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Komondy v. Gioco

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 25, 2017

CHRISTOPHER KOMONDY (Substituted Plaintiff), Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Christopher Komondy brings this action on behalf of his deceased wife, Marguerite Komondy, against the Town of Chester and its zoning officials to redress alleged infringement of her constitutional rights with respect to residential property she owned at 29 Liberty Street in Chester, Connecticut (the "Liberty Street property"). Defendants now bring a summary judgment motion, seeking judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff's § 1983 "class of one" equal protection claim.

         The background facts of the case are as follows. Margaret Komondy commenced this action on February 20, 2012. Doc. 1 ("Complaint"). Upon her death in June of 2013, Christopher Komondy successfully moved the Court to become the substituted plaintiff as executor of her estate. Doc. 41 & 42. Plaintiff Christopher Komondy then filed an Amended Complaint, reflecting his plaintiff status. See Doc. 50 ("Second Amended Complaint" or "SAC"). That complaint is now the operative complaint in this action.

         Defendants include Mario Gioco, who at all relevant times held the position of Chairman of the Town of Chester Zoning Board of Appeals ("ZBA"); Judith Brown, a Zoning Enforcement Officer employed by the Town of Chester; and the Town of Chester, a municipality within the State of Connecticut (herein collectively "Defendants"). Id. (SAC) , ¶¶ 4-6. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants unlawfully enforced Chester's Zoning Regulations, § 113B.5, by directing removal of a mobile home that the Komondys placed on the Liberty Street property as a temporary residence during the anticipated construction of their new home.

         The Komondys' former historic home had been destroyed by fire on March 5, 2005. Id., ¶ 9. Because the structural damage from the fire was so extensive, the "remainder of [the] dwelling was demolished in the interest of safety." Id. Mrs. Komondy thereafter sought permission from the Town of Chester, pursuant to § 113B.5 of the Chester Zoning Regulations, to remain on her property in the temporary mobile home while her permanent home was reconstructed. Id., ¶ 10. On March 14, 2005, she received a permit to install the mobile home on the premises, a "temporary dwelling" in which she could live for a maximum period of six months. Id., ¶¶ 10-11. Upon expiration of the six-month period, Mrs. Komondy applied for an extension of the permit from the Town of Chester. The extension, however, was denied by Chester Zoning Enforcement Officer Brown on August 25, 2006. Id., ¶ 13.

         Mrs. Komondy thereafter filed an appeal of the permit denial and an application for a variance from § 113B.5, but the Chester ZBA denied both applications on December 18, 2006. Id., ¶ 14. She subsequently filed appeals of the Chester ZBA decision in the Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Middletown, and then in the Connecticut Appellate Court. Id., ¶ 15. See Komondy v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Chester, Case No. MMX-CV07-4006628-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 19, 2007); Komondy v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Chester, 127 Conn.App. 669 (2011). The appeals were ultimately dismissed on April 5, 2011. See Komondy, 127 Conn.App. at 690 ("[I]t remains that the court determined that no unusual hardship existed to warrant a variance from § 113B.5 of the regulations" and "[p]roof of exceptional difficulty or unusual hardship is absolutely necessary as a condition precedent to the granting of a zoning variance.") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         On February 2, 2012, Mrs. Komondy received a letter from Chester's legal counsel, informing her that the Town would "remov[e] the trailer on [her] property . . . if it [was] not removed by [her]" and "the costs and expenses of that removal would be charged against [her], resulting in a lien on the subject real property." Doc. 50, ¶ 23. Two weeks later, Town representatives and contractors entered the property at 29 Liberty Street to inspect the trailer and evaluate disconnection of utilities in preparation to remove the trailer. Id., ¶ 24. Mrs. Komondy, then residing in the trailer with her spouse Christopher Komondy, was seventy-nine years old, suffering from "stage 4 cancer, " and undergoing "weekly chemotherapy sessions." See Doc. 1 (original Complaint), ¶ 23.

