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Neroni v. Grannis

United States District Court, N.D. New York

November 6, 2014

FREDERICK J. NERONI; and TATIANA NERONI, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALEXANDER GRANNIS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter returns to the Court on Defendant Alexander Grannis's ("Defendant") Motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. Nos. 33 ("Motion"); 33-1 ("Defendant's Memorandum"). By Memorandum-Decision and Order dated March, 21, 2013, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs Frederick Neroni and Tatiana Neroni's ("Plaintiffs") First Amended Complaint in its entirety, but permitted Plaintiffs to replead their retaliation claim against Defendant. Dkt. Nos. 4 ("First Am. Compl."); 18 ("March Order"). Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint. Dkt. No. 21 ("Second Am. Compl."). Presently before the Court are Defendant's Motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion to stay this action. Mot; Dkt. No. 35 ("Cross-Motion"). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

The Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the facts and history of this action, and recites only those facts pertinent to the pending Motions. For a full discussion of the facts and history of this case, reference is made to the Second Amended Complaint and the March Order.

Plaintiffs are married and own a summer home in Hamden, NY. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 64. In the summer of 2001, two officers from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") visited Plaintiffs' property to investigate possible interference with a protected stream. See id. ¶¶ 7-9. Following the investigation, DEC issued criminal tickets against Mr. Neroni charging him with disturbing a protected stream.[2] Id . ¶ 9.

Mr. Neroni filed a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute and insufficient evidence. Id . ¶ 11. The motion was granted, in large part due to DEC's inability to produce a valid and current map detailing the location of the protected stream. Id . Mr. Neroni's motion also revealed that DEC's purported jurisdiction over properties in the vicinity of the Hamden home was based on unauthorized and altered public records. Id . ¶ 43.

Five years after the criminal proceedings-at which time Defendant was serving as commissioner of the DEC-DEC brought administrative proceedings against Mr. Neroni related to the disturbance of the protected stream. Id . ¶¶ 5, 18. The administrative action resulted in a judgment in favor of DEC. See id. ¶¶ 33-40.

In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege separate but related retaliation claims on behalf of Mr. Neroni and Ms. Neroni, respectively. See generally id. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant retaliated against Mr. Neroni by initiating a frivolous administrative action in response to Mr. Neroni's successful motion to dismiss, as well as continuing to exercise his property rights following dismissal of the criminal case. Id . ¶¶ 42, 46, 49, 56-57. Mr. Neroni seeks monetary damages against Defendant in his individual and official capacities. Id . ¶ 61.

Plaintiffs also allege that Defendant retaliated against Ms. Neroni by: (1) paying Plaintiffs' neighbors to testify in the administrative proceeding against Plaintiffs in response to Ms. Neroni's requests for DEC's allegedly fraudulent maps pursuant to Freedom of Information Laws ("FOIL");[3] and (2) initiating administrative proceedings against Plaintiffs even though Plaintiffs' neighbor was permitted by DEC to alter their property in a way that was prohibited to Plaintiffs. Id . ¶¶ 101, 109. Ms. Neroni also seeks monetary damages against Defendant in his individual and official capacities. Id . ¶ 120.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). A court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of a plaintiff. See Allaire Corp. v. Okumus , 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006). A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) only where it appears that there are not "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570. Plausibility requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct]." Id . at 556. The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). Where a court is unable to infer more than the mere possibility of the alleged misconduct based on the pleaded facts, the pleader has not demonstrated that she is entitled to relief and the action is subject to dismissal. See id. at 678-79.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Cross-Motion ...


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