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Clark v. Adams

August 8, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge



Gerard Clark filed this action on March 19, 2010, naming ten defendants. On review of Clark's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, I permitted the action to proceed only to the extent that it asserted a claim against one of the defendants, Sharon Adams. Adams now moves to dismiss the complaint, arguing that she is immune from suit and that the dispute is moot. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is granted.


Clark owns a house in Queens. He instituted eviction proceedings in New York City Civil Court against his tenants after they failed to pay rent. Clark asserts that his efforts to remove the tenants from the property have been unfairly thwarted by the tenants and by the Civil Court itself.*fn1 Clark's action for eviction was assigned to Judge Ulysses B. Leverett, presiding justice in the landlord-tenant Resolution Part, within the Housing Part of the Civil Court. Clark alleges that when he appeared in Housing Court on November 30, 2009, he was directed to court attorney Sharon Adams for settlement discussions. The complaint alleges that Adams advised one of Clark's tenants to "challenge plaintiff's eviction warrant on jurisdictional grounds because she was not properly noticed ., as if [Adams] was [the tenant's] attorney." Compl. ¶ 40. "At the same time," Clark asserts that Adams instructed him that "you have two strikes against you; one for being a Black landlord; and the other for being here as a Black Pro-se landlord." Id. On the basis of these allegations, Clark alleges that Adams violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.

On March 19, 2010, Clark filed a complaint against numerous defendants. On April 12, 2010, I dismissed the claims against all of the named defendants except for Adams, and denied Clark's motion for a preliminary injunction. Clark v. Bloomberg, No. 10-CV-1263 (JG), 2010 WL 1438803, at *3-4 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 12, 2010). Since then, Clark has prevailed in Housing Court and has obtained an order of eviction against the tenants.


A. The Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motions

Motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) test the legal sufficiency of a complaint. See, e.g., Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20 (2d Cir. 2000) ("At the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, the issue is not whether a plaintiff is likely to prevail ultimately, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." (internal quotation marks omitted)). Accordingly, I must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (per curiam), and "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Bolt Elec., Inc. v. City of New York, 53 F.3d 465, 469 (2d Cir. 1995). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

In reviewing the complaint, I am mindful that "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 551 U.S at 94 (internal quotation marks omitted). If a liberal reading of the complaint "gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated," I must grant leave to amend the complaint. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000).

B. The Defendant's Contention that the Action is Moot

Adams argues that the action is moot because Clark has succeeded in evicting his tenants. This contention implicates a constitutional limit on the court's jurisdiction. See Lewis v. Cont'l Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990) (Article III's "case-or-controversy requirement subsists through all stages of federal judicial proceedings. . [I]t is not enough that a dispute was very much alive when suit was filed."). Consequently, I am required to consider the mootness argument before proceeding to rule on the merits of the case. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-101 (1998) (federal courts must consider Article III jurisdiction as a threshold question before deciding whether the plaintiff has stated a cause of action).

Though the complaint's request for prospective injunctive relief is now academic, Clark might be able to establish that he suffered an economic injury, traceable to Adams's alleged conduct, from a delay in evicting the tenants. ...

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