         Mrs. Komondy commenced this action in the District of Connecticut on February 20, 2012. Doc. 1. In her original Complaint, she maintained that Chester's Zoning Regulations, § 113B.5, barring her from remaining in a temporary mobile home on her property during re-construction of her home, was "unconstitutional, " "unreasonable, " and "confiscatory" as applied to her. Doc. 1, ¶¶ 17-18. She also specifically alleged that "defendant Judith Brown and [the] Town of Chester have attempted to deprive [her] of all 'economically viable use' of [her] property and therefore effected a 'taking' under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments" of the United States Constitution. Id., ¶ 25. Two days after filing her Complaint, she sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the Town from removing her mobile home from the premises of 29 Liberty Street. Doc. 3. She subsequently withdrew the motion after Chester's counsel represented that the Town agreed not to take any action to remove her mobile home during the pendency of this action. Doc. 14. On June 4, 2013, Marguerite Komondy died. Doc. 35 ("Suggestion of Death").

         As described supra, on January 29, 2014, the Court granted an "Amended Motion to Substitute Plaintiff, " filed on behalf of Christopher Komondy as the surviving spouse of the deceased Marguerite Komondy. Doc. 48. On February 6, 2014, Christopher Komondy filed the Second Amended Complaint [Doc. 50], once again seeking recovery from the prior named Defendants for violation of his wife's constitutional rights with respect to the property at 29 Liberty Street in Chester. In that SAC, he also alleged that Chester's zoning regulation, § 113B.5, as applied to 29 Liberty Street, was an attempt "to deprive plaintiff of all 'economically viable use' of said property and therefore effected a 'taking' [without just compensation] under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." Doc. 50 (SAC), ¶ 28.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule 12(c) of Civil Procedure, the Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that "Plaintiff's federal taking[s] claim in his operative complaint should be dismissed" because it "is not ripe for adjudication and, as a result, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim." Doc. 51, at 1. The Court granted that motion in a Ruling dated November 18, 2014, holding that the takings claims was dismissed, but "to the extent that [Plaintiff's] Complaint contains other causes of action [i.e., a "class of one" equal protection claim, a § 1983 claim against the Town of Chester], those claims may remain pending for the present." Komondy v. Gioco, 59 F.Supp.3d 469, 481 (D. Conn. 2014).

         The Defendants have now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 74], asserting that "there is no genuine dispute of material fact, and Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the remaining claim[ ]" - "class of one" equal protection under § 1983 - as a matter of law. In that motion, they argue:

1. Plaintiff cannot identify any similarly situated property that was treated differently;
2. The Defendants had a rational basis for treating the comparator[s] identified by Plaintiff differently;
3. The Individual Defendants lack the required "personal involvement" necessary to impose any liability against [them] on any of the Plaintiff's claims which are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and,
4. The Individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.

Doc. 74, at 1-2.


         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), a party is entitled to summary judgment if he or she "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Accordingly, the Second Circuit will affirm a ruling on summary judgment "only if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom it was entered, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that judgment was warranted as a matter of law." Saleem v. Corp. Transportation Grp., Ltd., 854 F.3d 131, 138 (2d Cir. 2017) (citing Barfield v. New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., 537 F.3d 132, 140 (2d Cir. 2008)).

         In outlining the standard for this "provisional remedy, " the Second Circuit has previously summarized:

[First, ] summary judgment may not be granted unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Second, the burden is upon the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue respecting any material fact exists. In considering that, third, all ambiguities must be resolved and all inferences drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Fourth, the moving party may obtain summary judgment by showing that little or no evidence may be found in support of the nonmoving party's case. When no rational jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, there is no genuine issue of material fact and a grant of summary judgment is proper.

Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1223-24 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted).

         Applying the summary judgment standard, a genuine dispute exists where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party;" and a fact is deemed "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         With respect to burden of proof, although the movant must establish that it is entitled to summary judgment, "[a] defendant need not prove a negative when it moves for summary judgment on an issue that the plaintiff must prove at trial." Parker v. Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., 260 F.3d 100, 111 (2d Cir. 2001)(citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324) (internal quotation marks omitted). Rather, the defendant "need only point to an absence of proof on the plaintiff's part, and, at that point, plaintiff must designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Parker, 260 F.3d at 111. In other words, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.

