COURT REJECTS AGE DISCRIMINATION CHALLENGE TO TEACHER RETIREMENT INCENTIVE
In Abramson and Pine v. Middle Country CSD, plaintiffs were retirees who had opted out of a collectively bargained retirement incentive. They claimed that the incentive, which provided for lifetime medical benefits for retirees who retired by a certain age, discriminated against them under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Judge Sandra Feuerstein granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the case on statute of limitations grounds. Specifically, Judge Feuerstein held that, unlike a discriminatory pay scheme, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act does not reset the statute of limitations each time retirees make a payment towards their health benefits.
Steven C. Stern and Adam I. Kleinberg drafted the successful motion.
DEFENSE VERDICT IN FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS
In Tribie v. Village of Spring Valley, the plaintiff brought a federal lawsuit against two Village police officers, alleging false arrest, excessive force, and a violation of due process. Following a four day trial before the Honorable Vincent L. Briccetti, the jury found in the officers’ favor on all claims.
Susan Odessky and Anthony F. Cardoso successfully defended the police officers at trial.
FEDERAL COURT DENIES REQUEST FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
In K.F. v. Monroe Woodbury Central School District, a student and her parents filed a peer harassment lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. They simultaneously filed an order to show cause before Judge Edgardo Ramos, asking the federal court to require the immediate placement of the student in another local public school district. After briefing and a lengthy oral argument that the court convened to consider the issue, Judge Ramos denied the motion, finding both that plaintiffs’ claim of irreparable harm was speculative and that they had not established a likelihood of success on the merits.
Mark A. Radi drafted and successfully argued the motion.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES TEACHER’S FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT
In Kelly v. Huntington UFSD, plaintiff pulled and gathered elementary students from their classes to suggest that they tell their parents to complain to the Board of Education about the downsizing of a gifted program. After she was charged with misconduct, she filed suit in federal court alleging a violation of her First Amendment rights. Eastern District Judge Joseph F. Bianco granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, finding that plaintiff’s discussion with the students was not protected by the First Amendment.
Steven C. Stern and Mark Radi drafted the successful motion for summary judgment.
COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT
In Cuff v. Valley Central School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a First Amendment lawsuit. A student and his parents challenged discipline imposed by the school district after the student wrote on a school project that he wished to “blow up the school with the teachers in it.” The Second Circuit determined that school administrators are entitled to great deference in their decision-making and that the student’s writing presented a substantial risk of material disruption to the school. The decision received widespread media attention, and was featured on the front page of the New York Law Journal.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Leo Dorfman successfully handled the appeal.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION LAWSUIT
In Valenti v. Massapequa UFSD, plaintiff, a male special education teacher, alleged a pattern of gender-based discrimination and retaliation based on his having filed prior complaints of discrimination. Eastern District Judge Joseph F. Bianco granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, finding insufficient evidence to sustain plaintiff’s claims that he was subjected to disparate treatment or adverse employment actions.
Steven C. Stern and Leo Dorfman drafted the successful motion.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES FEDERAL LAWSUIT ALLEGING IMPROPER CONDUCT BY POLICE OFFICER
In Longinott v. Town of Newburgh, plaintiff alleged that a Town police officer harassed her in retaliation for filing a criminal complaint against the police officer’s wife. Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the Southern District of New York granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the complaint, finding plaintiff’s allegations of illegal search and seizure and retaliation insufficient to state a claim.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Mark A. Radi drafted the successful motion.
NEW YORK SUPREME COURT DISMISSES DEFAMATION LAWSUIT
In Brzeski v. Rockville Centre UFSD, a teacher sued for defamation after a school district administrator sent a letter to parents regarding an allegation of testing irregularities in the classroom. Justice Thomas Feinman granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss, finding that the allegedly defamatory statement was subject to a qualified privilege and that truth was an absolute defense.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Kiera J. Meehan defended the case and drafted the successful motion.
