Letzelter v. Annucci et al
DECISION & ORDER granting 12 the defendants' partial motion to dismiss. Letzelter's claims for money damages against the defendants in their official capacities are dismissed; within 21 days of the date of this order, the defendants shall answer the remaining claims in the complaint. SO ORDERED. Signed by Hon. Lawrence J. Vilardo on 2/16/2021. (MLA)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP- by mailing a copy of this order to the plaintiff
Case 1:20-cv-00630-LJV Document 16 Filed 02/16/21 Page 1 of 4
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
JUSTIN L. LETZELTER,
DECISION & ORDER
ANTHONY J. ANNUCCI, et al.,
On May 28, 2020, the pro se plaintiff, Justin L. Letzelter, commenced this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Docket Item 1. Letzelter specifically alleges that while he was
confined at the Rochester Correctional Facility, the defendants violated his due process
rights by removing him from the Temporary Release Program without notice or a
hearing and despite a negative urinalysis result. Id. at 11. He seeks compensatory and
punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees. Id. at 1, 12.
Letzelter sued all defendants in their individual and official capacities. Id. at 3-4.
On December 9, 2020, the defendants moved to dismiss only Letzelter’s officialcapacity claims. Docket Item 12. On December 28, 2020, Letzelter responded, Docket
Item 14; and on January 8, 2021, the defendants replied, Docket Item 15. For the
Case 1:20-cv-00630-LJV Document 16 Filed 02/16/21 Page 2 of 4
reasons stated below, the defendants’ partial motion to dismiss is granted, and
Letzelter’s official-capacity claims for money damages are dismissed.1
“The Eleventh Amendment precludes suits against states unless the state
expressly waives its immunity or Congress abrogates that immunity.” Li v. Lorenzo, 712
F. App’x 21, 22 (2d Cir. 2017) (summary order) (citing CSX Transp., Inc. v. N.Y. State
Office of Real Prop. Servs., 306 F.3d 87, 94-95 (2d Cir. 2002)). Under section 1983, a
claim for money damages against a state official in his or her official capacity “is in
effect a claim against the governmental entity itself.” Lore v. City of Syracuse, 670 F.3d
127, 164 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691
(1978)). Because “New York has not waived its immunity, nor has Congress abrogated
it,” Li, 712 F. App’x at 22 (citing Trotman v. Palisades Interstate Park Comm’n, 557 F.2d
35, 38-40 (2d Cir. 1977); Dube v. State Univ. of N.Y., 900 F.2d 587, 594 (2d Cir. 1990)),
the Eleventh Amendment bars official-capacity suits for money damages against New
York State and its officials in their official capacity, see Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
159, 169 (1985).
Letzelter has sued each of the defendants for money damages in both their
official and individual capacities. See Docket Item 1 at 3-4. For the reasons just stated,
his official-capacity claims for money damages are barred by the Eleventh Amendment
This Court assumes familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history,
and this Court’s prior order, Docket Item 3, and will refer only to the facts necessary to
explain its decision.
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and therefore are dismissed.2 All other claims are not dismissed, however, and the
defendants shall answer those claims.
In light of the above, IT IS HEREBY
ORDERED that Letzelter’s claims for money damages against the defendants in
their official capacities are dismissed; and it is further
ORDERED that all other claims, including Letzelter’s claims against the
defendants in their individual capacities, may proceed; and it is further
ORDERED that within 21 days of the date of this order, the defendants shall
answer the remaining claims in the complaint; and it is further
ORDERED that Letzelter shall notify the Court in writing if his address changes.
The Court may dismiss the action if Letzelter fails to do so.
Generally, a court will afford a pro se plaintiff an opportunity to amend or to be
heard prior to dismissal “unless the court can rule out any possibility, however unlikely it
might be, that an amended complaint would succeed in stating a claim.” Abbas v.
Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted); see also Cuoco v. Moritsugu,
222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000). But leave to amend pleadings may be denied when
any amendment would be “futile.” Id. Because sovereign immunity bars Letzelter’s
official-capacity claims for money damages, those claims are dismissed without leave to
amend because any amendment would be “futile.” See id.
Case 1:20-cv-00630-LJV Document 16 Filed 02/16/21 Page 4 of 4
Dated: February 16, 2021
Buffalo, New York
LAWRENCE J. VILARDO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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