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Flier v. Cayuga County

September 15, 2006

WERNER FLIER, TIMOTHY GILFUS, MICHAEL GILFUS, DANIEL GILFUS, LISA GILFUS, EDWARD HASKIN AND JENNIFER SWAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CAYUGA COUNTY, CAYUGA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, ATTORNEY VARGASON, ATTORNEY ADSIT, CAYUGA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, SHERIFFS OUTHOUSE, BENTON AND LUPO, THOMAS ADESSA, JOHN AND JANE DOES, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM - DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

On May 9, 2003, Werner Flier, Timothy Gilfus, Michael Gilfus, Daniel Gilfus, Lisa Gilfus, Edward Haskin and Jennifer Swan ("Plaintiffs"),*fn1 filed summonses and a complaint against Defendants*fn2 the County of Cayuga, New York; James B. Vargason, District Attorney of Cayuga County; Diane Adsit, Assistant District Attorney of Cayuga County; Rob Outhouse, Sheriff of Cayuga County; Cayuga County Deputy Sheriffs Benton and Lupo; Thomas Adessa; and John and Jane Does ("Defendants") for claims pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1962 ("RICO"), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and various New York state law causes of action. On January 26, 2004, Defendants filed a motion seeking an Order pursuant to Rules 12(c), (f), and (h)(1) and (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure entering judgment on the pleadings in their favor. Dkt. No. 14, Notice of Mot. For the reasons that follow below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion and dismisses Plaintiffs' Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges, rather inartfully,*fn3 that on the morning of December 1, 2001, Cayuga County law enforcement officials, supervised by Cayuga County Assistant District Attorney Diane Adsit, raided the Gilfus family farm in Cayuga County and removed certain horses, ponies and other animals therefrom. The raid resulted in prosecutions for failure to provide proper sustenance, see N.Y. AGRIC . & MKTS. LAW § 353 (McKinney), and convictions which were appealed to the Fourth Department. See People v. Gilfus, 4 A.D.3d 788, 772 N.Y.S.2d 164 (4th Dept. 2004) (Patricia Gilfus); People v. Gilfus, 4 A.D.3d 789, 771 N.Y.S.2d 452 (4th Dept. 2004) (Richard Gilfus); People v. Gilfus, 4 A.D.3d 789, 771 N.Y.S.2d 452 (4th Dept. 2004) (John Gilfus). Plaintiffs assert thirteen, often redundant,*fn4 causes of action. For their First Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to protect Plaintiffs from unconstitutional harm in violation of rights secured by 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. at ¶¶ 114-17. Respecting their Second Cause of Action, Plaintiffs Flier, Daniel Gilfus, Michael Gilfus, and Swan allege that Defendants denied them due process subjected them to unconstitutional takings in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶121-24. In their Third Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants subjected them to illegal searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendement. Id. at ¶¶ 128-131. Vying to vindicate their allegedly deprived constitutional rights, in their Fourth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs Flier, Daniel Gilfus, Michael Gilfus and Swan allege that Defendants denied them due process and subjected them to unconstitutional takings in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 135-38. Occupying their Fifth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants subjected them to illegal searches, seizures, and detainment in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 142-45. Lying as their Sixth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants denied them their due process rights and subjected them to unconstitutional takings in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 149-52. Offended by Defendants' conduct, in their Seventh Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants subjected them to illegal searches, seizures and detainment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 156-59. Under their Eighth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs assert a Monell*fn5 -type claim against alleging that Defendants (1) failed to properly supervise and/or discipline their law enforcement officers as to the use of excessive force and (2) negligently hired and trained their law enforcement officers. Id. at ¶¶ 163-68. Standing alone in the Ninth Cause of Action,*fn6 Timothy Gilfus alleges that Defendants falsely imprisoned him. Id. at ¶¶ 174-75. Couched as their Tenth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants negligently hired, screened, retained, supervised and trained the individual defendant law enforcement officers. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. at ¶ 181. As for their Eleventh Cause of Action, Plaintiffs apparently assert that Cayuga County is liable to them under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the actions of its law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Id. at ¶ 185. Signifying their Twelfth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs allege that Adessa perjured himself, provided a false affidavit and committed fraud against the courts of the State of New York. Id. at ¶¶ 190-91. Ending with their Thirteenth Cause of Action, Plaintiffs claim Defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. Plaintiffs allege that after the raid, Defendants devised and then engaged in a "fraudulent scheme to cover-up their wrongful conduct" by "filing false police reports," "committing perjury before [the] Grand Jury" and committing mail and wire fraud. Id. at ¶¶ 196-97. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages in totaling $6,835,000 as well as punitive damages and costs and attorneys' fees.

