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Capone v. Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District

July 13, 2010

RALPH P. CAPONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, PATCHOGUE-MEDFORD UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, TINA WEEKS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ANTHONY KAISER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BRIAN BRADY, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, MARGARET E. FELOUSIS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, PATRICK NETT, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, RONALD RABY, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JOSEPHLOSCIAVO, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, VERONICA A. MCDERMOTT, PHD., SUPERINTENDANT OF SCHOOLS, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, BARBARA KANE, DISTRICT CLERK AND COMPLIANCE OFFICER, IN HER INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ALLEN ROBINSON, DIRECTOR OF ADULT EDUCATION, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JENMAUR, INC., CHRISTOPHER CLAYTON, ESQ., IN HIS INDIVIDUAL ANDOFFICIAL CAPACITY; INGERMAN SMITH, LLP, AND JANE DOE AND JOHN DOE, FICTITIOUSLY NAMED PERSONS, NASSAU COUNTY DIVISION, NEW YORK STATE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

On July 14, 2004, Plaintiff Ralph P. Capone ("Plaintiff") commenced this action alleging that Defendants, inter alia, violated his civil rights. Thereafter, the Defendants filed several motions to dismiss. By Memorandum and Order dated September 15, 2006 ("September 2006 Order"), this Court dismissed all claims against Tina Marie Weeks ("Weeks") and several other individual defendants from this case. The Court, however, denied the Defendant School District's motion to dismiss, and denied Weeks' motion seeking attorneys' fees. Weeks appealed this denial, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals later remanded the case to this Court for clarification as to why the motion was denied. Upon further review, the Court clarifies its September 2006 Order: Weeks' motion for attorneys' fees as against Plaintiff is DENIED and Weeks' motion for attorneys' fees as against Plaintiff's former attorney is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND*fn1

Weeks' dismissal was based on, inter alia, the Court's determination that she was entitled to absolute immunity. The September 2006 Order did not expressly certify under Rule 54(b) that the dismissal of Weeks was a "final judgment." Thus, Weeks moved, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b), for an order certifying that final judgment should be entered by the Clerk dismissing her from this action so that she could appeal the denial of her request for the recovery of her attorney's fees. This Court granted that motion on September 30, 2007, and the Clerk entered final judgment that same day. Finally, on April 24, 2008, Plaintiff submitted a letter notifying the Court that he had terminated Ruth Pollack ("Pollack") as his counsel, and requesting that the case be dismissed. Also contained in the letter was the following statement by Plaintiff:

My relationship has deteriorated with Ms. Pollack to say the least. I never wanted to sue the school district, Ms. Weeks insisted that was the only way to get my job back. (Pl.'s Letter Seeking Dismissal, dated Apr. 24, 2008.) On May 30, 2008, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion and directed that the case be CLOSED.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review Under Rule 60(b)

Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

provides relief from a judgment for, inter alia, mistakes, inadvertence, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence, fraud, or any other reason that justifies relief. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). Rule 60(b) provides "extraordinary judicial relief" that may "only be granted upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." Nemaizer v. Baker, 793 F.2d 58, 61 (2d Cir. 1986).

II. 42 U.S.C. § 1988 And Rule 11

Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, a "court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs" incurred in litigating a § 1983 action. Where the prevailing party is a defendant, that party must also demonstrate that the action was "frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." Colombrito v. Kelly, 764 F.2d 122, 128 (2d Cir. 1985) (quoting Christiansburg Garment Co. v. E.E.O.C., 434 U.S. 412, 54 L.Ed. 2d 648, 98 S.Ct. 694 (1978)). Defendants have this additional burden to ensure that the policies encouraging private citizens to vindicate constitutional rights are balanced with those aimed at deterring frivolous or vexatious lawsuits. Id. From this Court's research, there is no limitation under Section 1988 for imposing monetary sanctions on plaintiffs when plaintiffs are represented by counsel. However, there is limitation under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules.

Rule 11 requires that an attorney sign every pleading, written motion, and other paper filed with the courts. FED. R. CIV. P. 11(a). By doing so, the attorney certifies that to the best of [his or her] knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,

(1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation;

(2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of ...


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