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Palmer v. New York State Office of Court Administration

April 24, 2006

DIANE A. PALMER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF COURT ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Howard G. Munson United States Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM - DECISION AND ORDER

Currently before the court are Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. Nos. 37 and 49, respectively. For the reasons that follow below, Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

Plaintiff, Diane A. Palmer, who suffers from asthma and hypoglycemia, began working as a court reporter for Defendant, the New York State Office of Court Administration, on August 18, 1988. Two months later, Plaintiff's asthma required that she be hospitalized for five days. Plaintiff informed Defendant that her return to work was uncertain. Nevertheless, following her hospitalization, Plaintiff apparently returned to work; her stay, however, was short-lived. In November 1988, Plaintiff's asthma again required her hospitalization. At that time, Defendant advertised Plaintiff's court reporter position. Apparently, Defendant declined to interview Plaintiff for this position. Plaintiff alleges that she diligently sought other court reporter positions throughout New York, but that Defendant denied her employment. In September 1989, Plaintiff filed charges against Defendant with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging violations of New York State Human Rights Law. In June 1991, Plaintiff again filed charges against Defendant with the EEOC alleging Defendant discriminated against her due to her asthma. Plaintiff further alleged a retaliatory motive in defendant's failure to rehire her. The record before the court does not indicate the status or disposition of Plaintiff's two initial EEOC filings.

In any event, Judge Mark Meddaugh of the Sullivan County Family Court hired Plaintiff as a court reporter on December 2, 1993. Plaintiff's supervisors at the Sullivan County Family Court, aware that Plaintiff had previously worked in the Onondaga Family Court, subsequently contacted the references listed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant then learned that she had previously filed charges of discrimination against it. On November 10, 1994, Plaintiff received a letter from Judge Meddaugh advising her that the "District Office" had instructed him to terminate her employment effective November 30, 1994. On June 28, 1995, Plaintiff filed a third charge with the EEOC alleging Defendant discriminated against her by terminating her employment with the Sullivan County Family Court. On October 21, 1999, Plaintiff received a Dismissal and Notice of Rights from the EEOC, which adopted the findings of the state or local fair employment practices agency that investigated this charge and thus disposed of her third EEOC filing.

II. Procedural History

Based upon the above facts, on January 19, 2000, Plaintiff filed the instant action against Defendant, alleging violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 28 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., ("ADA") and breach of contract. Plaintiff sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. See Dkt. No. 1. Defendant filed its answer on March 31, 2000. See Dkt. No. 3. On May 9, 2000, Defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. No. 10. On July 17, 2000, Plaintiff cross-motioned to amend her complaint and Defendant lodged its opposition. See Dkt. Nos. 12 and 15, respectively. On October 31, 2000, District Judge David N. Hurd, then presiding over Plaintiff's case, granted Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint and dismissed the Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings as moot. See Dkt. No. 23. Plaintiff then filed her first amended complaint on November 6, 2000. See Dkt. No. 24. Initially, Plaintiff was represented by Daniel A. Burgess, Esq. in this matter; however, counsel moved to withdraw his representation and then Magistrate Judge Gary L. Sharpe granted his motion in an order dated April 18, 2001. See Dkt. Nos. 28 and 29, respectively. Magistrate Sharpe denied Plaintiff's subsequent motion to reconsider Mr. Burgess' withdrawal. See Dkt. No. 32, Order.

On October 18, 2001, Defendant renewed its motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to decide Plaintiff's claims under the ADA because the Eleventh Amendment bars all such claims. Defendant further argued that, without subject mater jurisdiction, the Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state claim for breach of contract. See Dkt. No. 37, Notice of Mot. Plaintiff then requested an adjournment of all proceedings due to illness. See Dkt. No. 40. In response, Magistrate Sharpe stayed Plaintiff's obligation to respond to Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings and similarly stayed defendant's motion until July 1, 2002. In addition, Magistrate Sharpe ordered that no further stay of Plaintiff's obligation to respond to the motion would be granted absent exigent circumstances. Magistrate Sharpe also advised Plaintiff that, absent good cause, her failure to respond to Defendant's motion in a manner consistent with Local Rule 7.1 would preclude the Court's consideration of any proffered response. See Dkt. No. 45, Order. Pursuant to Magistrate Sharpe's order, on February 21, 2002, Judge Hurd ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings by July 1, 2002. See Dkt. No. 46. On March 28, 2002, then Chief Judge Frederick J. Scullin reassigned the case to the undersigned. See Dkt. No. 47.

Plaintiff has since retained A.J. Bosman, Esq. as counsel who filed the instant cross-motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. See Dkt. 49, Notice of Cross-Mot. Accompanying her cross-motion, Plaintiff submitted a proposed second amended complaint in which she sought not only unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, but also declaratory and injunctive relief. See Id. Although Plaintiff concedes that her claims for damages are barred by the Eleventh Amendment pursuant to a United States Supreme Court's decision in Board of Trustees of Univ. of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 121 S.Ct. 955, 148 L.Ed. 2d. 866 (2001), Plaintiff now seeks declaratory and injunctive relief under Title I of the ADA. In addition, Plaintiff seeks damages under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 794 et seq. Plaintiff submitted: a notice of cross motion, an affidavit in opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss and in support of her cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint, a proposed second amended complaint, and a memorandum of law in opposition to defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings and in support of her cross-motion for leave to file an amended complaint. See Dkt. Nos. 48, 49 and 50. Plaintiff filed her opposition papers on July 8, 2002, seven days after the deadline specified by Judge Hurd in his February 21, 2002, Order. See Dkt. Nos. 46, 48, 49, and 50. Defendant submitted a memorandum of law in opposition to Plaintiff's cross-motion. See Dkt. No. 52.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard for Judgment on the Pleadings

Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate if, from the pleadings, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED.R.CIV.P. 12(c); Burns Int'l Sec. Serv. v. International Union, United Plant Guard Workers of America, 47 F. 3d 14, 16, (2d Cir. 1995) (citing George C. Frey Ready-Mixed Concrete, Inc. v. Pine Hill Concrete Mix Corp., 554 F. 2d 551, 553 n.2 (2d Cir. 1977)). The court analyzes Rule 12(c) under the same standard applicable to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F. 3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994). Consequently, the court must accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Furthermore, the court may consider documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated by reference, matters of which the court may take judicial notice, or documents either in plaintiff's possession or of which plaintiff had knowledge of and relied upon in bringing suit. Brass v. American Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F. 2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993). As such, the court should grant a defendant's Rule 12(c) motion only if after viewing the plaintiff's allegations in this favorable light, "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief." Walker v. City of New York, 974 F. 2d 293, 298 (2d Cir. 1992) (citing and quoting Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Auth., 941 F. 2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1991)). However, ...


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