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Lautman v. The Village of Saugerties

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 23, 2014

LEONID LAUTMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF SAUGERTIES, NEW YORK; WILLIAM MURPHY, individually, and in his official capacity; ROBERT YERICK, individually, and in his official capacity as trustee and officer of the Village of Saugerties; KELLY MYERS, individually, and in his official capacity as Trustee and Officer of the Village of Saugerties; VINCE BUONO, individually, and in his official capacity as Trustee and Officer of the Village of Saugerties; PATRICK LANDEWE, individually, and in his official capacity as Trustee and Officer of the Village of Saugerties; DON HACKETT, individually and in his individual capacity as Trustee and Officer of the Village of Saugerties; MARY FRANK, Individually, and in her official capacity; ALEXANDER WADE, individually, and in his official capacity; EYAL SAAD, Individually, and in his official capacity; COUNTY OF ULSTER, NEW YORK; PAUL VANBLARCUM, Individually, and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Ulster County; DONALD RYAN, Individually, and in his official capacity; LAURA ROMANO, Individually; WILSON, ELSER, MOSKOWITZ, EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP; ALEXANDER BETKE, II, ESQ., in his professional and personal capacity; ALISSA YOHEY, ESQ., in her professional and personal capacity; and PETER LAURICELLA, ESQ, in his professional and personal capacity, Defendants.

LEONID LAUTMAN Brooklyn, New York Plaintiff pro se.

DRAKE, LOEB LAW FIRM, ADAM L. RODD, ESQ., RALPH L. PUGLIELLE, JR., ESQ., New Windsor, New York Attorneys for Defendants The Village of Saugerties; William Murphy; Robert Yerick; Kelly Myers; Vince Buono; Patrick Landewe; Don Hackett; Mary Frank; Alexander Wade; and Eyal Saad

COOK, TUCKER LAW FIRM, MICHAEL T. COOK, ESQ., Kingston, New York, Attorneys for Defendants, County of Ulster; Paul VanBlarcum; Donald Ryan; and Laura Romano

ANASTASIOS P. TONOREZOS, ESQ., WILSON ELSER MOSKOWITZ, EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendants Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP; Alexander Betke, II, Esq.; Alissa Yohey; Esq.; Peter Lauricella, Esq.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

In a complaint dated March 8, 2013, Plaintiff commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986, alleging various violations of his constitutional rights. On August 30, 2013 and September 30, 2013, Defendants moved to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. Nos. 12, 17, 20. After his response deadline had already expired, Plaintiff requested an extension of time to respond until January 3, 2013, which the Court granted. See Dkt. Nos. 24, 25. Despite being granted this extension, Plaintiff has still failed to respond to the pending motions.

Currently before the Court are Defendants' unopposed motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

In this action, Plaintiff alleges that the Village of Saugerties and certain officials and employees, William Murphy, Robert Yerick, Kelly Myers, Vince Buono, Patrick Landewe, Don Hackett, Mary Frank, Alexander Wade, and Eyal Saad (collectively referred to as the "Village Defendants"), conspired with Defendants County of Ulster, Paul Van Blarcum, Donald Ryan, and Laura Romano (the "County Defendants") and the law firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, LLP - the Village's counsel - to deprive him of his real property by commencing and prosecuting a special proceeding against him seeking the demolition of an unsafe and dangerous structure situated on certain real property located at 51 Livingston Street in the Village of Saugerties that, at the time, was owned by Plaintiff. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 29-33.

Plaintiff is a resident of Brooklyn, New York, and the former owner of real property located at 51 Livingston Street in the Village of Saugerties, County of Ulster. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 5. Plaintiff alleges that in March of 2007, the Village commenced a special proceeding against him in New York State Supreme Court, Ulster County, seeking relief permitting it to demolish the structure situated on the real property located at 51 Livingston Street. See id. at ¶ 33. The verified petition in the underlying state-court proceeding sought the demolition of the aforesaid structure because it was allegedly unsafe and dangerous.

Although somewhat unclear, Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendants Saad and Wade submitted affidavits in support of the Village's verified petition that omitted various facts that Plaintiff believes should have been included. See id. at ¶¶ 34-81. Plaintiff further appears to disagree with conclusions and findings set forth in those affidavits, including their interpretation of the New York State Property Maintenance Code and the Village Zoning Code. See id. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Saad submitted "false" affidavits in support of two contempt motions made by the Village. See id. at ¶¶ 82-85. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Meyers admitted in a letter to the state court that she "illegally enter[ed] the Subject-property and conduct[ed] therein unreasonable search in violation of the Plaintiff's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." Id. at ¶ 85. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Saad and Village's counsel - the Wilson Elser Defendants - "engaged in the obstruction" of the hearing held in the underlying special proceeding. See id. at ¶ 97.

As to the County Defendants, Plaintiff alleges that they conspired with the Village Defendants to transfer his property to the Village without providing notice of the auction sale. See id. at ¶ 32.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief. See Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 111-12 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). In considering the legal sufficiency, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts in the pleading and draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor. See ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This presumption of truth, however, does not extend to legal conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). Although a court's review of a motion to dismiss is generally limited to the facts presented in the pleading, the court may consider documents that are "integral" to that pleading, even if they are neither physically attached to, nor incorporated by reference into, the pleading. See Mangiafico v. Blumenthal, 471 F.3d 391, 398 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152-53 (2d Cir. 2002)).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a party need only plead "a short and plain statement of the claim, " see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), with sufficient factual "heft to sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief[, ]'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007) (quotation omitted). Under this standard, the pleading's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right of relief above the speculative level, " see id. at 555 (citation omitted), and present claims that are "plausible on [their] face, " id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of "entitlement to relief."'" Id. (quoting [ Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Ultimately, "when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, " Twombly, 550 U.S. at 558, or where a plaintiff has "not nudged [its] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed[, ]" id. at 570.

Despite this recent tightening of the standard for pleading a claim, complaints by pro se parties continue to be accorded more deference than those filed by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 (2007). As such, Twombly and Iqbal notwithstanding, this Court must continue to "construe [a complaint] broadly, and interpret [it] to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggests." Weixel v. Bd. of Educ., 287 F.3d 138, 146 (2d Cir. 2002).

B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section 1983 imposes liability for "conduct which subjects, or causes to be subjected' the complainant to a deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws." Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Not only must the conduct deprive the plaintiff of rights and privileges secured by the Constitution, but the actions or omissions attributable to each defendant must be the proximate cause of the injuries and consequent damages that the plaintiff sustained. See Brown v. Coughlin, 758 F.Supp. 876, 881 (S.D.N.Y. 1991) (citing Martinez v. California, 444 U.S. 277, 100 S.Ct. 553, 62 L.Ed.2d 481, reh. denied, 445 U.S. 920 , 100 S.Ct. 1285, 63 L.Ed.2d 606 (1980)). As such, for a plaintiff to recover in a section 1983 action, he must establish a causal connection between the acts or omissions of each defendant and any injury or damages he suffered as a result of those acts or omissions. See id. (citing Givhan v. Western Line Consolidated School District, 439 U.S. 410, 99 S.Ct. 693, 58 L.Ed.2d 619 (1979)) (other citation omitted).

C. Rooker-Feldman doctrine

"The Rooker-Feldman doctrine provides that the lower federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over a case if the exercise of jurisdiction over that case would result in the reversal or modification of a state court judgment." Hachamovitch v. DeBuono, 159 F.3d 687, 693 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). "Such jurisdiction is lacking because ...


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