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Francisco Javier Monreal, Md v. the State of New York; New York State Dep't of Health

June 29, 2012

FRANCISCO JAVIER MONREAL, MD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK; NEW YORK STATE DEP'T OF HEALTH, OFFICE OF PROF. MED. CONDUCT;
NEW YORK STATE EDUC. DEP'T; AND NEW YORK STATE UNIFIED COURT SYS.,*FN1 DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se civil rights action filed by Francisco Javier Monreal ("Plaintiff") against the State of New York, the New York State Department of Health's Office of Professional Medical Conduct, the New York State Education Department, and the New York State Unified Court System ("Defendants"), is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), for insufficient service of process pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(5), and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 7.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims

Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that, between approximately February of 2005 and October of 2008, at various locations in the State of New York, Defendants violated Plaintiff's following rights: (1) his rights under the First Amendment by revoking his medical license for expressing his medical opinions; (2) his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by denying him proper notice and the opportunity to appear, and present evidence in his defense, at the administrative hearing at which Defendants revoked his license; and (3) his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by not providing sufficient judicial review of the Defendants' actions revoking his license. (See generally Dkt. No. 5 [Plf.'s Amend. Compl.].) Familiarity with the factual allegations supporting these claims in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is assumed in this Memorandum-Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. (Id.)

B. Defendants' Motion

Generally, in support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants argue as follows: (1) the Complaint has not been served on any named Defendant; (2) Defendants are protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment; (3) the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (4) Plaintiff commenced this action after the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations; (5) Plaintiff's claims are precluded as a matter of law by the doctrine of collateral estoppel; and (6) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the Court from exercising jurisdiction in this action. (See generally Dkt. No. 7, Attach. 1 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Generally, in Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion, he argues as follows: (1) service on the Attorney General of the State of New York, as counsel for the State, constitutes service on the State of New York; (2) Defendants' assertion of sovereign immunity is unjust; (3) the Amended Complaint states claims that are legally sufficient; (4) because Defendants' actions violating Plaintiff's rights continued through the date he commenced this action, the applicable statute of limitations does not bar his claims; and (5) neither collateral estoppel nor the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applies, because Plaintiff has not yet had an opportunity to present his full case in a court of law. (See generally Dkt. Nos. 8, 11-14.)

Defendants did not reply to Plaintiff's response. (See generally Docket Sheet.)

On May 5, May 9, June 7, and August 8, 2011, Plaintiff filed four letters in further response to Defendants' motion. (Dkt. Nos. 11-14.) Not only were the letters filed after the expiration of the deadline for any further briefing on Defendants' motion (see Docket Entry dated March 24, 2011), the letters effectively constituted sur-replies, in violation of Local Rule 7.1(b)(1). On January 21, 2011, Plaintiff receive a courtesy copy of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court. (Dkt. No. 2.) Because they were wilfully filed in violation of the motion's briefing deadline and Court's Local Rules, the letters will not be considered by the Court. The Court would add only that, even if it were to consider the letters, that consideration would not change the outcome of this Memorandum-Decision and Order.

II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Legal Standard Governing Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction "It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). Generally, a claim may be properly dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction where a district court lacks constitutional or statutory power to adjudicate it. Makarova v. U.S., 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). A district court may look to evidence outside of the pleadings when resolving a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113 (citing Malik v. Meissner, 82 F.3d 560, 562 [2d Cir. 1996]). When a court evaluates a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, all ambiguities must be resolved and inferences drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005) (citing Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113).

B. Legal Standard Governing Motions to Dismiss for Insufficient Service of Process Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

If a defendant is not served within 120 days after the complaint is filed, the court--on motion or its own after notice to the plaintiff--must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure, the court must extend the time for service for an appropriate period.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m).

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

It has long been understood that a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), can be based on one or both of two grounds:

(1) a challenge to the "sufficiency of the pleading" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); or (2) a challenge to the legal cognizability of the claim. Jackson v. Onondaga Cnty., 549 F. Supp.2d 204, 211, nn. 15-16 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (McAvoy, J., adopting Report-Recommendation on de novo review).

Because such dismissals are often based on the first ground, a few words regarding that ground are appropriate. Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) [emphasis added]. In the Court's view, this tension between permitting a "short and plain statement" and requiring that the statement "show[]" an entitlement to relief is often at the heart of misunderstandings that occur regarding the pleading standard established by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

On the one hand, the Supreme Court has long characterized the "short and plain" pleading standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) as "simplified" and "liberal." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.20 (citing Supreme Court case). On the other hand, the Supreme Court has held that, by requiring the above-described "showing," the pleading standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that the pleading contain a statement that "give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim ...


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