Ruiz v. Commissioner of DOT of City of New York, 85 Civ. 3263 (RJW).

Decision Date08 June 1988
Docket NumberNo. 85 Civ. 3263 (RJW).,85 Civ. 3263 (RJW).
Citation687 F. Supp. 888
PartiesWilliam R. RUIZ, Kevin J. Nally and John Greco, Jr., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. The COMMISSIONER OF the DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION OF the CITY OF NEW YORK and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Traffic Violations Bureau, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of New York

Altieri, Kushner, Miuccio & Frind, New York City, for plaintiffs; Alexander A. Miuccio, Debra Ruth Wolin, of counsel.

Peter L. Zimroth, Corp. Counsel of the City of New York, New York City, for defendant Commissioner; Anne P. Ward, Gabriel Taussig, Gary R. Tarnoff, of counsel.

Robert Abrams, Atty. Gen., of the State of New York, New York City, for defendant Dept. of Motor Vehicles; August L. Fietkau, Richard G. Liskov, of counsel.


ROBERT J. WARD, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, who are truck drivers, brought this action to challenge the enforcement against them of New York City ("the City") regulations setting weight limits on trucks using streets and highways within the City. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court dismissed the action in its entirety in an opinion dated January 21, 1988 ("the January 21 Opinion"). 679 F. Supp. 341 (S.D.N.Y.1988). Plaintiffs timely moved for reargument and reconsideration of the Opinion pursuant to Rule 3(j) of the Civil Rules for the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York ("local Rule 3(j)"), and pursuant to Rule 59(e), Fed.R.Civ.P. For the reasons that follow, the Court adheres to its January 21 Opinion and denies plaintiffs' motion.


For purposes of this decision, the Court will assume familiarity with its January 21 Opinion. Briefly, in that Opinion, the Court first considered the application of res judicata to plaintiffs' claims, based upon a prior determination in New York State Court upholding the challenged regulations in a suit brought by other drivers represented by the same counsel retained by the instant plaintiffs. The Court concluded that although it may not be inappropriate on the facts of the case to apply res judicata against plaintiffs, the Court refrained from so doing in light of its disposition of the merits.

On the merits, plaintiffs challenged the validity of the City's traffic regulations prohibiting the operation on its streets and highways of any vehicle exceeding 73,280 pounds. New York, N.Y., Traffic Regulations art. 19, § 211(10) (amended 1985) ("former section 211(10)").1 A provision of the Federal Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 ("STAA") threatens the withholding of federal highway funds from any state which does not permit vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds to use the federal highways within its borders. 23 U.S.C. § 127(a).2

The New York State legislature, concerned with the potential loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funds, amended its own laws in an effort to ensure compliance with the requirements of the STAA. Section 385(20) of New York State's Vehicle and Traffic law prohibits both the state and its political subdivisions from "enacting or enforcing any law, statute, ordinance, rule or regulation with respect to vehicle dimensions or weights which shall violate any of the provisions of the STAA." N.Y.Veh. & Traf.Law § 385(20) (McKinney 1986). Furthermore, "any such law, statute, ordinance, rule or regulation which results in a notification of an imminent loss or withholding of federal highway aid to the state shall to the degree inconsistent hereafter be deemed null and void and shall not be enforced." Id.

In its January 21 Opinion, the Court considered and rejected plaintiffs' contentions that former section 211(10) was impermissibly vague, that it was amended without proper authority in violation of plaintiffs' due process rights, that the weighing of plaintiffs' trucks by unauthorized personnel violated plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights, that the regulation violated the Commerce Clause, and that it was preempted by the STAA. On reargument, plaintiffs maintain only their vagueness, due process and Fourth Amendment claims.


The standard for granting a motion for reargument is strict in order to dissuade repetitive arguments on issues that have already been considered fully by the Court. Such motions may be granted only where the Court has overlooked matters or controlling decisions which might have materially influenced the earlier decision. Caleb & Co. v. E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co., 624 F.Supp. 747, 748 (S.D.N.Y.1985) (citing New York Guardian Mortgagee Corp. v. Cleland, 473 F.Supp. 409, 420 (S.D.N.Y. 1979)).3 Plaintiffs' contentions on reargument fail to meet this standard. Accordingly, the motion is denied.

1. Fourth Amendment Claim

Plaintiffs' trucks were stopped and weighed by regulation enforcement officers, who were employees of the City Department of Transportation. At the time of the stops in question, the City's traffic regulations authorized police officers and employees of the Bureau of Weights and Measures to stop and weigh trucks. New York, N.Y., Traffic Regulations art. 19, § 212 (amended 1985) ("former section 212").4 Plaintiffs argue that former section 212 did not authorize regulation enforcement officers to stop their trucks, and for purposes of this motion, the Court has accepted that assertion.

