The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara United States District Judge
Plaintiffs Danny W. Sklarski and John D. Ceretto brought an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Court seeking to compel defendants Niagara Falls Bridge Commission ("Commission") and its Chairperson, Norma I. Higgs, to respond to the plaintiffs' New York's Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") request. In their petition, plaintiffs assert that the Commission was created by Joint Resolution of Congress in 1938, and that in 1991, Congress amended the Joint Resolution to "deem" the Commission "a public agency or public authority of the State of New York" for the purposes of federal law. Plaintiffs allege that, by virtue of the 1991 amendment, the Commission became a state agency or state public authority subject to New York's FOIL.
The Commission defendants removed the action to federal court asserting federal question jurisdiction. They then moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that the Commission is not a state agency or state public authority and therefore is not subject to New York's FOIL. Plaintiffs opposed the motion to dismiss and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Oral argument on the motion to dismiss was held on January 13 and January 22, 2010. For the reasons stated, the defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' FOIL claim is granted, plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment is denied, and plaintiffs are granted leave to file an amended complaint within 60 days of this order.
Following the 1938 collapse of the "Honeymoon Bridge" that spanned the Niagara gorge near Niagara Falls, both the State of New York and the federal government sought to enact legislation creating a Niagara Falls bridge authority. The New York State bill was introduced in the State Assembly and Senate in February 1938. The Assembly passed the bill, but the New York State Senate failed to act and as a result, the New York State Legislature never passed a bill enacting a Niagara Falls public bridge authority.
Several months later, in June 1938, members of Congress passed a joint resolution creating the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission See H.R. J. Res. 688, 75th Cong. 52 Stat. 767-71 (1938). Created under Congressional authority to regulate the instrumentalities of commerce, the Commission was authorized by Congress "to acquire, condemn, occupy, possess, and use such real estate and other property in the State of New York as may be needed for the . . . bridge . . . upon making just compensation therefore . . . ." Id. at § 2, 52 Stat. 767-68. Congress authorized the Commission to issue bonds and to fix and charge tolls for transit over the bridge, "deemed" any bridge constructed under the authority of the Joint Resolution to be "an instrumentality for international commerce authorized by the Government of the United States," id. at § 4, 52 Stat. 768, and directed that the Commission would consist of four members appointed by the Governor of New York, and four members appointed by the proper authorities of the Canadian government. Id. at § 7.
The Joint Resolution was modified over the years, with the last modification occurring in 1991 when Congress replaced the last sentence of § 6 with the following:
The Commission shall be deemed for the purposes of all Federal law to be a public agency or public authority of the State of New York, notwithstanding any other provision of law.
See Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 ("ISTEA"), Pub. L. No. 102-240, § 1070, 105 Stat. 1914, 2012(1991).
The Commission currently owns and operates three international bridges: the Rainbow Bridge, the Whirlpool Bridge, and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. According to the defendants, the Commission receives no funding from New York State and supports all of its operations with tolls and other income derived from bridge operations.
A. Federal Question Jurisdiction
Before addressing the merits of the pending motions, the Court finds it necessary to address whether jurisdiction properly lies in this Court. During oral argument, the Court sua sponte questioned the propriety of federal jurisdiction and requested supplemental briefing on that issue. After reviewing the supplemental briefs and upon hearing ...