United States District Court, E.D. New York
BISHOP WILLIAM B. CARACTOR, REVEREND HELEN CLAY-CARACTOR, Plaintiffs,
HOUSING BRIDGE 93RD AVENUE FAMILY RESIDENCE, MR. NOEL FRANCIS, Program Director, MS. MAGARD, Director of Social Services, MS. NICOLE WASHINGTON, Case Manager, MS. S. EVANS, Housing Specialist, Defendants. BISHOP WILLIAM B. CARACTOR, Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF HOMELESS SERVICES, MICHELE OVESSEY, CARL MYRICKS, Program Administrator, PROGRAM ANALYST SHAYLA SIMON, jointly and severally, Defendants.
SANDRA J. FEUERSTEIN, District Judge.
On July 8, 2013, pro se plaintiffs Bishop William B. Caractor and Reverend Helen Clay Caractor (together, "plaintiffs") filed an in forma pauperis complaint in the case bearing docket number 13-CV-3800 (SJF)(AKT) (the "13-CV-3800 Action") against Housing Bridge 93' Avenue Family Residence ("Housing Bridge"), Mr. Noel Francis, Ms. Magard, Ms. Nicole Washington, and Ms. S. Evans (collectively, the "Housing Bridge defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("CRA"). By Order dated November 22, 2013, the Court granted plaintiffs" applications to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the complaint with leave to amend on or before December 22, 2013. On December 16, 2013, plaintiffs timely filed an amended complaint ("13-CV-3800 Amended Complaint.").
On October 28, 2013, Bishop filed a new in forma pauperis civil rights complaint (the "13-CV-7043 Complaint") in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("S.D.N.Y.") against the City of New York Department of Homeless Services ("NYCDHS"), Michele Ovesey, Carl Myricks, and program analyst Shayla Simon (collectively, the "NYCDHS defendants") pursuant to Section 1983, the CRA and the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. On December 10, 2013, the case was transferred from the S.D.N.Y. to this Court and assigned docket number 13-CV-7043 (SJF)(AKT) (the "13-CV-7043 Action").
I. Factual Background
The 13-CV-3800 Amended Complaint and the 13-CV-7043 Complaint are both difficult to comprehend, While the 13-CV-3800 Amended Complaint is brought against the Housing Bridge defendants and the 13-CV-7043 Complaint against the NYDHCS defendants, the two (2) complaints allege largely the same claims arising from the same set of facts. Bishop, a sixty-five (65) year old "consecrated Bishop and Presiding Prelate of Discovered Being Ministry Incorporated" with medical conditions (diabetes, cancer, and high-blood pressure), along with his wife and daughter, reside at Housing Bridge, which "operate[s] under the policies and procedures established by [NYCDHS]." (13-CV-3800 Am. Compl. at 1-2; 13-CV-7043 Compl. at 1, 3). According to plaintiffs, while NYCDHS policy requires all clients to save thirty percent (30%) of their net income and to meet with their case manager every two (2) weeks, plaintiffs were required to save fifty percent (50%) of their gross income and to meet with their case manager weekly. (13-CV-3800 Am. Compl. at 2-3; 13-CV-7043 Compl. at 4). Plaintiffs further allege that they were not permitted to submit documentation to establish their compliance with the NYCDHS policies. (13-CV-3800 Am. Compl. at 3; 13-CV-7043 Compl. at 5). While plaintiffs contend that "they were placed in non-compliance which can cause you to be expelled, sanctioned or involuntarily transferred, " plaintiffs do not allege to that they have been expelled, sanctioned or involuntarily transferred. (13-CV-3800 Am. Compl. at 3). The relief sought in both pleadings is $300, 000 as well as injunctive relief barring defendants from violating federal law. (13-CV-3800 Am. Compl. at 5; 13-CV-7043 Compl. at 6).
A. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Upon review of Bishop's declarations in support of his application to proceed in forma pauperis in the 13-CV-7043 Action, the Court determines that Bishop's financial status qualifies him to commence the action without prepayment of the filing fees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Therefore, Bishop's request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.
B. Consolidation of the Complaints
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42, "[i]f actions before the court involve a common question of law or fact, the court may: (1) join for hearing or trial any or all matters at issue in the actions; (2) consolidate the actions; or (3) issue any other orders to avoid unnecessary cost or delay." Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a). "The trial court has broad discretion to determine whether consolidation is appropriate." Johnson v. Celotex Corp., 899 F.2d 1281, 1284-85 (2d Cir. 1990). Consolidation is appropriate in order to serve the interests of judicial economy. See, e.g., Jacobs v. Castillo, No. 09 Civ. 953, 2009 WL 1203942, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr, 23, 2009) ("Consolidation would further the goal of judicial economy' because discovery in each case is likely to be identical, motion practice and trial in the two cases would most likely Cover the same facts and some identical issues of law."). Specifically, consolidation of cases with common questions of law or fact is favored "to avoid unnecessary costs or delay, " Johnson, 899 F.2d at 1284, and to "expedite trial and eliminate unnecessary repetition and confusion." Devlin, 175 F.3d at 130 (internal citations omitted).
Cases may be consolidated where, as here, there are different parties in the complaints. See Werner v. Satterlee, Stephens, Burke & Burke, 797 F.Supp. 1196, 1211 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) ("The fact that there are different parties in this action does not mean this case should not be consolidated."); see also Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. Retiree Med. Benefits Trust v. LaBranche & Co., Inc., 229 F.R.D. 395, 402 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (explaining that consolidation is appropriate even where certain defendants are named in only one of the complaints). Cases may also be consolidated even where, as here, there are differences in the causes of action. See Kaplan v. Gelfond, 240 F.R.D. 88, 91 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) ("Differences in causes of action... do not render consolidation inappropriate if the cases present sufficiently common questions of fact and law, and the differences do not outweigh the interests of judicial economy served by consolidation."). The paramount concern is whether savings of expense and gains of efficiency can be accomplished without sacrifice of justice. Johnson, 899 F.2d at 1285 ("Considerations of convenience and economy must yield to a paramount concern for a fair and impartial trial.").
"The Second Circuit has long adhered to the first-filed doctrine in deciding which case to dismiss where there are competing litigations. Where there are several competing lawsuits, the first suit should have priority, absent the showing of balance of convenience or special circumstances giving priority to the second." Kellen Co. v. Calphalon Corp., 54 F.Supp.2d 218, 221 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (internal quotation marks, alterations, and citations omitted); accord Adam v. Jacobs, 950 F.2d 89, 92 (2d Cir. 1991); First City Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. v. Simmons, 878 F.2d 76, 79 (2d Cir. 1989). The first-filed rule seeks to conserve judicial resources and avoid duplicative litigation. See Adam, 950 F.2d at 92; First City Nat? Bank, 878 F.2d at 80; Kellen, 54 F.Supp.2d at 221.
The 13-CV-3800 Amended Complaint and the 13-CV-7043 Complaint both purport to allege violations of the plaintiffs' civil rights in connection with their continued housing at Housing Bridge. Apart from the identity of the parties and the FHA claim in the 13-CV-7043 Complaint, the two (2) complaints are largely the same. The fact that the parties and claims are not identical in the two (2) actions does not preclude a finding that the cases should be consolidated. See Werner, 797 F.Supp. at 1211; Kaplan, 240 F.R.D. at 91. The Court concludes that these differences do not outweigh the interests of judicial economy that would be served by consolidation, given the common questions of law and fact in both cases. Accordingly, the Court orders that these complaints be consolidated pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42 into ...