Brewer v. Village of Old Field

Decision Date31 March 2004
Docket NumberNo. 00-CV-6072(ADS)(ARL).,00-CV-6072(ADS)(ARL).
Citation311 F.Supp.2d 390
PartiesAaron BREWER, Alex Stylianou, Rita Bowman and William Walcott, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. VILLAGE OF OLD FIELD, Robert Bell, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, Jordana B. Casciano, individually and in her capacity as Old Field clerk, Barbara Dragone, individually and in her capacity as Old Field treasurer, Marianne S. Feller, individually and in her capacity as Old Field clerk, William Finnamore, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, William H. Hall, individually and in his capacity as former mayor of Old Field, Leroy Hill, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, Helaine Katz, individually and in her capacity as Old Field clerk, Jeffrey T. Kracht, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, Ronald La Vita, individually, Philip Morales, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, Michael Nastasi, individually and in his capacity as Old Field constable, Walter Rothschild, individually, in his former capacity as Old Field Commissioner of Public Safety, and in his current capacity as Old Field Fire & Special Projects Commissioner, James Simons, individually and in his capacity as Old Field Commissioner of Public Safety, and Cary Staller, individually and in his capacity as Mayor of Old Field, Defendants. Village of Old Field, Third Party Plaintiff, v. New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, Third Party Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

Scott & Scott, L.L.P. by Jonathan C. Scott, Esq., Melville, NY, for Plaintiff.

Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP by Thomas W. Hyland, Esq., New York City, for Defendants.

Fried & Epstein, LLP by John W. Fried, Esq., New York City, for Third-Party Plaintiff.

Congdon, Flaherty, O'Callaghan, Reid, Donlon, Travis & Fishlinger, P.C. by Rona L. Platt, Esq., Garden City, NY, for Third-Party Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

SPATT, District Judge.

This case arises out of claims by Aaron Brewer ("Brewer"), Alex Stylianou ("Stylianou"), Rita Bowman ("Bowman") and William Walcott ("Walcott") (collectively, the "plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated persons, that the defendants the Village of Old Field ("Old Field" or the "Village") and fifteen of its present and former officials and employees (collectively, the "defendants") created a private police force, purportedly cloaked with legitimate public authority, to enforce traffic and other laws and collect fines for alleged violations of those laws through a distinct enterprise. The plaintiffs allege violations of, among other things, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq., ("RICO") and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Presently before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss the second amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ.P.") 12(b)(6) and 9(b).

I. BACKGROUND

At the outset, the Court notes that the second amended complaint (the "Sec. Am. Compl.") contains over 60 pages and is in excess of 130 paragraphs. This complaint is very similar, except for the names, dates, and several facts, to two other class action complaints filed by the plaintiffs' counsel in this Court. See Wood v. Incorporated Village of Patchogue of New York, et al., No. 01 Civ. 0229 and Coco v. Incorporated Village of Belle Terre, No. 01 Civ. 5061.

The facts are taken from the second amended complaint and are taken as true for purposes of this motion.

The plaintiffs allege that on November 4, 1958, the residents of Old Field voted to irrevocably transfer all of Old Field's police functions to Suffolk County (the "County"). The plaintiffs contend that the proper law enforcement agency for Old Field is the Police Department of Suffolk County.

Despite having allegedly transferred all of its police authority to Suffolk County, the defendants created a "scheme purporting to maintain a separate Old Field police force." Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 41. As part of this alleged "scheme," Old Field employed persons purporting to be village "constables" to perform police functions. These constables allegedly detain and arrest "suspects" under color of law and purport to enforce the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law and Old Field local ordinances.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants had knowledge and notice that because Old Field had transferred all of its authority to enforce state and local laws to Suffolk County that it was prohibited from enforcing these laws. For example, in 1986 the New York State Police, in conjunction with the Department of Justice (the "Department of Justice"), notified Old Field that its law enforcement agency identification number would be retired because an investigation by the Department of Justice confirmed that the Old Field constabulary was not a valid law-enforcement agency. The second amended complaint states that the identification number is provided only to authorized criminal justice and law-enforcement agencies for the purposes of accessing New York State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation records.

