damages analysis. It is that analysis to which the court turns.
It has long been held that Section 1983 does not allow a State
to be called into Federal Court to answer in damages for the
alleged deprivation of a federal right. Will v. Michigan Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d
45 (1989). Absent a valid waiver, such lawsuits are barred by
the Eleventh Amendment. See Pennhurst State School & Hospital
v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100-01, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67
(1984); Kostok v. Thomas, 105 F.3d 65, 68 (2d Cir. 1997); Lee
v. New York State Dep't of Correctional Services, 1999 WL
673339 * 13 (S.D.N.Y. August 30, 1999); Baird v. New York State
Exec. Department, 1998 WL 690951 * 2 (N.D.N.Y. September 28,
1998); Levy v. Lerner, 853 F. Supp. 636, 640 (E.D.N.Y. 1994),
aff'd, 52 F.3d 312 (2d Cir. 1995).
Where, as here, Plaintiff commences a Section 1983 lawsuit in
federal court seeking money damages, New York has not waived its
immunity from a damages award and the case is barred. Jones v.
New York State Div. Of Military & Naval Affairs, 166 F.3d 45,
49 (2d Cir. 1999); Trotman v. Palisades Interstate Park
Commission, 557 F.2d 35, 39 (2d Cir. 1977); 557 F.2d at 39;
Marable v. Kurtz, 2000 WL 1279763 * 5 (S.D.N.Y. September 11,
2000); Stephens v. State University of New York at Buffalo,
11 F. Supp.2d 242, 251 (W.D.N.Y. 1998); Levy, 853 F. Supp. at 640.
Plaintiffs counter this argument by relying on certain cases
awarding money damages under Section 1983 as compensation for a
violation of the IDEA. See Butler, 106 F. Supp.2d 414, 420
(N.D.N.Y. 2000); Mason v. Schenectady City Sch. District,
879 F. Supp. 215, 220 (N.D.N.Y. 1993). The cases relied upon,
however, were brought against school districts and none allowed
an award of money damages against a state. Nor do any of the
cases cited discuss the Eleventh Amendment immunity issue. Under
these circumstances, the court finds these cases unpersuasive
and instead adheres to the well-established rule that money
damages are not available against the State of New York in a
lawsuit brought pursuant to Section 1983.
3. State Law Claims for Money Damages
Just as the Eleventh Amendment bars claims for relief under
federal law, it acts as a bar to state law claims brought
against a state in federal court. Winokur v. Office of Court
Administration, 2002 WL 397657 *6 (E.D.N.Y. March 14, 2002).
Plaintiffs' memorandum of law characterizes their state law
claims not as state claims but, instead, as "federal" claims. It
appears that Plaintiffs argue that state law is referenced only
to incorporate standards for referral when enforcing the IDEA.
The court has decided the damages issues with respect to the
IDEA. To the extent that Plaintiffs' state law claims, are, in
fact, IDEA claims, the governing law has been previously
4. Statute of Limitations
As noted, the State Defendants seek to bar any claim based
upon an 1991 site review of the School District conducted by the
State on the ground that this matter is newly raised in the
third amended complaint and is time-barred. This claim raises
factual questions that are not appropriately dressed in the
context of this motion. The court will await trial of this
matter and, at that time, rule on the timeliness of this claim.
V. Injunctive Relief: Ex Parte Young
Requests for injunctive relief against a State do not stand on
the same ground as those for money damages. In the limited
circumstance where a state official is acting in a manner that
is contrary to federal law, a court may award certain injunctive
relief to remedy that violation. Such actions are authorized
under the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct.
441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908); see Ward v. Thomas, 207 F.3d 114,
119 (2d Cir. 2000); Baird v. New York State Executive
Department, 1998 WL 690951 *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. 1998).
Ex parte Young allows a federal court challenge to the
actions of a state official who is acting in an unconstitutional
manner. Such lawsuits are authorized to "vindicate the supremacy
of [federal] law." Ward, 207 F.3d at 119 (citations omitted);
New York City Health and Hosp. Corp., 50 F.3d at 134; see
Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 105, 104 S.Ct. 900. Thus, where an
injunction seeks to remedy an ongoing state practice that
violates federal law, imposition of prospective injunctive
relief does not run afoul of the Eleventh Amendment. Baird
1998 WL 690951 *3. Even if the prospective relief ordered has an
effect on the state treasury, it is not barred, by that fact
alone, by the Eleventh Amendment.
Importantly, lawsuits brought under Ex parte Young, may not
culminate in an order compensating for past violations of
federal law. A plaintiff may not, therefore, seek even equitable
relief (such as reinstatement to an employment position) as
compensation for past, isolated state conduct. Instead,
plaintiffs remedy is limited to prospective relief and certain
ancillary damages. Ancillary damages permissible under the
Eleventh Amendment include the imposition of fines and awards of
attorneys' fees. New York City Health and Hosp. Corp., 50 F.3d
Applying the principles above leads to the conclusion that,
even in an action brought pursuant to an Ex parte Young
theory, money damages as a remedy for past violations of federal
law are not available against the State Defendants. Prospective
injunctive relief for any finding of a continuing violation of
federal law, along with any applicable attorneys' fee, is,
however, available to Plaintiffs.
