Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Davis v. N. New York Sports Officials' Council

September 30, 2010

JUDE DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE N. NEW YORK SPORTS OFFICIALS' COUNCIL; THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; THE N. NEW YORK GIRLS' BASKETBALL ASS'N; MARK MCCORMICK, PRESIDENT OF THE N. NEW YORK SPORTS OFFICIALS' COUNCIL AND THE N. NEW YORK GIRLS' BASKETBALL ASS'N; MICHAEL RUDDY, PRESIDENT OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; WAYNE WALBRIDGE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; ABBOT LEONARD, RULES INTERPRETER OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; JOHN CARDOZA, DIR. OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; ROLF WATERS, DIR. OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; DOUG SABER, MEMBER OF THE PROF'L COMM. OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N; AND RAE JOHNSTON, MEMBER OF THE PROF'L COMM. OF THE N. NEW YORK SOCCER OFFICIALS' ASS'N, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this employment discrimination action filed by Jude Davis ("Plaintiff") against the three above-captioned organizations and eight above-captioned members ("Defendants"), is Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), and/or failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 13.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On December 17, 2007, Plaintiff commenced an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court, St. Lawrence County, against several Defendants in this action who had suspended Plaintiff from officiating interscholastic athletic contests. (Dkt. No. 4, at ¶ 2.)*fn1 On February 11, 2008, Supreme Court Justice David Demarest denied a motion to dismiss filed by these Defendants and granted Plaintiff's cross-motion to temporarily vacate her suspension, pending further order of the court. (Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1 at 8.) On April 7, 2008, Supreme Court Justice Demarest permanently vacated Defendants' suspension of Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 2 at 8.)

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed two charges with the New York State Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The charges complained of various acts of discrimination and disparate treatment based on Plaintiff's gender. (Dkt. No. 4, at ¶ 7.) On January 30, 2009, Plaintiff received a notice from the EEOC informing her that the EEOC was closing its file on the charges, because it was without jurisdiction to consider them as a result of the matter having been heard in State Supreme Court. (Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 3.)

On April 30, 2009, Plaintiff filed her original Complaint in this action. (Dkt. No. 1.) On July 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.*fn2 (Dkt. No. 4.) On September 30, 2009, Defendants filed the currently filed motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 13.) On October 19, 2009, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion. (Dkt. No. 14.) On October 26, 2009, Defendants' filed a reply to Plaintiff's response. (Dkt. No. 16.)

B. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts the following eight claims against Defendants: (1) a claim of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"); (2) a claim of retaliation under Title VII; (3) a claim of sexual discrimination under New York Executive Law § 296 et. seq. ("N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 "); (4) a claim of violation of the right to substantive due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; (5) a claim of violation of the right to procedural due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; (6) a claim of retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment; (7) a claim of abuse of process under New York State common law; and (8) a claim of injurious falsehood under New York State common law. (Dkt. No. 4, at ¶¶ 52-114.)

Generally, in support of these claims, Plaintiff alleges that, despite her "good standing" status as a member of the Northern New York Sports Officials' Council (hereinafter referred to individually as "Council"), the Northern New York Soccer Officials' Association (hereinafter referred to individually as "Soccer Association"), and the Northern New York Girls' Basketball Association (hereinafter referred to individually as "Basketball Association"), Defendants violated her civil rights in the following respects: (1) all Defendants discriminated against her by assigning her fewer officiating games than usual on account of her gender;*fn3 (2) all Defendants retaliated against her for filing a complaint with Defendants Ruddy and Walbridge in January 2006,*fn4 by (a) suspending her from officiating games for two weeks on September 16, 2007,*fn5 and (b) suspending her for the remainder of the 2007 season;*fn6 (3) all Defendants made false accusations of unprofessional conduct against her,*fn7 resulting in the deprivation of her liberty interest in her good name and reputation without the minimal due process required by the United States Constitution and by-laws of Defendant Council, Defendant Soccer Association and Defendant Basketball Association;*fn8 (4) Defendants McCormick, Ruddy, Walbridge, Leonard, Waters, Cardoza, Saber and Johnston failed to meet their obligation to provide her with due process before depriving her of her property or liberty rights pursuant to the United States Constitution and by-laws of Defendant organizations;*fn9 (5) Defendants Ruddy and McCormick retaliated against her for questioning the integrity, veracity and truthfulness of members of the Executive Board of Defendants Council, Basketball Association and Soccer Association, by suspending her from officiating games;*fn10 (6) Defendants initiated a public and deeply flawed administrative process against her, requiring her to initiate an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Superior Court;*fn11 and (7) Defendants concocted false statements about her and issued those statements to members of the above-captioned Defendant-entities, in addition to the public at large. (Id.)

Familiarity with the remaining factual allegations supporting the eight claims asserted in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 4.)

C. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Generally, in support of their motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims of sexual discrimination under N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 must be dismissed because (1) Plaintiff already filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") based on the same allegations that form the basis of this cause of action, and (2) the NYSDHR dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as a result of the matter having been adjudicated in an Article 78 proceeding.

