Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

MCCORMACK SAND CO. v. TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD SOLI

March 27, 1997

McCORMACK SAND COMPANY, McC SAND COMPANY, McCORMACK SAND COMPANY, INC., and COW BAY SAND COMPANY, Plaintiffs, against TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, BENJAMIN ZWIRN, GERARD W. CUNNINGHAM, PAUL F. PONESSA, DONALD HIGGINS, JR., RAND A. BURGNER, TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD, THE TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD and ALFREDO LAMANNA TRUCKING, INC., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLEESON

 JOHN GLEESON, United States District Judge:

 This case is about stockpiles of sand and other material left at a mining site. The material was stockpiled and left by plaintiffs McCormack Sand Co., McC Sand Co., McCormack Sand Company Inc. and Cow Bay Sand Co. (collectively "McCormack Sand") when they vacated the site. *fn1" Two years later, the Town of North Hempstead Solid Waste Management Authority ("the Authority"), which owned the site, sold the stockpiled material. Plaintiffs claim that the material rightfully belonged to them, and that the Authority's sale of the sand violated their rights under the United States Constitution.

 The North Hempstead Defendants -- the Authority, the Town of North Hempstead ("the Town"), the Town Board of North Hempstead ("the Board"), and the individual members of the Board and the Authority -- have moved for summary judgment on the federal claims. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted. Because I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, they are dismissed.

 BACKGROUND

 In July of 1956, Morewood Realty Corporation ("Morewood"), the owner of a 460-acre tract of land in Port Washington, New York ("the property"), entered into a thirty-year License Agreement with Colonial Sand & Stone, Inc. ("Colonial"). In exchange for the payment of rents and royalties, Morewood granted Colonial an exclusive license to mine, process and transport sand, gravel and related products on the property. Through a series of transfers, Colonial assigned its rights under the License Agreement to the plaintiffs.

 From the time of these transfers until September 1989, plaintiffs operated a sand and gravel mine on the property. They mined and processed the sand and gravel on-site, then stockpiled the finished product until it could be sold and transported off the property. Plaintiffs also trucked in material to be mixed with the mined material when processing it for sale.

 In 1988, the Authority purchased the property from Morewood for $ 33 million. The Authority was planning to construct a solid waste disposal facility at the site. Before transferring title to the Authority, Morewood served notice on the plaintiffs that it was terminating the License Agreement. Plaintiffs sought and received a thirty-day extension, which permitted them to stay on the property until May 14, 1988.

 However, plaintiffs remained on the property for a considerably longer period of time. They claim that they were led to believe that they could do so in order to sell the remaining stockpiles of sand and other products. Defendants claim that the only reason plaintiffs were allowed to remain on the property was to permit them to comply with their remediation obligations under the License Agreement. On April 20, 1989, the Authority ordered plaintiffs to cease all activities on the property. In August 1989, the Authority directed plaintiffs to vacate the property. Plaintiffs left the property on September 8, 1989, leaving behind 26 stockpiles of sand and other material, as well as certain material left in a settling basin. For simplification, I will refer to all of the material at issue as "the stockpiled material" or "the sand".

 For most of the next two years, plaintiffs and defendants continued discussing plaintiffs' claims to the stockpiled material. Over plaintiffs' objection, on June 4, 1991, the Authority sold the stockpiled material to defendant Alfredo Lamanna Trucking, Inc. Shortly after the sale, plaintiffs commenced this action. *fn2"

 Plaintiffs allege violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as various torts under state law. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that defendants' sale of the stockpiled material violated their rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also allege that the Authority, the Town and the individual defendants entered into a conspiracy to "commit constitutional tort" against the plaintiffs. They seek declaratory relief, damages for the alleged violations of § 1983, attorneys fees, and several million dollars in damages on their state law claims.

 Section 1983 provides a cause of action for damages to persons who are deprived of a constitutional right by the conduct of an official acting "under color of" state law. However, not all injuries resulting from official misconduct give rise to a constitutional violation. Ordinary breach of contract by state officers, for example, does not necessarily establish a constitutional violation. Reich v. Beharry, 883 F.2d 239, 242 (3d Cir. 1989). This limitation reflects the bedrock principle that the United States Constitution is not a mere "font of tort law." Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701, 47 L. Ed. 2d 405, 96 S. Ct. 1155 (1976). The "constitutional shoals" confronting any effort to treat § 1983 as a general federal tort law have been repeatedly noted by the Supreme Court. Id. (citing Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 101-02, 29 L. Ed. 2d 338, 91 S. Ct. 1790 (1971)).

 To begin with, federalizing tort law would constitute a substantial encroachment on state lawmaking authority. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. at 698 (discussing the effect on the "relationship between the National and State Governments" if every legally cognizable injury committed by a state official established a constitutional violation). In addition, treating the Constitution and § 1983 as a general federal tort law could undermine the "great purposes" of the Due Process Clause. Reich v. Beharry, 883 F.2d at 242. The Constitution is not a grand compensation scheme; rather, it embodies our nation's most fundamental expression of the boundaries and scope of government power. These limitations are vital to the protection of ordered liberty. Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 82 L. Ed. 288, 58 S. Ct. 149 (1937). Section 1983 is an essential tool for enforcing these limitations. However, by substantially increasing the caseload of federal courts, overemphasis on compensation can "dilute the ability of federal courts to defend our most significant rights." Christina Whitman, Constitutional Torts, 79 Michigan Law Review 5, 25 (1980). Indeed, some commentators have argued that the compensation-driven explosion of § 1983 actions has in fact led to a narrowing of underlying constitutional rights. *fn3"

 It is thus imperative that courts maintain a balance between the importance of compensation as a tool for enforcing constitutional rights and the problems inherent in transforming the Constitution into a general federal tort law. With this principle in mind, I turn to plaintiffs' claims.

 A. The Summary Judgment Standard

 In order for the defendants to prevail on their motion for summary judgment, there must be no genuine issue of material fact and the undisputed facts must entitle them to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The court must consider pleadings, interrogatories, depositions, admissions, and affidavits. All ambiguities must be resolved and all inferences drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Services, Limited Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223 (2d Cir. 1994). The moving party may obtain summary judgment by showing that little or no evidence may be found in support of the non-moving party's case. When no rational jury could find in favor of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.