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Lyn v. Incorporated Village of Hempstead

June 28, 2007


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


On Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

Before the Court for its consideration is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, together with supporting papers, and Plaintiffs' Opposition thereto, together with supporting papers. Plaintiffs bring a suit against the Defendants claiming constitutional violations, in particular, violations of the Privileges and Immunities Clause, the Supremacy Clause, the Commerce Clause, the Contracts Clause, and violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As a result, Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief; Plaintiffs also ask for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs' claims arise from the revocation of their business license to run a night club, the Jamroc Café, Inc. ("Jamroc"), within the borders of the Village of Hempstead ("Village"). The Plaintiffs' claims of constitutional violations focus on the Village's Code of Ordinances, specifically Chapter 86, sections (1) through (13) (hereinafter, the "Code"or "Village Code"). Defendants contend that the Plaintiffs cannot prove that the Code is unconstitutional or that the Village violated Plaintiffs' rights when it revoked Plaintiffs' license to operate the Jamroc within the Village.

For the reasons stated infra, the Court grants Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.


A. Material Facts

Having reviewed the Defendants' Statement of Material Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1, together with corresponding affidavits, declarations, and exhibits, and Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Statement of Material Facts, together with Lyn's affidavit and attached exhibits, the Court gleans the following material facts.*fn1

Jamroc was a night club located at 45 Main Street in Hempstead, New York, adjacent to a Village municipal park lot. Plaintiff Paul Lyn ("Lyn") was the owner and operator of Jamroc. The Jamroc was a multi-level facility with, inter alia, three bars, two dance floors and an outdoor café. Different events were held targeting different age groups. Some events were held for non-drinking-aged teens, while others were held for drinking-aged young adults. One such event was held on Thursday, August 21, 2003; it lasted into the early morning hours of Friday, August 22, 2003, at which time Village police were called to the establishment because of a disturbance in the adjacent Village municipal parking lot. The crowd was large*fn2 and unruly; the Village police required the assistance of other area police forces to control the crowd. Subsequently, an arrest was made for possession of a firearm; there were also reports of persons being cut or stabbed.

Shortly before the end of business hours on August 22, 2003 (i.e., 5:00 p.m.), Sergeant Kearney ("Kearney") of the Village's Police Department became aware that another music event was scheduled to be held at the Jamroc within the next few days. Given (1) the early Friday morning incident outside the Jamroc, and (2) prior police intervention required at and around the night club during previous musical events, Kearney became concerned for the public's health and safety if the next event were to be held.

Under the Code, the Village Clerk is designated as the "License Commissioner" and, as such, is authorized, inter alia, "to conduct investigations in relation to the issuance, renewal, amendment, termination, cancellation, revocation and suspension of licenses or permits required by provisions of [the] Code." Code § 86-2. To the extent investigations were required, that function was apparently delegated by the Village Clerk to Kearney. However, the power to suspend a license remained vested in the Village Clerk, subject to the holding of a prompt hearing before the Village Board "concerning the facts and circumstances prompting the suspension," which Board shall then decide whether to "continue suspension for a fixed period of time or reinstate or revoke the license." Id. § 86-12.

Because of prior incidents involving the Jamroc and knowing that another event was to be held before the next work week, Kearney had a discussion with one of the deputy clerks (as the Village Clerk was on extended medical leave) about suspending Jamroc's license. (See Defs.' Rule 56.1 Statement, ¶ 65). Later on that Friday, viz. August 22, 2003, Kearney caused a "Notice of Suspension" to be hand-delivered to Lyn. The Notice, on Police Department letterhead, was signed by Kearney and read:

Be advised your license to conduct business at Jam Roc*fn3 45 Main St. is suspended immediately. The reason for suspension is Sec: 86-11E of the Village code. The section reads conducting any business activity which is regulated by the provisions of this code or any other law requiring the license in such a manner as to constitute a breach of the peace or to endanger the health, safety or general welfare of the public is grounds for suspension. You have the right to request a hearing before the Village board for reinstatement of your license, which must be done to the Village clerks [sic] office in writing within ten days of the suspension.

