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Clark v. County of Nassau

February 20, 2007

PAUL CLARK, INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A TELECOMMUNICATIONS PRIVATE CONSULTANTS, AND MARY CLARK, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF NASSAU, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph F. Bianco, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs pro se Paul Clark ("Paul"), individually and doing business as Telecommunications Private Consultants ("TPC"), and Mary Clark ("Mary") (collectively, "plaintiffs") bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Nassau ("defendant" or the "County"). Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint filed in this action pursuant to Rules 8(a) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion is granted under Rule 8(a).

I. BACKGROUND

On February 27, 2006, plaintiff Paul filed a thirty-three page document labeled as a complaint against the County (the "Complaint"). The Complaint consisted solely of a cover sheet, portions of a motion opposing summary judgment that had been previously filed in a state court contract action brought by plaintiffs against the County (the "state action"), portions of the agreement underlying the state court action, a memorandum from the County Comptroller regarding "Personal Service Contracts," and a letter from the New York Court of Appeals. (Compl.; see Dft. Ex. C.)

Subsequently, on June 1, 2006, plaintiffs Paul, individually and doing business as TPC, and Mary filed a 207-page document labeled as an amended complaint (the "Amended Complaint"). The Amended Complaint consists of the documents included in the original Complaint, additional court filings and trial exhibits related to the state action, a court filing related to the appeal of an adverse decision by the state court in that action, court filings related to a federal age discrimination claim brought by plaintiffs against the County in the Eastern District of New York (the "federal action"), a transcript of a proceeding in the federal action, a petition for certiorari to the Second Circuit of an adverse decision in the federal action, a summary order affirming the district court's dismissal of the federal action, and additional district and appellate court orders issued in the federal action.*fn1 (Am. Compl.; see Dft. Exs. A-B.)

Moreover, the Amended Complaint includes several pages of documents that do not appear, on the face of the documents, to relate to the state or the federal actions. Most significantly, the second page of the Amended Complaint is entitled "42 USC 1983 Civil Rights Act and Whistleblowers Act." (Am. Compl. at 2.) The document provides four "complaints I can authenticate beyound [sic] any reasonable doubts," and goes on to list the following four one-sentence allegations: that the County forged time sheets, issued "special telephone credit cards" to government officials for personal use, purchased cell phones and electronic devices that "were not of a critical nature," and "violated its own agreement with plaintiff." (Id.) The document fails to offer any additional details as to the four allegations.

In addition, page 42 of the Amended Complaint is also entitled "42 USC 1983 Civil Rights Act and Whistleblowers Act." (Am. Compl. at 42.) The document appears to recount a 1992 meeting involving plaintiffs and the County Executive at that time, Thomas Gulotta. (Id.) The document provides that "I was not aware that my meeting with the . . . County of Nassau officials would become a flagrant example of the whistleblowers act and how county employees would be protected under these statutes as well as 42 USC 1983 Civil Rights Act." The document also refers to a decision by Magistrate Judge E. Thomas Boyle recommending that "the case proceed on the whistleblower claims and civil rights against the County." (Id.) Magistrate Judge Boyle is not assigned to this case.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Rule 8(a)

Rule 8(a) provides, in part, that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2).*fn2 The purpose of this requirement is to give "fair notice of the basis" for the plaintiff's claims and the grounds upon which it rests so that the opposing party may identify the nature of the case, respond to the complaint, and prepare for trial. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002); see Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73, 80 (2d Cir. 2004) ("[F]air notice [is] that which will enable the adverse party to answer and prepare for trial, allow the application of res judicata, and identify the nature of the case so that it may be assigned the proper form of trial.") (quotations and citation omitted).

Rule 8(a) is "not meant to impose a great burden upon a plaintiff." Dura Pharms., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005). As the Second Circuit has observed, "[d]ismissal pursuant to the rule `is usually reserved for those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.'" Wynder, 360 F.3d at 80 (quoting Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir.1988)). Moreover, no matters its length or its form, a complaint "should not be dismissed . . . unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 87 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see Amron v. Morgan Stanley Inv. Advisors Inc., 464 F.3d 338, 343 (2d Cir. 2006) ("[D]ismissal on the pleadings never is warranted unless the plaintiff's allegations are doomed to fail under any available legal theory.") (quotations and citation omitted). In addition, in considering a motion under Rule 8(a), courts should liberally construe the complaint of a pro se litigant in his or her favor. Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42; see also Platsky v. C.I.A., 953 F.2d 26, 28 (2d Cir. 1991) ("[T]he Supreme Court has instructed the district courts to construe pro se complaints liberally and to apply a more flexible standard in determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint than they would in reviewing a pleading submitted by counsel.") (citations omitted).

However, as the Second Circuit has held, Rule 8(a) does not indicate that "[p]laintiffs bear no burden at the pleading stage." Amron, 464 F.3d at 343 (2d Cir. 2006). Instead, a court retains the power, "[w]hen a complaint does not comply with the requirement that it be short and plain, . . . to dismiss the complaint." Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42; see, e.g., Russo-Lubrano v. Brooklyn Fed. Sav. Bank, No. 06 Civ. 0672 (CPS), 2007 WL 121431, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 12, 2007) (dismissing claims of pro se litigant pursuant to Rule 8(a)). "Further, if the court dismisses the complaint for failure to comply with Rule 8, it should generally give the plaintiff leave to amend. This is especially true when the complaint states a claim that is on its face nonfrivolous." Simmons, 49 F.3d at 86-87.

B. Application

Defendant argues that the Amended Complaint fails to give "fair notice" of the claims asserted by plaintiffs or the basis for plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint fails to satisfy the minimal pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). That is, applying a relatively more "flexible standard" for determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court finds that the Amended Complaint "is so . . . ...


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