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STORM v. TOWN OF WOODSTOCK

October 31, 1996

ABIGAIL STORM and WILLIAM CALLAGHAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE TOWN OF WOODSTOCK, NEW YORK, JOHN MOWER, Supervisor, Town of Woodstock, in his individual and official capacities, and DALE HUGHES, Councilperson, Town of Woodstock, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

 By Order dated January 25, 1996, this matter was referred to the undersigned by the Honorable Con. G. Cholakis for all further proceedings and the entry of final judgment upon the consent of the parties and in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 73.

 This is a civil rights action in which plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of a resolution and a local law enacted by the Town Board of the Town of Woodstock, New York (the "Town").

 Parties

 Plaintiffs are residents of the Town, defendant Mower is the Town Supervisor and a member of the Town Board, and defendant Hughes is a Town Councilperson and a member of the Town Board. The Town is also a defendant in this action.

 Background

 Plaintiffs are active participants in outdoor events called "full moon gatherings" which take place, weather permitting, on full moon evenings during spring, summer and fall months. According to plaintiffs, these gatherings are expressive, spiritual and religious in nature. The full moon gatherings at issue in this case are held at a location in the Town commonly referred to as the "Magic Meadow." Those who attend full moon gatherings have, for a number of years, parked their vehicles along the side of a public road that passes near the entrance to the Magic Meadow. The portion of this road that passes within approximately one-half mile of the entrance to the Magic Meadow is hereinafter referred to as the "Road."

 On or about August 4, 1994, the Town Board enacted a resolution (the "Resolution") which, inter alia, prohibited parking from "sunset to sunrise" along the Road. The individual defendants both voted in favor of the Resolution. Pursuant to the Resolution, various "No Parking Sunset to Sunrise" signs (the "Signs") were erected along the Road. Thus, in order to both attend full moon gatherings and comply with the Resolution, plaintiffs and other full moon gatherers had to park at least one-half mile from the entrance to the Magic Meadow and walk this distance along the Road, at night.

 On or about November 19, 1994, plaintiffs attended a full moon gathering at the Magic Meadow and were ticketed for parking their vehicles in violation of the Resolution. These tickets subjected plaintiffs to the jurisdiction of the local criminal court for possible monetary fine. Plaintiffs moved to dismiss the tickets on the ground that the Resolution violated their civil rights. The Town initially opposed plaintiffs' motion, but later withdrew its opposition when it became clear that the Signs should have been erected pursuant to local law rather than the Resolution. As a result, plaintiffs' tickets were dismissed.

 The Signs were thereafter removed, but apparently only for a few days. In any event, in May of 1995 the Town Board enacted a local law (the "Local Law") which, inter alia, again prohibited parking from "sunset to sunrise" along the Road. The individual defendants both voted in favor of the Local Law, citing "safety" concerns in support of their position. Those who are ticketed for violating the Local Law are subjected to the jurisdiction of the local criminal court for possible monetary fine. Thus, in order to both attend full moon gatherings and comply with the Local Law, plaintiffs and other full moon gatherers must park at least one-half mile from the entrance to the Magic Meadow and walk this distance along the Road, at night. As of the date of this decision, neither plaintiff has been ticketed for violating the Local Law.

 In their amended complaint (the "complaint"), which purports to be brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq. (hereinafter "RFRA"), plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of both the Resolution and the Local Law. *fn1" In addition, plaintiffs claim that the Local Law violates their rights under the First, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as their rights under RFRA.

 The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. Defendants' motion raises numerous grounds upon which they believe that plaintiffs' complaint should be dismissed, either in whole or in part.

 Discussion

 At the outset, it should be noted that plaintiffs' memorandum of law in opposition to defendants' motion fails to even mention their § 1985 claim. As a result, the court deems this claim to be abandoned. In addition, although the complaint sues defendants Mower and Hughes in both their individual and official capacities, plaintiffs have withdrawn their claims against these defendants in their individual capacities. Thus, before the court even addresses the merits of defendants' motion, all that remains of this lawsuit are plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against the Town and against defendants Mower and Hughes in their official capacities, and plaintiffs' RFRA claim.

 Standing and Ripeness

 Defendants claim that since plaintiffs have not yet been penalized for violating the Local Law the instant action should be dismissed on standing and/or ripeness grounds.

 A. Standing

 In order to have standing to invoke federal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must establish the following elements:

 
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact" -- an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) "actual or imminent, not 'conjectural' or 'hypothetical.'" Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of -- the injury has to be "fairly . . . traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not . . . the result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court." Third, it must be "likely," as opposed to merely "speculative," that the injury will be "redressed by a favorable decision."

 Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351, 112 S. Ct. 2130 (1992) (citations, quotations and footnote omitted).

 Plaintiffs have established each of these elements. They have demonstrated that they are under imminent threat of suffering a concrete and particularized injury (i.e., that they will-receive tickets subjecting them to the jurisdiction of the local criminal court if they park along the Road on the evening of a full moon gathering). In addition, this injury is both traceable to the ...


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