The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge
The Constitution mandates that federal courts exercise judicial restraint by only deciding cases in which there is a justiciable case in controversy, with parties on both sides who have an interest in the outcome of the case. If this Article III requirement is not met, then, no matter how interesting or significant the legal issue presented, the Court has no jurisdiction and is not permitted to proceed with the case. In this case alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and New York Labor Law, plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to pay overtime and other compensation. Plaintiff has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, and for leave to file a second amended complaint. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. During the briefing process, and prior to oral argument, plaintiff communicated to defendant, and eventually to the Court both in writing and on the record at a conference, a request to withdraw this action. Both parties, albeit for different reasons, ask this Court to continue this action, notwithstanding the sole plaintiff's withdrawal. For the reasons that follow, the pending motions are terminated, and this case is dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2).
Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on June 29, 2005, on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. The case was assigned to the Honorable John Gleeson. On July 14, 2005, an amended complaint was filed. On July 27, 2005, defendants filed an answer. During this time, plaintiff's counsel wrote several letters to the Court seeking immediate injunctive relief from defendants' alleged violations of FLSA, alleged improper communications with purported class members, and relief from other alleged violations by defendants. Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief to stop defendants' from improper communications was later withdrawn.
Based upon agreement between the parties and the Court, additional motions were filed and eventually referred by Judge Gleeson to Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky. On September 19, 2005, plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, and for leave to file a second amended complaint. On October 21, 2005, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.
Thereafter, counsel for both sides wrote a series of letters to the Court discussing communications between the plaintiff and the named individual defendant, and between plaintiff and his counsel. Although there was apparently some initial disagreement between counsel about plaintiff's intentions, on or about November 17, 2005, plaintiff subsequently wrote the following to the Court:
I Lakshmynarayanan Parameswaram want to withdraw the case that I had filed against the Hindu Temple, Uma Mysorekar, and Madhusudhan Rao. I have made this decision out of my free will without any influence or force. Kindly accept my withdrawal and help me in this matter.
(See Parameswaram Letter, dated November 12, 2006.) Magistrate Judge Pohorelsky held a conference on November 21, 2005, and plaintiff again stated on the record that he did not wish to pursue the action further. (See Minute Entry, Docket # 46.) Notwithstanding our adversarial system of justice, and the fact that there was only one side remaining in this case, plaintiff's counsel sought to continue this action.
Defendants submitted a letter brief in support of their position (at the time) that the Court should immediately dismiss this case because of plaintiff's withdrawal. (See Letter Brief, dated Dec. 1, 2005, Docket Entry # 47.) Plaintiff's counsel submitted a letter requesting permission to file another motion, this one for intervention and substitution of another plaintiff for Parameswaram. (See Letter, dated December 16, 2005, Docket Entry # 48.) Although plaintiff's counsel indicated his former client had been contacted by other potential "class members," and that counsel had been "retained" by two potential "class members," plaintiff's counsel intentionally did not file any opposition papers to defendants' motions. (See Letter, dated Dec. 16, 2005, Docket Entry # 49.)
Magistrate Judge Pohorelsky held oral argument on January 17, 2006. At oral argument, both parties reversed their respective positions with regard to continuing this case. Plaintiff's counsel argued that the Court should deny his motion for a preliminary injunction as moot because his former client had withdrawn. He also argued that defendants' motion should not be decided because he did not submit any opposition papers, and because his client had withdrawn. Finally, he asked the Magistrate Judge to "hold the case open" so other purported plaintiffs could "intervene."*fn1 (Oral Argument Tr. at 10.)
Defendants, for their part, also changed their position, and "strenuously oppose[d] a dismissal" because (1) the motion was one for summary judgment and both sides had submitted affirmations and/or affidavits, and (2) their position that their motion would be successful. (Id. at 11-12.)
On February 10, 2006, this case was reassigned to this Court. On February 28, 2006, and May 31, 2006, defendants submitted letters to the Court identifying recent decisions that they believe support their pending motions. On September 22, 2006, Judge Gleeson's referral of these motions was vacated by this Court.
The Supreme Court has "repeatedly recognized that what is required for litigation to continue is essentially identical to what is required for litigation to begin: There must be a justiciable case or controversy as required by Article III." Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services (TOC), 528 U.S. 167, 212 (2000) (Scalia, J. dissenting) (collecting cases). "`Simply stated, a case is moot when the issues presented are no longer `live' or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.'" Id. (quoting Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496 (1969)). "It has long been settled that a federal court has no authority `to give opinions upon moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect the matter in issue in the case before it.'" Church of Scientology of California v. U.S., 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992) (quoting Mills v. Green, 159 U.S. 651, 653 (1895)); see also Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975); North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971). "For ...