that he was in "imminent danger;" (4) subjecting Yoel to involuntary medical examinations at the hospital; (5) filing a family court abuse petition without reasonable cause to believe that any abuse had occurred; (6) failing to provide either adequate training or supervision to workers involved in the investigation of child abuse; (7) failing to provide adequate and timely notice either of Yoel's removal from the Schwimmer home or Yoel's location after he was removed from the home; (8) failing to place Yoel with a relative or family member; (9) failing to provide adequate and timely notice to the Schwimmers of the procedures to re-obtain Yoel; (10) failing to provide adequate and timely notice of either the defendants' findings with respect to allegations of child abuse or the procedures to amend or expunge information concerning the investigation; and (11) failing to provide access to case records. Plaintiffs also allege that, "as a result of the continued existence of the official patterns, practices and policies of this complaint, Plaintiffs, in any subsequent child abuse investigation, would again be subject to the same investigative procedures that would violate their rights." Amended Complaint, P 106. Plaintiffs seek relief declaring that defendants' patterns, practices and policies violated their rights and constituted an illegal search and seizure, and enjoining the defendants from such patterns, practices and policies.
Defendant Kaladjian now moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is granted.
Kaladjian contends that plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief should be dismissed as moot because plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate the existence of an ongoing case or controversy. The Court agrees.
Those who seek to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts must satisfy the threshold requirement imposed by Article III of the United States Constitution by alleging an actual case or controversy. See Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101, 75 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 1660 (1983); O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493, 38 L. Ed. 2d 674, 94 S. Ct. 669 (1974). The "actual case or controversy" doctrine requires plaintiffs to "demonstrate a 'personal stake in the outcome,' in order to 'assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues' necessary for the proper resolution of constitutional questions." Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. at 101 (quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 82 S. Ct. 691 (1962)). "Abstract injury is not enough." Id. Plaintiffs must show that they have sustained or are immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of the challenged conduct. 461 U.S. at 102.
A. Injunctive Relief
In order to establish the need for injunctive relief, the moving party must demonstrate that the defendant's conduct is causing him or her irreparable harm. Levin v. Harleston, 966 F.2d 85, 90 (2d Cir. 1992); Farmland Dairies v. McGuire, 789 F. Supp. 1243, 1250 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). This requirement cannot be met absent a showing of a real or immediate threat that the plaintiff will be wronged again. Id.; see also Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. at 111. While past wrongs are evidence bearing on whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury, "past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief . . . if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. at 493. Thus, "there must be sufficient immediacy, reality and causality between defendants' conduct and plaintiffs' allegations of future injury" to warrant injunctive relief. Weiser v. Koch, 632 F. Supp. 1369, 1373 (S.D.N.Y. 1986).
In this case, plaintiffs contend that they suffer from a real and immediate threat of injury as they have several young and active children who are likely to sustain innocent bruises which may result in the type of investigation and seizure that occurred here. The Court disagrees. Plaintiffs have failed to allege that they have been the subject of repeated investigations for possible child abuse. In fact, there is no evidence that plaintiffs are part of any unique group targeted by the defendants, or that they are more likely than any other family to be subject to the conduct allegedly committed herein. Absent a sufficient likelihood that they will again be wronged in a similar way in the future, plaintiffs are no more entitled to an injunction than any other citizen of New York State.
Accordingly, plaintiffs lack standing to obtain injunctive relief against Kaladjian. For the reasons set forth above, plaintiffs also lack standing to obtain injunctive relief against defendants Sabol, Little, Harris and Guilford.
B. Declaratory Relief
Plaintiffs contend that, even if they do not have standing to seek injunctive relief, they are nonetheless entitled to a judgment declaring that the defendants' patterns, practices and policies are violative of the rights secured by the United States Constitution, federal and state law, and that the defendants' conduct constituted an illegal search and seizure. The Court finds, however, that declaratory relief is not warranted in this case.
It is a fundamental rule that a court may not render advisory opinions. Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108, 22 L. Ed. 2d 113, 89 S. Ct. 956 (1969). Moreover, while the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2202, permits federal courts to make a declaration of rights "in a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction," id., § 2201, the United States Supreme Court has cautioned against the promulgation of declaratory judgments "on issues of public moment, even falling short of constitutionality, in speculative situations." Public Affairs Assocs., Inc. v. Rickover, 369 U.S. 111, 112, 82 S. Ct. 580, 7 L. Ed. 2d 604 (1962). Thus, although plaintiffs need not make a showing of irreparable harm in order to obtain a declaratory judgment, a claim for declaratory relief may be addressed by this Court only if "the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality." Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 402, 45 L. Ed. 2d 272, 95 S. Ct. 2330 (1975) (emphasis in original) (quoting Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273, 85 L. Ed. 826, 61 S. Ct. 510 (1941)).
While the question of whether a particular case presents a substantial controversy necessarily is one of degree, see Long Island Lighting Co. v. County of Suffolk, New York, 604 F. Supp. 759, 762 (E.D.N.Y. 1985), the Court finds that plaintiffs' allegations of future misconduct consist of no more than mere speculation. Specifically, plaintiffs' fears that they will again be subject to the conduct set forth in the Amended Complaint cannot be realized absent the occurrence of several future events, including: (1) a minor plaintiff sustaining innocent injuries; (2) such injuries being reported to the Central Registry; (3) plaintiffs being investigated and examined for suspected child abuse; (4) such investigation resulting in the same conduct complained of in the Amended Complaint. Given this number of contingencies, plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief is inappropriate.
See Long Island Lighting Co. v. County of Suffolk, New York, 604 F. Supp. at 762 (granting defendant's motion to dismiss where plaintiff's request for declaratory relief did not present a ripe controversy). Accordingly, plaintiffs lack standing to obtain declaratory relief against Kaladjian.
Plaintiffs similarly lack standing to obtain declaratory relief against defendants Sabol, Little, Harris and Guilford.
For the reasons set forth above, defendant Kaladjian's motion to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), is granted in its entirety. Furthermore, the Court dismisses, sua sponte, those portions of plaintiffs' claims that seek injunctive and/or declaratory relief against defendants Sabol, Little, Harris and Guilford in this action. The remaining parties in this case are directed to appear before this Court for a pre-trial conference on Thursday, November 18, 1993, at 10:30 a.m.
SHIRLEY WOHL KRAM
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: New York, New York
October 7, 1993