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Guan N. v. Nyc Dept. of Education

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 23, 2013

GUAN N., ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
NYC DEPT. OF EDUCATION, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge.

This action arises out of investigations into PS 184M, also known as the Shuang Wen School, initiated by the New York City Department of Education (the "DOE"). Plaintiffs, current students at Shuang Wen and parents of students of Shuang Wen, contend that these investigations were motivated by anti-Asian animus.

The initial complaint in this action was filed on June 24, 2011, but has since been twice amended. (Dkt. #s 1, 34, 111) The DOE answered the Second Amended Complaint, (Dkt. # 133), while defendant Lynn Berat moved for its dismissal, (Dkt. # 128). In a lengthy opinion issued January 7, 2013, the Court granted Ms. Berat's motion with respect to the § 1983 claims asserted against her but denied her motion with respect to the remaining New York City Human Rights Law claims.[1] (Dkt. # 150)

Defendant Edward Primus did not respond to the Second Amended Complaint, presumably because his request for pro bono counsel was still pending. This request was ultimately granted, (Dkt. # 123), and pro bono counsel has now entered an appearance on behalf of Mr. Primus, (Dkt. # 149).

Plaintiffs now move for leave to file a third amended complaint. (Dkt. # 164) Both Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus oppose Plaintiffs' motion. (Dkt. #s 170, 172) Mr. Primus also cross-moves to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. # 172) The DOE, which answered the Second Amended Complaint, has taken no position on Plaintiffs' request to amend.

For the reasons detailed herein, Plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, (Dkt. # 164), is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Mr. Primus' motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, (Dkt. # 172), is GRANTED.

I. PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT

Rule 15(a) provides that leave to amend should be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). However, "the Court has broad discretion in deciding whether or not to grant such a request." St. Clair Shores Gen. Employees Ret. Sys. v. Eibeler, 745 F.Supp.2d 303, 316 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (citations and quotation marks omitted). Factors that are relevant to the exercise of the Court's discretion include: (1) the presence of bad faith, dilatory motives, or undue delay on the part of the movant; (2) the movant's repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed; (3) the potential for undue prejudice to an opposing party; and (4) whether the sought-after amendment would be futile. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

Here, Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus oppose Plaintiffs' proposed amendments on three grounds: (A) repeated failure to cure pleading deficiencies; (B) undue prejudice; and (C) futility. (Primus Mot. 6-8, 18-20; Berat Opp. 15-16, 19, 21) As detailed below, the Court is not persuaded by the first or the second argument. However, the Court agrees that Plaintiffs' standing to pursue certain claims remains inadequately pled, rendering amendment of those claims futile. Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend but only with respect to those claims that remain either unchallenged or for which standing is adequately pled.

A. Failure to Cure Deficiencies

Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus contend that Plaintiffs' request for leave to amend should be denied because Plaintiffs have repeatedly failed to cure the deficiencies in their pleadings. While it is true that Plaintiffs seek leave to file a third amended complaint, this is in fact the first time that they have sought to amend in response to a parent defendant's motion to dismiss - the First Amended Complaint was filed before any party had responded to the original complaint, and the Second Amended Complaint was filed in response to a motion to dismiss by the DOE[2] (Dkt. #s 34, 66, 111) Thus, the proposed Third Amended Complaint is actually Plaintiffs' first attempt to cure pleading deficiencies identified by a parent defendant.

B. Undue Prejudice

Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus also ask the Court to deny Plaintiffs' request for leave to amend on the grounds that amendment would prejudice them. Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus have not demonstrated, however, that they face any undue prejudice. See Foman, 371 U.S. at 182 (describing test as "undue prejudice").

Mr. Primus has only recently become an active participant in this litigation and has identified no prejudice that he would suffer as the result of amendment.

Although Ms. Berat has previously moved to dismiss certain of Plaintiffs' claims against her, she faces no prejudice from amendment because she would have to participate in discovery whether or not the Court allowed the amendment. See Dkt. # 150 (allowing Plaintiffs' NYCHRL claims to proceed against Ms. Berat because she did not move for their dismissal).

Finally, any prejudice that might result from having to respond to the Third Amended Complaint is cured by the Court's refusal to allow futile amendments.

C. Futility

The Court turns finally to Ms. Berat's and Mr. Primus' futility argument. In the proposed Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert three categories of claims against Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus: (1) claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the Parent Defendants, acting jointly with the DOE, discriminated against Plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and deprived Plaintiffs of their right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (2) claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 also alleging Equal Protection and Fourth Amendment violations; and (3) claims that the Parent Defendants violated the New York City Human Rights Law (the "NYCHRL").[3] (TAC ¶ 183, 191, 212)

Ms. Berat and Mr. Primus oppose amendment of Plaintiffs' § 1983 Fourth Amendment claims, § 1983 equal protection claims, and NYCHRL claims on futility grounds.[4] More specifically, they contend that amendment would be futile because Plaintiffs lack standing to assert these claims. As explained herein, the Court concludes that even after amendment, none of the plaintiffs has standing to assert § 1983 Fourth Amendment or equal protection claims against Ms. Berat or Mr. Primus, none of the plaintiffs has standing to assert NYCHRL claims against Ms. Berat, and only one plaintiff - Judith P. - has standing to pursue a NYCHRL claim against Mr. Primus.

1. Legal Standard Applicable To Standing Analysis

The test for constitutional standing requires a plaintiff to show: (1) an injury in fact (i.e., an invasion of a legally protected interest of the plaintiff's that is actual or imminent and concrete and particularized); (2) a fairly traceable causal connection between the actions of the defendant and the injury in fact; and (3) a likelihood that a favorable decision will redress the plaintiff's complained-of injury. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). "[S]tanding must be demonstrated for each claim and form of relief sought." Kiryas Joel Alliance v. Village of Kiryas Joel, 495 Fed.Appx. 183, 189 (2d Cir. Sept. 10, 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). If, as here, standing is challenged on the basis of the pleadings, the Court accepts as true all material allegations of the complaint and construes the complaint in the plaintiffs' favor. Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council v. ...


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