As a final matter, the court addresses the State Defendants'
argument that an Ex parte Young action may not be pursued for
a violation of Section 504. In Garcia, the court noted that
the Eleventh Amendment bar to lawsuits brought for a violation
of the ADA would not bar an action for prospective injunctive
relief on an Ex parte Young theory. Garcia, 280 F.3d at 115;
see Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett
531 U.S. 356, 374 n. 9, 121 S.Ct. 955, 148 L.Ed.2d 866 (2001).
The State Defendants argue that while such lawsuits might be
authorized to redress a violation of Title II of the ADA, they
may not be brought pursuant to Section 504. Specifically, it is
argued that because Section 504 prohibits conduct only by
"entities," and an Ex parte Young lawsuit names only an
individual as a defendant, it is not a proper Ex parte Young
action. This position is without merit. Both Section II of the
ADA (which was at issue in Garcia) and Section 504 prohibit
conduct by "entities." The Second Circuit's holding that an Ex
parte Young lawsuit may be brought to redress a violation of
Title II of the ADA is, therefore, equally applicable to
lawsuits brought pursuant to Section 504. Thus, Plaintiffs may
pursue their claims (including their Section 504 claims) for
prospective injunctive relief against the State Defendants.
VI. Compensatory Education
Much is made in the parties' memoranda as to the availability
of an award for "compensatory education." Such awards require
that provision be made for providing students with the special
education services to which they have
always been entitled. The parties' opposing positions appear to
stem from a semantical argument — the State refers to
compensatory education as traditional compensatory damages and
Plaintiffs refer to such awards a equitable relief.
Case law holds that claims for compensatory education, while
requiring the expenditure of funds, are not viewed in the same
manner as claims for general compensatory damages for Eleventh
Amendment purposes. While such claims may involve the
expenditure of funds, they are characterized as prospective in
nature and therefore are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Garro v. State of Connecticut, 23 F.3d 734, 736 (2d Cir.
1994); see Burr v. Sobol, 888 F.2d 258, 259 (2d Cir. 1989).
Thus, to the extent that Plaintiffs can prove any rights to
compensatory educational services, such awards will not be
precluded by the Eleventh Amendment.
VII. Summary of Holdings and Relief Available
For the reasons set forth above, the court holds as follows:
• Plaintiffs' IDEA is not barred by the failure to
exhaust administrative remedies and that claim may be
pursued against the State Defendants;
• The State Defendants make no claim of Eleventh
Amendment immunity from IDEA claims and, in light of
that fact, the court holds that no such immunity bars
the IDEA claims herein;
• Neither general compensatory nor punitive damages
are available under the IDEA;
• While claims for reimbursement of amounts
unilaterally spent by parents for special education
services are available under the IDEA, Plaintiffs
have made no such claims in this action and therefore
no award reflecting any such payment will be made;
• The State Defendants have not waived their Eleventh
Amendment sovereign immunity from claims based upon
violations of Section 504;
• Plaintiffs may pursue their Section 504 claims by
way of an Ex parte Young action for prospective
injunctive relief. Such relief includes claims for
• The State Defendants have not waived their Eleventh
Amendment sovereign immunity from any claim based
upon a violation of New York State law;
• Plaintiffs may pursue their IDEA and Section 504
claims by way of an action pursuant to Section 1983.
However, Plaintiffs may not recover money damages in
any such action for the remedy of past violations of
federal law. Instead, Plaintiffs may recover only an
award of prospective injunctive relief under an Ex
parte Young theory. Such relief includes claims for
compensatory education and the ancillary relief of
• The parties are to communicate with each other
regarding Plaintiffs' demands and the State
Defendants' responses thereto as follows:
If Plaintiffs wish to proceed to trial with their claims they
are ordered to communicate that position to the State Defendants
in writing within thirty days of the date of this order. At the
same time, Plaintiffs must make a written demand upon the State
Defendants that articulates the precise injunctive relief and
compensatory education services that they seek. The State
Defendants § hall respond to that demand, in writing, within
thirty days of their receipt of Plaintiffs' demand. The parties
are ordered, within fifteen days of Plaintiffs' receipt of the
State Defendants' response to Plaintiffs' demand, to contact the
court and advise the court of the status of this matter. If this
case has not been
settled by that time, a final pretrial conference will be held
and a firm trial date set.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion to dismiss Plaintiffs'
complaint is granted in part and denied in part. The Clerk of
the Court is directed to terminate the motion.
© 1992-2003 VersusLaw Inc.