the instant case, plaintiff alleges that he has been deprived of his "due process rights and the right to equal protection under the law." (Compl. P 30).
The court finds plaintiff's alleged denial of due process to be without merit and, indeed, the court fails to see how due process is even tangentially related to his conspiracy allegations. Plaintiff has not stated, and the court cannot identify, any process which he is or was due. Thus, all that remains is plaintiff's equal protection claim.
"The guarantee of equal protection . . . is not a source of substantive rights or liberties, but rather a right to be free from invidious discrimination in statutory classifications and other governmental actions." Levy v. City of New York, 726 F. Supp. 1446, 1453 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (quoting Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 322, 100 S. Ct. 2671, 65 L. Ed. 2d 784 (1980)). To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a denial of equal protection, plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to demonstrate an intent to discriminate. Dwares v. City of New York, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1412, *7 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (citing Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Corp., 429 U.S. 229, 241-42, 50 L. Ed. 2d 427, 97 S. Ct. 441 (1976)). In other words, to ultimately achieve success on a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a denial of equal protection, plaintiff must prove the existence of purposeful discrimination. Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469 (3d Cir. 1990) (sex discrimination) (citing Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 93, 106 S. Ct. 1712, 1721, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69 (1986)).
Alternatively, according to the Second Circuit, "to state an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must charge a government officer 'not only with deliberately interpreting a statute against the plaintiff, but also with singling him out alone for that misinterpretation.'" Fariello v. Rodriguez, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6407, *23 (E.D.N.Y. 1993) (citing Brady v. Colchester, 863 F.2d 205, 216 (2d Cir. 1988) [quoting Burt v. City of New York, 156 F.2d 791, 792 (2d Cir. 1946)]). Finally, where, as here, public entities are involved in the alleged conspiracy, a plaintiff is required to allege with particularity that the public entity conspired with the private defendants to deprive plaintiff of his rights in order to establish state involvement in a civil rights conspiracy. Peavey v. Polytechnic Inst. of New York, 775 F. Supp. 75, 78 (E.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 969 F.2d 1042 (2d Cir. 1992).
Given the cursory and conclusory allegations contained in the complaint with regard to the § 1983 conspiracy claim, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
While the court recognizes that a § 1983 claim may not be held to a "heightened pleading standard," (see Leatherman, supra), a complaint must nevertheless contain more than merely broad based, conclusory statements. See Fariello, supra, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6407, *20-22 (E.D.N.Y. 1993) (taking note of Leatherman) (citing Spear v. West Hartford, 954 F.2d 63, 68 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 121 L. Ed. 2d 33, 113 S. Ct. 66 (1992) ("to state a civil rights claim under § 1983, a complaint must contain specific allegations of facts which indicate a deprivation of constitutional rights; allegations which are nothing more than broad, simple and conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim under § 1983.")). Thus, as the Second Circuit has held, "complaints relying on civil rights statutes are insufficient unless they contain some specific allegations of fact indicating a deprivation of rights, instead of a litany of general conclusions that shock but have no meaning." Barr v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358, 363 (2d Cir. 1987).
The foregoing analysis does not constitute a heightened pleading standard, per se, requiring plaintiff to surpass the liberal pleading standard of Rule 8(a); on the contrary, requiring plaintiff to allege more than merely bald conclusory statements comports with the notice requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure so as to "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80 (1957) (emphasis added). Therefore, plaintiff's complaint must state, at a minimum, "the purpose of or any overt acts perpetrated by defendants which reasonably relate to the claimed conspiracies." Zemsky v. City of New York, 821 F.2d 148, 151 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 965, 108 S. Ct. 456, 98 L. Ed. 2d 396 (1987) (emphasis added). It does not.
Hall's conspiracy claim fails to satisfy the foregoing pleading requirement. To merely state in a conclusory fashion that a conspiracy exists is wholly insufficient, and to allow such a lax pleading requirement would do violence to even the liberal language of Rule 8(a). Thus, plaintiff cannot withstand dismissal of this claim merely by alleging that he "believes" his vehicle was being tracked, or that he "believes" attempts were made to run into his vehicle. His assertions are nothing more than self-serving supposition and surmise.
Ostrer v. Aronwald, 567 F.2d 551, 552 (2d Cir. 1977).
More importantly, although plaintiff has alleged certain overt acts which were allegedly perpetrated by the various defendants, he has failed to set forth any facts from which a conspiracy can be inferred. That is, although plaintiff sets forth single alleged acts of harassment committed by each defendant, he fails to allege any facts from which a reasonable connection between the acts -- or a conspiracy -- can be inferred. Therefore, even when taking plaintiff's assertions as true, the court cannot draw a reasonable inference that defendants conspired to intentionally discriminate against plaintiff based upon his race.
In sum, plaintiff's conspiracy claim is vague and unsubstantiated by a description of particular overt acts from which a conspiracy to discriminate can be inferred. Therefore, this claim fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted and is accordingly dismissed in toto as to all moving defendants.
5. Fourth Amendment - Unlawful Search and Seizure Claim
Plaintiff's unlawful search and/or false arrest claim survives, inasmuch as no defendants have moved for dismissal of same.
