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Lynch v. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 7, 2019

DANIEL M. LYNCH, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH Defendant.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER AND RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge.

         I. Background

         This is an action for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in which the plaintiff, Daniel M. Lynch, alleges that the defendant, the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (“the Judicial Branch”), failed to accommodate his disability in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“the ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Lynch filed an amended complaint, and the Judicial Branch has filed a motion to dismiss, strike, and/or stay the claims in Lynch's complaint. The court assumes the reader's familiarity with the procedural history of this case and with the Ruling on the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, rendered by Judge Covello, to whom this case was previously assigned. (ECF No. 51.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Section 1915(e)(2) provides that the Court must dismiss a complaint filed by a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis if it “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendant fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         The Court must construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the “strongest arguments that they suggest.” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 472 (2d Cir. 2006). A pro se plaintiff, however, must nonetheless meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (“[A] pro se complaint must state a plausible claim for relief.”).

         III. Lynch's Non-ADA and Rehabilitation Act Claims

         The sole defendant in Lynch's Amended Complaint is the Judicial Branch, a state agency. (ECF No. 62 ¶ 2.) At the outset, the Court notes that Judge Covello's ruling on the Judicial Branch's motion to dismiss presumed that Lynch's sole remaining claims were his ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against the Judicial Branch.[1] (ECF No. 51 at 1.) However, Lynch's subsequently filed Amended Complaint (ECF No. 62) continues to describe numerous additional claims against the Judicial Branch. These claims include state law claims alleging the violation of judicial oaths (ECF No. 62 ¶ 146), tortious interference (ECF No. 62 ¶ 151-54), and unjust enrichment (ECF No. 62 ¶ 155-57), in addition to references to various federal constitutional and statutory provisions.

         A. Lynch's Non-ADA and Rehabilitation Act Federal Claims

         The Judicial Branch argues that Lynch's non-ADA and Rehabilitation Act federal claims against the Judicial Branch are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. I agree. The Judicial Branch is a protected entity under the Eleventh Amendment. “‘The immunity recognized by the Eleventh Amendment extends beyond the states themselves to ‘state agents and state instrumentalities' that are, effectively, arms of a state,' . . . including state courts.” Richter v. Connecticut Judicial Branch, 2014 WL 12814444, at *4 (D. Conn. March 27, 2014) (emphasis added) (quoting Woods v. Rondout Valley Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. Of Educ., 466 F.3d 232, 236 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974) (“private parties seeking to impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury is barred by the Eleventh Amendment”).

         Furthermore, both injunctive relief and claims for damages are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Mulready v. Mulready, 2007 WL 1757055, at *2 (D. Conn. June 19, 2007) (“Unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity, or its immunity is validly abrogated by statute, the plaintiff cannot sue the state or its agencies either for monetary damages or injunctive relief.”) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974); Cory v .White, 457 U.S. 85, 91 (1982); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978)). As the Judicial Branch points out, none of the federal statutory and constitutional provisions Lynch cites (other than the ADA) abrogate the state's sovereign immunity. (ECF No. 63 at 14-15.)

         Lynch argues that the state has waived its sovereign immunity by way of a resolution passed by the Connecticut General Assembly. (ECF No. 66 at 5-6.) As the Judicial Branch argues, however, this waiver is limited to suits in state court, and does not waive the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity to suit in federal court. The resolution vacates the dismissal of the Connecticut Claims Commissioner and authorizes Lynch to sue the state. The state statute governing authorizations to sue the state, however, makes it clear that such authorizations are limited to suits in state court. See Estate of A.A. v. United States, 2016 WL 7471634, at *4 (D. Conn. 2016) (citing Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-160(d)); Nowacky v. Town of New Canaan, 2017 WL 1158239, at *6 (D. Conn. Mar. 28, 2017). “A state's consent to suit in its own courts is not a waiver of its sovereign immunity in federal court.” Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 285 (2011).[2]Thus, the Judicial Branch's Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court continues to apply.

         Consequently, to the extent Lynch's non-ADA and Rehabilitation Act federal claims against the Judicial Branch have not been dismissed by previous rulings of this Court, they are hereby DISMISSED.

         B. Lynch's ...


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