found that the conspiracy allegations leveled at these
defendants were impermissibly vague and conclusory and thus,
failed to state a claim for relief. The remaining claims were
found to be barred because the defendant prosecutors were
protected by absolute immunity.
Dowd, Gomez and the City now move to dismiss most of the
claims against them on the grounds that Dukes' criminal
conviction bars him from relitigating the lawfulness of his
arrest, prosecution, or imprisonment, and that the conspiracy
allegations are insufficient to support a claim for relief.
In addition, Dowd argues that he is absolutely immune from
civil liability arising out of his testimony at Dukes'
In determining whether an asserted defense is available to
defeat liability in a section 1983 action, the Court is
guided in large part by principles of common law. See Cameron
v. Fogarty, 806 F.2d 380, 386 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied,
481 U.S. 1016, 107 S.Ct. 1894, 95 L.Ed.2d 501 (1987).
In Cameron, the Second Circuit considered a challenge to a
section 1983 action alleging that defendant police officers
arrested and imprisoned the plaintiff without probable cause.
The court concluded that collateral estoppel could not be
applied to bar the action despite various rulings by the state
criminal trial court that evidence was seized incident to a
lawful arrest, and despite plaintiff's conviction of the
criminal charges, because the issue of probable cause to arrest
the plaintiff was not necessarily decided at the criminal
trial. Id. at 385. Without deciding whether the full faith and
credit clause, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, requires the recognition of
state law preclusionary rules other than res judicata and
collateral estoppel,*fn2 the Second Circuit concluded that the
claims were barred under longstanding principles of common law.
Id. at 386.
A. Common Law Defense — Existence of Probable Cause
While the claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and
malicious prosecution are not identical, there is substantial
overlap among them, as "[c]ivil liability for false
imprisonment following arrest is governed by many of the same
principles that govern a claim of malicious prosecution."
Id. at 387.
A claim of false arrest or false imprisonment is premised
on a lack of probable cause for the arrest. Id. at 386; Unger
v. Cohen, 718 F. Supp. 185, 187 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Similarly, in
an action for malicious prosecution, plaintiff must demonstrate
the absence of probable cause to arrest and that the
proceedings terminated in plaintiff's favor. Cameron v.
Fogarty, supra, 806 F.2d at 386. "It is abundantly clear that a
finding of probable cause will defeat state tort claims for
false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution,"
Zanghi v. Village of Old Brookville, 752 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir.
1985), and a conviction is viewed as establishing the existence
of probable cause. Cameron v. Fogarty, supra, 806 F.2d
at 387; Restatement (Second) of Torts ("Restatement") § 667(1)
(1976) ("Conviction of the accused . . . conclusively
establishes the existence of probable cause, unless the
conviction was obtained by fraud, perjury or other corrupt
Thus, the common law rule, "equally applicable to actions
asserting false arrest, false imprisonment, or malicious
prosecution, was and is that the plaintiff can under no
circumstances recover if he was convicted of the offense for
which he was arrested." Cameron v. Fogarty, supra, 806 F.2d at
387. See also Broughton v. State, 37 N.Y.2d 451, 458, 373
N YS.2d 87, 95,
335 N.E.2d 310, 315, cert. denied, 423 U.S. 929, 96 S.Ct. 277,
46 L.Ed.2d 257 (1975).
The Second Circuit summarized the reasoning behind applying
this common law rule in section 1983 actions as follows:
we conclude that the proper accommodation between
an individual's interest in preventing
unwarranted intrusions into his liberty and
society's interest in encouraging the
apprehension of criminals requires that § 1983
doctrine be deemed, in the absence of any
indication that Congress intended otherwise, to
incorporate the common-law principle that where law
enforcement officers have made an arrest, the
resulting conviction is a defense to a § 1983
action asserting that the arrest was made without
Cameron v. Fogarty, supra, 806 F.2d at 388-89.