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Ak Tournament Play, Inc. and Al Otto v. Town of Wallkill; Eugene Jacques

January 19, 2011

AK TOURNAMENT PLAY, INC. AND AL OTTO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN OF WALLKILL; EUGENE JACQUES, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS BUILDING INSPECTOR FOR THE TOWN OF WALLKILL; WALTER BARRETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT BUILDING INSPECTOR FOR THE TOWN OF WALLKILL; JOHN WARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS SUPERVISOR FOR THE TOWN OF WALLKILL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Loretta A. Preska, Chief United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

AK Tournament Play, Inc. and Al Otto (collectively, "Plaintiffs") commenced this action against the Town of Wallkill ("Town"), Town of Wallkill Building Inspector Eugene Jacques ("Jacques"), Town of Wallkill Assistant Building Inspector Walter Barrett ("Barrett"), and Town of Wallkill Supervisor John Ward ("Ward") (collectively, "Defendants"), in their individual and official capacities, seeking monetary damages and attorney's fees. Plaintiffs allege that by interfering with their Tournament Style Texas Hold-em events, Defendants have allegedly violated their First Amendment right to "freedom of association." Additionally, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants conspired to prevent Plaintiffs from playing Tournament Style Texas Hold-em.*fn1 Defendants seek dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that the there is no constitutional right to play or associate for the purposes of playing Texas Hold-em. Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to plead facts sufficient to allege a § 1983 conspiracy. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss [dkt. no. 11] is GRANTED in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff AK Tournament Play, Inc., ("AKTP" or the "Poker Club") is a not-for-profit corporation organized in 2005 under the laws of the State of New York as a "non-profit membership club to pursue recreational Tournament Style Texas Hold-em." (Compl. ¶¶ 11-13.)*fn2 Plaintiff Al Otto is the President of the Poker Club. (Id. ¶ 4.) On December 6, 2005, AKTP was approved as a tax exempt organization pursuant to Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(7). (Id. ¶ 13.) In November, 2006, AKTP leased commercial space on the second floor of a commercial building located in Wallkill, New York, and began hosting poker tournaments. (Id. ¶ 14.)

At its apex, the Poker Club included approximately 130 members. (Id. ¶ 21.) On or about February 7, 2007, Defendants allegedly entered the Poker Club premises and attempted to condemn that portion of commercial space occupied by the Poker Club. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) The condemnation attempt was unsuccessful. Thereafter, Plaintiffs also allegedly engaged in unspecified "threatening and coercive conduct" towards plaintiff and members of the Poker Club. (Id. ¶ 19.) Subsequently, club membership declined to fewer than 50 members, and the Poker Club discontinued its activities. (Id. ¶ 21.) This litigation ensued.*fn3

II. ANALYSIS

a. Legal Standard For Motion to Dismiss To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Similarly, "naked assertion[s]" devoid of "further factual enhancement" will not suffice. Id. (alteration in original) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

To be plausible, a plaintiff's factual allegations must demonstrate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully" and that the plaintiff's claim is more than merely "conceivable." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949, 1951. In evaluating the plaintiff's claims, a district court must accept the factual allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002).

The district court is not required "to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50 (citation and quotation marks omitted).

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the district court is limited to the facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, and documents integral to the complaint that are not incorporated into it by reference. See Chambers, 282 F.3d at 152-53.

b. Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claims

i. Freedom of Association

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides that no person may deprive another, under color of state law, of rights secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 itself does not provide substantive rights but rather offers a means of vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere. See Patterson v. Cnty. of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 225 (2d Cir. 2004). Additionally, a claim under § 1983 requires "personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations." Back v. Hastings on Hudson Union Free Sch. Dist., 365 F.3d 107, 122 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim is predicated on alleged violations of the Free Association Clause of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has identified two types of "freedom of association" that merit constitutional protection:

(i) "choices to enter into or maintain certain intimate human relationships" and (ii) association "for the purpose of engaging in those activities protected by the First Amendment." Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 617-18 (1984); accord Sanitation & Recycling Indus., Inc. v. City of New York, 107 F.3d 985, 995-96 (2d Cir. 1997).*fn4 "These categories cannot be stretched to form a generic right to mix and ...


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