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Everett B. Collins and Charles E. Collins, Iii v. Saratoga County Support Collection Unit et al

July 2, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiffs pro se Everett B. Collins and Charles E. Collins, III commenced this action against the Saratoga County Support Collection Unit (SCSCU), Saratoga County Attorney's Office (SCAO) and Richard A. Kupferman (collectively, the "Saratoga County defendants"), and the New York State Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) and two John and Jane Doe defendants under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and common law, alleging violations of their equal protection and due process rights as a result of misappropriation of child support funds, fraud, and the unlawful suspension of Charles' driver's license. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending are defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), (see Dkt. Nos. 10, 13), and plaintiffs' cross motions to compel discovery, (see Dkt. Nos. 16, 17). For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions are granted and plaintiffs' cross motions are denied as moot.

II. Background*fn1

Everett and his father, Charles, base their causes of action on separate events that have in common only their relation to the latter's legal obligation to pay child support to the former. (See generally Compl.) On July 22, 2010, Charles was ordered by the State of New York Supreme Court in Saratoga County to pay any and all future child support for his three children-including Everett-directly to the SCSCU. (See id. ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1 at 4.) This instruction was repeated to Charles by the SCSCU in a September 2, 2010 letter. (See Compl. ¶ 13.) Charles complied with the directives of the court and SCSCU, and has since remitted over $10,000 in child support payments directly to the SCSCU. (See id. ¶ 15.) The SCSCU also garnished a Fidelity Investment account held by Charles. (See id. ¶ 16.) None of that money, however, has been disbursed to Everett, and his support account has been closed. (See id. ¶ 19, 26.)

In the same July 22, 2010 court order, the Supreme Court also made a determination regarding the ownership of a Charter One Bank account that was seized by SCSCU in October 2001. (See id. ¶ 30; Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1 at 2-4.) That account, worth over $20,000 and held in the names of Charles and his mother, Elinor S. King, was seized on the grounds that it was a joint account. (See Compl. ¶¶ 34, 41, 43.) Contending that the account belonged solely to her, and seeking the return of its contents, King filed a petition in Supreme Court in January 2002.*fn2 (See id. ¶ 35, 36.) In its July 22 order, the Supreme Court found that King "was the sole owner of the account," and that the funds had therefore been "wrongfully attached by the [SCSCU]." (Id. ¶ 30.) The entire value of the account was ordered immediately returned to King. (See id.)

By letter dated June 26, 2009, Charles was informed by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that his driver's license would be suspended as of July 10, 2009 "for back child support." (Id. ¶ 45.) On July 6, 2009, citing failure by the SCSCU to comply with N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 111-b, Charles sought to enjoin the pending license suspension by filing an order to show cause in Saratoga County Family Court. (See id. ¶ 46.) Charles' order was dismissed, and his license suspension began, four days later. (See id. ¶¶ 45, 48, 49.) Eight months later, on March 15, 2010, Charles notified the SCSCU that, because he was now subject to an income deduction order, his license should be reinstated. (See id. ¶ 53.) In a March 30, 2010 letter, Defendant Kupferman, a former Assistant Saratoga County Attorney, (see Dkt. No. 13, Attach. 2 at 4), notified Charles that, "upon [Kupferman's] advice," his license privileges had been reinstated, (Compl. ¶ 54).

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is well settled and will not be repeated here.*fn3 For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its prior decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

The DCSE, which is part of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), seeks dismissal of the claims against it for lack of involvement and immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. (See Dkt. No. 11 at 4-9.) In response, the Collinses contend that the DCSE played an active role in depriving them of equal protection and due process, and that it "has lost its immunity." (Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 2 at 2-9.) The court agrees that the DCSE is immune to the Collins' claims.

The Eleventh Amendment bars "suit in federal court against a state or one of its agencies by its own citizens in the absence of the state's explicit consent to be sued or Congress' unequivocal abrogation of immunity." Turner v. Olympic Reg'l Dev. Auth., 89 F. Supp. 2d 241, 246 (N.D.N.Y. 2000). Where a "state official acting in his official capacity" is sued for "prospective injunctive relief from violations of federal law," however, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar suit. Deposit Ins. Agency v. Superintendent of Banks of N.Y. (In re Deposit Ins. Agency), 482 F.3d 612, 617 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-60 (1908).

OTDA is an agency "of New York State and thus cannot be sued under [s]section 1983." Cincotta v. N.Y.C. Human Res. Admin., No. 00 Civ. 9064, 2001 WL 897176, at *9 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2001). While the Collinses seek to replace Doe defendants with the state employees responsible for making the alleged decisions at issue, (see Dkt. No. 16, Attach. 1 ¶ 7), it is clear that, to the extent that their Complaint can be read to request prospective injunctive relief, it does so as against the State, not individual officials, (see Compl. ¶¶ 89-90). Accordingly, as the DCSE is immune from the ...

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