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Cameron v. Fogarty

decided: December 1, 1986.

KENNETH S. CAMERON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MATTHEW FOGARTY AND JOHN HALBIG, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Edward R. Neaher, Judge, dismissing complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful arrest without probable cause, on the ground that suit is barred by plaintiff's conviction of offense for which he was arrested. Affirmed.

Author: Kearse

Before: NEWMAN, KEARSE, and MINER, Circuit Judges.

KEARSE, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Kenneth S. Cameron, who was convicted in 1980 in New York State Supreme court of possession of stolen property following his arrest by defendant police officers Matthew Fogarty and John Halbig, appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Edward R. Neaher, Judge, dismissing his amended complaint ("complaint"), brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982), seeking damages from defendants on the ground that they had arrested him without probable cause, in violation of his federal constitutional rights. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, ruling that New York law bars a civil action for arrest without probable cause if the claimant has been convicted of the crime for which he was arrested. On appeal, Cameron argues that New York law should not have been applied, since its application frustrates the purpose of § 1983. Defendants urge that we affirm the dismissal, either on the ground adopted by the district court or on the ground that the claim was barred by principles of collateral estoppel. We conclude that although principles of collateral estoppel do not apply, the judgment should be affirmed because common-law principles incorporated in § 1983 bar the present suit.

I. BACKGROUND

Insofar as it is pertinent to Cameron's claim of false arrest and the propriety of the district court's dismissal of the complaint, the trial record in state court reveals the following events and proceedings.

A. The Events

On February 13, 1980, New York City Police Officers Fogarty and Halbig observed Cameron, driving a car with Illinois license plates and a broken left rear vent window, make an illegal right turn through a red light on 111th Street in Manhattan and park illegally at a bus stop on Eighth Avenue. Cameron and his passenger, Anthony Wilson, left the car and began to walk away from it. Because of the illegal right turn and because the broken vent window caused them to suspect that the car might have been stolen, the officers pulled alongside the car and hailed Cameron, identifying themselves as police officers.

When asked for identification of himself and his vehicle, Cameron produced a Virginia driver's license bearing his photograph and the name Sammy Davis, Jr., and a carbon copy of a Hertz Corporation ("Hertz") car rental agreement made out to Jenne M. Currie, whom Cameron identified as his aunt. The agreement indicated that the car was to have been returned to Hertz on February 3. Cameron told the officers that the car window had been broken recently, that he had reported it to Hertz at Newark Airport, and that he had there been added to the rental agreement as a driver. The copy of the rental agreement bore handwritten notations in ink that Sammy Davis, Jr., was an authorized additional driver and that an accident report had been filed at Newark Airport.

In the minute or two between noticing Cameron's car and stopping alongside it, the officers had radioed police headquarters for information as to whether the car had been reported stolen, but had received no response. After questioning Cameron they remained suspicious because of the broken window, the notations inked on the rental agreement, and the apparent overdue return of the car, and they decided to go to the police station to investigate further. Cameron and Wilson rode with Fogarty in the police car; Halbig drove the rental car.

At the station house, Cameron identified himself as Kenneth Cameron and showed Fogarty a passport in that name. He also produced an airline ticket to Barbados made out to K. Cameron, a social security card bearing the same Sammy Davis, Jr., and four state child support checks made out to Giovanni Stanislaus, who he said was his child.

Halbig telephone Hertz to inquire about the car. Hertz employees informed both Halbig and Fogarty that the car was stolen, having been fraudulently rented at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. The employees also stated that Hertz did not authorize additional drivers in the manner indicated on Cameron's rental agreement and that no accident report had been filed.

Cameron was then placed under arrest and charged with several offenses including grand larceny, criminal impersonation, and criminal possession of stolen property.

B. The Criminal Trial

At trial, the state's evidence included Fogarty's testimony describing the events as set forth above. When Fogarty was asked what statements Cameron had made about the license and the rental agreement when he produced those documents on the street, Cameron's counsel requested a sidebar conference, which included the following colloquy:

MR. DOCKRY [counsel for Cameron]: I would call to the Court's attention statements are now being proffered, statements allegedly made by the defendant.

It would [ sic ] seem I am going to run into the area of rights.

I would just ask the District Attorney to clarify the rights issue and the Miranda issue.

I am relatively certain it is all quite proper, but nonetheless.

THE COURT: Number one, I assume that the contention is that this is not a ...


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