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Kosich v. New York State Dep't of Health

August 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge



On February 27, 2006, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this action,*fn1 together with an Order to Show Cause seeking a Temporary Restraining Order, a stay of the proceedings until the Court rendered its decision regarding his motion for a Temporary Restraining Order, and an Order requiring Defendants to remove their Determination regarding him from their website and enjoining them from any further publication of that Determination pending the outcome of this action. See Dkt. Nos. 1, 3. By Order dated March 1, 2006, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for an Order to Show Cause and for a Temporary Restraining Order. See Dkt. No. 4 at 1-2. The Court also established a briefing schedule for the parties regarding Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and originally scheduled oral argument regarding that motion for April 18, 2006. At the parties' request, the Court rescheduled oral argument for August 15, 2006. After reviewing the parties' submissions, the Court concluded that oral argument was unnecessary and informed the parties that it would resolve the motion based upon their submissions. The following constitutes the Court's written determination with respect to the pending motion.


A. Eleventh Amendment

The Court has no authority to address the merits of Plaintiff's motion because the Eleventh Amendment strips this Court of subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. See Atlantic Healthcare Benefits Trust v. Googins, 2 F.3d 1, 4 (2d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). It is well-established that "[t]he Eleventh Amendment . . . bars suits [against a state or its departments or agencies] that seek either money damages, . . . or injunctive relief . . . ." McGinty v. New York, 251 F.3d 84, 91 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal citations omitted); see also Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 88, 100 (1984) (noting that "[i]t is clear, . . ., that in the absence of consent a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment . . . [and that] [t]his jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought. . . ." (internal citations omitted)).*fn2 Moreover, it is equally well-settled that "a state cannot be sued under § 1983, . . ., and that this rule applies 'to States or governmental entities that are considered "arms of the state" for Eleventh Amendment purposes.'" Komlosi v. N.Y.S. OMRDD, 64 F.3d 810, 815 (2d Cir. 1995) (internal citation and other citations omitted).

In his complaint, the only Defendants that Plaintiff names are the State of New York and two of its agencies or departments, the New York State Department of Health and the Bureau of Professional Medical Conduct. Thus, it is clear that the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety and that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action.*fn3

B. Rule 11 Sanctions

Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, that "[i]f, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the court determines that subdivision (b) has been violated, the court may, subject to the conditions stated below, impose an appropriate sanction upon the attorneys, law firms, or parties that have violated subdivision (b) or are responsible for the violation." Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c).*fn4 Moreover, the court may initiate this process by "enter[ing] an order describing the specific conduct that appears to violate subdivision (b) and directing an attorney, law firm, or party to show cause why it has not violated subdivision (b) with respect thereto." Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1)(B).

As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that this is not the first time that it has found it necessary to instruct Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin about Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence.*fn5 In fact, in Gaboury v. Town of Roxbury, No. 98-CV-1753, 1999 WL 244829 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 1999), Judge McAvoy not only dismissed the claims that Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin had asserted on their clients' behalf against the state defendants on Eleventh Amendment grounds but also raised the issue of whether sanctions were appropriate under Rule 11 given that, among other things, they "should have been aware of the fundamental subject matter jurisdiction issue imposed by the Eleventh Amendment . . . ." Id., 1999 WL 244829, at *1. Therefore, pursuant to Rule 11, Judge McAvoy instructed these attorneys to show cause why he should not impose sanctions against them. After reviewing their arguments in response to his instructions, Judge McAvoy noted that the problem is . . . that [Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin] did not make a reasonably [sic] inquiry into whether their "claims . . . and other legal contentions [in the complaint were] warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2). In particular, [Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin] did not reasonably inquire into the fundamental question of this Court's subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against the State Defendants in light of the Eleventh Amendment . . . .

Id. at *2.

Judge McAvoy explained further that had plaintiffs conducted an objectively reasonable inquiry into Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence, they would have learned that naming the State, a State agency, or state official in his official capacity in a complaint seeking monetary damages are the quintessential situations where the Eleventh Amendment acts to deprive a federal court of subject matter jurisdiction.

Id. at *3 (citations omitted).

"Furthermore, nowhere in the Complaint or their opposition papers did [Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin] assert that the State Defendants waived their Eleventh Amendment immunity or that Congress expressly abrogated it. Accordingly, asserting any claims against the State Defendants was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances of this case." Id. For all of these reasons, Judge McAvoy imposed sanctions against Mr. Morgan and Ms. Galvin, including "complet[ion] of eight hours ...

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