Marshall v. N.Y. State Pub. High Sch. Athletic Ass'n, Inc.

Decision Date15 March 2019
Docket Number6:17-CV-06310 EAW
Citation374 F.Supp.3d 276
Parties Brewster MARSHALL, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK STATE PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, INC., Section IV of New York Public High School Athletic Association, Inc., and Maryellen Elia, in her official capacity as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York

Jessica Louise Barlow, Rochester, NY, Simeon L. Goldman, Albany, NY, for Plaintiff.

Renee L. James, Pro Hac Vice, Jamesville, NY, for Defendant New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc.

David M. Gouldin, Pro Hac Vice, Jared R. Mack, Justin L. Salkin, Levene, Gouldin & Thompson, Vestal, NY, for Defendant Section IV of New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc.

J. Richard Benitez, NYS Attorney General's Office Department of Law, Rochester, NY, for Defendant Maryellen Elia.

DECISION AND ORDER

ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD, United States District Judge

INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

This action was commenced on May 17, 2017, on behalf of Brewster Marshall ("Plaintiff"), who suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome as well as other ailments, and who was a high school student within the Horseheads Central School District (the "District"). (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff has since reached the age of majority and has been substituted as the new party plaintiff. (Dkt. 58 at 1 n.1; see Dkt. 57). On August 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, alleging that Maryellen Elia, in her official capacity as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York (the "Commissioner"), the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc., and Section IV of the New York Public High School Athletic Association, Inc. ("Section IV") (collectively, "Defendants") unlawfully denied him extended athletic eligibility to play a fifth consecutive year of high school basketball in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (the "ADA"), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Section 504"). (See Dkt. 19 at 9-11). On December 4, 2017, this Court issued a Decision and Order denying Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and denying the Commissioner's motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 58). Plaintiff has since filed a second amended complaint (the "SAC"), which remains the operative pleading in this action, and seeks compensatory damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. (Dkt. 81). All Defendants have answered the SAC. (Dkt. 84; Dkt. 87; Dkt. 88).

On June 15, 2018, the Commissioner filed a motion to dismiss the SAC or, in the alternative, a motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. 89). Specifically, the Commissioner contends that Plaintiff's requests for declaratory and injunctive relief should be dismissed as moot because the 2017-2018 basketball season is over and Plaintiff is preparing to graduate,1 and that the rest of Plaintiff's action be dismissed based on the doctrines of absolute judicial immunity and absolute legislative immunity. (Dkt. 89-1 at 4-10). In the alternative, the Commissioner contends that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for compensatory damages under Section 504 because Plaintiff has insufficiently alleged that the Commissioner intentionally discriminated against him, and that Plaintiff's ADA claim for money damages should be dismissed based on sovereign immunity. (Id. at 10-15). Plaintiff opposes the Commissioner's motion in all respects, but he concedes that "compensatory damages pursuant to the ADA are not available to him from a state defendant like [the Commissioner]." (Dkt. 93 at 11 n.2).

The Court assumes familiarity with the underlying facts of this litigation, which are described in more detail in the Court's December 4, 2017, Decision and Order. (Dkt. 58). For the following reasons, the Commissioner's motion to dismiss the SAC (Dkt. 89) is granted in part and denied in part.

DISCUSSION
I. The Commissioner's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)
A. Legal Standard

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and possess only that power authorized by Article III of the United States Constitution and statutes enacted by Congress pursuant thereto. Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist. , 475 U.S. 534, 541, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 89 L.Ed.2d 501 (1986). The party asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that a court has jurisdiction over a particular claim. Id. When a movant challenges subject matter jurisdiction, a district court may "consider affidavits and other materials beyond the pleadings" and "weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case." Iqbal v. Sec'y, U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec. , 190 F.Supp.3d 322, 326-27 (W.D.N.Y. 2016) (citations omitted). Although "the court must take all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff," Sweet v. Sheahan , 235 F.3d 80, 83 (2d Cir. 2000), "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).