         In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 137 (2d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). Moreover, the court "must draw all permissible inferences from the submitted affidavits, exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions in favor of that party." Harris v. Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 310 F.3d 73, 78 (2d Cir. 2002). In drawing such inferences, the only evidence the court must consider is "admissible evidence." Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, Inc., 582 F.3d 244, 264 (2d Cir. 2009).

         On summary judgment, the court's duty is not to "weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact; it is confined to deciding whether a rational juror could find in favor of the non-moving party." Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Machines Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 254 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). "Summary judgment is improper if there is any evidence in the record that could reasonably support a jury's verdict for the non-moving party." Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Simon, 310 F.3d 280, 286 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Pinto v. Allstate Ins. Co. 221 F.3d 394, 398 (2d Cir. 2000)).

         Finally, "[t]he district court's judgment may be affirmed 'on any ground fairly supported by the record.'" Trikona Advisers Ltd. v. Chugh, 846 F.3d 22, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Abdu-Brisson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 239 F.3d 456, 465 (2d Cir. 2001)). Therefore, the Court of Appeals "may affirm on any grounds for which there is a record sufficient to permit conclusions of law, including grounds no[t] relied upon by the district court." Mitchell v. City of N.Y., 841 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 2016) (citation omitted).


         A. Summary of Undisputed Facts

         From the Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statements of the Parties [Doc. 74-1, Doc. 75-1], the Court discerns the following undisputed facts.[1]

         Plaintiff Christopher Komondy is the trustee of the Liberty Street Trust. Doc. 74-1 & 75-1, ¶ 1. According to the Chester deeds on file, the property at 29 Liberty Street, Chester, Connecticut, is now owned by that trust. Id., ¶ 2. Prior to the formation of the trust, the property was owned by Marguerite Komondy. Id., ¶ 3.

         In early 1969, the Town of Chester adopted Zoning Regulations. Id., ¶ 4. Section 113 of those regulations related to mobile homes; and Section 113B.5, was and remains entitled, "Temporary Use During Construction of Home." Id., ¶¶ 5-6. Pursuant to Section 113B.5, after notifying a Zoning Compliance Officer, "a temporary dwelling [may be placed] on premises of the owner [of the property] during construction of such owner's permanent dwelling upon the same premises, provided that such mobile home shall not remain upon said premises for more than six months from the time that it is first placed thereon . . . ." Id., ¶ 6; see also Ex. 1 to Affidavit of Zoning Officer Judith Brown (herein "Brown Aff.") (Doc. 74-4), at 9.

         The property at 29 Liberty Street was damaged by fire in March 2005. Doc. 74-1 & 75-1, ¶ 7. On March 15, 2005, Marguerite Komondy applied for a zoning permit to allow a mobile home on the property. Id., ¶ 8. The permit was granted and a mobile home was placed on site. Id., ¶ 9. The mobile home was permitted to remain on the property for six months pursuant to Section 113B.5. Id., ¶ 10. The Zoning Enforcement Officer for the Town of Chester generally allows the mobile home to remain on the property (during reconstruction of the permanent home) up to one year prior to taking legal action for the mobile home's removal. Id., ¶ 11. Since February 2006, when she became Zoning Enforcement Officer, Defendant Judith Brown has followed the procedure of allowing the mobile home to remain for "an additional six month period." Id., ¶ 12.

         The mobile home at 29 Liberty Street remained on the property beyond the six-month period allowed under the permit and longer than the one-year "grace period, " which was normally given to all properties in town. Id., ¶ 13. On July 28, 2006, after the mobile home had been at 29 Liberty Street for more than sixteen months, Brown issued a "Cease & Desist" Order. Id., ¶ 14; see also Ex. 4 to Brown Aff. (Doc. 74-4), at 16. Thereafter, on August 25, 2006, Brown wrote a letter to the Komondys and informed them that no further extensions of their mobile home permit would be granted, as a Cease & Desist Order had been issued. Doc. 74-1 & 75-1, ¶ 15. In that letter, she also informed the Komondys that Section 113B.5 does not allow for extensions or successive applications for a mobile home permit. Id., ¶ 16.

