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DUPAUL v. JACKSON

June 16, 1998

TAMMY DuPAUL, et al, Plaintiffs -vs- RICHARD JACKSON, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRAGUSA

DECISION and ORDER

 Defendant, Richard Jackson, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, through his attorney, Assistant Attorney General Emil J. Bove, has filed a motion [document # 5] for dismissal under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure § 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs have filed no written response, but at oral argument of their motion for a preliminary injunction [document # 2] on May 21, 1998, plaintiff, Kenneth DuPaul, responded orally to the points raised in the defendant's motion. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendant's motion and deny's plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and lifts the previously imposed temporary restraining order.

 BACKGROUND

 The plaintiffs, Geraldine H. DuPaul, Tammy DuPaul, and Kenneth W. DuPaul, seek to have a portion of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law § 332 declared unconstitutional. Jurisdiction in this case is based on a federal question. The DuPauls allege that § 332, which permits the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to suspend the license and registration of drivers who have an unsatisfied small claims judgment against them, is unconstitutional. They argue six distinct claims:

 
(1) Small claims actions are simplified and informal, lacking proper rules of pleadings and a lower burden of proof;

 (2) Small claims actions are not bound by consolidated laws and rules, even when there is another action pending in another court;

 (3) Small claims actions have no res judicata effect;

 (4) It is a requirement that one party to a small claims action not be represented by an attorney;

 (5) The Court does not inform you that you run the risk of losing your driving and registration privileges; and

 (6) Small Claims Court practices are fraught with abuse and malfeasance.

 In addition, the plaintiffs raise an equal protection claim in that persons convicted of alcohol related offenses are permitted to have restricted licenses, but not persons in situations similar to the DuPauls'. They are seeking by their motion a preliminary injunction to enjoin defendant from enforcing § 332 against them pending the outcome of their federal suit. Some factual background is necessary to understand their claim.

 According to the papers before the Court and information presented at oral argument, plaintiff Kenneth DuPaul was operating a 1993 Saturn at 10:40 p.m. on September 14, 1994 on Joseph Avenue in Rochester, New York, when he attempted to make a left turn on to Pardee Street, and struck a 1990 Chevrolet stake truck owned and operated by Peter F. Iascone. The Saturn was registered to Tammy DuPaul, but owned by Geraldine DuPaul at the time of the collision. Bankers and Shippers Insurance Company disclaimed coverage on Mr. Iascone's claim against them in a letter dated October 22, 1994. The insurance company's letter stated that the policy had been canceled on March 10, 1994, which was prior to the date of the accident of September 14, 1994.

 In July of 1995, Peter F. Iascone brought a small claims action in the Town of Sodus Point Justice Court against the plaintiffs for property damage from the accident. The Justice Court issued a judgment on behalf of Peter F. Iascone on September 28, 1995. All three plaintiffs appealed the Order and Judgement of that court to the Wayne County Court which reversed the Justice Court judgment on March 20, 1996 and remanded the case for another hearing. After a second hearing on the case, the Town Justice Court awarded a judgment in favor of Peter F. Iascone against all three plaintiffs in the amount of one thousand thirty-eight dollars and thirty-five cents ($ 1,038.35), costs of one hundred thirteen dollars and fifty-six cents ($ 113.56) for a total of one thousand fifty-one dollars and ninety-one cents ($ 1,051.91). The DuPaul's again appealed, but never perfected the record and their appeal was eventually dismissed by Judge Sirkin, Acting Supreme Court Justice, on October 16, 1997.

 Notice of Judgment was issued by the Town of Sodus Justice Court for one thousand fifty-one dollars and ninety-one cents ($ 1,051.91) on July 31, 1996. On or about October 1, 1996, Peter F. Iascone, the judgement creditor, filed a supporting affirmation with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Insurance Services Bureau. In the affirmation he alleged that all three plaintiffs were judgment debtors, that they had appealed the judgement, that the time to appeal the judgment had expired and that no appeals were pending and that one thousand three hundred seventy-five dollars and eighty-five cents ($ 1,375.85) was due and owing. Based upon the affirmation, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles suspended the license and registration of plaintiffs Geraldine DuPaul, Kenneth DuPaul, and Tammy DuPaul. The Order of Suspension or Revocation, issued on November 30, 1996, stated that the license and registration of each of the plaintiffs was suspended "until judgment in favor of Peter F. Iascone is satisfied, vacated, stayed or the Court authorizes ...


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