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Workman v. City of Syracuse

United States District Court, Northern District of New York

January 22, 2015

GERALD W. WORKMAN and MICHELE MAZZEI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SYRACUSE; City of Syracuse Police Detective THOMAS SKARDINSKI, in his individual and official capacity; City of Syracuse Police Detective RORY GILHOOLEY, in his individual and official capacity; City of Syracuse Police Detective JESS OKUN in his individual and official capacity; City of Syracuse Police Detective FRED LAMBERSTON, in his individual and official capacity; COUNTY OF ONONDAGA; Onondaga County Sheriff Deputy SGT MICHAEL NORTON, in his individual and official capacity; Onondaga County Sheriff RUDY REED, in his individual and official capacity; Onondaga County Sheriff Deputy Detective ROBERT PITMAN, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.

DECISION & ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs commenced this action in New York State Supreme Court, Onondaga County, alleging: (a) a state common law malicious prosecution claim by Plaintiff Gerald Workman (First Cause of Action); (b) claims by both Plaintiffs alleging that their rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the New York Constitution were violated (Second Cause of Action); and (c) claims by both Plaintiffs alleging that their rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the United States Constitution were violated (Third Cause of Action). The matter was removed to this Court.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs’ motion seeking: (a) a Declaratory Judgment that the Syracuse Second Hand Dealer Ordinance of 1962 and Onondaga Local Law No. 3 of 1981 are unconstitutional on their face and as applied; and (b) a ruling that Defendants are collaterally estopped from “re-litigating the issues of consent to search and the applicability of Onondaga Local Law No. 3 of 1981.” Defendants have opposed the motion on both grounds. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

II. DISCUSSION

a. Declaratory Judgment

It is well-settled that

[a]n action for declaratory judgment must satisfy the well-pleaded complaint rule. . . . A proper complaint for declaratory relief must disclose a legal right, relation, status, or interest claimed by the plaintiff over which a dispute with the defendant has arisen, and the request for relief must be made in the pleadings. However, declaratory relief cannot be granted by motion; indeed, a party cannot file a pretrial motion to obtain a declaratory judgment. A complaint seeking declaratory relief must allege ultimate facts showing that there is a bona fide adverse interest between the parties concerning a power, privilege, immunity, or right of the plaintiff; the plaintiff's doubt about the existence or nonexistence of his or her rights or privileges; and that he or she is entitled to have the doubt removed. Also, the complaint for declaratory relief must recite in sufficient detail an actual and legal controversy between the parties and must demonstrate that the plaintiff is interested in the pleadings.

22A Am. Jur.2d, Declaratory Judgments § 218 (2014)(citations omitted).

The Complaint does not contain a cause of action seeking a declaratory judgment. Further, a declaratory judgment is not sought in the Complaint’s demand for relief. While the Complaint does seek, inter alia, “declaratory damage that the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth [sic] of the U.S. Constitution and Article One of the New York State Constitution to be free from unlawful search and seizure were violated, ” this is not a demand for a judicial declaration addressed to the constitutionality of any particular statute, ordinance, or regulation. Further, Plaintiffs neither seek injunctive relief relative to the Syracuse Second Hand Dealer Ordinance of 1962 or Onondaga Local Law No. 3 of 1981, nor provide any basis upon which to conclude that they continue to be affected by these regulations.[1] Rather, Plaintiffs ostensibly seek, by way of motion, a ruling that will aid them in proving their claims set forth in their three Causes of Action. This is insufficient.

The request for a “declaratory judgment, ” made only by way of motion, is not properly before the Court. See Arizona v. City of Tucson, 761 F.3d 1005, 1010 (9th Cir. 2014)(“A request for declaratory relief is properly before the court when it is pleaded in a complaint for declaratory judgment. Requests for declaratory judgment are not properly before the court if raised only in passing, or by motion.”)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiffs’ motion in this regard is denied.

b. Collateral Estoppel

Plaintiffs contend that Defendants should be collaterally estopped from "re-litigating the issues of consent to search and the applicability of Onondaga Local Law No. 3 of 1981" because those issues were resolved by the Hon. William D. Walsh, Onondaga County Court Judge, in Workman's criminal suppression hearing. The Court disagrees.

When deciding issues of collateral estoppel, federal courts rely on state law principles to determine the preclusive effect of a state court decision. Migra v. Warren CitySchool Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 79 (1984). “In New York, collateral estoppel has two essential elements. ‘First, the identical issue necessarily must have been decided in the prior action and be decisive of the present action, and second, the party to be precluded from relitigating the issue must have had a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination.’” Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 85 (2d Cir. 2007)(quoting JuanC. v. Cortines, 89 N.Y.2d 659, 667, 657 N.Y.S.2d 581, 679 N.E.2d 1061 (N.Y.1997) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted)); see Krug v. County of Rennselear, et al., 559 F.Supp.2d 223 (N.D.N.Y., ...


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