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Hartford, LLC v. City of Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 26, 2018

62-64 KENYON STREET, HARTFORD, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HARTFORD, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW ACTION AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 20, 2016, 62-64 Kenyon Street Hartford, LLC (“Kenyon Street” or “Plaintiff”), a Connecticut limited liability company that operated a rooming house on Kenyon Street in Hartford, Connecticut and its sole member, Paul Rosow, filed this lawsuit alleging violations of statutory and constitutional rights by the city of Hartford (“Hartford” or “Defendant”), following a revision of the rooming house section of Hartford's municipal code. Compl., ECF No. 1.

         On December 29, 2017, the Court dismissed Plaintiff from the action, granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and closed the case. Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 44; Order Granting Mot. for Summ. J. (“First Summ. J. Order”), ECF No. 58. On January 5, 2018, Plaintiff moved for reconsideration. Pl.'s Mot. for Recons., ECF No. 60. The Court denied the motion with respect to Plaintiff's equal protection claims. Ruling on Mot. for Recons., ECF No. 64. The Court, however, granted the motion with respect to Plaintiff's void for vagueness, dormant Commerce Clause, and Takings Clause claims, finding that Plaintiff had received insufficient notice that those claims were to be reviewed. Id.

         On July 13, 2018, Defendant submitted a supplemental memorandum in support of its motion for summary judgment. Def.'s Supp. Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 67. On July 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed its opposition to the revised motion for summary judgment. Pl.'s Supp. Obj. to Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 68. On October 24, 2018, the Court held a hearing on the revised motion for summary judgment. Minute Entry, ECF No. 74.

         On November 14, 2018, Plaintiff moved to amend the Complaint to remove its federal and state takings claims. Mot. to Amend, ECF No. 75. The Court granted Plaintiff's motion to amend. ECF No. 76.

         On November 15, 2018, Plaintiff moved to withdraw the action entirely. Pl.'s Mot to Withdraw Action, ECF No. 77.

         For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion to withdraw this case.

         The Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismisses Plaintiff's void for vagueness and dormant Commerce Clause claims. The Court further declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This case involves the licensee-occupancy provision of Hartford's rooming house ordinance, § 18-164 of the Hartford Municipal Code, which states:

The licensee who obtains a license under this Article shall reside in the rooming house. In the R-6, R-7, and R-8 zoning districts, no license or license renewal shall be issued to a licensee who is not the owner or majority owner of the property. A licensee who is not the owner of the real [sic] shall have a valid power of attorney from the owner, not more than one (1) year old, which gives the licensee authority to do all things necessary to manage and operate the rooming house, including, without limitation, to collect, deposit and spend the rents from roomers, to pay bills, to make repairs, to correct violations, and to allow inspections of the premises.

         Municipal Code: City of Hartford, ch. 18, art. VII, § 18-164.

         The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts as set forth in its earlier rulings on Defendant's motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment. Order Denying Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 33; First Summ. J. Order.

         Plaintiff alleges “additional material facts” in its opposition to summary judgment on the reconsidered counts, Pl.'s Rule 56(a)(2) Statement of Facts (“Add'l Material Facts”), ECF No. 68-1.

         The Court's earlier ruling did not fully consider these “additional material facts”: (1) the property has been a rooming house in the west-end of Hartford since the early 1900's, ¶ 2; (2) the rooming house has been licensed since 1960, ¶ 4; (3) since 1977, Hartford's municipal code has required the owner of the rooming house to either reside there or to appoint an agent, ¶ 6; (4) Mr. Rosow had appointed an agent to live in the house “[a]t all times . . . as permitted by law”, ¶ 7; (5) Hartford and the West End Civic Association (“WECA”) sought advice from the mayor's wife, attorney Sara Bronin, “on ways to suspend the Rooming House license”, ¶¶ 8-10; (6) Daniel Loos, former Director of Licenses and Inspections, ordered two surprise inspections of the property though he had not done so in the five years he worked for the city, ¶¶ 11-12; (7) Hartford allegedly singled out the rooming house in its inspections and documentation requests, ¶¶ 13-14; (8) WECA and Hartford allegedly conspired to rid the neighborhood of Plaintiff's rooming house, ¶¶ 15-39; (9) a buyer allegedly walked away from the deal to purchase the rooming house after and because of the city's ordinance, ¶¶ 43-47; (10) the ordinance allegedly does not prescribe how limited liability corporations (LLCs) could meet its requirements, ¶¶ 48-50; (11) the rooming house's typical residents allegedly were “low income minorities, many from out of state”, ¶¶ 50-51; and (12) Plaintiff allegedly charged below market rents for rooms. ¶ 52.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Motion to Withdraw Action

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i), a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss an action without a court order before an opposing party serves an answer or motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i). Once an answer or motion for summary judgment has been served, however, a plaintiff must seek a court order for dismissal. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2).

         Rule 41 does not permit voluntarily dismissal absent a court order following summary judgment because “such a motion may require even more research and preparation than the answer itself . . . .” See Harvey Aluminum, Inc. v. Am. Cyanamid Co., 203 F.2d 105, 107 (2d Cir. 1953) (“The amount of research and preparation required of defendants was stressed by the Committee Note when Rule 41(a)(1) was amended in 1948 as a reason for adding the reference to a motion for summary judgment.”).[1] Under Rule 41(a)(2), a Court may grant the dismissal without prejudice on ‚Äúterms that the court considers ...


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