LOCAL BUILDER’S CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIM DISMISSED BY APPELLATE DIVISION
In Zarabi v. Village of Roslyn Harbor, plaintiff alleged that the Village and its Building Inspector harassed him through multiple inspections and the delay of approvals on a house he built in the Village. He alleged due process violations, equal protection violations based on national origin discrimination, and that the Building Inspector conspired with the architect on the project. After eight years of litigation, Sokoloff Stern secured summary judgment for the Village and the Building Inspector,which the Appellate Division affirmed.
Steven C. Stern and Mark Radi successfully defended the case.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES LAWSUIT ALLEGING A FALSE REPORT OF CHILD NEGLECT
In McCaul v. Ardsley UFSD, a parent alleged that school district staff members provided false information to New York State Child Protective Services, which then brought a proceeding against the parent for child abuse and neglect. Following the dismissal of a Family Court petition, the parent sued the school district and several of its staff members. Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the Southern District of New York granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss, finding that there was no deprivation of custody to support the parent’s due process claims.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Mark Radi defended the case and drafted the successful motion.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES FIRST AMENDMENT ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE CASE AGAINST VILLAGE OF KIRYAS JOEL AND ITS OFFICIALS
1977, the Village of Kiryas Joel was incorporated in Orange County,
New York. Since its incorporation, the Village has become home to a
large number of Hasidic Jews. In Kiryas Joel Alliance v. Village of
Kiryas Joel, plaintiffs, a group of Satmar Hasidic Jews, got
national media coverage when they brought a federal case under the
First Amendment’s Establishment Clause alleging that the Village is
run by the majority faction of Hasidic Jews as a “theocracy.”
Plaintiffs sought, among other things, to have the court dissolve
the Village. Sokoloff Stern, representing the Mayor and Trustees of
the Village, filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss along with all
defendants. Southern District Judge Jed S. Rakoff granted the
motions on a variety of grounds, including lack of standing, statute
of limitations, and res judicata.
A.K. Tournament Play v. Town of Wallkill, plaintiffs claimed that
their “not-for-profit” Texas Hold’em poker tournament club was
entitled to the First Amendment protections of freedom of expression
and association. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case, determining that
engaging in social gambling, even if legal, is not protected by the
Read the story in the Wall Street Journal
October 11, 2011, Steven Stern lectured on the topic of First
Amendment free speech claims in public employment at the Osher
Lifelong Learning Institute’s Law & Politics program.
In McGuire v. Village of Tarrytown, a former New York City Police Officer brought a federal lawsuit against the Village of Tarrytown and various Village police officers. Several of the police officers had responded to a call of a dispute between plaintiff and his neighbor regarding the storage of trash in a common area. Later that same day, the neighbor provided a sworn statement attesting that plaintiff had brandished a weapon while threatening to harm him. Plaintiff alleged that he was falsely arrested and claimed violations of his rights under the First, Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
Judge Kevin T. Duffy granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint. In reviewing the record in connection with the motion, Judge Duffy found that plaintiff lacked a reasonable factual basis to have pursued the legal claims asserted. Accordingly, he determined that plaintiff should pay defendants’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Anthony F. Cardoso drafted the successful motion.
DEFENSE VERDICT IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT
In Anderson v. Darden, a former Village of Spring Valley Section 8 Housing Director brought a federal lawsuit against the Village and its former Mayor. According to the plaintiff, the Mayor repeatedly sexually harassed her over a seven year period. The Mayor denied the allegations.
Following a four day trial before the Honorable George A. Yanthis, the jury unanimously found in favor of defendants, the Village and the Mayor. Sokoloff Stern pursued costs against plaintiff, which the Court awarded to defendants.
Brian S. Sokoloff and Adam I. Kleinberg successfully represented the defendants at trial. Kiera J. Meehan assisted with trial strategy and pre-trial discovery relied upon at trial.
DEFENSE VERDICT IN EXCESSIVE FORCE LAWSUIT
In Jackson v. City of Middletown, an arrestee brought a federal lawsuit against the City of Middletown and its police department. According to plaintiff, the police officers falsely arrested him and utilized excessive force by hitting him with a flashlight during the course of the arrest.
Sokoloff Stern sought, and defendants were granted, summary judgment on all of plaintiff’s claims except for plaintiff’s state law claim for assault and battery. Following a four day trial before the Honorable Lisa Margaret Smith, the jury unanimously found in favor of defendants on the assault and battery claim.
Steven C. Stern and Anthony F. Cardoso successfully represented the City of Middletown at trial.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT GRANTED TO SCHOOL OFFICIALS IN FALSE ARREST LAWSUIT
In Castro v. County of Nassau, et al., plaintiff was a former school security guard who was arrested and then acquitted of calling in a false bomb threat to the school at which he worked. He sued several officials and employees of the Great Neck Union Free School District, claiming, inter alia, that they conspired to have him falsely arrested and retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. Judge Joseph F. Bianco granted the school district defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing all claims against them.
Steven C. Stern and Melissa Holtzer drafted the successful motion for summary judgment.
FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT GRANTS TOWN OF EASTCHESTER SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FIRST AMENDMENT RETALIATION CLAIM
In Bonhag v. Colavita, et al., a case of local notoriety, the Town brought disciplinary charges against deceased Eastchester Superintendent of Highways Peter Bonhag as a result of his involvement in a “fields for fill” contract. A contractor agreed to refurbish a Town-run athletic field in exchange for permission to dump “clean fill” on the field as part of the job. When the Town learned that the contractor actually deposited toxic fill on the athletic field, the Town held Bonhag responsible for improper supervision of the job, and commenced disciplinary charges against Bonhag. In a separate manpower restructuring, the Town also reduced the job of Highway Superintendent to part time. Bonhag died at the end of the hearing, and his wife sued, claiming that the disciplinary charges and job reduction were retaliation for Bonhag’s support for the losing Supervisor candidate in the last election. Visiting Federal Judge Warren Eginton granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the action on the ground that plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to warrant a trial on her claims. Brian S. Sokoloff and Mark A. Radi drafted the successful motion.
ORANGE COUNTY STATE COURT GRANTS SUMMARY JUDGMENT TO FORMER BUILDING INSPECTOR
In Pasquini v. Sutton, plaintiffs purchased a house in the Town of Greenville for the purpose of renting it to third parties. After they were cited for numerous fire code violations, they claimed that the sellers of the house conspired with the Town’s former Building Inspector to defraud them into believing that the house was free of violations at the time of the sale. Sokoloff Stern represented the former Building Inspector and, following discovery, moved for summary judgment on various grounds.
Justice Elaine Slobod granted the motion, finding that the Building Inspector was entitled to the benefits of the shortened municipal statute of limitations because he had acted within the scope of his official duties and, in any event, that the record was devoid of evidence of a conspiracy.
Steven Stern and Melissa Holtzer drafted the successful motion.
STATE COURT DISMISSES ATTEMPT TO FORCE THE TOWN OF CARMEL TO REPAIR AND IMPROVE A SET OF PRIVATE ROADS
In Long Pond Association, Inc. v. Town of Carmel, a homeowners’ association sued the Town of Carmel, seeking a determination that the Town was obligated to maintain and repair a number of privately owned roads. The homeowners claimed that the Town’s Highway Department performed snow plowing and other maintenance over the preceding ten years and that the Town had accordingly adopted the roads as public roads.
Justice Francis A. Nikolai of the Putnam County Supreme Court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the Town had performed limited services to the roads for emergency purposes only. The Court adopted our argument that the Town had not treated the roads as its own, as the limited services performed paled in comparison to those afforded to Town roads. The Court also held that the homeowners could not show that the Town had used the roads as public roads over a ten-year period and dismissed the entire lawsuit.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Mark A. Radi defended the case and drafted the successful motion.
STATE COURT DENIES ATTEMPT TO BRING A MUNICIPAL OFFICIAL INTO A PRIVATE REAL PROPERTY DISPUTE
In Spinelli v. Ivezaj, the original plaintiffs sold real property to the defendants in exchange for a small down payment and a purchase money mortgage for the remainder of the sale price. After the defendants defaulted on the mortgage, the plaintiffs brought suit to foreclose. The defendants proceeded to bring a second action, alleging they were fraudulently induced into purchasing the property, also claiming that the Town of North Castle’s Director of Planning made certain fraudulent representations concerning permitted commercial uses of the property. Sokoloff Stern represented the Director of Planning, and made an early motion to dismiss on the basis that the alleged reliance by plaintiffs was unreasonable as a matter of law.
Justice Gerald E. Loehr of the Westchester County Supreme Court agreed that the alleged reliance was unreasonable, as the relevant zoning information was available to the public, and that the Director of Planning was absolutely immune from tort liability. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Director of Planning from the case.
Brian Sokoloff and Adam Kleinberg defended the case and drafted the successful motion.
STATE COURT DISMISSES WRONGFUL TERMINATION LAWSUIT AGAINST TOWN SUPERVISOR
In Brichta v. Town of Patterson, plaintiff alleged that she was improperly terminated from employment with the Town, suing the Town and various officials. The complaint was reminiscent of a tabloid magazine story, making scandalous allegations about Town officials and employees.
Justice Francis A. Nikolai of the Putnam County Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss the action against Sokoloff Stern’s client, the Town Supervisor, agreeing that plaintiff was an at-will employee without civil service protection; that none of plaintiff’s salacious allegations could form the basis for a whistleblower retaliation claim; and that plaintiff’s claim for unpaid benefits was not recoverable from the Supervisor.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Melissa L. Holtzer drafted the successful motion.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES FAIR HOUSING ACT LAWSUIT AGAINST TOWN OF MOUNT PLEASANT
In Raum v. Town of Mount Pleasant, plaintiffs were homeowners who alleged that the Town violated the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by issuing notices of violation to discourage persons with disabilities from using their property as a group home. Judge Stephen C. Robinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the Town’s pre-answer motion to dismiss. Judge Robinson agreed with defendants’ arguments that plaintiffs did not properly allege any cognizable injury under any of the statutes invoked by plaintiffs, and that plaintiffs did not properly allege the Town’s causation for their injuries. Brian S. Sokoloff and Leo Dorfman wrote and orally argued the successful motion.
STEVEN STERN LECTURES AT STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY
On March 16, 2010, Steven Stern lectured on the legal ramifications and political fallout over the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (May 18, 2009) as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s program entitled “The Law and Politics” at Stony Brook University.
SECOND CIRCUIT AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF CUSTODIAN'S RACE, NATIONAL ORIGIN AND DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS
In Agostinello v. Great Neck Union Free School District, a former janitor for the school district alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New York State Human Rights Law. The Second Circuit panel agreed that the school district presented sufficient evidence to dismiss the lawsuit prior to trial, holding that plaintiff failed to rebut the district’s showing that it did not promote plaintiff because of his improper behavior, poor judgment, and deficient interpersonal relationships. The court additionally held that plaintiff could not substantiate either his hostile work environment or retaliation claim. Adam I. Kleinberg handled the appeal, as well as the successful motion before the lower court.
STEVEN STERN LECTURES AT STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY
On November 19, 2009, Steven Stern lectured on the topic of municipal civil rights at Stony Brook University as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute’s program entitled “Legalese.”
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES ALL CLAIMS BY POLICE OFFICER AGAINST VILLAGE OF SOUTHAMPTON
In Platt v. Village of Southampton, plaintiff, a former police officer who asserted a host of claims against the Village, its Mayor, Board of Trustees and Chief of Police, alleged that they retaliated against him under the First Amendment for protected speech, violated his rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and discriminated against him under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and the New York State Human Rights Law. Sokoloff Stern LLP immediately moved to dismiss the complaint prior to discovery, and the case was dismissed in its entirety. Steven C. Stern wrote the successful motion. Read the story in the Southampton Press
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES EQUAL PROTECTION AND DUE PROCESS CLAIMS PRE-DISCOVERY
In Puckett v. City of Glen Cove, 631 F.Supp.2d 226 (E.D.N.Y. 2009), plaintiff asserted that the City of Glen Cove violated its own laws when it granted a building permit to a private builder who built a so-called “McMansion” that blocked her view of the harbor. In rejecting plaintiff’s Due Process and Equal Protection claims, the Honorable Judge Leonard D. Wexler determined that plaintiff was not treated differently than any similarly-situated homeowners and that she was not deprived of any cognizable property or liberty interest. While plaintiff was permitted to proceed with discovery only based on her First Amendment claim, the Court noted, “The facts alleged … tend to show that Plaintiff was afforded extraordinary access to public officials in stating her position.” Following the decision, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew the case, with prejudice. Steven Stern and Kiera Meehan wrote the successful motion.
FEDERAL COURT DISMISSES GENDER DISCRIMINATION CLAIM AGAINST SCHOOL DISTRICT
In Ragusa v. Malverne UFSD et al., a former school teacher moved for reconsideration of the dismissal of her gender discrimination claims against the school district, and claimed to have new evidence that supported her claims. Sokoloff Stern LLP opposed this motion, arguing that the “new evidence” still did not support plaintiff’s claims of discrimination. In a 16-page decision, Judge Denis R. Hurley adhered to the Court’s original determination, holding that there was insufficient evidence to support an inference of discrimination. Brian Sokoloff and Melissa Holtzer penned the winning motion.
BRIAN SOKOLOFF AND STEVEN STERN LECTURE LONG ISLAND POLICE CHIEFS
On April 1, 2009, Brian Sokoloff and Steven Stern lectured on police liability claims to a roomful of Chiefs of Police, municipal insurers, and attorneys at the Town of East Hampton Police Department headquarters. The topics included an overview of the various types of law enforcement claims and the litigation process, claims involving detainees and inmates, and claims involving the various mechanisms of police uses of force and pursuits. The course was accredited by the N.Y.S. Continuing Legal Education Board and credit was given to the attorneys who attended the seminar.
COURT GRANTS SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN COMPLICATED LAND USE CASE
In Osborne v. Fernandez, et al., 2009 WL 884697 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), a complicated land use case defended by Sokoloff Stern LLP, Judge Cathy Seibel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in White Plains granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs attempted to develop over a hundred acres of property in the Town of Stanford in Dutchess County, New York, asserting a variety of federal constitutional and state law claims. In the course of granting summary judgment for defendants, Judge Seibel added her own opinion to a 75-page, meticulously reasoned Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision.
DEFENDANTS SECURE DISMISSAL OF PUBLICITY-RICH CASE BY WESTCHESTER DEVELOPER
In Old St. George’s LLP v. Bianco, et al., a case that was commenced with screaming headlines, Sokoloff Stern LLP, representing Yorktown Town Councilman Nicholas Bianco, secured dismissal of the action. Plaintiffs sought to convert an old church into a winery and alleged that defendants violated their constitutional rights by interfering with Westchester County’s plan to include the property in a state-law Agricultural District. Writing a thorough opinion on defendants’ motion, Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, dismissed plaintiffs’ claims seriatim. In an opinion reported at 2010 WL 2982961, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal.
VILLAGE ATTORNEY DISMISSED FROM MALICIOUS PROSECUTION SUIT
In Wilner v. Village of Roslyn, et al., a novel case stemming from the prosecution of Building Code violations, Sokoloff Stern LLP moved to dismiss John Gibbons, the Village Prosecutor, from the suit based on prosecutorial immunity. Plaintiffs argued that Gibbons’ role as Village Attorney stripped him of his immunity. The case was reported on the first page of the New York Law Journal. Plaintiffs will not appeal.