While your license is suspended, pending a hearing you can not be open for business. (Ex. E, attached to Defs.' Exs. in Supp. Mot. Summ. J.) While this Notice cited the relevant Code section upon which suspension was based, it did not identify the conduct at issue that constituted the alleged breach or endangerment. Yet, Lyn complied with the order and the planned music event did not occur. He also sent a letter, dated August 25, 2003, requesting "a hearing before the Village Board as soon as possible," a lifting of the stay in the interim, and informing the Village of his "intention . . . to sell the building and close Jamroc Night club, which will effectively [produce] the same results as persued [sic] by the Village of Hempstead/Police Department." (Id. at Ex. F.)

Also on August 25, 2003, a formal "Notice of Suspension," pursuant to § 86-11(E) of the Code and stamped with the signature of the Village Clerk, was sent to Lyn. Unlike Kearney's Notice, this formal Notice identified the conduct alleged to breach the peace and to endanger the health, safety and general welfare of the public: "There have been numerous instances of which the most recent includes alcoholic consumption by underage individuals which was a possible factor in four people being stabbed on August 21, 2003 'Teen Night' in about [sic] your premises." (Ex. G, attached to Defs. Exs. in Supp. Mot. Summ. J.) The August 25th Notice again ordered that all business at the Jamroc "cease and desist pending a hearing" before the Village Board of Trustees. ( Id.) A license revocation hearing was conducted on October 7, 2003, before Mayor Garner, Trustee Hall, and Trustee Ryan of the Village Board. Plaintiffs were represented by counsel at the hearing. Testimony and evidence, including numerous police reports and police referral forms, were introduced. Garner, Hall and Ryan voted unanimously to revoke Plaintiffs' business license.

Plaintiffs never applied to run another business at 45 Main Street. In December 2004, Lyn sold 45 Main Street for $2 million.

B. Procedural History and Summary of the Parties' Arguments

As stated in the Court's June 25, 2004, Memorandum of Decision and Order in this case:

On August 29, 2003, Plaintiffs moved to enjoin the suspension of Jamroc's license in New York Supreme Court, Nassau County (Phelan, J.). Plaintiffs simultaneously filed a complaint alleging that the Village Code Section 86-11(E) was unconstitutional because it was an unreasonable exercise of police power.

On September 17, 2003, Justice Phelan denied Plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief, finding that they failed to adequately establish a likelihood of success on the merits. Justice Phelan also dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint because Plaintiffs failed to serve a notice of claim.

Plaintiffs then filed a complaint in this Court, on October 3, 2003, seeking identical relief -- an injunction, which the Court denied, and a declaration that the Village Code is unconstitutional.

Defendants move[d] to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint in its entirety, based on the doctrine of issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel.

Additionally, the individual defendants James A. Garner, Jody Edmondson, Wayne J. Hall Sr., Perry Pettus, Don Ryan, Carol Riddick, James Russo, Sergeant Kearney, John Doe and Jane Doe argue[d] that they [were] entitled to qualified immunity. (Lyn et al. v. Inc. Vill. Hempstead et al., No. 03-cv-5041 (DRH) (WDW), slip op. at 2 (E.D.N.Y. June 25, 2004) (internal citations omitted).) Within the framework of a motion to dismiss, though, the Court did not have enough information to determine whether the individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. (See id. at 3-4.) As to issue preclusion, the Court found that the issue in question--whether the relevant portions of the Village Code were ovevbroad and/or vague--had not been decided by the state court; there, Plaintiffs argued unconstitutionality of the Village Code because of unnecessary and unreasonable exercise of police power. In any event, the Court found "Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing they have not previously fully and fairly litigated the claims advanced in their [federal] compliant . . . [as] Plaintiffs' state complaint was dismissed at the outset on procedural grounds." (Id. at 6.)

