MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Defendant Peter & John's Pump House, Inc., d/b/a Club Chameleon (the "Club") moved to dismiss the complaint of the People of the State of New York (the "State") pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The Club chiefly contends that plaintiff lacks standing to pursue its federal claims.
Because defendant moved to dismiss the State's complaint under Rule 12(b), for the purposes of this decision I will accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and draw inferences from these allegations in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S. Ct. 99, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957)). The State commenced this action on October 11, 1994, against defendant, which operates a nightclub in Syracuse, New York.
In its complaint, the State alleges that defendant "has engaged and continues to engage in a practice and policy of refusing admission to African Americans because of their race or color, by requiring African Americans to present proof of age that is not demanded of white patrons, or imposing a dress code on African Americans not imposed on white patrons." Compl. P 8. The complaint provides eight examples of defendant's discriminatory conduct by describing incidents involving sixteen individuals that took place between August 1993 and April 1994. Id. P 9. The Club has denied engaging in any discriminatory conduct. Answer P 4.
The State contends that defendant's discriminatory conduct violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The complaint also alleges that the Club violated various state laws: N.Y. Exec. L. §§ 63(12), 296(2)(a) (McKinney 1992); N.Y. Civ. Rights L. §§ 40, 40-c (McKinney 1992); and N.Y. Alco. Bev. Cont. L. § 65(4) (McKinney Supp. 1996). The State seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, statutory penalties, and attorney's fees and costs.
The Club moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that the State failed to establish parens patriae standing. The Club also moved to dismiss plaintiff's pendent state law claims. The State opposed the motion, and oral argument took place on May 22, 1995.
Parens patriae standing has its roots in the English common law, which recognized the "royal prerogative" of the state to care for the legal affairs of infants, idiots and lunatics. See Alfred L. Snapp & Son, Inc., v. Puerto Rico, 458 U.S. 592, 600, 73 L. Ed. 2d 995, 102 S. Ct. 3260 (1982) (citing cases). However, parens patriae standing in American courts must involve more than a state merely stepping in to represent the interests of particular citizens. Id. The state "must assert an injury to what has been characterized as a 'quasi-sovereign' interest, which is a judicial construct that does not lend itself to a simple or exact definition." Id. at 601. Quasi-sovereign interests are those that "the State has in the well-being of its populace," but these interests must be "sufficiently concrete to create an actual controversy between the State and the defendant." Id. at 602.
After surveying the doctrine's history, the Supreme Court in Snapp established the following requirements for parens patriae standing: (1) the state must express a quasi-sovereign interest, which is an interest apart from the interests of the particular private parties; and (2) the state must allege injury to a sufficiently substantial segment of its population.
Snapp, 458 U.S. at 607. Additionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit interpreted Snapp to require a finding that individuals could not obtain complete relief through a private suit.
People of the State of New York v. 11 Cornwell Co., 695 F.2d 34, 40 (2d Cir. 1982), vacated in part on other grounds, 718 F.2d 22 (2d Cir. 1983) (en banc); see also Mid Hudson Medical Group, 877 F. Supp. 143, 148-49; Holiday Inns, 656 F. Supp. 675, 678; In re John DeFelice, 77 Bankr. 376, 380 (Bankr. D. Conn. 1987).
II. Quasi-sovereign interest
Defendant concedes that the State has a quasi-sovereign interest in preventing racial discrimination of its citizens. Def. Reply Mem. at 1. Indeed, the Second Circuit expressly has acknowledged this quasi-sovereign interest. 11 Cornwell Co., 695 F.2d at 39.
III. Affected state population
The Club argues that the State failed to allege injury to a sufficiently substantial segment of its population because its complaint contains allegations concerning only eight
African Americans, resulting in the de minimis proportion of 0.00004 percent of New York's total population. The Club contends that the State must do more than assert that the individuals described in the complaint are examples of a larger group of purported victims or claim general societal harm from discriminatory practices. The State responds that the individual instances of discrimination noted in its complaint are illustrative examples of the Club's wide-reaching conduct, which affects many African Americans as well as the general fabric of society.
There is no numerical talisman to establish parens patriae standing:
The [Supreme] Court has not attempted to draw any definitive limits on the proportion of the population of the State that must be adversely affected by the challenged behavior. Although more must be alleged than injury to an identifiable group of individual residents, the indirect effects of the injury must be considered as well in determining whether the State has alleged injury to a sufficiently substantial segment of its population.