C. County Executive Gaffney Is Entitled to Absolute Immunity
In Forrester, the Supreme Court explains that state executive officials are not entitled to absolute immunity for their official actions. Forrester, 484 U.S. at 225. Thus, Plaintiffs argue, County Executive Gaffney, can have no greater immunity than that afforded to executives on a state level.
Gaffney, however, does not claim executive immunity; he seeks absolute legislative immunity because his act of signing the resolution was legislative in nature. It is clear that his right to such immunity is not determined by his position in the executive branch, but by the function he performed regarding the operative facts. See Forrester, 484 U.S. at 224.
In the instant case, Gaffney is alleged to have signed the Resolution which affected Plaintiffs' employment. Gaffney notes that under the Suffolk County Charter, any local law passed by the legislators must be presented to the County Executive for his approval. This action, he argues, is legislative in nature. See Edwards v. United States, 286 U.S. 482, 491, 76 L. Ed. 1239, 52 S. Ct. 627 (1932) (President's signing into law of a bill passed by Congress is a legislative act); Aitchison, 708 F.2d at 99 (mayor's vote to pass an ordinance abolishing the position of assistant building inspector is legislative act); Burkhart Advertising, Inc. v. City of Auburn, 786 F. Supp. 721, 736 (N.D. Ind. 1991) (mayor's signing into law a zoning ordinance imposing a ban on billboards is legislative act); Drayton, 699 F. Supp. at 1156-57 (city manager who proposed the elimination of a municipal position which is subsequently abolished by act of city council is entitled to legislative immunity).
This Court finds that under the required functional analysis test, Gaffney's act in signing the Resolution was clearly legislative in nature. Therefore he is entitled to absolute legislative immunity.
D. Absolute Immunity Does Not Apply To The County
The County argues that the claims against it should be dismissed because Plaintiffs would be unable to prove any political motives behind the individual defendants' actions. The County relies on Schlitz v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 854 F.2d 43, 45-46 (4th Cir. 1988), an action brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act wherein the Fourth Circuit extended the absolute legislative immunity afforded to individual state legislators to encompass absolute immunity for the State on the ground that otherwise the legislators would have been required to testify regarding their motives in casting certain votes. Similarly, the County contends that it is entitled to summary judgment because the individual legislators, by virtue of their absolute immunity, should be protected from discovery relating to their motives for voting for the Resolution. See Hollyday v. Rainey, 964 F.2d 1441, 1443 (4th Cir.) (granting absolute immunity to municipal defendant in § 1983 action on basis of legislative immunity), cert. denied 121 L. Ed. 2d 567, 113 S. Ct. 636 (1992).
It does not appear that the Fourth Circuit's position in Schlitz and Hollyday has been adopted by other courts. Moreover, in Herbst, the district court, relying on Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. 622, 63 L. Ed. 2d 673, 100 S. Ct. 1398 (1980) and Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978), specifically rejected the application of legislative immunity to the municipal defendant. See also Goldberg v. Town of Rocky Hill, 973 F.2d at 74 (noting that "there is no immunity defense, whether qualified or absolute, available to the municipality" and that "developments in federal law over the last 30 years have tied the constitutionality of many types of municipal legislation directly to the purpose and motive of the legislators."). Accordingly, the County's motion for summary judgment is denied.
E. Claims Against Executive and Legislator Defendants in Their Official Capacity Are Dismissed
A suit against a municipal officer in his official capacity is functionally equivalent to a suit against the entity of which the officer is an agent. Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72, 83 L. Ed. 2d 878, 105 S. Ct. 873 (1985); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985) ("any damage award may be satisfied by looking only to the entity itself, not the official"). Therefore, it would be redundant to allow the suit to proceed against both Suffolk County and the individuals in their official capacity. Kohn v. Mucia, 776 F. Supp. 348 (N.D. Ill. 1991) (dismissing suits against defendants sued in their official capacity because the city is a named defendant); see Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764 (11th Cir. 1991) (affirming directed verdict in favor of city officials where the city remained a defendant). Accordingly, because Plaintiffs have a claim against the County of Suffolk, their claims against the County Executive and the legislators in their official capacity are dismissed.
F. Plaintiffs' Pendent State Claim Is Not Time-Barred
Resolution No. 53-1992 was signed into law on or about February 4, 1992. The instant suit was filed in February 1993. Defendant legislators argue that Plaintiffs' New York State Civil Service Law § 107 claim should be dismissed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. They contend that the applicable statute of limitations is the four months provided for actions brought under New York CPLR Article 78.
Proceedings under Article 78, however, challenge administrative actions. Because this Court finds that Defendants' actions in this case were legislative, the applicable statute of limitations is three years, as provided by CPLR § 214(2).
Thus, Plaintiffs' state law claim is not time-barred.
G. Plaintiffs' Conspiracy Claim Is Dismissed With Leave to Amend
A claim of conspiracy to violate civil rights requires more than just general allegations of collusion. Ostrer v. Aronwald, 567 F.2d 551, 553 (2d Cir. 1977); Powell v. Workmen's Compensation Board, 327 F.2d 131, 137 (2d Cir. 1964). Although Plaintiffs allege that Defendants conspired to illegally manipulate the Civil Service System, Plaintiffs fail to state any particularities which support this allegation. The complaint does not include times, facts or circumstances of the alleged conspiracy.
Therefore, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' conspiracy claim should be dismissed for failure to plead with specificity.
Relying on Leatherman v. Tarrant Co. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517, 113 S. Ct. 1160 (1993), Plaintiffs argue that this Court may not apply a "heightened pleading standard" merely because this is a civil rights case alleging municipal liability under § 1983. In Leatherman, however, the plaintiffs alleged only a civil rights violation under § 1983 against the municipality; they did not allege a conspiracy between the municipality and its officers. It is the conspiracy charge in the instant case which requires more specific pleading. Leatherman does not change this requirement.
Accordingly, this Court dismisses the conspiracy charge and grants Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to include specific allegations in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy.
H. Defendants Are Not Entitled to Attorney's Fees
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the legislator Defendants seek to recover their reasonable attorney's fees. Section 1988 states that a court may, in its discretion, award reasonable attorney's fees to the prevailing party in an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although the claims against the individual defendants are dismissed on the ground of absolute legislative immunity, this Court finds that Plaintiffs' claims were not frivolous; thus the Court does not impose the cost of Defendants' attorneys on Plaintiffs.
For the aforementioned reasons, all claims against the Legislators and the Suffolk County Executive in their individual capacity are dismissed on the ground of absolute legislative immunity. Because the County of Suffolk remains a defendant in the case, the claims against the Legislators and the County Executive in their official capacity are dismissed as well.
This Court maintains jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' supplemental state claim. Additionally, Plaintiffs' claim of conspiracy is dismissed with leave to amend and the defendant legislators' request for an award of attorney's fees is denied.
LEONARD D. WEXLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: Hauppauge, New York
September 13, 1993