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DIEHL v. VILLAGE OF ANTWERP

May 12, 1997

STEPHEN DIEHL and MARY DIEHL, Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF ANTWERP, TOWN OF ANTWERP, THE COUNTY OF JEFFERSON, NEW YORK, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCANLON

 The parties have consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all further proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Currently before the Court is defendant Town of Antwerp's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint (dkt. 16), which plaintiffs oppose.

 The defendants in this action are the Village of Antwerp ("Village"), the Town of Antwerp ("Town"), and the County of Jefferson ("County").

 The following facts are accepted as true for the purposes of the Town's motion to dismiss. Beginning on December 11th and continuing through December 25, 1994, the First Congregational Church of Antwerp ("Church"), located in the Village of Antwerp, New York, broadcast amplified noise, sounds and music for lengthy periods of time from speakers located at its steeple. *fn1" The plaintiffs, Stephen and Mary Diehl, who are residents of the Village, found the volume and duration of these sounds so distressful that on either December 11th or 12th, they called the New York State Police to advise them of the noises. *fn2" Amend. Compl. at PP 4, 8-10. The state trooper who responded to the call allegedly told plaintiffs that the noises were loud enough to constitute a violation of New York State Penal Law. Plaintiffs further contend that the Church's conduct violated a Village ordinance relating to "Peace and Good Order," which prohibits persons or corporations from ringing a bell or making other improper noises that disturb the peace, comfort or health of the community. *fn3" Accordingly, on December 12, 1994, a criminal complaint arising out of Church's conduct was presented to each of Antwerp's Town Justices.

 The Town Justices, however, refused to act upon the complaints, so the State Police referred the matter to the Jefferson County District Attorney's office. On December 15, 1994, three days later, Mary Diehl personally appealed to that office for action. Amend. Compl. at PP 10-12. The District Attorney's office did not prosecute the criminal complaint, either. It explained that it had no power to do so because the violation was committed by a church, and further cited a petition supporting the Church's actions. The petition, which was initiated on December 14, 1994, at a Village Board of Trustees meeting, was signed by the entire Village Board, the mayor, one of the two Village clerks, and the employees of the Village Public Works Department. Amend. Compl. at PP 12- 13.

 On December 20, 1994, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York directed the Church to limit the amount of noise, sounds and music which were being amplified from its steeple. Amend. Compl. at P 15.

 Plaintiffs claim that by their failure to enforce local ordinances and the New York State Penal Code, the Village, Town and County have demonstrated improper preferences to the Church that deprived plaintiffs of their civil rights, as well as their constitutional right to equal protection of the law. They further maintain that the Village, Town and County's actions have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

 Plaintiffs seek compensatory relief and an Order from this Court directing defendants to take all steps required to enforce the applicable village and state law against the Church to ensure that the Church and its representatives are held responsible for their criminal conduct.

 DISCUSSION

 The Town's motion to dismiss, brought under FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(1), (6) and (7), is based upon three grounds: (1) that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) that the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; (3) and that plaintiffs have failed to join a party under Rule 19. The Court addresses these issues seriatim.

 I. Rule 12(b)(1) and Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

 The Town argues that plaintiffs' assertion of subject matter jurisdiction is wholly without merit, and therefore asks the Court to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Plaintiffs, meanwhile, allege that the Court has jurisdiction over their claims under § 1331 to redress their First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, and under § 1343(a)(4) "to secure civil rights under a statute of the United States." The Court finds that while it enjoys jurisdiction over plaintiffs' § 1331 claims, it does not have jurisdiction over their § 1343(a)(4) claims.

 Section 1331 confers original jurisdiction to district courts "of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiffs' invocation of § 1331 to redress their constitutional claims--addressed, infra --is proper. Examining the issue of federal jurisdiction in ...


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