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Case Name Seaport House Hopkins v. Cuomo PR-NY-0011
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-10932 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This putative class action was filed on December 25, 2020 by a New York business, a non-profit, and an individual resident, seeking an injunction against the state's COVID-19 dining policies and a declaration that the state's rules violated the U.S. Constitution, the New York ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This putative class action was filed on December 25, 2020 by a New York business, a non-profit, and an individual resident, seeking an injunction against the state's COVID-19 dining policies and a declaration that the state's rules violated the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution, and state law. The court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order in January 2021, denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in February, and dismissed the case in April 2021.


This case is about the constitutionality of the measures taken by the executive branch of the New York state government and New York City municipal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On December 25, 2020, a New York limited liability company, a non-profit entity, and an individual resident of the state, each involved with the New York city restaurant industry, filed this putative class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. They sued the Governor of New York, the New York City Department of Finance, the New York City Sheriff's Department, and the Mayor of New York City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated parties. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiffs sought a class certification, an injunction against the Governor's executive orders prohibiting all in-person dining from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. in New York City and suspending all indoor dining in the city, a declaration that the orders are unconstitutional, and preliminary relief enjoining enforcement of the order.

The plaintiffs asserted that dining orders violated their First Amendment rights to assemble and to protest the government, infringed on the powers of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce, and violated their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights. In addition, the plaintiffs also alleged that the state legislature's delegation of legislative power to the governor violated the nondelegation doctrine of the New York State Constitution and that the orders violated Section 28 of the New York Executive Law. The case was initially assigned to Judge Colleen McMahon but was reassigned to Judge Paul A. Crotty before any judicial orders were filed.

On December 30, 2020, the plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. On January 8, 2021, the court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. The court noted that when an injunction would affect government action taken in the public interest pursuant to a statute or regulatory scheme, the moving party must demonstrate irreparable harm absent injunctive relief, a likelihood of success on the merits, and public interest weighing in favor of an injunction. The court stated that the plaintiffs' motion failed to meet the irreparable harm and public interest factors. According to the court, the plaintiffs' nearly three week delay between the governor's banning of indoor dining and the motion for a temporary restraining order indicated that the plaintiffs' alleged harm is not irreparable. Regarding the public interest prong, the court stated, given that judges are not public health experts, that it gives a presumption of validity to prophylactic measures designed to protect the public from COVID-19. The court's order did not express a view on the merits' of the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.

The plaintiffs' preliminary injunction motion requested that all New York City restaurants be permitted to operate at 50% indoor dining capacity and to allow all New York restaurants to be able to serve customers until midnight, arguing that the current policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, the Dormant Commerce Clause, and the First Amendment. On February 9, 2021, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. 18 F.Supp.3d 705. The court again noted the three factors that the moving party must demonstrate under the facts of this case to receive preliminary relief: (1) irreparable harm absent relief; (2) a likelihood of success on the merits; and (3) public interest weighing in favor of the granting of the injunction.

The court stated that the plaintiffs' constitutional claims were not likely to succeed on the merits. Citing relevant case law, the court asserted that the plaintiffs would need to show that the New York City dining policy has no substantial relation to the public welfare and that it is a plain invasion of fundamental rights. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had not met this standard, since the policy was related to curbing the transmission of COVID-19 and that the plaintiffs' requested relief (50% indoor capacity) showed that some public health regulation of restaurants is constitutional. The court also stated that since none of the plaintiffs' constitutional claims were viable, that the court must apply rational basis review. The court concluded that the dining policy easily passed rational basis scrutiny since it was premised on a rational scientific basis related to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19.

The court also analyzed the irreparable harm prong of the preliminary relief standard. The court concluded that the plaintiffs had not established a likelihood of irreparable injury absent injunctive relief since all of the injuries alleged by the plaintiffs are monetary, which are not grounds for a preliminary injunction. On the public interest prong, the court stated that the dining policy effectuated a compelling public interest by attempting to curb the transmission of COVID-19. The court noted that the principles of federalism, separation of powers, and judicial modesty demanded that the court respect the decisions of New York state lawmakers and not try control state responses from the federal bench.

On April 2, 2021, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for a failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted. On April 11, 2021, the court granted the motion to dismiss. While the defendants asserted that the plaintiffs' claims were moot because restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity starting in March 2021, the court stated that the claims were not moot since the governor could still reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants. However, the court did dismiss the federal constitutional claims for a failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted. The court incorporated the same reasoning as it used in deciding the preliminary injunction motion as for the motion to dismiss regarding the constitutional claims. On the remaining two state law claims, the court stated that Supreme Court precedent holds that sovereign immunity prohibits federal courts from entering injunctions against state officials on the basis of state law, even if brought into court under supplemental jurisdiction. Therefore, the state claims were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The case is now closed.

Nicholas Gillan - 10/31/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Commerce Power
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Takings
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Plaintiff Type
Closely-held (for profit) corporation
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Defendant(s) Governor of the State of New York
Mayor of the City of New York
New York City Department of Finance
New York City Sheriff's Department
Plaintiff Description One New York limited liability company and restaurant, one pending non-profit entity representing restaurant owners, and one individual New York resident employed in the restaurant industry
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 12/25/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
S.D.N.Y.
05/27/2021
1:20-cv-10932-PAC
PR-NY-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
S.D.N.Y.
12/25/2020
Verified Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-NY-0011-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
12/30/2020
Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Application for a Temporary Restraining Order, Equitable Relief and Order to Show Cause Why a Preliminary Injunction Should Not Be Issued [ECF# 17]
PR-NY-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
01/08/2021
Order [ECF# 32]
PR-NY-0011-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
01/28/2021
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 45]
PR-NY-0011-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
02/09/2021
Opinion and Order [ECF# 57]
PR-NY-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
04/02/2021
City Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss the Complaint [ECF# 65]
PR-NY-0011-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
S.D.N.Y.
05/11/2021
Opinion & Order [ECF# 69]
PR-NY-0011-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Crotty, Paul Austin (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-0003 | PR-NY-0011-0004 | PR-NY-0011-0005 | PR-NY-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ilganayev, Migir (New York) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-0001 | PR-NY-0011-0002 | PR-NY-0011-0006 | PR-NY-0011-9000
Khatibi, Kian Daniel (New York) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-0001 | PR-NY-0011-0002 | PR-NY-0011-0006 | PR-NY-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Devine, Kerry Ann (New York) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-0007 | PR-NY-0011-9000
Farber, Seth J (New York) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-9000
Schonfeld, Samantha Michelle (New York) show/hide docs
PR-NY-0011-0007 | PR-NY-0011-9000

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