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Hall v. North Bellmore Union Free School Dist.

March 18, 2010

DANIA HALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTH BELLMORE UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, SUPERINTENDENT DOMINIC MUCCI, PRINCIPAL MARILYN HIRSCHFIELD, PRINCIPAL MICHAEL WOLK, RAN DEE COULTER, CHRISTINE STURNIOLO, CAROL MELNICK, NORTH BELLMORE BOARD OF EDUCATION, NINA LANCI, MARY OPORTO, JOSEPH PERRONE, HOWARD G. POLLITT AND IRMA F. WILK, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On May 16, 2008, Plaintiff, Dania Hall, initiated this action pro se by filing a somewhat incomprehensible Complaint. In an Order dated June 3, 2008 ("June 2008 Order"), this Court granted Plaintiff's application seeking in forma pauperis status, and stated: the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims against the Individual Defendants. It is well settled that "in the Second Circuit, 'individual defendants with supervisory control over a plaintiff may not be held personally liable under Title VII.'" Brace v. King, No. 07-CV-1028, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 82941, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2007) (quoting Bembry v. Darrow, 97 F. Supp. 2d 281, 285 (N.D.N.Y. 2000), aff'd 7 Fed. Appx. 33 (2d Cir. 2001), in turn quoting Tomka v. Seiler Corp., 66 F.3d 1295, 1313 (2d Cir. 1995), abrogated on other grounds, Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 118 S.Ct. 2257, 141 L.Ed. 2d 622 (1998)). This rule has been held, by courts in this Circuit, to extend to ADEA claims as well. See Vivenzo v. City of Syracuse, No. 05-CV-531, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31874, at *23 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2008) (Title VII and ADEA); Parker v. Metro. Transp. Auth., 97 F.3d 437, 452 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (ADEA and ADA). Consequently, the Court DISMISSES with prejudice Plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims against the Individual Defendants. (June 2008 Order 5.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff retained counsel, and counsel filed a notice of appearance on February 18, 2009. Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion to amend her Complaint and Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint or the Amended Complaint, if the Court grants Plaintiff's motion to amend. Finally, Plaintiff, in an apparent misunderstanding of the Federal Rules, has submitted an application seeking to hold a pre-motion conference to force the Court to construe Defendants' motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This final application is wholly inappropriate, as it is within the Court's discretion whether to construe Defendants' motion to dismiss as a summary judgment motion. Accordingly, at the outset, the Court denies this application.

For the reasons that follow: (1) Plaintiff's motion to amend is DENIED; (2) Plaintiff's motion seeking a pre-motion conference is DENIED; and (3) Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her age and gender when she was denied her tenure and terminated on June 30, 2005, before the end of a three-year probationary period as the self-titled District Orchestra Director. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that North Bellmore Union Free School District ("North Bellmore") failed to provide her with annual evaluations, and "inundated [her] with 4 strenuous observations within a two-week time span" a few months before she was terminated. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff contends that the failure to annually evaluate and supervise her was based on the fact that she was an older, more-experienced, and female music teacher. Thus, Plaintiff alleges, at the end of her tenure period, she had less of a "track record" when compared to younger counterparts at the school; this fact, she alleges, contributed to her termination. (Id.)

Furthermore, Plaintiff contends that Superintendent Dominic Mucci ("Mucci") disregarded four positive evaluations by four different principals, and instead relied on two unfavorable evaluations by Principal Marilyn Hirschfield ("Hirschfield") and Principal Michael Wolk ("Wolk"), in seeking Board approval to terminate her employment. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff also alleges that the two unfavorable evaluations were fraudulent because they were based on purported observations that never took place. (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff alleges her sex played a role in her termination, as the people in decision-making positions were male, although her replacement was also female. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff's original Complaint sought monetary damages in the amount of $30 million.

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend: Standard of Review Under Rule 15*fn1

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Procedure ("FRCP") governs the amendment of pleadings before trial. Rule 15(a)(2) states that a "court should freely give leave when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). Generally, leave to amend should be granted freely, and amendment is typically permitted. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed. 2d 222 (1962). Although the decision to grant or deny a motion to amend rests within the sound discretion of the district court, there must be good reason to deny the motion. See Acito v. IMCERA Group, Inc., 47 F.3d 47, 55 (2d Cir. 1995). In rendering its decision, the court should consider whether (1) the party seeking amendment unduly delayed or acted in bad faith, (2) the amendment would be futile, or (3) the non-moving party would suffer unfair prejudice.*fn2 Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.

II. Undue Delay Under Rule 15(a)

Generally, courts will grant leave to amend when the moving party shows that it has not unduly delayed in proposing the amendment, and provides a valid justification for any such delay. See Assam v. Deer Park Spring Water, Inc., 163 F.R.D 400, 406 (E.D.N.Y. 1995). In this case, Plaintiff altogether fails to offer a reason for its delay, and does not account for the months before counsel was retained, or the nearly four months between when counsel first appeared and when it submitted its motion. Similarly, Defendants do not argue that the delay was inappropriately long. Courts have granted a Rule 15(a) motion where a lengthy period of time has elapsed between the initial filing of a pleading and the motion for leave to amend. See, e.g., Pesce v. Gen. Motors Corp., 939 F. Supp. 160, 166 (N.D.N.Y. 1996) (allowing plaintiff to amend complaint against car manufacturer after over a year so as to increase punitive damages from $10 million to $30 million based on new evidence); ResQNet.com, Inc. v. Lansa, Inc., 382 F. Supp. 2d 424, 450 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (granting motion after a delay of nearly three years).

Although the time between Plaintiff's filing of its original Complaint and the motion to amend is significant, it is no greater than in many cases in which amendments to the pleadings have been permitted. See Richardson Greenshields Sec., Inc. v. Lau, 825 F.2d 647, 653 n.6 (2d Cir. 1987) (citing, for example, State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Flour Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 845-46 (2d Cir. 1981) (permitting amendment after three-year interval); Howey v. United States, 481 F.2d 1187, 1190 (9th Cir. 1973) (allowing amendment after a five-year interval and on second day of trial); Middle Atl. Utils, 392 F.2d at 383 (three-year interval and notice of trial readiness); Zeigan v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Greater N.Y., 607 F. Supp. 1434, 1438-39 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (three-year interval); Green v. Wolf Corp., 50 F.R.D. 220, 223 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (four-year interval)). Furthermore, the parties in those cases were permitted to amend their pleadings to assert new claims long after they acquired the facts necessary to support those claims. See Richardson Greenshields Sec., 825 F.2d at 653 n.6 (citing, for example, Middle Atl. Utils., 392 F.2d at 385 (noting that plaintiff was aware of facts supporting new claims two years before filing of original complaint)); see generally Howey, 481 F.2d at 1191 ("the mere fact that the government could have moved at an earlier time to amend does not by itself constitute an adequate basis for denying leave to amend").

In the present case, even if Plaintiff could have plead her new causes of action earlier, this would still not warrant the Court's finding of "undue delay" for purposes of Rule 15, especially in light ...


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