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Andrew J. Myers v. Camden Cent. Sch. Dist.; Bd. of Educ.

July 17, 2012

ANDREW J. MYERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAMDEN CENT. SCH. DIST.; BD. OF EDUC. OF THE CAMDEN CENT. SCH. DIST.; ROCCO LONGO, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF CAMDEN SCH. DIST; AND RICHARD J. KEVILLE, SUPERINTENDENT OF CAMDEN SCH. DIST, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this employment civil rights action filed by Andrew J. Myers ("Plaintiff") against the Camden Central School District, Board of Education of the Camden Central School District,*fn1 Rocco Longo, and Richard Keville ("Defendants"), are the following two motions: (1) Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), 12(b)(6), and 12(b)(1); and (2) Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. (Dkt. No. 12; Dkt. No. 18.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

Plaintiff filed his original Complaint in this action on September 29, 2010. (Dkt. No. 1.) On November 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 4.) Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges as follows.

On September 1, 2003, Defendant District granted Plaintiff tenure as a teacher of math. (Id. at ¶ 13.) On September 7, 2005, he was arrested and charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, forcible touching, and endangering the welfare of a child under New York Penal Law §§ 130.55, 130.52, and 260.10. (Id. at ¶ 14.) The criminal charges were predicated upon allegations that Plaintiff inappropriately touched a member of the boys' varsity basketball team, of which Plaintiff was the coach. (Id. at ¶¶ 11, 15.)

The criminal charges were not disposed of until October 15, 2008, when Plaintiff pled guilty to the lesser charge of harassment in the second degree under New York Penal Law § 240.26. (Id. at ¶ 16.) However, before the charges were disposed of, Defendants suspended Plaintiff without pay or benefits (and without a hearing on any disciplinary charges) effective September 19, 2005, in violation of New York Education Law § 3020-a. (Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20, 27.) This wrongful withholding of pay and benefits continued until February 12, 2008, when Defendants terminated Plaintiff's employment pursuant to a process established by New York Education Law § 3020-a. (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 19, 20, 27, 32.)

Based on these factual allegations, Plaintiff asserts the following two claims against Defendants: (1) a claim that Defendants Longo and Keville deprived him of a protected property interest (in his contractual employment and tenure right under New York State law between September 19, 2005, and February 12, 2008) without due process, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment; and (2) a claim that Defendant District deprived him of a protected property interest (in his contractual employment and tenure right under New York State law between September 19, 2005, and February 12, 2008) without due process, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-49.)

Generally, as relief for these alleged violations, Plaintiff seeks the following: (1) an award for all salary and benefits for a period of "approximately three . . . years" (apparently the period of September 19, 2005, to October 15, 2008, the date his plea was entered); (2) an award of compensatory damages of more than $1,000,000.00, for emotional distress and damage to reputation and career; (3) an award of interest; and (4) an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at "Prayer for Relief.")

Familiarity with the claims, and supporting factual allegations, asserted in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties.

B. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Generally, in support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants assert the following four arguments: (1) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, because it has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that Plaintiff's original Complaint was filed long after the expiration of the applicable one-year limitations period established by New York Education Law § 3813(2-b); (2) in the alternative, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, because Plaintiff failed to timely and properly serve a notice of claim on Defendants as required by New York Education Law § 3813(1); (3) in the alternative, Plaintiff's claim against Defendants Longo and Keville must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, because it has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that they are protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of qualified immunity (given that they acted reasonably in asking Plaintiff to submit notice to them that he had resolved the legal impediment to him working at the District's high school, i.e., the Order of Protection, before they allowed him to resume employment in his previous position); and (4) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, because it has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that Defendant District was not legally obligated to (a) pay Plaintiff for work he could not perform at his assigned school and/or (b) transfer him to another school in the District. (See generally Dkt. No. 14 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Generally, in response to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) the applicable statue of limitations is the three-year limitations period established by New York CPLR § 214 (which governs all claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983), rather than one-year limitations period established by New York Education Law § 3813(1) (which governs only claims brought against district entities and officials pursuant to New York State law); (2) the notice-of-claim requirements established by New York Education Law § 3813(1) do not apply to federal constitutional claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) based on the factual allegations of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, neither Defendant Longo nor Defendant Keville is entitled to qualified immunity, because the Order merely directed him to stay away from Student B.B. at a particular school (and thus he was able to work in one of the District's various other schools, or the District's central offices, without violating the Order). (See generally Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 3 [Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