         After several years of non-compliance with the Cease & Desist Order, a lawsuit was filed in the Connecticut Superior Court, bearing docket number MMX-CV11-6005284-S and captioned "Judith Brown Zoning Enforcement Officer v. Marguerite Komondy." Id., at ¶ 17. On August 24, 2011, a judgment was entered against Ms. Komondy in favor of Zoning Enforcement Officer Brown. Id., ¶ 18. As a result of this judgment, John S. Bennet, counsel for the Town of Chester, wrote to Mrs. Komondy regarding removal of the mobile home on the 29 Liberty Street property. Id., ¶ 19. Soon thereafter, this lawsuit was filed. Id., ¶ 25.

         To date, there has been no construction on the property at 29 Liberty Street to rebuild the home that burned down. Id., ¶ 23. The mobile home remains on the property. Id., ¶ 21.

         B."Class of One" Equal Protection Claim Pursuant to § 1983

         Plaintiff Christopher Komondy's Second Amended Complaint contains no headings or delineated claims. Therefore, the Court must attempt to interpret the language of his complaint to determine what claims may be supported by the alleged facts. See, e.g., Simonton v. Runyon, 232 F.3d 33, 36-37 (2d Cir. 2000) ("[G]enerally a complaint that gives full notice of the circumstances giving rise to the plaintiff's claim for relief need not also correctly plead the legal theory or theories and statutory basis supporting the claim.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Northrop v. Hoffman of Simsbury, Inc., 134 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir.1997) ("Under the liberal pleading principles established by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion the failure in a complaint to cite a statute, or to cite the correct one, in no way affects the merits of a claim. Factual allegations alone are what matters.") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). See also Sabilia v. Richmond, No. 11-739, 2011 WL 7091353, at *26 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2011) (Even though "plaintiffs did not label these allegations as a breach-of-contract claim [this] is not fatal to their pleading, since we must look to the factual allegations of the complaint as defining the nature of the claim rather [than] depend upon the legal labels affixed to those factual allegations.") (citation omitted).

         1.Section 1983

         "The Equal Protection Clause [of the Fourteenth Amendment] requires that the government treat all similarly situated people alike." Harlen Assocs. v. Inc. Vill. Of Mineola, 273 F.3d 494, 499 (2d Cir. 2001) (citing City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985)). See also Latrieste Rest. v. Village of Port Chester, 188 F.3d 65, 69 (2d Cir. 1999) (The Equal Protection Clause is "essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated be treated alike.") (quoting Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 439). A plaintiff who does not claim to be a member of a constitutionally protected class may bring an Equal Protection claim on one of two theories: selective enforcement or "class of one." See Cobb v. Pozzi, 363 F.3d 89, 109-10 (2d Cir.2004). See also Musco Propane, LLP v. Town of Wolcott, 891 F.Supp.2d 261, 271 (D. Conn. 2012) ("There are two types of equal protection claims available under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: selective enforcement and class of one."), aff'd sub nom. Musco Propane, LLP v. Town of Wolcott Planning & Zoning Comm'n, 536 F.App'x 35 (2d Cir. 2013).

         Examining the text of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, the Court finds language suggesting a "class of one" equal protection claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants.[2] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that in depriving Plaintiff of "equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, " Defendants have violated Section 1983 of the United States Code.[3] Doc. 50, ¶ 22.

         Section 1983 provides, in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress ....

         "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). "The traditional definition of acting under color of state law requires that the defendant in a § 1983 action have exercised power `possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.' " Id. at 49 (quoting United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326 (1941)).

         "[M]unicipalities [are] liable under § 1983 to be sued as 'persons' within the meaning of that statute, when the alleged unlawful action [was] implemented or was executed pursuant to a governmental policy or custom." Reynolds v. Giuliani, 506 F.3d 183, 190 (2d Cir.2007) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 694 (1978)). See also Back v. Hastings On Hudson Union Free Sch. Dist., 365 F.3d 107, 128 (2d Cir. 2004) ("Municipalities and other local government bodies . . . are considered 'persons' within the meaning of § 1983.").[4]

         However, "a single incident of unconstitutional conduct by a non-policymaking employee" of the City will generally not suffice to establish liability." Fisk v. Letterman, 501 F.Supp.2d 505, 527 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citations omitted). "Instead, municipalities may only be liable under § 1983 if their violation of the plaintiff's federal rights resulted from an official policy, custom, or practice of the municipal body." Id. (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 121-22 (1988)).

