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Norwood v. Salvatore

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 29, 2015

DOUGLAS NORWOOD, III; LEEANN NORWOOD; and D.N., Minor Son of Plaintiffs
v.
MICHAEL SALVATORE, in his capacity as TOWN OF HANCOCK CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER; and TOWN OF HANCOCK, Defendants. NORWOOD, Plaintiffs,

JOHN V. JANUSAS, ESQ., OFFICE OF JOHN V. JANUSAS, ESQ., Liberty, New York, Attorney for Plaintiffs.

WILLIAM B. HUNT, ESQ., MACKENZIE HUGHES LLP, Syracuse, New York, Attorneys for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion in limine, which seeks to preclude Plaintiffs from introducing four types of evidence. See Dkt. No. 61. Plaintiffs oppose Defendants' motion only to the extent that it seeks to limit evidence of racial statements allegedly made by Defendant Salvatore. See Dkt. No. 69. Also pending before the Court is Defendants' oral motion for the Court to preclude Plaintiffs from introducing evidence as to Defendant Salvatore's termination from the position of Code Enforcement Officer ("CEO") of the Town of Hancock ("Town").

II. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the background of this case, as detailed in the Court's prior orders, and will discuss only those allegations and facts relevant to disposition of the pending motions.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Salvatore violated their substantive due process rights by arbitrarily denying their application for a building permit to rebuild their home following a fire despite Plaintiffs' compliance with the applicable building codes. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' application was properly denied because Plaintiffs failed to pay the required permit application fee. As relevant here, Plaintiffs further allege that during an inspection of "prep work" performed by Plaintiffs in anticipation of rebuilding their home, Defendant Salvatore

exclaimed "you really do not want to rebuild at this location, because ANGELO VALENTI is going to have niggers and spics moving in across the street". He continued his diatribe yelling that the "niggers and spics will be using all the units that ANGELO VALENTI was planning to install" and as a result [Plaintiffs] would not want to live there.

Dkt. No. 19 at 5. Plaintiffs initially alleged that these statements evidenced a "racist agenda and 'de facto' zoning scheme designed to exclude minorities from residing within [the] Town of Hancock." Id. at 3 (emphasis omitted). The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' equal protection claims alleging that Defendants acted based on racial animus in its January 17, 2014 Memorandum-Decision and Order. See Dkt. No. 29 at 14.[1] Plaintiffs' only remaining claim to be tried is their substantive due process cause of action. See Dkt. No. 52 at 23 n.12.

On May 28, 2015, the parties apprised the Court of a new evidentiary issue that arose as a result of the parties' pretrial discussions. During a telephone conference held with the parties on May 29, 2015, Defendants requested that the Court preclude Plaintiffs from inquiring into Defendant Salvatore's recent termination as CEO of the Town and the reasons for his termination.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Alleged Racists Statements by Defendant Salvatore

As an initial matter, the Court notes that Plaintiffs do not oppose Defendants' motion in limine to the extent that it seeks to preclude Plaintiffs from offering evidence (1) pertaining to an alleged racist agenda or de facto zoning scheme designed to exclude minorities; (2) regarding the alleged disparate treatment of Plaintiffs as compared to other applicants for building or zoning permits in the Town; and (3) that Defendants ...


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