IV. Municipal Liability
Plaintiffs have named as defendants the City of New York, ACS,
and both Mayor Giuliani and Commissioner Scoppetta in their
official capacities. Because the individual defendants are sued
only in their official capacities, the claims against all
defendants are properly analyzed under a theory of municipal
liability. See, e.g., Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) (stating
that "official-capacity suits generally represent only another
way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer
is an agent").
In Monell, the Supreme Court held that local governments are
not wholly immune from suit under § 1983. Id. at 663, 98 S.Ct.
2018. They can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary,
declaratory, or injunctive relief, where the alleged
unconstitutional action implements or executes a policy
statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted
and promulgated by that body's officers. See, e.g., id. at 690,
98 S.Ct. 2018; Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 597 (2d
Cir. 1999), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 120 S.Ct. 1832, 146
L.Ed.2d 776 (2000); Gottlieb v. County of Orange, 84 F.3d 511,
518 (2d Cir. 1996). The Supreme Court also determined that
municipalities may be held liable for "constitutional
deprivations visited pursuant to governmental `custom' even
though such a custom has not received formal approval through the
body's official decisionmaking channels." Monell, 436 U.S. at
690-91, 98 S.Ct. 2018.
Subsequent cases have interpreted Monell to mean that in
order to state a claim for municipal liability under § 1983,
plaintiffs must plead and eventually prove three elements: (1)
that an official policy or custom is in place; (2) that there is
a causal link between plaintiffs' alleged constitutional injury
and the policy or custom; and (3) that plaintiffs in fact
suffered a constitutional injury. See Zahra v. Town of
Southold, 48 F.3d 674, 685 (2d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted).
The Court finds that plaintiffs have pleaded municipal
liability under § 1983. They mount a direct challenge to the
"proclaimed policy" of ACS, an agency of the City of New York,
under which ACS resolves any ambiguity regarding the safety of a
child in favor of removal. See Complaint at ¶ 37. The causal
link is established because, according to plaintiffs, it is this
policy which has directly resulted in the various alleged
constitutional deprivations. See Complaint at ¶ 39. Finally,
the Court has already analyzed the various claims and determined
that several of them state constitutional violations.
Plaintiffs need not plead more than this in order to survive
defendants' Monell challenge. The Court agrees with the court
in Thomas v. New York City, 814 F. Supp. 1139 (E.D.N.Y. 1993),
which stated in a similar context, "[a]t the pleading stage,
civil rights litigants cannot be expected to be able to prove a
pattern of misconduct in great detail." Id. at 1151. Therefore,
the Court finds that defendants may be held liable under § 1983.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), FED. R. CIV. P., is denied and
defendants' request that this Court abstain is also denied.
Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), FED. R.
CIV. P., is granted in part and denied in part. The Court grants
defendants' motion to dismiss as it applies to plaintiffs'
religious discrimination claim. However, the Court denies their
motion to dismiss plaintiffs' substantive and procedural due
process claims, equal protection claim based on race, search and
seizure claim, and state law claims. The parties are directed to
confer and advise the Court on or before July 26, 2000 concerning
their availability to attend a scheduling conference.
It is so ordered.