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Sabin v. Nelson

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 30, 2014

JON SABIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEANNA NELSON et al., Defendants.

Jon Sabin, Pro Se, South Colton, NY, for the Plaintiff.

J. RICHARD BENITEZ, Assistant Attorney General, HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York Attorney General, The Capitol, Albany, NY, for the Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Jon Sabin commenced this action against defendants Deanna Nelson, individually and as Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York, Eric Schneiderman, individually and as New York State Attorney General, and Andrew Cuomo, individually and as Governor of the State of New York, alleging that certain New York State laws are unconstitutional, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending before the court is a motion by defendants for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Dkt. No. 27.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted, and Sabin's complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

II. Background[1]

Sabin's complaint, far from a model of clarity, is almost entirely devoid of concrete factual assertions. Sabin trains service dogs to assist individuals suffering from epilepsy. (Compl. ¶ 10.) He alleges that New York State laws somehow "prohibit [him] from offering for sale or... train[ing] service dogs, " ( id. ¶ 12), and that if he disregards those laws, he risks arrest of his employees and future civil litigation brought against him, ( id. ¶ 13). Therefore, Sabin seeks a declaration that certain provisions of New York State law, presumably the provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law[2] defining "guide dog, " "hearing dog, " and "service dog, " ( id. ¶ 23), among others, are unconstitutional because they conflict with similar definitions in the Americans with Disabilities Act[3] (ADA) and related regulations, ( id. ¶¶ 14, 23, 47-54). He also seeks "preliminary and permanent injunctive relief" prohibiting defendants from enforcing these allegedly unconstitutional laws. ( Id. ¶¶ 55-66.) Sabin asserts that these "New York State Laws" infringe his "rights under the First[ and] Fourteenth Amendments, " ( id. ¶ 50), because "[t]he New York Assistant Attorney General has made attempts to curb [Sabin]'s speech about his rights and service dogs he has trained, " ( id. ¶ 52(A)).

While Sabin spends numerous pages of his complaint describing the legislative history of various federal and state laws, his primary point of contention seems to be that, while a "service animal" is defined by federal law as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, " 28 C.F.R. § 36.104, the State Human Rights Law defines "service dog" as "any dog that is trained to work or perform specific tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability by a recognized service dog training center or professional service dog trainer, " N.Y. Exec. Law § 292(33) (emphasis added). Sabin's complaint also references similar issues with provisions of the New York Public Health Law, (Compl. ¶ 25), Civil Rights Law, ( id. ¶¶ 26, 28), and Agriculture and Markets Law, ( id. ¶ 31). According to Sabin, these discrepancies between the state and federal definitions somehow result in the unconstitutionality of the state laws.

III. Standard of Review

"The standard for addressing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Wright v. Monroe Cmty. Hosp., 493 F.App'x 233, 234 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). For a full discussion of that standard, the court refers the parties to its prior decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F.Supp.2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

In their motion, defendants argue, primarily, that Sabin's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief should be dismissed because the governor and attorney general are not proper parties in this case. (Dkt. No. 27, Attach. 1 at 6-7.) Sabin has not responded to this argument, but merely argues in response to the motion, in general terms, that individual defendants can be sued in their official capacities for injunctive relief, and that a private right of action exists under the ADA. (Dkt. No. 32 at 2-11.) For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted, and Sabin's complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

"[A] state official may be joined as a defendant to a suit to restrain the enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional statute if that official by virtue of his office has some connection with the enforcement of the act.'" United States v. New York, No. 5:04-CV-00428, 2007 WL 951576, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2007) (quoting Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 157 (1908)); see Mendez v. Heller, 530 F.2d 457, 460 (2d Cir. 1976). Defendants argue, on this basis, that they are not proper parties because "the New York State legislature has delegated... the authority to implement and enforce the State's anti-discrimination laws" to the New York State Division of Human Rights. (Dkt. No. 27, Attach. 1 at 7 (citing N.Y. Exec. Law § 290).)

With respect to the Attorney General, the Second Circuit has held that when "[t]he Attorney General has no connection with the enforcement of [the state statute at issue, he] cannot be a party to [the] suit." Mendez, 530 F.2d at 460. The court further explained that, "[a]lthough he has a duty to support the constitutionality of challenged state statutes, and to defend actions in which the state is interested', the Attorney General does so, not as an adverse party, but as a representative of the State's interest in asserting the validity of its statutes." Id. (citations omitted). Here, defendants have asserted that "enforcement of the New York Human Rights Law rests with [the] Division of Human Rights, " (Dkt. No. 27, Attach. 1 at 5 (citing N.Y. Exec. Law § 290)), and there are no allegations to the contrary in Sabin's complaint. Sabin has also failed to allege in his complaint how Schneiderman or Nelson have enforced the particular laws he alleges to be ...


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