directed her to sit in a waiting area in the Criminal Court. After waiting in the area to which Mittleton had directed her for more than an hour, Rochez was informed she was not in the right place for her purpose.
Rochez returned to Mittleton and asked him why he had given her misinformation, upon which Mittleton began to abuse her verbally. Rochez proceeded to protest, and Mittleton arrested her and handcuffed her without provocation or justification and with full knowledge that he did not have probable cause to arrest her. After being detained for some hours by Mittleton and the other court officers, Rochez was released upon being issued a summons prepared by Mittleton falsely accusing her of disorderly conduct, although the City alleges she must have been given an appearance ticket.
The summons or ticket required her to appear in the Summons All Purpose ("SAP") Part of the Criminal Court on February 10, 1992.
On February 10, 1992, Rochez appeared with counsel as directed at the SAP Part of the Criminal Court before Judicial Hearing Officer Dennis Edwards, who was not an active Judge of the Criminal Court. After Rochez objected to proceeding before Dennis Edwards but announced her readiness to proceed before an appropriate Judge, the case was adjourned to February 21, 1992. On February 21, 1992, Rochez appeared with counsel before the Honorable Michael R. Sonberg, who dismissed her case before arraignment. Rochez alleges that at no time during the proceedings on either day did the District Attorney, or any person purporting to be authorized to act on his behalf, make any appearance in the matter. Rochez then filed this lawsuit claiming violations of her constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment in addition to one count each of common-law false arrest and malicious prosecution.
Rochez alleges that the District Attorney and his official predecessors in office have established or permitted a municipal policy under which private citizens, as complaining witnesses, commence and prosecute crimes in the SAP Part of the Criminal Court without the specific knowledge, consent or supervision of the District Attorney or any of his appointed and trained designees (the "Municipal Policy"). She alleges that Mittleton issued her the appearance ticket pursuant to and in reliance on the Municipal Policy, and that therefore the Municipal Policy proximately caused the alleged violations of her constitutional rights.
The City Defendants moved to dismiss Rochez's complaint on April 14, 1993. The motion was argued on June 2, 1993, and considered fully submitted as of that date.
A motion for judgment on the pleading is decided according to the same standards as a motion to dismiss. Hodge v. Ruperto, 739 F. Supp. 873, 876 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Watts v. New York City Police Dep't, 724 F. Supp. 99, 103 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). In reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, "the factual allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff," Walker, 974 F.2d at 298 (quoting Frazier v. Coughlin, 850 F.2d 129, 129 (2d Cir. 1988)). A district court should grant a motion to dismiss only if, after viewing plaintiff's allegations in this favorable light, "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Id. (quoting Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Auth., 941 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1991)). The City Defendants allege Rochez cannot prove such a set of facts because she has failed to state a claim demonstrating the liability of the City Defendants.
Title 42, § 1983 of the United States Code provides, in part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State . . ., subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . . .
The elements of a § 1983 cause of action have been summarized as follows: The plaintiff must prove that (1) a person (2) acting under color of state law (3) subjected the plaintiff or caused the plaintiff to be subjected (4) to the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 829, 85 L. Ed. 2d 791, 105 S. Ct. 2427 (1985) (Brennan, J., concurring). After Monell, a municipality is a "person" to whom § 1983 applies. The City Defendants have ceded, solely for the purposes of this motion, that the Municipal Policy exists and is unconstitutional, and that the court officer defendants would not have violated Rochez's constitutional rights but for their knowledge of and reliance on the Municipal Policy. See Def.'s Mem. at 9-10.
The remaining question is causation. Rochez must allege facts to show how the Municipal Policy "subjected" or "caused her to be subjected" to a deprivation of a constitutional right. See Tuttle, 471 U.S. at 829-30. Rochez alleges that Mittleton did not initiate his private criminal prosecution of her as part of his duties as a Court officer, but as a private citizen determined to hassle and annoy her, who knew he could "get away with it" because he was aware that the District Attorney refused to exercise any supervision at all:
The mere fact that Mittleton was a peace officer did not, of course, authorize him to falsely accuse, arrest, and maliciously prosecute Ms. Rochez nor did his peace officer status make this any less of a private prosecution. Mittleton was the complainant who stated under penalty of perjury that he had observed Ms. Rochez commit the offense. As such he was no less an interested complainant than any other complainant who did not have a badge. . . . Mittleton's peace officer status did not, and could not, cure this fundamental defect [the unconstitutional policy] in his private prosecution of Ms. Rochez.