In his response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiff does not specifically address Defendants' fourth above-described argument--that, based on Plaintiff's own factual allegations, regardless of whether or not he could legally step foot in a school other than the District's high school pursuant to the Order of Protection, Defendant District was not legally obligated to employ--and thus pay--Plaintiff for work outside of his scope of certification (i.e., Grade 7-12 Mathematics) at one of those schools. (Id.) However, in support of his cross-motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' above-described argument is incorrect essentially because (1) the record evidence shows that Plaintiff could have worked in the District's middle school, located one mile away from the District's high school (as well as the District's central offices, located between the high school and middle school), and (2) the two cases cited by Defendants are inapplicable because they regarded teachers whose certifications had been wholly revoked (which is not the case here). (Id.) To the extent that Plaintiff's second argument is based merely on the law and not on any record evidence, the Court will liberally construe it as responding to the above-described aspect of Defendants' motion to dismiss.

Generally in their reply, Defendants assert the following two arguments: (1) according to the relevant case law, the applicable statue of limitations is one year under New York Education Law § 3813(1), rather than three years under the New York CPLR § 214 (governing tort claims); and (2) because of the Order of Protection issued against Plaintiff--which may be considered by the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss and which was never addressed by Plaintiff in his opposition to that motion--and because of the fact that Plaintiff was not legally able to perform his duties, Defendants Longo and Keville are indeed protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of qualified immunity. (See generally Dkt. No. 20 [Defs.' Reply Memo. of Law].)

In addition, in their reply memorandum of law, Defendants argue--for the first time--that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, because that Amended Complaint has not alleged facts plausibly suggesting (1) the nature of his constitutionally protected property interest, (2) how they improperly deprived him of that interest, and (3) what direct involvement the Defendant District had in the conduct of Defendants Longo and Keville. (Compare Dkt. No. 14 [Defs.' Memo. of Law] with Dkt. No. 20, at 11-12 [attaching pages "7" and "8" of Defs.' Reply Memo. of Law].) While the Court understands that Defendants were prompted to make this argument as a result of an argument made by Plaintiff in support of his cross-motion for summary judgment, the thrust of Defendants' argument is not simply that Plaintiff's cross-motion should be denied, but that his Amended Complaint should be dismissed. Such a new argument cannot fairly be sprung on a non-movant in a reply. In particular, because sur-replies are not permitted under the District's Local Rules of Practice, Plaintiff did not have a fair opportunity to respond to this late-blossoming argument. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(b)(1). As a result, the Court will not consider this argument in this Decision and Order.

C. Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment

Generally, in his cross-motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff asserts the following two arguments: (1) based on the admissible record evidence, there is no genuine dispute that Defendants were legally obligated to pay Plaintiff, despite the Order of Protection issued against him, because (a) the Order merely directed him to stay away from Student B.B. at a particular school (and thus he was able to work in one of the District's many other offices or schools other than Student B.B.'s school without violating the Order), and (b) Plaintiff requested work in other offices or schools four times; and (2) Defendants' violation of the above-described legal obligation gives rise to a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, because (a) his contractual employment and tenure right under New York State law give him a protected property interest under the Fourteenth Amendment, and (b) Defendants' non-compliance with New York Education Law § 3020-a constitutes a deprivation of Plaintiff's right to procedural due process. (See generally Dkt. No. 18, Attach. 3 [Plf.'s Memo. of Law in Support of His Cross-Motion].)

Generally, in response to Plaintiff's cross-motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not entitled to summary judgment because he has failed to adduced evidence removing any genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether he suffered deprivation of a constitutional or statutory right due to a custom or policy of Defendant District. (See generally Dkt. No. 20 [Defs.' Memo. of Law in Opp'n to Plf.'s Cross-Motion].)

II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Legal Standard Governing Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State Claim

"The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2001) (collecting cases). 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 decision in Bridgeforth v. Popovics, 09-CV-0545, 2011 WL 2133661, at *2-4 (N.D.N.Y. May 25, 2011) (Suddaby, J.), which accurately recites that standard.

The Court would add only two points. First, generally, when contemplating a dismissal pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) or Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), the following matters outside the four corners of the complaint may be considered without triggering the standard governing a motion for summary judgment: (1) documents attached as an exhibit to the complaint or answer, (2) documents incorporated by reference in the complaint (and provided by the parties), (3) documents that, although not incorporated by reference, are "integral" to the complaint, or (4) any matter of which the court can take judicial notice for the factual background of the case.*fn2

Second, generally, "[a] motion to dismiss on the basis that an action is barred by the statute of limitations is analyzed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), not 12(b)(1)." Garner v. DII Indus., LLC, 08-CV-6191, 2010 WL 456801, at *1 (W.D.N.Y. Feb.4, 2010) (citing ...


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