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Case Number: 21-2988
Court: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on appeal from the Northern District of New York (Albany County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: Anthony Rupp and Phillip A. Oswald
Defendant's Attorney: FREDERICK A. BRODIE (Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Andrea Oser, Deputy Solicitor General, on the brief), for Letitia James, Attorney General for the State of New York, Albany, N.Y., for Defendants-Appellees Kathleen Hochul, Letitia James, and Empire State Development Corporation.
Erin Molisani, Erie County Department of Law, Buffalo, N.Y., for Defendants-Appellees Mark C. Poloncarz and Erie County Department of Health.
Description: Albany, New York civil rights lawyers represented the Plaintiffs who sued the Defendants challenging the legality of regulations relating to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plaintiffs are five individuals-two couples, each engaged to be married when they filed suit, and a New York-based minister. During the summer of 2020, the five brought a constitutional challenge to New York regulations issued earlier that year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting to fifty the number of attendees permitted at non-essential gatherings, including weddings. Eight days before the first of the scheduled weddings, the five sought a preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York barring enforcement of the limitation as to their planned gatherings. After expedited briefing and a hurriedly conducted oral argument, the district court granted their motion and preliminarily enjoined the State from enforcing its gathering limit against Plaintiffs just forty-five minutes before the wedding ceremony was to begin. See DiMartile v. Cuomo, 478 F.Supp.3d 372, 389 (N.D.N.Y. 2020) (Suddaby, J.) ("PI Order"). The first couple held their wedding that afternoon. Within a few days, Defendants appealed, and not long after, we granted their request for a stay pending appeal.
After the second couple announced that-regardless of the outcome of the appeal-they no longer planned to hold a wedding, we dismissed the appeal as moot and remanded with instructions to the district court to vacate the preliminary injunction. On remand, all five Plaintiffs moved for attorney's fees. The district court denied their motion, deciding that, under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, none were prevailing parties. All five then timely appealed.