Defendants now move for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiffs' action in its entirety arguing that the Village Code does not violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is generally appropriate where the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Viola v. Philips Med. Sys. of N. Am., 42 F.3d 712, 716 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion," and identifying those materials "it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Once the moving party has offered some evidence that no genuine issue of material fact remains to be tried, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to provide similar evidence indicating that a genuine, triable issue remains. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Affidavits submitted in opposition to summary judgment must be based on personal knowledge, must "set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence," and must show that the affiant is "competent to testify to the matters stated therein." Patterson v. County of Oneida, N.Y., 375 F.3d 206, 219 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). When determining whether a genuinely disputed factual issue exists, "a trial judge must bear in mind the actual quantum and quality of proof necessary to support liability," or "the substantive evidentiary standards that apply to the case." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254-55.

In deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve all factual ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). That being said, it is well-established that a non-movant cannot defeat summary judgment with nothing more than "unsupported assertions," Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995), or the allegations in its pleadings. See Cifarelli v. Vill. of Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The Second Circuit has stated: "Claims turning entirely on the constitutional validity or invalidity of a statute are particularly conducive to disposition by summary judgment as they involve purely legal questions." Connecticut ex rel. Blumenthal v. Crotty, 346 F.3d 84, 93 (2d Cir. 2003).

B. The Instant Case

The Court will first address the constitutional violations alleged by Plaintiffs, utilizing the sequential format from Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment. (See Defs.' Summ. J. Mem. at i ("Table of Contents"), and 2-13.))*fn4 The Court will then address Defendants' arguments that Plaintiffs' action for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must be dismissed. (See id. at 13-19.) Finally, the Court will turn to Defendants' final points that neither the Village nor any of the individual Defendants are liable under § 1983 because Plaintiffs cannot prove, as a matter of law, a constitutional violation. (See id. at 19-20.)

1. Constitutional Violations

(a) The Privileges and Immunities Clause

At its core, the Privileges and Immunities Clause requires a diversity of citizenship as it provides "[t]he Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States." U.S. Const. Art. IV, § 2(1). "[I]ntended to foster a national economic union, the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV limits a State's power to discriminate against residents of other States with respect to the Privileges and Immunities that 'are sufficiently basic to the livelihood of the Nation' and that 'bear[] upon the vitality of the Nation as a single entity.'" Blumenthal, 346 F.3d at 94 (quoting Baldwin v. Fish & Game Comm'n of Mont., 436 U.S. 371, 388 (1978) (emphasis added) (further citation omitted)). Thus, the threshold inquiry in a Privileges and Immunities Clause challenge is "whether a State has, in fact, discriminated against out-of-staters with regard to the privileges and immunities it accords its own citizens." Id. (citing United Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. Mayor & Council of Camden, 465 U.S. 218, 222 (1984)). Then, a court considers whether there is sufficient justification for such discrimination. See id.

The Court is perplexed by Plaintiffs' claim of a Privileges and Immunities Clause violation in this instance as neither is an "out-of-stater." There is no dispute that Lyn is a resident of New York and Jamroc is a New York State corporation. Moreover, by its plain language, the Village Code applies to residents and non-residents alike. As Plaintiffs are not "out-of-staters" and, thus, cannot demonstrate discrimination on that basis, they have no claim under the U.S. Constitution's Privileges and Immunities Clause that the Code is unconstitutional. As a matter of law, therefore, it is proper to grant summary judgment in Defendants' favor as to Plaintiffs' Privileges and Immunities Clause claim.

(b) The Supremacy Clause

The Supremacy Clause concerns itself with the primacy of federal law as it states that the "Constitution and the Laws of the United States . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land." U.S. Const. Art. VI, cl. 2. "Accordingly, consistent with the Tenth Amendment, Congress may create federal causes of action that state courts are obligated to adjudicate . . . [o]r it may enact a federal law that preempts a state-law cause of action, thereby foreclosing state courts from entertaining such a state-law claim." Freier v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 303 F.3d 176, 204 (2d Cir. 2002) (internal citations omitted). In other words, the Supremacy Clause makes clear that between a federal law and a state law, federal law prevails over conflicting state law. It does not ...

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