Generally, in support of their motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), Defendants assert the following seven arguments: (1) Plaintiff's claims under Title VII and N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 must be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that any Defendant was an employer for purposes of Title VII and/or N.Y. Exec. Law § 296, or that she was an employee of any Defendant; (2) Plaintiff's claims under Title VII must be dismissed because the alleged acts that give rise to her Title VII claims occurred more than 300 days before Plaintiff filed her complaint with the EEOC; (3) Plaintiff's Title VII and N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 claims against the individual Defendants must be dismissed because those claims cannot be brought against individuals; (4) Plaintiff's due process claims must be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that she had a protected liberty interest that state action deprived her of; (5) Plaintiff's First Amendment claims must be dismissed because Plaintiff (a) failed to allege any facts plausibly suggesting that she is a public employee, and (b) failed to plead any of the elements necessary for an individual to bring a retaliation claim as a private citizens; (6) Plaintiff's claim for abuse of process must be dismissed because Plaintiff (a) failed to allege any facts plausibly suggesting that Defendants used a judicial or legal process to either compel or forbear her from performing some act, (b) failed to allege any special damages, and (c) is barred by the statute of limitations from asserting this claim; and (7) Plaintiff's claim for injurious falsehood must be dismissed because Plaintiff (a) failed to allege the "particular words" that caused her injury, (b) failed to allege special damages, and (c) is barred by the statute of limitations from asserting this claim. (See generally Dkt. No. 13, Attach. 9 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

D. Plaintiff's Response

In Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, she argues as follows: (1) her N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 should not be dismissed because the NYSDHR erroneously dismissed her complaint and she has never had an opportunity to litigate her claims of discrimination, retaliation and intentional torts; (2) her N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 and Title VII claims should not be dismissed because she has sufficiently alleged that Defendants were employers through her allegation that Defendants controlled every aspect of her employment, including the ability to discipline, suspend and terminate her; (3) her Title VII claims are not barred by the statute of limitations because some of the incidents occurred within the 300-day limitations period and the continuing violations doctrine applies to all the incidents that occurred outside the limitations period; (4) her Title VII and N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 claims against the individual Defendants should not be dismissed because (a) under Title VII, certain supervisory individuals who have decision making power can be held liable as agents of the employer, and (b) under N.Y. Exec. Law § 296, a claim may be maintained against an employee in his or her individual capacity if the employee either had an ownership interest or any power to do more then carry out personnel decisions made by others, which she has alleged; (5) her due process claims should not be dismissed because the allegations in the Amended Complaint satisfy the "stigma-plus" doctrine; (6) her First Amendment claim should not be dismissed because she has alleged each element of the public official test, and, alternatively, as a private citizen, she has alleged that her speech was "chilled"; and (7) her injurious falsehood claim should not be dismissed because (a) the conduct complained about "at least partially took place within one year preceding the date she commenced [this action]," (b) she does not have to plead the exact language used, and (c) special damages were alleged because she alleged that she was unable to make a living and had to move out of the area to resume her officiating career. (See generally Dkt. No. 14 [Plf.'s Response Memo. of Law].)*fn12

However, Plaintiff concedes that her abuse-of-process claim is insufficient and therefore voluntarily withdraws it. (Dkt. No. 14, at 25-27.) In so doing, Plaintiff argues that she instead asserted a claim for a prima facie tort. (Id.) Plaintiff therefore seeks leave to amend and substitute her claim of a prima facie tort.*fn13

E. Defendants' Reply

In their reply, Defendants argues as follows: (1) to the extent that Plaintiff's opposition papers contain multiple factual allegations not contained or reasonably inferred from her Amended Complaint, the Court must disregard those allegations and decide Defendants' motion on the Amended Complaint alone; (2) Plaintiff's N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 claims should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because (a) the case cited by Plaintiff as supporting her argument that the election of remedies is improperly presented under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) is inconsistent with other Second Circuit decisions, (b) even if the NYSDHR had improperly dismissed Plaintiff's complaint, her remedy would be to appeal that ruling, which she failed to do, and (c) when the NYSDHR dismissed her complaint for lack of jurisdiction because the matter was adjudicated in the Article 78 proceeding, it had to have implicitly found that the Article 78 proceeding and the NYSDHR proceeding were based on the same alleged conduct; (3) Plaintiff's claims under N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 should be dismissed because (a) these claims are barred by the statute of limitations because Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not allege facts plausibly suggesting a continuing violation in order to invoke the continuing violation doctrine, and (b) Plaintiff has failed to allege that any individual Defendant has ownership interest or power to carry out personnel decisions made by others; (4) Plaintiff's Title VII claims should be dismissed because (a) these claims are barred by the statute of limitations (in that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not allege facts plausibly suggesting a continuing violation in order to invoke the continuing violation doctrine), (b) courts in this circuit have rejected the individual/official capacity distinction in Title VII cases and have declined to hold individuals liable in their official capacities, and (c) even if the individual Defendants could be held liable under Title VII, Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts other than Defendants alleged titles; (5) Plaintiff's due process claims should be dismissed because (a) Plaintiff has failed to address various of Defendants' arguments,*fn14 and (b) a suspension is not sufficient to satisfy the "plus" requirement; (6) Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim should be dismissed because (a) Plaintiff failed to allege that she is an "employee" of any of Defendant, or a "public employee," and (b) Plaintiff failed to allege that Defendants' alleged actions chilled her speech or otherwise prevented her from speaking; (7) Plaintiff's injurious falsehood should be dismissed because (a) it is barred by the statute of limitations, (b) Plaintiff failed to allege the specific statements that were made, and (c) Plaintiff did not make allegations of specific damages in her Amended Complaint; and (8) Plaintiff's request for leave to amend should be denied because (a) it was presented in only her opposition papers and is therefore not properly before the Court, and (b) it would be futile to grant Plaintiff's request in that Plaintiff failed to plead special damages in her Amended Complaint.(See generally Dkt. No. 16 [Defs.' Reply Memo. of Law].)

II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Legal Standard Governing Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

For the sake of brevity, the Court will not recite, in this Decision and Order, the well-known legal standard governing dismissals for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), but will direct the reader to the Court's recent decision in Wade v. Tiffin ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.