         Specifically, "[i]n order to prevail on a claim against a municipality under section 1983 based on acts of a public official, such as a zoning officer, a plaintiff is required to prove: (1) actions taken under color of law; (2) deprivation of a constitutional or statutory right; (3) causation; (4) damages; and (5) that an official policy [or custom] of the municipality caused the constitutional injury." Zainc v. City of Waterbury, 603 F.Supp.2d 368, 380 (D. Conn. 2009) (quoting Roe v. City of Waterbury, 542 F.3d 31, 36 (2d Cir.2008) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91)). Absent a policy or custom of inflicting such injury, a § 1983 claim may not proceed against a municipality.

         With respect to individual liability, "[p]ublic officials sued in their individual capacity are entitled to qualified immunity from suit unless [t]he contours of the right [are] sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right[;] [a]nd even assuming a state official violates a plaintiff's constitutional rights, the official is protected nonetheless if he objectively and reasonably believed that he was acting lawfully." Back, 365 F.3d at 129 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Furthermore, if an individual does not have qualified immunity, "[a] finding of 'personal involvement . . . in an alleged constitutional deprivation is a prerequisite to an award of damages under Section 1983." Feingold v. N.Y., 366 F.3d 138, 159 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Provost v. City of Newburgh, 262 F.3d 146, 154 (2d Cir.2001) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         2.Class of One Equal Protection

         In the case at bar, as stated supra, the constitutional right Plaintiff claims was violated is his right to "equal protection" as a "class on one." Specifically, in paragraph 21 of his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states, "Other similarly situated property owners, including but not limited to, property owners of residential land within the Town of Chester, specifically located at 80 Wig Hill Road and 5 Wig Hill Road were permitted to maintain mobile homes on the land for many years." Doc. 50, ¶ 21. Moreover, the "defendants have treated the plaintiff differently from at least two other identically situated property owners in the Town of Chester and have thereby deprived [him] of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as enforced through Sections 1983 and 1988 of Title 42 of the United States Code." Id., ¶ 22. Thereafter, Plaintiff summarizes, at ¶ 28 that "[i]n the manner described above, the defendant Judith Brown and Town of Chester have attempted to deprive the plaintiff of all 'economically viable use' of said property and therefore effected a 'taking' under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." Id., ¶ 29.

         As stated supra, the Court has previously dismissed Plaintiff's "takings" claim. Doc. 64. Defendants move for summary judgment on the remaining § 1983 "class of one" equal protection claim, asserting that the "Plaintiff cannot identify any similarly situated property and the defendants had a rational basis for dissimilar treatment." Doc. 74-2, at 3.

         3. Prima Facie Elements of "Class-Of-One" Equal Protection Claim

         In Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562 (2000) (per curiam), the United States Supreme Court recognized the existence of a "class of one" equal protection cause of action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against a municipality for arbitrary or irrational application of property laws. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a property owner stated a valid "class of one" equal protection claim by pleading that the defendant village required the plaintiff property owner to grant a 33-foot easement as a condition to connect to the municipal water supply, whereas similarly situated owners had only been required to provide a 15-foot easement; and there was "no rational basis for the difference in treatment." 528 U.S. at 564. As the Supreme Court summarized, "successful equal protection claims [may be] brought by a 'class of one, ' where the plaintiff alleges that she has been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational basis for the difference in treatment." Id.

         To establish a "class-of-one" equal protection claim, "plaintiffs must show an extremely high degree of similarity between themselves and the persons to whom they compare themselves." Ruston v. Town Bd. for Town of Skaneateles, 610 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Clubside, Inc. v. Valentin, 468 F.3d 144, 159 (2d Cir. 2006)). "Accordingly, to succeed on a class-of-one claim, a plaintiff must establish that (i) no rational person could regard the circumstances of the plaintiff to differ from those of a comparator to a degree that would justify the differential treatment on the basis of a legitimate government policy; and (ii) the similarity in circumstances and difference in treatment are sufficient to exclude the possibility that the defendants ...

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