Murphy v. Zoning Com'n of Town of New Milford, CIV. NO. 3:00 CV 2297(HBF).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Writing for the CourtFitzsimmons
Citation223 F.Supp.2d 377
PartiesRobert MURPHY and Mary Murphy, Plaintiffs, v. ZONING COMMISSION OF THE TOWN OF NEW MILFORD, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIV. NO. 3:00 CV 2297(HBF).
Decision Date30 August 2002
223 F.Supp.2d 377
Robert MURPHY and Mary Murphy, Plaintiffs,
v.
ZONING COMMISSION OF THE TOWN OF NEW MILFORD, et al., Defendants.
CIV. NO. 3:00 CV 2297(HBF).
United States District Court, D. Connecticut.
August 30, 2002.

Page 378

Vincent P. McCarthy, McCarthy Law Offices, New Milford, CT, for plaintiffs.

Steven E. Byrne, Law Offices of Thomas P. Byrne, Farmington, CT, for defendants.

RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

FITZSIMMONS, United States Magistrate Judge.


I. INTRODUCTION

Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' action in its entirety on the ground that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over it. [See Def.s' Mot. Dismiss (doc. # 64).] Specifically, defendants argue that: (1) plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies; (2) the issues raised in plaintiffs' complaint are not ripe for review; and (3) plaintiffs' action is barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. [See Def.s' Mem. in Support of Mot. Dismiss (doc. # 65) at p. 5.] For the reasons set forth herein, defendants' motion to dismiss [doc. # 64] is DENIED.

II. FACTS1

Plaintiffs are the owners of a single-family residence located at 25 Jefferson

Page 379

Drive, a cul-de-sac in the Town of New Milford, with approximately eight other single-family homes. Plaintiffs' residence is located in an R-40 (single-family residential) zone. Only single family dwellings, farms, and the keeping of livestock are permitted uses in this zone. Other uses are allowed by special permit.

Over a period of several years, plaintiffs have held regularly scheduled meetings at their home, primarily on Sundays. In the past, the meetings have included over forty attendees, but within the last year the number of people attending the meetings has decreased to between twenty-five and forty. Plaintiffs state that meetings begin at approximately 2 p.m. and end at approximately 6 p.m. Defendants suggest that the hours of operation may be as long as noon to 9 p.m.

Defendants also argue that plaintiffs "have converted their back yard into a parking lot," which, at this time, is gravel, but which plaintiffs desire to pave with asphalt. [Doc. # 65 at p. 3 (citation omitted).] Plaintiffs claim that they have not converted their backyard into a parking lot; they merely park cars in their driveway which extends to the rear of their home. [Pl.s' Opp. to Def.s' Mot. Dismiss (doc. # 67) at p. 1.]

Defendant New Milford Zoning Commission ("NMZC") held several meetings to address plaintiffs' use of their property. During these meetings, testimony and evidence was presented. Defendants claim that "[e]vidence showed that there were traffic, drainage and safety concerns." [Doc. # 65 at p. 3 (citation omitted).] Plaintiffs dispute that there was any "substantiation of traffic, drainage or safety concerns by the Defendants." [Doc. # 67 at p. 1.] Members of the NMZC, as well as the zoning enforcement officer ("ZEO"), made site visits to observe the plaintiffs' use of their home.

On November 28, 2000, the NMZC issued an opinion finding that plaintiffs' meetings were neither permitted by the zoning regulations nor incidental or ancillary uses customary to a residential neighborhood. The NMZC also ordered that, if the meetings continued, the ZEO issue a cease and desist order.

On November 29, 2000, the ZEO sent to plaintiffs a letter informing them that their use of their property violated the town's zoning regulations.

Plaintiffs filed this action on December 1, 2000 [doc. # 1], and moved for a preliminary injunction.

By letter dated December 19, 2000, the ZEO ordered plaintiffs to cease and desist their prayer meetings.

On December 20, 2000, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint [doc. # 10] and motion for temporary restraining order [doc. # 10]. On December 21, 2000, Judge Eginton granted the motion for temporary injunction and motion for temporary restraining order ("TRO"). [See, e.g., doc # 18.] The TRO allowed plaintiffs to continue their prayer meetings.

