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Judge: Seizure-dog trainer’s $75 million claim against AG should be dismissed

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A federal magistrate judge has recommended that the damages portion of a seizure-dog trainer’s legal action seeking action $75 million from the state attorney general be dismissed, although parts of the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed.

South Colton resident Jon C. Sabin, operator of Seizure Alert Dogs for Life Inc., filed suit in September in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assistant Attorney General Deanna R. Nelson, claiming that his civil rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act when the attorney general obtained an order barring him from running his business.

The attorney general had argued, among other things, that Mr. Sabin was falsely advertising that his dogs were trained to alert people about oncoming seizures. He filed federal action, contending that federal disability laws supersede state laws governing service-animal training.

In a report filed Monday with the court, Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles recommended to Judge Gary L. Sharpe, who is presiding over Mr. Sabin’s federal case, that any claims for damages against the state officials in their official capacity be dismissed. He wrote that federal law, under the 11th Amendment, prohibits suits in federal court brought by parties seeking monetary damages that must be paid through state funds.

The judge also recommended the dismissal of claims against the state officials in their individual capacity, stating that Mr. Sabin’s complaint “is wholly devoid of any allegations that suggest that the three named defendants were personally involved in any alleged constitutional violation.”

Judge Peebles did, however, recommend keeping alive Mr. Sabin’s request for injunctive relief which, if successful, would prevent the attorney general from enforcing state service animal laws against him and allow him to continue training dogs.

The judge also recommended that Mr. Sabin be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint, which Mr. Sabin said Tuesday he will do within the next few days. In his report, Judge Peebles provided Mr. Sabin with something of a road map regarding the type of claims and other pertinent information that must be included to support allegations in the complaint.

Mr. Sabin has been acting as his own attorney, and Judge Peebles has recommended that he be allowed to continue to do so “in forma pauperis,” which, if granted, would entitle him to a waiver of costs associated with bringing the action because he is deemed a poor person. The judge, however, said that Seizure Alert Dogs for Life, which is a named plaintiff in the action, does not qualify for the status and, because it did not pay the $350 filing fee for the suit, its complaint should be dismissed.

Mr. Sabin said that when he files his amended complaint, he will be the sole plaintiff.

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