6. Res Judicata Effects
In federal district court, res judicata, or claim preclusion, prevents the subsequent litigation of any ground of recovery that was available in a prior action, whether or not it was actually litigated. Balderman v. U.S. Veterans Admin., 870 F.2d 57, 62 (2d Cir. 1989) (citing Comm'r v. Sunnen, 333 U.S. 591, 597, 68 S. Ct. 715, 719, 92 L. Ed. 898 (1948)); see also Day v. Moscow, 955 F.2d 807, 811 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 121 L. Ed. 2d 37, 113 S. Ct. 71 (1992). Likewise, the judicial proceedings of New York State must be afforded the same full faith and credit in the federal courts as they would receive in state courts. 28 U.S.C.A. § 1738 (1966); see also Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 104 S. Ct. 892, 79 L. Ed. 2d 56 (1984) (in § 1983 action, res judicata applied based on prior state court adjudication).
Plaintiff has commenced a number of lawsuits in both federal and state court.
Because none of the moving parties have argued that Hall is improperly seeking to relitigate prior unsuccessful state or federal claims, the court expresses no opinion as to any potential res judicata effect of plaintiff's prior actions.
Various defendants have requested monetary sanctions pursuant to Rule 11,
as well as an injunction barring plaintiff from filing any further actions without prior leave of court.
As noted above, plaintiff's conspiracy allegations are wholly conclusory and substantiated by nothing more than supposition without the barest of factual information. This claim, not unlike those attendant to several of Mr. Hall's prior actions, are baseless, frivolous and cannot be countenanced. While the court ascribes no venal or malevolent motivations to plaintiff, it is no less inequitable to force defendants such as these to respond to unfounded and baseless incursions. While more lenient standards of competence and compliance apply to pro se litigants, the court nonetheless finds that a reasonable person would not have brought this claim after a moderate level of inquiry and reflection. The court, therefore, in the exercise of its discretion in matters brought by pro se litigants, grants monetary sanctions only as to plaintiff's frivolous conspiracy claim. Such is warranted notwithstanding plaintiff's pro se status. See, e.g., O'Malley v. New York City Transit Auth., 896 F.2d 704, 709 (2d Cir. 1990); Sassower v. Field, 138 F.R.D. 369 (S.D.N.Y.), modified, 973 F.2d 75 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 123 L. Ed. 2d 497, 113 S. Ct. 1879 (1993); Auen v. Sweeney, 109 F.R.D. 678, 680 (N.D.N.Y. 1986). Said sanctions are imposed in order to deter plaintiff from future abuse of the judicial process and to compensate defendants for their attorneys' fees and expenses.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the court is aware that one factor to be considered in the imposition of a Rule 11 sanction is "the financial circumstances of the plaintiff." Sassower, supra, 973 F.2d at 81 (citing Johnson v. New York City Transit Auth., 823 F.2d 31, 33 (2d Cir. 1987)). Therefore, the award of attorneys' fees shall be subject to reduction by this court if plaintiff's financial circumstances so warrant.
Monetary sanctions will be imposed based on the number of hours reasonably expended by each defendant's counsel in responding to the complaint multiplied by a reasonable attorneys' fee. As the motion for sanctions is imposed only with respect to that cause of action deemed frivolous, the award shall be pro rated in the discretion of the court. Counsel for defendants who have moved for sanctions are directed to file with the Office of the Clerk an affidavit setting forth the appropriate figures, together with contemporaneous time and expense records specifying, for each attorney involved in the matter, the date, hours expended, and the nature of the work done, together with a 24 proposed order for imposition of sanctions, within thirty (30) days after entry of this order. Durant v. Traditional Inv., Ltd., 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2910, *49 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (citing New York State Assoc. for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1147-48 (2d Cir. 1983)). Plaintiff shall then be directed to pay the sanctions to the appropriate parties no later than Friday, September 24, 1993, unless, prior to that time, plaintiff demonstrates his financial inability to pay said fees by filing a sworn affidavit with supporting documentation to the court.
The request for an injunction barring plaintiff from instituting further action without leave of court is denied. Although such relief may indeed be warranted at this time, the unfettered right to access to the courts by all plaintiffs, including Mr. Hall, is of paramount importance. Moreover, the court is disinclined to grant such extraordinary relief where monetary sanctions should suffice in deterring plaintiff.
The court will, of course, entertain a motion for such a sanction should future circumstances so warrant.
Based on the foregoing, it is hereby
ORDERED, that plaintiff's retaliatory discharge cause of action is dismissed without prejudice as to all defendants pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6); and it is further
ORDERED, that plaintiff's conspiracy cause of action is dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), only as to the moving defendants -- to wit: DWORKIN, MATHIS, ROSETTI, NICKLAS, SPINELLI, SIKORA, PEPSI-COLA, NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, and CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY; and it is further
ORDERED, that the request for sanctions is granted only to the moving defendants -- to wit: DWORKIN, MATHIS, ROSETTI, NICKLAS, SPINELLI, SIKORA, PEPSI-COLA, NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL, and NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION, to the extent they were required to respond to plaintiff's conspiracy cause of action.
The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: July 27, 1993
Binghamton, New York
Thomas J. McAvoy,
Chief U.S. District Judge