Shortly thereafter, the parties consented to trial before a United States Magistrate Judge [doc. # 20], and the case was transferred to the undersigned [doc. # 19]. On January 18, 2001, the undersigned held a hearing on plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction, which was granted on July 5, 2001. Now, defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the ground that this court has no subject matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs oppose defendants' motion except for the Eighth Cause of Action, which plaintiffs have withdrawn. [See doc. # 67 at p. 2.]

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a court must accept

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all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences from those allegations in plaintiff's favor. See Jaghory v. New York State Dept. of Educ., 131 F.3d 326, 329 (2d Cir.1997). The court may not dismiss a complaint unless "it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would entitle him to relief." Id. Where the existence of subject matter jurisdiction turns on a factual issue, however, the court is permitted to look beyond the complaint itself and may consider evidence outside the pleadings. See United States v. Vazquez, 145 F.3d 74, 80 (2d Cir.1998); Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp., 109 F.3d 105, 108 (2d Cir.1997). The burden of proving jurisdiction is on the party asserting it. See Malik v. Meissner, 82 F.3d 560, 562 (2d Cir.1996).

IV. LEGAL ANALYSIS

Defendants assert three theories under which the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. First, defendants argue that plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies available to them because this action is essentially the appeal of a decision of the NMZC and action by the ZEO, which should be appealed to New Milford Zoning Board of Appeals ("NM ZBA"). [See doc. # 65 at pp. 7-23.] Second, defendants argue that plaintiffs essentially seek review of an administrative decision that is non-final, and, as such, plaintiffs' claims are not yet ripe for review. [See id. at pp. 23-28.] Third, and finally, defendants argue that defendants are immune from suit in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment. [See id. at pp. 28-30.]

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

1. Federal Claims

Defendants argue that plaintiffs' claims under the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Incarcerated Persons Act ("RLUIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq., should be dismissed because plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies with respect to those claims.2 Defendants further argue that plaintiffs do not allege a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and that, "[e]ven if this court wanted to permit the plaintiffs to amend their complaint so that another count could be added claiming a violation of sec.1983, such an amendment would not be possible" because RLUIPA provides an exclusive remedy for plaintiffs' claims. [Doc. # 64 at pp. 16-18.]

Plaintiffs respond: (1) that they do allege a claim under § 1983; (2) that this court has already acknowledged that claim; (3) that RLUIPA does not preclude a claim under § 1983; and (4) that they need not exhaust all administrative remedies before bringing these claims. The court agrees with plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that their action arises, at least in part, under § 1983.

First, plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint specifically states in paragraph 1 that this action arises under the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [See Fourth Am. Compl. ¶ 1.]

Page 381

Second, defendants acknowledge that plaintiffs are asserting federal constitutional claims. Defendants apparently contend that plaintiffs assert claims under the United States Constitution, but not under § 1983. Defendants' reasoning is flawed. Section 1983 is simply the vehicle for asserting federal constitutional violations against municipal officials acting under color of law. See, e.g., Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 617-618, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 60 L.Ed.2d 508 (1979) ("§ 1983 by itself does not protect anyone against anything.... All civil suits [authorized by § 1983] are not based upon it; they are based upon the right of the citizen[;] the act only gives a remedy") (citation, footnote, and internal quotations omitted); Freedom Baptist Church of Delaware County v. Township of Middletown, 204 F.Supp.2d 857, 875 (E.D.Pa. 2002) ("Section 1983 ... does not create substantive rights, but provides a remedy for the violation of rights created by federal law") (citation and internal quotations omitted). Although direct causes of action under the United States Constitution may exist against federal officials, see Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), Congress has provided § 1983 as the sole remedy for federal constitutional violations by state officials, see Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 18-19, 100 S.Ct. 1468, 64 L.Ed.2d 15 (1980); Bauchman v. West High School, 900 F.Supp. 254, 263 (D.Utah 1995); Freedom Baptist Church, 204 F.Supp.2d at 875 ("most courts have held that one cannot sue state and local officials for violation of the constitution of its own force[; o]ne must state a claim under § 1983"). Thus, it does not make sense to argue that, despite the citation to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the allegation that defendants' acts "were done ... under color and pretense of state law" [Fourth Am. Compl. ¶ 27], plaintiffs assert federal constitutional claims but have not sufficiently alleged a claim under § 1983. Rule 8 requires no more notice than what plaintiffs have provided. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

Third, the court has specifically acknowledged that plaintiffs have brought this action pursuant to § 1983. See Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n, 148 F.Supp.2d...