In addition, upon information and belief, in or about 1988, a motorist who had been detained by the defendants, challenged the authority of Old Field to operate a police force. Other incidents which allegedly provided Old Field with notice that it did not have the authority to enforce state and local laws include: (1) a 1984 decision by the New York Court of Appeals which held that actions by an unauthorized village constabulary were void; (2) a 1990 holding by the Suffolk County Civil Service Department (the "Civil Services Department") that the position of Village Constable was not an authorized civil service position because Old Field was not authorized to maintain a constabulary with law enforcement powers; (3) in or about 1990, then Suffolk County Attorney, E. Thomas Boyle, advised the Village of the problems created by its continuing efforts to maintain a constabulary force; (4) a 1994 determination by the Suffolk County Attorney that the Village of Poquott's designation of constables as peace officers was contrary to local law and controlling court decisions; (5) in a letter dated December 30, 1994, the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services denied Old Field's request to register its constables in the Peace Officer Registry; (6) in a lawsuit filed by Old Field in the Supreme Court, Suffolk County seeking a declaration that the Old Field Constabulary was a duly authorized law enforcement agency, that court denied such relief.

The plaintiffs further allege that the defendants made false representations to the County in order to facilitate payment of the constables through the New York State civil service system. In particular Old Field Clerks Jordana Casciano ("Casciano"), Marianne S. Feller ("Feller"), and Helaine Katz ("Katz"); Village Justice Ronald La Vita ("Justice La Vita"); former Mayor Wiliam H. Hall ("Hall"), Mayor Cary Staller ("Staller"); former Commissioner of Public Safety Walter Rothschild ("Rothschild"); and Old Field Commissioner of Public Safety James Simons ("Simons") were personally involved in assigning job functions to the members of the alleged scheme with titles and/or duties outside of those approved by the New York State Civil Services Department (the "Civil Services Department"). For example, after the defendants learned that the position of "village constable" was not a position that was authorized by the Civil Services Department, the defendants changed the Village payroll designations to "code enforcement officer." Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 70. The defendants allegedly submitted amended "Duties Statements" through the United States mail to the County which detailed the duties for which the Village employees were certified to perform (the "Duties Statement(s)").

The second amended complaint further alleges that contrary to the assertions made in the Duties Statements, the "code enforcement officers" performed law enforcement functions and held themselves out as "constables." Id. at ¶ 71. Old Field had its constables sign the Duties Statements which, contrary to the actual activities of the constables, indicated that they worked in "non-law enforcement and non-traffic enforcement" positions. Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 71. In addition, the complaint alleges that for every year since at least 1990, the defendants submitted payroll documents containing the alleged misleading information. These documents were allegedly submitted by mail.

For example, in 1999, Old Field purported to hire Philip Morales as a "Park Ranger I" even though that position was not approved by the Civil Services Department and Morales had not qualified for the position. Although the County's job description for this position limited it to duties connected with patrolling the parks on foot or in a vehicle, Morales performed law enforcement duties "not authorized by his job description or by law."

In a letter dated on or about July 30, 1998, then Mayor Hall, asked the Civil Services Department if Old Field could require the ability to obtain a personal gun license as a condition of employment as a code enforcement officer. This request was rejected by the County. However, allegedly to "circumvent" the County's denial of Hall's request, the defendants required its individual officers to obtain individual gun permits.

The plaintiffs claim that from 1994 to the date this action was commenced (the "Class Period"), the defendants, which include the village constables, village officials and village clerks, engaged in a scheme

that is designed to detain individuals traveling through Old Field, issue purported New York traffic tickets, also called "appearance tickets," hold village-court sessions to adjudicate the purported traffic tickets that constituted acts...

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