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South Colton seizure-dog trainer’s $75M suit against state dismissed

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By BRIAN KELLY

COLTON — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a $75 million lawsuit brought by a South Colton seizure-dog trainer against the state attorney general.

Jon C. Sabin, operator of Seizure Alert Dogs for Life Inc., filed suit in September 2012 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Assistant Attorney General Deanna R. Nelson, claiming 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. Mr. Sabin filed federal action, contending that federal disability laws supersede state laws governing service-animal training.

Mr. Sabin alleged, among other things, that state laws prohibited him from offering service dogs for sale and that, should he disregard these law, he risked being arrested and civil litigation. He asked that a judge declare the laws unconstitutional because they conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal regulations.

In dismissing the action, Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe, citing case law, said Mr. Schneiderman and Ms. Nelson could be named in a suit to restrain the enforcement of an allegedly unconstitutional statute if, by virtue of their office, they had “some connection with the enforcement of the act.

Judge Sharpe ruled that neither Mr. Schneiderman nor Ms Nelson, who heads the attorney general’s Watertown office, were involved in enforcing the regulations as enforcement falls to the state Division of Human Rights.

With respect to Gov. Cuomo, Judge Sharpe wrote that the vast majority of courts have held that a state official’s duty to execute the law is not enough by itself to make that official a proper party in a suit challenging a state statute.

Citing case law, the judge wrote that the “mere fact that a governor is under a general duty to enforce state laws does not make him a proper defendant in every action attacking the constitutionality of a state statute.”

Judge Sharpe also said that Mr. Sabin’s action did not adequately state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The judge wrote that Mr. Sabin, who acted as his own attorney, left unclear which particular laws he was claiming were unconstitutional.

Judge Sharpe dismissed the suit “without prejudice,” leaving Mr. Sabin with the option of correcting any legal deficiencies and refiling the action.

Mr. Sabin said Monday that he will “definitely” refile the suit, naming additional parties.

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