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Sedacca v. Mangano

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 9, 2014

DOLORES SEDACCA, JOHN R. LEWIS, JR. and ISRAEL WASSER, Plaintiffs,
v.
EDWARD P. MANGANO, County Executive of Nassau County and COUNTY OF NASSAU, Defendants.

Kenneth Lawrence Gartner, Esq., John Walter Dunne, Esq., Robert P. Lynne, Jr., Esq., LYNN, GARTNER, DUNNE & COVELLO, LLP, Mineola, NY, for the Plaintiffs.

Susan M. Tokarski, Esq., OFFICE OF THE NASSAU COUNTY ATTORNEY, Mineola, NY, for the Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DENIS R. HURLEY, District Judge.

On April 19, 2012, plaintiffs Dolores Sedacca ("Sedacca"), John R. Lewis, Jr. ("Lewis"), and Israel Wasser ("Wasser") (collectively "plaintiffs") initiated this action against County Executive Edward Mangano ("Mangano") and the County of Nassau (collectively, "defendants"), alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court are defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(1), plaintiffs' motion for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11, and plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part defendants' motion to dismiss, and the Court denies plaintiffs' motions for sanctions and for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed true for purposes of defendants' motion to dismiss, which the Court will address first. The plaintiffs were all appointed as Commissioners of the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission ("ARC") by County Executive of Nassau County Thomas Suozzi ( See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 3) and confirmed to their positions by resolutions of the Nassau County Legislature on December 24, 2009. Sedacca's term was to expire on June 29, 2012, Wasser's term was to expire on June 29, 2013, and Lewis's term was to expire on June 29, 2014.

On or about January 14, 2010, newly named County Executive Edward P. Mangano sent the plaintiffs letters stating that the plaintiffs were being removed from their positions pursuant to Section 203 of the Nassau County Charter ("§ 203").[1] According to plaintiffs, the reasons given for the removals had nothing to do with the plaintiffs' performance, but rather, Mangano's "desire to name new appointees of his political choice, and thwart what he believed was a political overreach in the exercise of appointive authority by his predecessor" and the prior County Legislature.[2] (Compl. ¶ 25.)

On January 25, 2010, the plaintiffs commenced an Article 78 proceeding[3] in Nassau County Supreme Court seeking a declaration that their removal without cause would be unlawful and seeking to enjoin the defendants from taking such action. The action was commenced by an order to show cause containing a temporary restraining order ("TRO") seeking to keep the plaintiffs in their positions pending the resolution of the proceeding. Although the Supreme Court initially signed the TRO, on February 4, 2010 it lifted the TRO and dismissed the action finding that § 203 allowed the County Executive to remove the plaintiffs without cause. Sedacca v. Mangano, 895 N.Y.S.2d 792 (Sup.Ct. 2010). According to plaintiffs, the defendants removed the plaintiffs from office on that same day.

The plaintiffs appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department, but on November 3, 2010, the Appellate Division affirmed the February 4, 2010 order of the Nassau Supreme Court. Sedacca v. Mangano, 78 A.D.3d 716 (2d Dep't 2010). The New York Court of Appeals, however, granted leave to appeal, and in a February 21, 2012 per curiam opinion, unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's decision and found that "in the absence of cause, the County Executive does not have authority to remove commissioners of the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission prior to the expiration of their statutory terms" and remitted the case to the Supreme Court. Sedacca, 18 N.Y.3d at 616. On remand, the Supreme Court granted the plaintiffs' request for an "[o]rder permanently enjoining the County Executive and the County of Nassau from, absent cause, taking any action to effect the removal of [plaintiffs] prior to the expiration of their statutory terms." (Defs.' Ex. L to Opp. to Summ. J., Order of Hon. Roy S. Mahon, April 10, 2012.) By the time the Supreme Court issued this order plaintiffs had already been removed, and Mangano refused to reinstate the plaintiffs, refused to compensate them for the time during which they had been removed from their positions, and refused to provide them with any future pay despite the decision not to reinstate the plaintiffs to their positions.

Plaintiffs now claim that "defendants unjustly deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights [to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution] when they unlawfully removed the plaintiffs without cause, " and when they "following the February 21, 2012 decision of the Court of Appeals, refused to reinstate or compensate the plaintiffs without cause." (Compl. ¶¶ 39-42.) Plaintiffs claim that pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 they are entitled to "(i) reinstatement (to the extent that their terms, by the time of adjudication, have any time left on them), (ii) back (or future) pay, (iii) the attorneys [sic] fees and expenses incurred in the state court action, and (iv) punitive damages; together with, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (i) the attorneys [sic] fees incurred in the instant action, and if not awarded as direct compensatory damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (ii) the attorneys [sic] fees and expenses incurred in the state court action." (Compl. ¶ 38.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

A defendant may move to dismiss a suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) "when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The plaintiff has the burden to prove subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the Court must accept all facts in the complaint as true. Town of Babylon v. Fed. Hous. Fin. Agency, 699 F.3d 221, 227 ...


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