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Gollomp v. Spitzer

February 5, 2007

BERNARD P. GOLLOMP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELIOT SPITZER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; STATE OF NEW YORK; UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; BRUCE MULDOON, ESQ., INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS LAW CLERK; TOWN OF ORANGETOWN; THOM KLEINER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERVISOR OF THE TOWN OF ORANGETOWN; ERIC DUBBS; MICHELE DUBBS; AND SEYMOUR DUBBS, ESQ., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Currently before the Court are the motions of Defendants Eliot Spitzer, the State of New York, the Unified Court System of the State of New York, and Bruce Muldoon (collectively "the State Defendants") (1) to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, (2) to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and (3) for sanctions against Plaintiff's attorneys pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927. See State Defendants' Notice of Motion at 1. In addition, Defendants Town of Orangetown and Thom Kleiner ("the Town Defendants") filed an affirmation in support of, and joining in, the State Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, as did pro se Defendants Eric Dubbs and Michele Dubbs and pro se Defendant Seymour Dubbs.

The Court heard oral argument in support of, and in opposition to, these motions on January 26, 2007. At the close of argument, the Court issued an oral decision from the bench, in which, among other things, the Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint in their entirety and granted the State Defendants' motion for sanctions against Plaintiff's counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927. The following is the Court's written decision setting forth the reasons for its rulings.

II. BACKGROUND

On June 28, 2006, Plaintiff filed his original complaint in this action, consisting of sixty-one pages, 493 paragraphs, and twenty-two separate causes of action. See Dkt. No. 1; Affirmation of Morgan A. Costello dated November 15, 2006 ("Costello Aff."), at ¶ 4. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; and he sought redress under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), and 2000e. See id. For his injuries, Plaintiff sought compensatory damages of $2.5 million for each cause of action as well as an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

On or about August 10, 2006, the State Defendants served upon Plaintiff's counsel a memorandum of law in support of their motion for sanctions against Plaintiff's counsel pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Costello Aff. at ¶ 10 and Exhibit "C" attached thereto. The State Defendants also sent Plaintiff's counsel a letter advising them that the State Defendants intended to file a Rule 11 motion if counsel did not withdraw or appropriately correct the complaint within twenty-one days. See id. at ¶ 11.

On or about August 30, 2006, the State Defendants and the Rockland County Defendants filed a Stipulation with the Court in which they agreed not to file their motions seeking dismissal of the complaint and sanctions against Plaintiff's counsel until September 15, 2006, to give counsel an opportunity to address the points raised in those motions. See id. at ¶ 15. Apparently in response to these motions, Plaintiff's counsel, on behalf of Plaintiff, filed an Amended Complaint on September 15, 2006. See id. at ¶ 16. The State Defendants assert that, "[a]part from dropping the claims against DEC and DOH and shortening the pleading from 493 to 152 paragraphs and from 61 pages to 24 pages, the Amended Complaint failed to appropriately correct most of the sanctionable conduct identified by State Defendants in the Rule 11 motion." See id.

On September 18, 2006, Magistrate Judge Treece issued an Oral Order directing that the Amended Complaint be removed from the docket and directing counsel either to file a stipulation to amend or a motion for leave to amend the complaint. See Unnumbered Dkt. entry dated September 19, 2006. On October 13, 2006, the parties filed a stipulation to allow Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. See Dkt. No. 33. On October 24, 2006, Magistrate Judge Treece issued an Order accepting the stipulation and instructing Plaintiff to file an amended complaint on or before October 27, 2006. See Dkt. No. 38. In conformance with that Order, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on October 27, 2006. See Dkt. No. 39.

On November 8, 2006, Magistrate Judge Treece held a telephone conference with counsel to discuss a number of issues, including the State Defendants' Rule 11 motion. After that conference, Magistrate Judge Treece issued an Order instructing Plaintiff to amend his Amended Complaint to strike any reference to the County Defendants and to file the Second Amended Complaint on or before November 15, 2006. See Dkt. No. 48. Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on November 15, 2006. See Dkt. No. 53.

The Second Amended Complaint is almost identical to the Amended Complaint. The only differences are that Plaintiff deleted the causes of action that he had asserted against the County Defendants in the Amended Complaint. Thus, the Second Amended Complaint consists of twenty-three pages (rather than twenty-four pages), 141 paragraphs (rather than 152 paragraphs), and ten separate causes of action (rather than twelve causes of action). See Dkt. No. 53.*fn1 More specifically, Plaintiff attempts to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 18 U.S.C. § 242, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), 42 U.S.C. § 1986, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, 18 U.S.C. § 505, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1868, the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the laws and statutes of the State of New York, including but not limited to New York State Penal Law § 170.05, and the New York State Constitution, Article I, § 11.

III. DISCUSSION

A. State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss*fn2

The State Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint "is patently frivolous and should be dismissed with prejudice, without leave to amend" for the following reasons. See State Defendants' Memorandum of Law at 1-2.

1. The Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's claims against the State, the Unified Court System, and Defendants Spitzer and Muldoon in their official capacities.

2. Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against the State, the Unified Court System, and Defendants Spitzer and Muldoon in their official capacities under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3) and/or 1986.

3. Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Defendants Spitzer and Muldoon in their individual capacities.

4. Judicial immunity bars Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Muldoon in both his official and personal capacity as the former law clerk to a New York Supreme Court Justice.

See id.*fn3

The Court will address each of these arguments briefly.

1. The Eleventh Amendment

It is well-established that the Eleventh Amendment bars any suit in federal court against a state or its agencies for either money damages or injunctive relief absent the state's consent or Congress' abrogation of the state's sovereign immunity. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); McGinty v. New York, 251 F.3d 84, 91 (2d Cir. 2001). This same sovereign immunity applies to state governmental entities that act as arms of the state. See Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977). Defendant Unified Court System is an arm of the state for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment. See Del Re v. Del Re, No. 05-CV-3490, 2005 WL 1962341, *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 10, 2005) (dismissing claims seeking damages against the Unified Court System as barred by the Eleventh Amendment). Similarly, the protections of the Eleventh Amendment extend to Defendants Spitzer and Muldoon in their official capacities. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 676-77 (1974); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 465 U.S. at 102 (holding that "suit[s] against state officials that [are] in fact . . . suit[s] against a State [are] barred [under the Eleventh Amendment] regardless of whether [they] seek[] damages or injunctive relief" (citation omitted)); Salvador v. Lake George Park Comm'n, No. 1:98-CV-1987, 2001 WL 1574929, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2001) (citations omitted), aff'd, 2002 WL 741835 (2d Cir. Apr. 26, 2002).

Finally, to the extent that Plaintiff contends that he is seeking prospective injunctive relief, even a cursory reading of his Second Amended Complaint demonstrates that any such claims must fail. First, insofar as Plaintiff is attempting to compel the State Defendants to perform a duty under state law to investigate Plaintiff's allegations about a "forged signature" on an official document, the law is very clear that a federal court may not grant relief -- whether prospective or retrospective -- against State officials based upon violations of state law. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 465 U.S. at 106; Dube v. State Univ. of N.Y., 900 F.2d 587, 595 (2d Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). To the extent that Plaintiff is attempting to compel the State ...


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