Plaintiffs contend that the stop of their trucks without a warrant by unauthorized personnel constitutes a per se violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. They argue that the Court's reliance on United States v. Harrington, 681 F.2d 612 (9th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1015, 105 S.Ct. 2018, 85 L.Ed.2d 300 (1985), is misplaced because Harrington applies only to warrant-authorized searches. Plaintiffs base their reading of Harrington on United States v. Whiting, 781 F.2d 692 (9th Cir.1986). Whiting, though, stands only for the narrow proposition that the authority granted by 19 U.S.C. § 482 to customs officers to conduct border searches is to be narrowly construed. Id. at 696 & n. 9. A border search conducted by an FBI agent, as in United States v. Soto-Soto, 598 F.2d 545 (9th Cir.1979), or by an agent of the Office of Export Enforcement of the Department of Commerce, as in Whiting, is unconstitutional because these agents are not authorized by section 482 to conduct such searches.

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches. The reasonableness of a search depends, inter alia, on the purposes of the search, the conduct of the search, and on the extent to which the search intrudes upon reasonable expectations of privacy. A court must weigh the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the state's legitimate law enforcement interests. E.g., Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979).

Whiting and Soto-Soto must be understood in this light. In Soto-Soto the FBI agent stopped the defendant's late model pick-up truck at the United States border with Mexico to check whether the truck had been stolen. Upon opening the hood of the truck to view the Vehicle Identification Number stamped on the engine block, the agent found illegal drugs. The drugs were later suppressed, because the court ruled that the search was unreasonable. The agent had no warrant, no probable cause to believe the truck was stolen, and was not authorized by statute to conduct a warrantless border search. A warrantless search of a car at a fixed checkpoint is unreasonable absent probable cause. United States v. Ortiz, 422 U.S. 891, 896, 95 S.Ct. 2585, 2588, 45 L.Ed.2d 623 (1975). Because the FBI agent in Soto-Soto was not authorized by statute to conduct a border search, which requires neither a warrant nor probable cause, and because the search was carried out for a purpose not authorized by section 482, the search was illegal.

Similarly, in Whiting, an agent of the Office of Export Enforcement seized and searched a sealed package that the defendant had deposited with the United States Postal Service. The agent was not a "law enforcement agent" authorized to obtain a search warrant under Rule 41(a), Fed.R.Crim.P., nor was he authorized to conduct a warrantless border search pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 482. The search of the defendant's package was, therefore, unreasonable and illegal. Absent exigent circumstances, the search of a closed container requires a warrant. E.g., United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 114, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 1657, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1984) ("Letters and other sealed packages are in the general class of effects in which the public at large has a legitimate expectation of privacy; warrantless searches of such effects are presumptively unreasonable."). Accordingly, the court in Whiting held that the search of the sealed package, absent a valid warrant, was illegal.5

The Court continues to rely on United States v. Harrington, supra, where the Ninth Circuit upheld a search conducted by Customs Officers under circumstances where agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency had exclusive authority to investigate and carry out the search. The court distinguished Soto-Soto as follows:

In striking the balance between the government's interest in protecting its borders and the defendant's interest in fourth amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, we have in effect held that Congress may declare certain searches normally violative of the fourth amendment to be constitutional when conducted at the borders. Because this creates an exception to standard constitutional practices, we enforce its limitations with great care. A warrantless border search by an FBI agent for general law-enforcement purposes falls outside 19 U.S.C. § 482. And when measured against normal fourth amendment standards, the search in Soto-Soto was patently unreasonable. We approved the suppression of the evidence seized not merely because the search violated a statute, but because

To continue reading

Request your trial
52 cases
  • Eisert v. Town of Hempstead
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • March 6, 1996 dissuade repetitive arguments on issues that have already been considered fully by the Court." Ruiz v. Commissioner of the D.O.T. of City of New York, 687 F.Supp. 888, 890 (S.D.N.Y. 1988), aff'd, 858 F.2d 898 (2d Cir.1988). Granting such a motion means that a court must find that it over......
  • Schonberger v. Serchuk
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • August 2, 1990
    ...designed to allow wasteful repetition of arguments already briefed, considered and decided. See, e.g., Ruiz v. Commissioner of the Dep't of Transp., 687 F.Supp. 888, 890 (S.D.N.Y.1988); Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. v. Garrett Corp., 625 F.Supp. 752, 756 (S.D.N.Y.1986). Furthermore, a party mak......
  • Consolidated Gold Fields v. Anglo American Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • April 24, 1989
    ...from advancing repetitive arguments on issues that have already been fully considered by the court. Ruiz v. Commissioner of D.O.T. of the City of New York, 687 F.Supp. 888, 890 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 858 F.2d 898 (1988); Samuel M. Feinberg Testamentary Trust v. Carter, 664 F.Supp. 140, 142 (S.D......
  • U.S. v. McDougall
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of New York
    • October 7, 1998 really to be no rule or standard at all, or if it is substantially incomprehensible." Ruiz v. Comm'r of the Dep't of Transp. of the City of New York, 687 F.Supp. 888, 895 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 858 F.2d 898 (2d Cir.1988). The New York state courts have adopted a similar approach when determi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT