Martinez v. Santamaria et al
OPINION re: 38 MOTION for Default Judgment as to. filed by Juan Ramon Martinez, 37 MOTION for Default Judgment as to. filed by Juan Ramon Martinez, 31 MOTION to Dismiss Complaint. filed by Armando Pabon, John B. King, Jr., Robert Linton, Isabel Gonzalez, Adult Career and Continuing Education Service, Ann Huff, Patricia Maazariello, Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision - NYC Office, Edward G. Kramer. Based on the conclusions set forth herein, the motion o f the State Defendants is granted, and the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice with leave granted to replead within twenty days. The motion of the Plaintiff for default judgment is granted and judgment for costs will be entered on notice. (As further set forth in this Order.) (Signed by Judge Robert W. Sweet on 7/8/2015) (kgo)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
JUAN RAMON MARTINEZ,
14 Civ. 7634
-againstELSIE SANTAMARIA, et al.,
A P P E A R A N C E S:
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JUAN RAMON MARTINEZ
190 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002
Attorneys for Defendants
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General of the State of NY
120 Broadway, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10271
Mark E. Klein, Esq.
Defendant New York State Education Department ("SEO"),
(s/h/a Adult Career and Continuing Education Services Vocational Rehabilitation ("ACCES-VR") and Bureau of Proprietary
School Supervision ("BPSS")) and individual defendants Isabel
Gonzalez, Ann Huff, Patricia Manzariello (s/h/a Patricia
Manzzariello), Edward G. Kramer, Armando Pabon, Jr., and John B.
(collectively, the "Individual State Defendants" and,
along with SEO, the "State Defendants") have moved pursuant to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (1) and 12 (b) (6) to dismiss the Complaint
of pro se plaintiff Juan Ramon Martinez ("Martinez" or the
"Plaintiff"). Also pending is Plaintiff's motion for a default
judgment against defendants Elsie Santamaria ("Santamaria"), D.
Pinto ("Pinto") and Ferrari Driving School Inc.
(collectively, the "Ferrari Defendants"). Based upon the
conclusions set forth below, both motions are granted, the
complaint against the State Defendants is dismissed, and default
judgment for costs will be entered against the Ferrari
The Plaintiff filed his regrettably incoherent
Complaint on September 15, 2014 seeking damages of $100 million
arising out of a series of events starting in 2010.
The Plaintiff, an alleged former "consumer" of ACCESVR, appears to assert
(i) alleged violation of his civil rights,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986 (see
plaintiff's Compl., at 6) ,
(ii) alleged violation of his
purported entitlement to vocational rehabilitation and
educational services pursuant to 29 U.S.C.
720 (a) (3) (A), the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C.
(the "ADA"), and the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, 20 U.S.C.
1400 (the "IDEA")
(Compl. at 7-9),
and (iii) alleged violation of various other statutes,
regulations, policies, and procedures.
(Compl. at 20-28.)
The Complaint alleges the following with respect to
the State Defendants:
Defendant ACCES-VR was "[r]esponsible for
processing Plaintiff [sic] Application, that constituted an
inconvenience and a delay that created this Complaint-Claim"
(Compl. at 4);
Defendants Gonzalez and Huff are
"[r]esponsible for the inconvenience and the delay, that
constituted this Complaint-Claim and closing plaintiff [sic]
ACCES-VR case" (id.);
Defendant Linton is "[r]esponsible for the
inconvenience and the delay that constituted this ComplaintClaim and closing plaintiff [sic] ACCES-VR case, and refusing to
process an [sic] due Process request in the form of an Impartial
Hearing request form adviced [sic] Plaintiff to call" defendant
Defendant Manzariello "[d]enied Plaintiff a
Due process Hearing request in numerous time [sic], advice [sic]
Plaintiff to reapply for ACCES-VR services, disregarding
Plaintiff accomplishments at Star Career Academy" (id.);
Defendant BPSS and defendants Pabon and
Kramer are "[r]esponsible for not doing an Comprehensive
Investigation of Plaintiff complaint, knowing there are two
school [sic] that ACCES-VR did not pay tuition, with the same
consume[r]"; and that BPSS is "[r]esponsible for not taking
Plaintiff Notice of Claim and Complaint" and "for the pain and
suffering plaintiff went through"
(id. at 5);
Defendant King, the former Commissioner of
SEO, is "[r]esponsible for adding to Plaintiff Mental Anguish
and distress," for "not answering Plaintiff complaint on time,"
and for "not investigating Plaintiff complaint [sic]" (id.); and
Defendants Pabon and Kramer "fail[ed] to
investigate" plaintiff's complaint but instead "forwarded
Complainant complaint to same agency Complainant was complaining
(id. at 15).
These allegations will be taken as true for the
purpose of deciding the motion to dismiss only.
Complaint does not allege that the actions affecting the
Plaintiff were taken because of his race or ethnicity. The
Plaintiff has not identified his purported disability or alleged
that the actions of which he complains were because of his
membership in any protected class.
Some of the Exhibits referred to in the Complaint
provide further information concerning the nature of the claims
against the State Defendants. In his Complaint (no. 1300041),
submitted on April 23, 2013 (the "April 2013 Complaint") to SED,
Plaintiff stated that he was "dropped" from the Ferrari Driving
School program "because of heavy medication and did not have the
ACCES-VR check for transportation." He further stated that,
after Ms. Gonzales of ACCES-VR approved plaintiff's enrollment
in "Culinary School," he "went to STAR Career Academy for six
months, gave the School 180 hours of externship, was remove[d]
from my externship because I am on Parole and my Parole
office[r] don't want me in establishments where there is alcohol
(See Klein Deel., Exh. C.)
Plaintiff then asserts:
After all this, Ferrari Driving School Have [sic]
not got paid, STAR Career haven't got pay [sic] and my
transportation of 9 months I haven't receive [sic],
how can you expect me to accomplish anything when you
have everything against me. Someone is misplacing a
lot of money, please investigate.
Plaintiff states in paragraph 52 of his Complaint that
he filed his April 2013 Complaint with the SED "Investigation
Unit" at 116 West 32nd Street in New York City, and that, on
April 23, 2013, Edward Kramer ("Kramer"), a Supervising
Investigator at the BPSS office located at 116 West 32nd Street,
informed Plaintiff that his April 2013 Complaint was not within
As stated in Kramer's April 23, 2013 letter to
Plaintiff (which appears to be "Exhibit 3" referred to in
paragraph 30 of Plaintiff's Complaint), Kramer informed
Plaintiff that he had "reviewed your complaint against ACCES-VR
for non-payment of your benefits[,]" had "determined that the
issues raised in this matter are not within the jurisdiction of"
BPSS, and therefore had referred Plaintiff's Complaint to ACCESVR, Special Education Quality Assurance, in Albany.
Deel., Dkt. No. 32, Ex. D.)
Kramer's April 23rd letter
concluded: "Be advised that the above unit should be contacting
you shortly." (Id. )
The instant motions were marked fully submitted on
April 8, 2015.
The Complaint Fails to Comply with Rule 8
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires that, in order to state a claim, a complaint must
include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
(2009); Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 41-42 (2d
Cir. 1988); see Iwachiw v. N.Y. State Dept. of Motor Vehicles,
396 F.3d 525, 527
(2d Cir. 2005)
It should be
plain in order to "give the adverse party fair notice of the
claim[s] asserted so as to enable him to answer and prepare for
trial." Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42.
It should be because an
unnecessarily long pleading places "an unjustified burden on the
court and on the parties who must respond to the complaint
because they are forced to select the relevant material from a
mass of verbiage." Jones v. Nat'l Comm'ns. & Surveillance
409 F. Supp. 2d 456,
quotations and alterations omitted), aff'd, 266 Fed. Appx. 31
(2d Cir. 2008).
The required short and plain statements are
absent from Martinez' winding and incoherent pleading.
A complaint also fails to meet the standards of Rule 8
when it is "so baldly conclusory that it fails to give notice of
the basic events and circumstances of which the plaintiff
complains." Shuster v. Oppelman, 962 F. Supp. 394, 395 (S.D.N.Y.
Wholly conclusory claims and those which rely upon
unreasonable inferences and unwarranted deductions do not
suffice to establish a proper pleading. See Furlong v. Long
Island Coll. Hosp., 710 F.2d 922, 927
(2d Cir. 1983)
pleading requirements "do not permit conclusory statements to
substitute for minimally sufficient factual allegations.");
Ciambriello v. County of Nassau, 292 F.3d 307, 325 (2d Cir.
(conclusory allegations of conspiracy are insufficient to
state a civil rights claim).
"While pro se complaints are generally construed more
liberally than complaints prepared by counsel, they are still
subject to the requirements of [Fed. R. Civ. P.] Rule 8 and
therefore must be dismissed if, even upon generous review, they
fail to comply with those requirements." Goff v. U.S. Treasury
Dep't, No. 98 Civ. 3784, 2001 WL 1103273, at *l
1, 2001) citing Shuster,
962 F. Supp. at 396. Although dismissal
for pleading violations is disfavored, defendants must be able
to ascertain the nature and basis of the claims against them so
that they can prepare a defense, and "unintelligible,
speculative complaints that are argumentative, disjointed and
needlessly ramble have routinely been dismissed in this
Circuit." Ceparano v. Suffolk County, No. 10-CV-2030, 2010 WL
5437212, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 15, 2010), aff'd, 404 Fed. Appx.
(2d Cir. 2011); see also Shetiwy v. Midland Credit Mgmt.,
980 F. Supp. 2d 461, 467
Here, the Plaintiff makes no effort to link the
catalogue of federal statutes, regulations and "policies and
procedures" to the factual allegations he asserts. The assertion
of a multitude of claims against a panoply of defendants leaves
the reader struggling to ascertain which claims are being
asserted against each defendant under which statute, and the
claims are not logically connected to any factual assertions.
The Complaint violates Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 and, on this
ground will be dismissed.
Sovereign Immunity Bars Certain of Plaintiff's Claims
The Eleventh Amendment to the United Stated
Constitution bars suit in federal court for relief against a
State by a private citizen absent the State's consent or an
express statutory waiver of immunity.
See Will v. Mich. Dep't
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); see Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). This
immunity extends to state agencies, and also bars actions for
damages against state officials in their official capacities
where the state is the real party in interest.
Will, 491 U.S.
at 71; Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985); see Posr
v. Court Officer Shield No. 207, 180 F.3d 409, 414
As an arm of the State, SEO, as well as its
departments -- named defendants ACCES-VR and BPSS -- are
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Hayes v.
Williamsville Cent. Sch. Distr., 506 F. Supp. 2d 165, 169-70
(dismissing ADA and§ 1983 claims against SEO
because "Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit extends to the
defendant Education Department."); see also Will, 491 U.S. at 71
(State and its officials are not parties for the purposes
of § 1983).
The Plaintiff's claims - to the extent they can be
discerned -- against ACCES-VR, BPSS, and, to the extent they are
sued in their official capacities, the Individual State
Defendants are therefore barred because these defendants are
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit.
The Complaint Fails to State a Plausible Claim for Relief
"To survive a motion to dismiss [under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(b) (6)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). "A claim
has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678.
A complaint that merely alleges facts that are
"consistent with" or "compatible with" liability fails to state
a cognizable claim.
See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. "Determining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will .
. be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 566
U.S. at 679. Courts are not required to accept as true "legal
conclusions" or "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Harris v.
Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72
(2d Cir. 2009).
As discussed further below, Martinez' various claims
and assertions fail to meet this standard.
Discrimination Has Not Been Adequately Alleged
By citing to the ADA and the IDEA in his Complaint,
the Plaintiff appears to be asserting a claim that he suffered
various injuries as a supposed result of discrimination by
reason of his disability.
(See, e.g., statutes to which the
Plaintiff cites on pages 22-23 of his Complaint.)
In order to
state such a claim for discrimination, however, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that any denial of benefits occurs "by reason
. disability, which essentially means that the plaintiff
must prove that the denial is 'because of' the disability."
Henrietta D. v. Bloomberg, 331 F.3d 261, 278
(citation omitted) .
(2d Cir. 2003)
The "sine qua non" of any discrimination
claim "is that the discrimination must be because of" a
112 (2d Cir. 2007)
See Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106,
The Plaintiff has made no
factual assertions that would allow a plausible inference that
the State Defendants' actions were even remotely motivated by
reason of plaintiff's disability, or of any other kind of
Although the Plaintiff cites in his Complaint to the
ADA and the IDEA, he fails to provide a single non-conclusory or
non-speculative factual allegation from which it can be inferred
that any adverse action taken against him was motivated by antidisability discriminatory animus.
Because his allegations do
not plausibly allege that the State Defendants denied him access
to some service or program as a result of such animus, the
Plaintiff fails to state any claim of discrimination.
Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 Is Not Adequately Alleged
The Plaintiff's§ 1981 claim fails because that
statute only prohibits race-based discrimination, and his
complaint does not allege that any defendant took action against
him for racial reasons.
F. Supp. 232, 235
See Duncan v. AT&T Comm'ns., Inc.,
U.S. 160, 167 (1976)).
(citing Runyon v. Mccrary, 427
Although the Plaintiff here makes
references in his Complaint to several statutes relating to
persons with disabilities, these "repeated references to a
partial disability or handicap are of no help to [him], since§
1981 prohibits discrimination that based at least in part on
Duncan, 668 F. Supp. at 235 (citation
The § 1981 claims are therefore dismissed.
In addition, § 1981 provides for causes of action only
against individuals who were personally involved in
See Whidbee v. Garzarelli Food
Specialties, Inc., 223 F.3d 62, 74-75 (2d Cir. 2000). Where an
individual defendant has acted on behalf of the state, § 1983
provides the "exclusive federal damages remedy." Whaley v. City
U. of New York, 555 F. Supp. 2d 381, 400-01 (S.D.N.Y. 2008).
"State employment has generally been deemed sufficient to render
the defendant a 'state actor.'"
Id. at 401; Roddini v. City
Univ. of New York, No. 02 Civ. 4640, 2003 WL 435981, at *5
( S. D. N. Y. Feb. 21, 2 0 0 3) .
The Individual State Defendants were, at all relevant
times, employees of SEO, and therefore "state actors."
"to the extent [Plaintiff] seeks to vindicate any independent
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, he must do so via claims under §
1983." See Whaley,
555 F. Supp. 2d at 400.
under § 1981 are dismissed for this additional reason.
Violation of § 1983 is Inadequately Alleged
The Plaintiff's§ 1983 claim fails because such a
claim must be asserted against a "person." Neither state
agencies, nor state officials acting in their official
capacities, are "persons" for the purposes of that statute. Will
v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989);
Spencer v. Doe, 139 F.3d at 111. Therefore, in addition to being
barred by the Eleventh Amendment, the Plaintiff cannot assert a
§ 1983 claim against SEO, its departments and the Individual
State Defendants in their official capacities because they are
not "persons" within the statute's meaning.
The Plaintiff has not set forth sufficient allegations
to state claims against the Individual State Defendants in their
individual capacities. The claims against the Individual State
Defendants fail because he has not sufficiently alleged the
personal involvement of any named defendant in the violation of
plaintiff's federal rights.
262 F.3d 146, 154
See Provost v. City of Newburgh,
(2d Cir. 2001); Rosa R. v. Connelly,
(2d Cir. 1989).
The Plaintiff has also failed to
establish a tangible connection between the acts of any
individual defendant and his alleged injuries.
Jackson, 790 F.2d 260, 263 (2d Cir. 1986)
Cf. Bass v.
(dismissing § 1983
claim for inadequate medical care where pro se plaintiff did not
"connect the failure to obtain prompt medical care to any of the
. defendants"). The Plaintiff has failed to set forth
allegations that any Individual State Defendant has deprived him
of any constitutional right or caused him specific injury.
The Plaintiff also claims that he was denied due
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
requires an "opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in
a meaningful manner." Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333
(internal quotations and citations omitted). The
Plaintiff has not adequately alleged that he was denied a
liberty or property interest without due process of law.
The Plaintiff's equal protection claims are conclusory
and thereby insufficient.
F.2d 883, 887
See Alfaro Motors, Inc. v. Ward, 814
(2d Cir. 1987)
("a [§ 1983] complaint must contain
specific allegations of fact which indicate a deprivation of
constitutional rights; allegations which are nothing more than
broad, simple, and conclusory statements are insufficient");
Cohen v. Litt, 906 F. Supp. 957, 961
need not accept a complaint's legal conclusions and unwarranted
The Plaintiff has failed to off er facts sufficient to
show that he was intentionally treated differently than
similarly-situated comparators based upon some protected
See Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S.
(2000); Smith v. City of Albany, No. 1:03-CV-1157, 2006
WL 839525, at *16 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2006), aff'd, 250 Fed.
(2d Cir. 2007).
The Plaintiff has not identified any
similarly-situated comparators who received preferential
treatment or pointed to any other facts that indicate he was
treated differently from others.
This is fatal to his equal
See Bishop v. Best Buy Co., No. 08 Civ.
8427, 2010 @L 4159566, at *11
(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2010)
maintain an equal protection claim, Plaintiff must show adverse
treatment of individuals compared with other similarly situated
individuals and that such selective treatment was based on
impermissible considerations .
(2d Cir. 2013); Mosdos Chofetz Chaim,
815 F. Supp. 2d 679,
518 Fed. Appx. 55
Inc. v. Village of Wesley
Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 Is Not Adequately Alleged
The Complaint similarly fails to state a conspiracy
claim pursuant to § 1985. To assert such a claim, a plaintiff
must allege that defendants have, with racial or other classbased discriminatory animus, conspired to deprive the plaintiff
of a constitutional or other federal right. LeBlanc-Sternberg v.
67 F.3d 412,
(2d Cir. 1995); see Mian v.
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Sec. Corp., 7 F.3d 1085, 1087-88
(2d Cir. 1993)
(per curiam). To defeat a motion to dismiss,
plaintiff must state claims of conspiracy with more than
conclusory allegations. Harris v. County of Nassau, 581 F. Supp.
2d 351, 358
The Plaintiff has pled only a conclusory allegation
that he was the subject of an unspecified "[c]onspiracy to
interfere with civil rights," and that the State Court
Defendants have discriminated against him.
(See Compl. at 6.)
The Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently plead the requisite
intent to discriminate. Ford v. Moore, 237 F.3d 156, 162, n.3
(2d Cir. 2001)
(plaintiff's § 1985(3) conspiracy claim failed
"for lack of any evidence of the requisite discriminatory
intent"). Further, conspiracy claims under
1985 must contain
specific factual allegations showing an agreement or a meeting
of the minds to achieve an unlawful end.
F.3d 105, 110 (2d Cir. 2003)
Webb v. Goord, 340
Plaintiff has failed to allege any agreement among any of the
State Defendants to deprive him of equal protection of the law,
or that they conspired to harm him because of his unidentified
The Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986 Is Inadequately Alleged
Martinez' failure to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1985 requires this Court to dismiss any claim under § 1986. A
claim under § 1986 establishes a cause of action against those
that "neglect to prevent" conspiracies in violation of § 1985.
Thus, where, as here, a party fails to state a claim pursuant to
§ 1985, the §1986 claim also must be dismissed.
See Malsh v.
971 F. Supp. 133, 139 (S.D.N.Y. 1997).
Moreover, the Complaint does not provide any
information that would indicate that the Individual State
Defendants had any knowledge of the alleged conspiracy.
"Knowledge of the acts is a prerequisite to suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1986." Buck v. Board of Elections, 536 F.2d 522, 524
197 6) .
No Opposition to the Motion for Default Judgment Has Been Submitted
The docket indicates service was effected on
Defendants Santamaria and Pinto, who are alleged to be Ferrari
Driving School, Inc.'s Program Manager and President,
(Dkt. Nos. 23, 24)
default was filed for each.
The Clerk's certificate of
(Dkt. Nos. 35, 36). No opposition
to the instant motion has been filed,
and a default judgment
will therefore be entered against the Ferrari Defendants.
However, the Complaint fails to allege any monetary
damages attributable to the defaulting defendants. The default
judgment is therefore limited to costs.
Based on the conclusions set forth above, the motion
of the State Defendants is granted, and the Complaint is
dismissed without prejudice with leave granted to replead within
twenty days. The motion of the Plaintiff for default judgment is
granted and judgment for costs will be entered on notice.
It is so ordered.
New York, NY
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