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Failure to Comply with Local Rules 7.1(b)(1) and (3)

Defendants filed their motion for judgment on the pleadings, supporting affidavits and memorandum of law on January 26, 2004, and selected a return date of March 12, 2004. The Court subsequently moved the return date to June 11, 2004. Local Rule 7.1(b)(1) requires any opposing papers to be filed with the court and served on the moving party "not less than SEVENTEEN DAYS prior to the return date of the motion." L.R. 7.1(b)(1). Accordingly, Plaintiffs were to file any opposing papers by no later than May 26, 2004. Plaintiffs, however, delayed filing their memorandum of law and affidavit in opposition until October 4, 2004, and October 5, 2004, respectively. Local Rule 7.1(b)(3) states in pertinent part that

[a]ny papers required under this Rule that are not timely filed or are otherwise not in compliance with this Rule shall not be considered unless good cause is shown. Where a properly filed motion is unopposed and the Court determines that the moving party has met its burden to demonstrate entitlement to the relief requested therein, the non-moving party's failure to file or serve any papers as required by this Rule shall be deemed as consent to the granting or denial of the motion, as the case may be, unless good cause is shown.

L.R. 7.1(b)(3). Plaintiffs have made no effort to demonstrate good cause as to why they failed to timely file their opposition papers.

The Local Rules are not empty formalities. Local Rules, such as Rule 7.1(b)(3), "serve to notify the parties of the factual support for their opponent's arguments, but more importantly inform the court of the evidence and arguments in an organized way--thus facilitating its judgment of the necessity for a trial." Little v. Cox's Supermarkets, 71 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 1995). Each of these functions is critical. A party's failure to comply with these rules is fundamentally unfair to the opposing party. The opposing party has a right to be informed of the factual bases of his rival's case and the specific foundations for those contentions of fact. Non-compliant conduct is also adverse to the conservation of judicial resources which are most efficiently used when the parties meet their adversarial duties in a tightly orchestrated and lucid manner. See Meaney v. CHS Acquisition Corp., 103 F.Supp.2d 104, 107 (N.D.N.Y. 2000); Niles v. New York Office of Mental Retardation and Development Disability, 1996 WL 743839, at *6 (N.D.N.Y. Dec 20, 1996).

Having found no good cause to excuse Plaintiffs' dilatory practice, arguably, the Court may grant Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings because of Plaintiffs' failure to timely file their opposition papers. See L.R. 7.1(b)(3); Allen v. Comprehensive Analytical Group, Inc., 140 F.Supp.2d 229, 231 (N.D.N.Y. 2001). Nevertheless, the Court here examines the merits of Defendants' motion.

II. Judgment on the Pleadings

The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) for a motion for failure to state a claim. Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing Irish Lesbian & Gay Org. v. Giuliani, 143 F.3d 638, 644 (2d Cir. 1998). A dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is warranted only where "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed. 2d 80 (1957) (footnote omitted); see also Irish Lesbian and Gay Org., 143 F.3d at 644 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994)). "The task of the court in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion 'is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof.'" Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Ryder Energy Distribution Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984)). While a court need not accept mere conclusions of law, in assessing plaintiff's complaint, "the court must presume that the allegations in the complaint, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, are true." Woodford v. Cmty. Action Agency of Greene County, Inc., 239 F.3d 517, 526 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing Lee v. Bankers Trust Co., 166 F.3d 540, 543 (2d Cir. 1999)). Furthermore, when a party makes a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court will limit its consideration "'to facts stated on the face of the complaint, in documents appended to the complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference, and to matters of which judicial notice may be taken.'" Leonard F. v. Israel Disc. Bank of N.Y., 199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Allen v. West Point-Pepperell, Inc., 945 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir.1991)).

III. Defendants' Motion

Defendants mount a multi-pronged defense to Plaintiffs' Complaint. In their motion to dismiss, Defendants contend that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Vargason, Adsit, Outhouse, and Cayuga County because Plaintiffs failed to properly effect service upon them. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims under New York law are barred by the statute of limitations. The individual Defendants argue that they are entitled to immunity in their personal capacity under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Defendants assert that Plaintiffs failed to ...


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