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Williams v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 22, 2014

DIANA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant

For Diana Williams, Plaintiff: Andrew Rozynski, LEAD ATTORNEY, Eisenberg & Baum, New York, NY; Eric Baum, Simon, Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, New York, NY.

For The City of New York, Defendant: Camiel S. Richards, LEAD ATTORNEY, NYC Law Department, Office of the Corporation Counsel (NYC), New York, NY; Mark David Zuckerman, LEAD ATTORNEY, NYC Law Department, New York, NY.

Page 293

OPINION AND ORDER

VALERIE CAPRONI, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Diana Williams, who is profoundly deaf and communicates primarily through sign language, seeks a permanent injunction pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ) requiring the New York City Police Department (" NYPD" ) to adopt policies and procedures to provide accommodations to hearing-impaired persons upon arrest and incarceration.[1]

Defendant has moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) arguing that Plaintiff lacks standing because the complaint does not allege a likelihood of future harm. In opposition, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend the complaint to plead additional facts to bolster her standing. The Court has evaluated Defendant's motion and the additional facts Plaintiff seeks to allege in a Second Amended Complaint. Because the likelihood of future harm would be entirely conjectural even if Plaintiff were granted leave to amend at this late juncture,[2] Plaintiff's request to file a Second Amended Complaint is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion for a judgment on the pleadings

Page 294

as to Count VII of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

On September 11, 2011, NYPD officers responded to a call from a residential building owned by Plaintiff and her husband in Staten Island where a tenant was moving out due to non-payment of rent. Compl. ¶ ¶ 7-9. Plaintiff attempted to communicate with a police officer but was unable to do so effectively without the assistance of an interpreter. Compl. ¶ 10. For reasons that are unclear, Plaintiff was arrested. At the police station, despite repeated requests, she was not provided an interpreter to communicate the charges against her or to explain her rights. Compl. ¶ ¶ 10-12. She was confined to a cell and began to experience panic attacks; she was then taken to a hospital, which did have a sign language interpreter on staff. Compl. ¶ ¶ 14-15. The hospital interpreter allegedly conveyed Plaintiff's request to the police officers that she be provided an interpreter to explain the nature of the charges and the duration of her detention. Compl. ¶ 15. When her panic attacks subsided, Plaintiff was returned to the police station -- still without the assistance of a sign language interpreter -- only to be returned to the hospital when her panic attacks resumed. Compl. ¶ ¶ 16-17. This time, no interpreter was provided by the hospital; the hospital allegedly drew blood without her informed consent and injected her with a sedative. Compl. ¶ 17. After spending a night at the precinct, Plaintiff was released the next day; all charges were dropped. Compl. ¶ 21. This action followed.

DISCUSSION

Defendant asserts that Plaintiff lacks standing to pursue injunctive relief. Because Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a likelihood of future harm from the NYPD's failure to provide sign language interpreters to arrested or incarcerated hearing-impaired persons, the Court concludes that she lacks standing.

Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to the resolution of " cases" and " controversies." U.S. Const. art. III, § 1. The jurisdictional limitation on who has standing to seek injunctive relief is independent from the merits of the Plaintiff's claim that her constitutional rights were violated. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 89-90, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998) (contrasting standing, as an issue implicating a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction, with the failure to state a cognizable claim, which is not a jurisdictional defect). If a plaintiff lacks standing to seek particular relief, a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the request. Shain v. Ellison, 356 F.3d 211, 215 (2d Cir. 2004).

" An objection to standing is properly made on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion." Tasini v. New York Times, Co., Inc., 184 F.Supp.2d 350, 354 (S.D.N.Y. 2002). After the close of pleadings, however, a party raising a Rule 12(b) non-waivable defense may do so by bringing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings. Patel v. Contemporary Classics of Beverly Hills, 259 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2001). The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion is identical to that of the analogous Rule 12(b) motion. Id. In the face of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, " [t]he burden is on the plaintiff asserting jurisdiction to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that jurisdiction is proper." Tasini, 184 F.Supp.2d at 353. When a court assesses a lack-of-standing argument ...


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