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Martin Stoner v. Young Concert Artists

October 11, 2011

MARTIN STONER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YOUNG CONCERT ARTISTS, INC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., U.S.D.J.,

I. Introduction

OPINION AND ORDER

On April 6, 2011, Plaintiff, Mr. Martin Stoner ("Mr. Stoner" or "Plaintiff") submitted a motion to reconsider the Court's March 7, 2011 Order (the "Order") granting Defendant Young Concert Artists' ("YCA") motion to dismiss. On April 25, 2011, YCA submitted a memorandum opposing this motion to reconsider, and on April 29, 2011 Mr. Stoner submitted a reply memorandum in further support of his motion.

On October 21, 2010, Mr. Stoner commenced this action by filing a Complaint alleging that YCA discriminated against him on the basis of his age. (See Compl. ¶ 2.) YCA moved to dismiss the Complaint, and the Court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that Mr. Stoner (1) failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and (2) failed to provide proper notice to the Attorney General ("A.G."), the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") and YCA, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 6140(e). In his motion to reconsider Mr. Stoner argues, inter alia, that: (1) the motion to dismiss should have been converted into a motion for summary judgment; (2) the Court overlooked certain materials that would have substantiated his claims to a waiver of exhaustion; and (3) the Court failed to consider relevant case law which would justify a waiver of the exhaustion requirement. For the following reasons, Mr. Stoner's motion to reconsider is denied.

II. Background

The YCA is a nonprofit organization, headquartered in New York City, which receives federal funds to promote the careers of classically trained musicians. YCA maintains a policy that limits participation in the YCA International Auditions to individuals under the age of 26. (See Aff. of Susan Wadsworth dated 10/27/10 ("Def. Aff.") Ex. A.) The YCA International Auditions is an annual event where young musicians audition to become members of the YCA roster. (See id.) Mr. Stoner sought to audition, and on May 5, 2010 wrote to YCA requesting that they change their age requirements so he could participate. (Compl. ¶ 8, Ex. A.) Mr. Stoner contends that he received no response from YCA. (Id. ¶ 10.) On or about May 20, 2010, Mr. Stoner wrote another letter to YCA asserting that, pursuant to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6101-6107 ("ADA"), it is illegal for organizations receiving federal funding to engage in age discrimination, and requesting that YCA dispense with their age requirement. (Seeid. Ex. B.) He further contended that if YCA failed to respond by June 1, 2010, he would file a complaint with the Civil Rights Office ("CRO") at the National Endowment of the Arts ("NEA"). (See id.) After receiving no response to this second letter, Mr. Stoner filed a complaint with the NEA CRO on June 1, 2010. (See id. Ex. C.) Mr. Stoner asserts that Denise Pearson, the Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist of the CRO, "told [him]that her office is 'understaffed' and unable to process [his] complaint in a timely manner." (Id. ¶ 5.) In August 2010, YCA contacted Mr. Stoner and informed him that he would be permitted to audition. (Id. ¶ 11.)

On September 29, 2010, Mr. Stoner auditioned as a violinist in the preliminary round of the 2010 YCA International Auditions. (Id. ¶ 12.) On October 5, 2010, Mr. Stoner received a letter from Susan Wadsworth, the Founder and Director of YCA, informing him that he had failed to advance to the semi-final round of the auditions. (Id. ¶ 13.) On or about October 6, 2010, Plaintiff sent an email to Ms. Wadsworth, requesting that YCA reconsider its decision. (Id. ¶ 14.) On October 18, 2010 Ms. Wadsworth responded, stating that YCA had made its final decision and that Mr. Stoner would not advance to the semi-final round. (Id. ¶ 15.)

On October 21, 2010, Mr. Stoner filed the Complaint in this district, alleging that YCA discriminated against him on the basis of age. (Id. ¶ 2.) Specifically, the Complaint stated that "YCA maintains policies that contain age restrictions and generally limit participation in its programs to musicians under the age of approximately 30 years old," and that that this qualifies as discrimination under the ADA, the Civil Rights Act of 2004, the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290, et seq. ("NYSHRL"), and the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-101 et seq. ("NYCHRL"). (Id. ¶ 1.)

Based on his failure to advance and failure to win first prize in the International Auditions, Mr. Stoner claimed that he suffered "irreparable injury, monetary damage, and loss of equal opportunity as a result of defendant's discriminatory practices." (Id. ¶ 17.) Audition winners were provided with "management services . . . publicity, promotional materials and career guidance for three years at no cost to the artists," in addition to the opportunity to perform in YCA concerts in New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. (Pl. Aff. dated 12/6/10 ("Pl. Aff.") Ex. 12.) Mr. Stoner asserted that these have a value of approximately $75,000. (See Pl. Mot. Recons. at 4.)

On October 22, 2010, Mr. Stoner filed, and the Court signed, an order to show cause for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order ("TRO"), requesting that the Court prohibit YCA from holding the final round of the International Auditions (scheduled for November 6, 2010) until the conclusion of all legal proceedings associated with the case. (See Pl. Mot. Prelim. Inj. at 1.) On October 28, 2010 the Court orally denied Mr. Stoner's motion in view of the immediacy of the date of the final round of auditions, holding that the balance of hardships favored the Defendant and the contestants. (Transcript of 10/28/11 Oral Argument ("Tr.") at 26.)

On November 12, 2010, YCA filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) asserting that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) Plaintiff failed to give requisite notice to the A.G., DHHS and YCA pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 6140(e)(1); (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim under the NYSHRL; and (4) age is not a protected class under the NYCHRL. After receiving YCA's memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss, Mr. Stoner sent a letter dated December 16, 2010, by certified mail, to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the DHHS; Eric Holder, A.G.; and Susan Wadsworth, Director of YCA, informing them of his intent to enjoin YCA's allegedly discriminatory practices and collect damages in federal court.

On March 7, 2011, the Court issued the Order granting YCA's motion to dismiss Mr. Stoner's claims without prejudice. Mr. Stoner now moves for reconsideration of that Order.

III. Legal Standard

The standard for reconsideration under Local Civil Rule 6.3 is "strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court." Shrader v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). "Thus, a Motion to reconsider should not be granted where the moving party is solely attempting to relitigate an issue that already has been decided." New York v. Parenteau, 382 F. App'x 49, 50 (2d Cir. 2010). Furthermore, reconsideration is not an invitation for parties "to treat the court's initial decision as the opening of a dialogue in which that party may then use such a motion to advance new theories or adduce new evidence in response to the court's rulings." de los Santos v. Fingerson, No. 97 Civ. 3972, 1998 WL 788781, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 12, 1990). Thus, ...


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