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Note, however, that where a defendant's intent and state of mind are implicated, summary judgment is ordinarily inappropriate. See Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comrs., 834 F.2d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1987).
Plaintiff raises numerous arguments to oppose Defendants' summary judgment motion. We shall address each in turn.
Defendants claim that they have absolute immunity from Plaintiff's claims against them in their individual capacities because the allegedly offending actions were undertaken by Defendants in their capacities as legislators.
1. Acts of Municipal Legislators
In support of their position, Defendants cite Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 59 L. Ed. 2d 401, 99 S. Ct. 1171 (1979). Lake Country did not hold that absolute immunity extended to local legislators. In fact, the court explicitly avoided that issue, saying: "Whether individuals performing legislative functions at the purely local level, as opposed to the regional level, should be afforded absolute immunity from federal damages claims is a question not presented in this case." Id. at 404 n. 26.
However, the issue was directly faced in Dusanenko v. Maloney, 560 F. Supp. 822 (S.D.N.Y. 1983), aff'd, 726 F.2d 82 (2d Cir. 1984). Citing decisions of other circuits and a district court,
the court held that local legislators are absolutely immune from suit for actions taken in their legislative capacity. Id. at 826. The decision recounted the historical basis and function of immunity, outlined in Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 95 L. Ed. 1019, 71 S. Ct. 783 (1951), and Lake Country, in guaranteeing government officials the freedom to carry out their responsibilities according to their consciences and not due to the fear of legal action. Id. at 826-27. The court went on to say:
Obviously, if the voters in this relatively small suburban and rural community think that a transitory majority of its Town Board dealt unfairly with [plaintiffs], it can vindicate their interests at the next Town election. Not every arguably wrong decision made by local legislators is susceptible of redress in the federal courts.