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5 practice notes
  • Murphy v. New Milford Zoning Com'n, Docket No. 03-9329.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • 25 d5 Março d5 2005
    ...court disagreed; tracking the previous ruling on the RLUIPA claim, it allowed these claims to proceed. See Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 384-87 (D.Conn.2002). The court held that the Murphys were not required to appeal the cease and desist order to the New Milford Zoning Board......
  • Murphy v. Zoning Com'n of Town of New Milford, No. CIV.3:00CV2297(HBF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 30 d2 Setembro d2 2003
    ...F.Supp.2d 173, 183 (D.Conn.2001); see also Ruling on Def.s' Mot. Dismiss ("Dismissal Ruling"), pub'd at Murphy v. Zoning Commission, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 384-85 (D.Conn.2002).]9 In the Preliminary Injunction Ruling, the court acknowledged "that there [was] merit to defendants' argument that, ......
  • Congregation Ariel Russian Cmty. Synagogue, Inc. v. Balt. Cnty., Civil Action No. GLR-17-910
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 28 d3 Março d3 2018
    ...in state court before bringing RLUIPA claims. Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000CC et seq.); see Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n of New Milford, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 382 n.3 (D.Conn. 2002) ("The Supreme Court's reasoning in Patsy v. Board of Regents, as to why exhaustion is not a prerequisite to a § 1983 ......
  • Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Greater Rochester v. Town of Milo, 6:20-CV-07006 EAW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • 28 d2 Setembro d2 2021
    ...context, "exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required for RLUIPA claims." Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n of Town of New Milford , 223 F. Supp. 2d 377, 382 & n.3 (D. Conn. 2002) ("The Supreme Court's reasoning in Patsy v. Board of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 102 S.Ct. 2557, 73 L.Ed.2d 172 (198......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Murphy v. New Milford Zoning Com'n, Docket No. 03-9329.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • 25 d5 Março d5 2005
    ...court disagreed; tracking the previous ruling on the RLUIPA claim, it allowed these claims to proceed. See Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 384-87 (D.Conn.2002). The court held that the Murphys were not required to appeal the cease and desist order to the New Milford Zoning Board......
  • Murphy v. Zoning Com'n of Town of New Milford, No. CIV.3:00CV2297(HBF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • 30 d2 Setembro d2 2003
    ...F.Supp.2d 173, 183 (D.Conn.2001); see also Ruling on Def.s' Mot. Dismiss ("Dismissal Ruling"), pub'd at Murphy v. Zoning Commission, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 384-85 (D.Conn.2002).]9 In the Preliminary Injunction Ruling, the court acknowledged "that there [was] merit to defendants' argument that, ......
  • Congregation Ariel Russian Cmty. Synagogue, Inc. v. Balt. Cnty., Civil Action No. GLR-17-910
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • 28 d3 Março d3 2018
    ...in state court before bringing RLUIPA claims. Id. (citing 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000CC et seq.); see Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n of New Milford, 223 F.Supp.2d 377, 382 n.3 (D.Conn. 2002) ("The Supreme Court's reasoning in Patsy v. Board of Regents, as to why exhaustion is not a prerequisite to a § 1983 ......
  • Young Men's Christian Ass'n of Greater Rochester v. Town of Milo, 6:20-CV-07006 EAW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • 28 d2 Setembro d2 2021
    ...context, "exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required for RLUIPA claims." Murphy v. Zoning Comm'n of Town of New Milford , 223 F. Supp. 2d 377, 382 & n.3 (D. Conn. 2002) ("The Supreme Court's reasoning in Patsy v. Board of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 102 S.Ct. 2557, 73 L.Ed.2d 172 (198......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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