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Anderson Group, LLC v. City of Saratoga Springs

May 13, 2008

THE ANDERSON GROUP, LLC AND GAIL ANDERSON PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF SARATOGA SPRINGS; MICHAEL LENZ, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS MAYOR OF SARATOGA SPRINGS AND SARATOGA SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL MEMBER; SARATOGA SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL; THOMAS CURLEY, MATTHEW MCCABE, THOMAS MCTYGUE, AND STEPHEN TOWNE, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS SARATOGA SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS; SARATOGA SPRINGS PLANNING BOARD; AND LEWIS BENTON, ROBERT BRISTOL, ROBERT ISRAEL, WILLIAM MCTYGUE, NANCY OHLIN, AND LOU SCHNEIDER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS SARATOGA SPRINGS PLANNING BOARD MEMBERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

On October 28, 2005, plaintiffs filed this action under the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq. and N.Y. Exec. L. § 296 ("NY HRL"). (Dkt. No. 1) They alleged that, in preventing the construction of plaintiffs' proposed housing development ("Spring Run Village" or "SRV") - which contained 20% affordable units - defendants intentionally discriminated against African-Americans and families with children. It is further contended that defendants' overarching policy of preventing the construction of affordable housing, including the affordable housing units in SRV, had a disproportionate and segregative impact on African-Americans.

On June 22, 2007, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss all of plaintiffs' claims. (Dkt. No. 72) The court granted defendants' motion only insofar as it sought dismissal of plaintiffs' NY HRL claims. (See 10/18/07 Txt Order) Defendants subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration, seeking dismissal of the claims against the individual defendants, which the court granted in part. (Dkt. Nos. 118, 126, 135) Now pending is defendants' motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), seeking certification for interlocutory appeal of certain questions related to their motion for summary judgment.*fn1 (Dkt. No. 119) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Discussion*fn2

A. Standard of Review for Interlocutory Appeal

Generally, only final orders are appealable. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291. However, in extraordinary circumstances, 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) allows a district court to certify questions regarding its orders to the Court of Appeals for interlocutory appeal if: (1) the court's decision "involves a controlling question of law," (2) "as to which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion," and (3) "an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation."

"To determine whether the first element has been met, district courts may consider whether reversal could result in dismissal or could significantly affect the conduct of the action, or whether the certified issue has precedential value for a large number of cases." Wassau Business Ins. Co. v. Turner Const. Co., 151 F. Supp. 2d 488, 491 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (citing Klinghoffer v. S.N.C. Achille Lauro, 921 F.2d 21, 24-25 (2d Cir. 1990)). To satisfy the second element, the plaintiff must establish that there is substantial reason to doubt the correctness of the district court's ruling. See S. Rep. No. 2434, 85th Cong., 2d Sess. (1958), reprinted in 1958 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5255, 5257. "A mere claim that the district court's ruling was incorrect does not demonstrate a substantial ground for difference of opinion." Wausau Business Ins. Co., 151 F. Supp. 2d at 491 (citation omitted). "Further, the mere fact that a disputed issue is a question of first impression is insufficient to demonstrate substantial grounds for a difference of opinion." Scott v. Dime Sav. Bank of New York, FSB, No. 88 Civ. 2298, 1993 WL 350046, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 1993). Finally, the third element requires that the appeal would "literally accelerate the action as a whole." Genentech, Inc. v. Novo Nordisk A/S, 907 F. Supp. 97, 100 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citation omitted). As such, it is not enough that the interlocutory appeal would not delay the action; it must "advance the time for trial or ... shorten the time required for trial." In re Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 182 F.R.D. 51, 53 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).

Even if the above statutory criteria are met, the decision whether to certify a question for interlocutory appeal is within the complete and unfettered discretion of the district court. See, e.g., SPL Shipping Ltd. v. Gujarat Cheminex, Ltd., No. 06-CV-15375, 2007 WL 1119753 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 12, 2007).

B. The Defendants' Motion for Interlocutory Appeal

Defendants advance six questions related to the court's order on their motion for summary judgment, which they contend warrant certification for interlocutory appeal (Dkt. No. 119):

* Can the continuing violation doctrine be applied to extend the FHA's statute of limitations period where the "ongoing dispute" between the parties was not a dispute about housing or dwellings and the FHA prohibitions were not implicated by the "ongoing dispute?"

* Can a landowner use the FHA to challenge what they characterize as an "overall land use policy" independent of an actual or proposed dwelling, housing unit or housing development?

* Can a party sustain an FHA disparate impact claim without presenting a projection or statistical analysis of the ...


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