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Gill v. Nyack College

United States District Court, S.D. New York

August 1, 2018


          OPINION & ORDER


         Pro se plaintiff Patricia Gill ("Plaintiff') initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the "Rehab Act") against Defendants Nyack College ("Nyack"), Dr. Andrew Mercurio, Dr. Deanna Kwan, Dr. Carol Robles, Ms. Elona Collins, Dr. Charles Joanies, and New York State Division of Human Rights ("NYSDHR") (collectively "Defendants"). (See Complaint, ("Compl.") (ECF No. 2).) Presently before this Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint ("Defendants'Motion") filed on October 6, 2017. (See ECF No. 17.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED and the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.


         The following procedural facts-which are taken from the Complaint, documents annexed thereto, and matters of which the Court may take judicial notice-are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, as she is the non-moving party.[2] See, e.g., Kleinman v. Elan Corp., 706 F.3d 145, 152 (2d Cir. 2013); Gonzalez v. Hasty, 651 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 2011).

         This is Plaintiffs second case before this Court seeking relief for alleged discrimination against a college. Her first case was initiated against Mercy College on August 29, 2017 and dismissed by this Court on April 23, 2018. In this action, Plaintiff sues Nyack, as well as various administrators at Nyack and the NYSDHR, as an entity. (See Compl. at 7-11.)[3] Plaintiff was formerly a student at Nyack, and while enrolled, informed the institution that she suffers from a specific form of dyslexia. (See Compl. at 18.) Plaintiff requested certain accommodations to assist her in learning, but despite such requests, she began failing classes and was ultimately asked to leave Nyack in late 2011. (See Compl. at 26.)

         After Plaintiff was dismissed from Nyack, on April 24, 2012, she filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights ("OCR"), alleging, inter alia, disability discrimination. (See Aaron N. Solomon's Declaration in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 17) ("Solomon Decl.") Ex. B.)[4] OCR then conducted an investigation, which concluded on October 19, 2012, and resulted in a finding that there was insufficient evidence to support Plaintiffs claim that Nyack discriminated against her on the basis of her disability. (See id, Ex. D.) Plaintiff then appealed the OCR's decision and such appeal was denied on August 15, 2013. (See id, Ex. F.) On October 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint of discrimination with the NYSDHR, (set?/<£, Ex. H), which was dismissed as untimely on April 11, 2014, (seeid., Ex. I), as it was not brought within one year of the alleged discriminatory conduct, (id.) The decision nevertheless informed Plaintiff that such a dismissal did not preclude her from initiating suit "in any court of appropriate jurisdiction", provided that she did so within the appropriate statute of limitations - in state court, within three years of the alleged discriminatory activity.[5] (Id.)

         On July 7, 2014, after both the OCR and NYSDHR reviewed and denied Plaintiffs discrimination claim, Plaintiff filed an Article 78 Petition in New York State Supreme Court, County of New York (the "Article 78 Court") to review the NYSDHR's decision. (See id., Ex. J.) Subsequently, on September 3, 2014, the Article 78 Court dismissed Plaintiffs Petition finding no error in the NYSDHR's determination that Plaintiffs claims were untimely based on the one-year filing deadline. (See id, Exs. K, L.) The Article 78 Court determined that, for the purposes of establishing the one-year filing deadline pursuant to Executive Law § 297.5, the "last act of discrimination" occurred in February 2012; thus, Plaintiffs NYSDHR complaint would have been timely if filed before February 2013. (Id, Ex. L at 2.) Plaintiff then appealed the decision to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs Article 78 Petition holding that Plaintiff failed to file her NYSDHR complaint of discrimination within the time afforded by Executive Law § 297.5. See Matter of GUI v. Nyack College, 136 A.D.3d 525, 525 (1 st Dep't. 2016). Plaintiffs motion for re-argument before the Appellate Division was denied on June 14, 2016, (see id., Ex. M), as was her motion for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals on February 9, 2017, (see id., Ex. N.)

         On March 9, 2017, Plaintiff initiated the present action alleging claims for disability discrimination and asking this Court to reverse the various state court decisions. Defendants now seek dismissal of her Complaint.


         On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, dismissal is proper "when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it." Nike, Inc. v. Already, LLC, 663 F.3d 89, 94 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Makarova v. United States, 20\ F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000)). A plaintiff be ars the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction by preponderance of the evidence. Liranzo v. United States, 690 F.3d 78, 84 (2d Cir. 2012); Morrison v. Nat'l Austl Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113). "Jurisdiction must be shown affirmatively, and that showing is not made by drawing from the pleadings inferences favorable to the party asserting it." Shipping Fin. Servs. Corp. v. Drakos, 140 F.3d 129, 131 (2d Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, the Court must accept as true all the facts alleged in the complaint. Conyers v. Rossides, 558 F.3d 137, 143 (2d Cir. 2009). The Court may consider, in addition to the factual allegations in the complaint, "[t]he documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 191 (2d Cir. 2007).

         A court lacks subject matter jurisdiction if plaintiff s claim are barred by either the Rooker-Feldman doctrine or res judicata. The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prohibits federal cases "that essentially amount to appeals of state court judgments." Vossbrinckv. Accredited Home Lenders, Inc., 113 F.3d 423, 426 (2d Cir. 2014). Whereas, "[u]nder res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980) (citing Cromwell v. SacCty., 94 U.S. 351(1876)).


         Defendants' base their motion to dismiss on four arguments. (See generally Defendants' Brief in Support of their Motion to Dismiss ("Defs. Br.") (ECF No. 19).) A threshold argument is that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine renders this Court without subject matter jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs case. (Id. at 8-10.) Defendants also contend that, irrespective of whether this Court has jurisdiction, Plaintiffs claims are barred by res judicata. (Id. at 10-11.) In the alternative, Defendants move to dismiss on grounds that Plaintiffs claims are time-barred and that the Complaint otherwise fails to state a claim for relief. (Id. at 7-8, 11-14.) In light of this Court's determination, infra I, that it lacks the authority to adjudicate Plaintiffs claims, it declines to ascertain whether dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is proper.

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