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Malcolm v. Honeoye Falls-Lima Education Association

January 11, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge


Plaintiff Bernice Malcolm ("plaintiff") was employed by defendant Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District (the "District") from January 2001 until her resignation in July 2007, effective June 30, 2008.

During her employment, plaintiff was a member of the Honeoye Falls-Lima Education Association ("HFLEA"), the local affiliate of the New York State United Teachers ("NYSUT"). On or about July 16, 2007, the plaintiff entered into a Settlement Agreement with the District's Board of Education (the "Board"). The Settlement Agreement provides, inter alia, that plaintiff will resign from her position with the District in exchange for the Board's withdrawal of certain disciplinary charges against plaintiff, as well as payment of the balance of plaintiff's salary for that school year, miscellaneous other compensation and the continuation of certain benefits for an extended period.

In January 2008, plaintiff filed complaints against NYSUT with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR"), alleging that NYSUT had discriminated against her on the basis of race. The NYSDHR investigated the complaint, made a determination of "no probable cause" and issued plaintiff a right to sue letter. The EEOC adopted the NYSDHR's findings on September 8, 2008. Plaintiff also filed a charge of "improper practices" with the State of New York Public Employment Relations Board ("PERB") on January 17, 2008. That charge was subsequently dismissed by PERB.

In addition to this case, Plaintiff has commenced a number of pro se actions in this Court, arising out of the events that resulted in her resignation. The first two actions, one of which has already been dismissed, asserted claims against the District and various of its employees. In this action, plaintiff asserts an assortment of discrimination claims against NYSUT, HFLEA, HFLEA President Michelle Carnevale, HFLEA employee David Young, and NYSUT employee William Garvin.

In lieu of an answer, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 4(h), 10, and 12(b), and/or for summary judgment. (Dkt. #5). Plaintiff obtained counsel and moved to amend the complaint (Dkt. #24), and/or to extend the time to complete discovery and respond to the defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. #23).

For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion to dismiss (Dkt. #5) is granted in part. Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint (Dkt. #24) is denied, and plaintiff's motion for discovery (Dkt. #23) is granted in part.


I. Standard on a Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant." Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994). Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation... requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

In the alternative, defendants have requested that the Court grant summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56. Summary judgment will be granted if the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Although courts are generally wary of granting summary judgment in cases where motive, intent or state of mind are at issue, a common element of discrimination claims, see Dister v. Cont'l Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir.1988); Montana v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n of Rochester, 869 F.2d 100, 103 (2d Cir.1989), "the salutary purposes of summary judgment -- avoiding protracted, expensive and harassing trials -- apply no less to discrimination cases than to... other areas of litigation." Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 998 (2d Cir.1985). See also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 148 (2000), quoting St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 524 (1993).

II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8

At the outset, the Court notes that plaintiff's complaint, even viewed liberally in light of her pro se status at the time it was filed, is lacking in several significant respects. Plaintiff's statement of facts in support of her claims is anything but "short" and "plain." She purports to allege claims against individuals not identified as defendants in the caption, offers no information concerning the capacity in which the defendants are named, and does not identify which causes of action are asserted against which defendants. In addition to containing a wealth of extraneous and irrelevant information, the complaint is also unnecessarily confusing to navigate, with numerous typographical errors, and paragraphs variously labeled with numbers and letters, employed sporadically and non-chronologically, with other paragraphs lacking any designation at all.

While the complaint's deficiencies make the Court's task exponentially more difficult and defendants have invited the Court to dismiss it on those grounds, I choose not to do so and decline to express an opinion as to whether these potent defects, by themselves, provide sufficient cause for dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a). In light of the long-established preference for deciding cases on their merits and in deference to the plaintiff's pro se status at the time her original complaint was filed, the Court opts to analyze the merits of plaintiff's claims, however poorly alleged. See generally Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 ...

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