B. Plaintiff's Requests for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief are Moot

"The mootness doctrine is rooted in the ‘case or controversy’ requirement of Article III of the Constitution, which describes ‘the principle that, at all times, the dispute before the court must be real and live, not feigned, academic, or conjectural.’ " Patskin v. Bd. of Educ. of Webster Cent. Sch. Dist. , 583 F.Supp.2d 422, 428 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Russman v. Bd. of Educ. of Enlarged City Sch. Dist. of City of Watervliet , 260 F.3d 114, 118 (2d Cir. 2001) ). "A case is moot, and accordingly the federal courts have no jurisdiction over the litigation, when ‘the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.’ " Fox v. Bd. of Trs. of State Univ. of N.Y. , 42 F.3d 135, 140 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting County of Los Angeles v. Davis , 440 U.S. 625, 631, 99 S.Ct. 1379, 59 L.Ed.2d 642 (1979) ).

The Commissioner argues that Plaintiff's requests for declaratory and injunctive relief are moot because "the 2017-2018 basketball season has concluded and the [P]laintiff is in his final school year." (Dkt. 89-1 at 5). The Commissioner also states that Plaintiff's "graduation after five years of school is imminent as the Horseheads High School Graduation is to be held on June 23, 2018." (Id. at 5-6). Plaintiff does not submit any evidence or argument refuting these factual assertions. Instead, Plaintiff contends that because "it is functionally impossible for a student, like Plaintiff, to have his claim heard before graduation or the end of the athletic season renders that claim moot[,] ... the extraordinary remedy of mandatory injunction" is required in this context. (Dkt. 93 at 7-8).2 Plaintiff also argues that because "[i]t is likely that another student will find him or herself in a situation analogous to Plaintiff's, and would then benefit from a declaratory judgment stating that Defendant's policies, procedures and practices have subjected Plaintiff to discrimination in violation of the ADA and Section 504," Plaintiff's request for declaratory relief is not mooted by his graduation. (Id. at 8).

"The Declaratory Judgment Act permits declaratory relief only in a case of actual controversy.’ " Tamplenizza v. Josephthal & Co. , 32 F.Supp.2d 702, 703 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) ). This statute incorporates "the case or controversy limitation on federal jurisdiction found in Article III of the Constitution." Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians , 94 F.3d 747, 752 (2d Cir. 1996). As such, "[t]he Declaratory Judgment Act is properly invoked where ‘there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.’ " Classic Liquor Importers, Ltd. v. Spirits Int'l B.V. , 151 F.Supp.3d 451, 454 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Md. Cas. Co. v. Pac. Coal & Oil Co. , 312 U.S. 270, 273, 61 S.Ct. 510, 85 L.Ed. 826 (1941) ). The dispute must "admi[t] of specific relief through a decree of a conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts." MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech, Inc. , 549 U.S. 118, 127, 127 S.Ct. 764, 166 L.Ed.2d 604 (2007) (quoting Aetna Life Ins. Co. of Hartford, Conn. v. Haworth , 300 U.S. 227, 241, 57 S.Ct. 461, 81 L.Ed. 617 (1937) ). In other words, "where ‘the remedy sought is a mere declaration of law without implications for practical enforcement upon the parties, the case is properly dismissed.’ " S. Jackson & Son, Inc. v. Coffee, Sugar & Cocoa Exch. Inc. , 24 F.3d 427, 431 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Browning Debenture Holders' Comm. v. Dasa Corp. , 524 F.2d 811, 817 (2d Cir. 1975) ).

Plaintiff correctly asserts that the Second Circuit has recognized "certain circumstances [where] it may be possible for a claim for declaratory relief to survive, notwithstanding the mootness of a companion claim for an injunction." Campbell v. Greisberger , 80 F.3d 703, 706 (2d Cir. 1996), abrogated on other grounds as recognized by Green v. Mattingly , 585 F.3d 97, 101 (2d Cir. 2009). "Issuing a declaratory judgment in an otherwise moot case is only appropriate when the ‘behavior complained of is of such a nature that it might predictably be repeated again,’ in which case ‘a prior declaratory judgment may serve the useful purpose of facilitating an injunction at a future date.’ " 62-64 Kenyon St. Hartford, LLC v. City of Hartford , No. 3:16-CV-00617(VAB), 2017 WL 20911, at *4 (D. Conn. Jan. 2, 2017) (quoting Browning Debenture Holders' Comm. , 524 F.2d at 816 ). Nonetheless, Plaintiff's position that this principle applies to this case is misplaced.

Plaintiff contends that "another student" or "future students" may find a favorable declaratory judgment rendered in ...

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