Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

BROWN v. CITY OF ONEONTA

January 3, 1996

RICKY BROWN, et al., Plaintiffs, against CITY OF ONEONTA, et al., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 In the early morning of September 4, 1992, a 77-year old woman, was allegedly attacked while staying as a guest in the home of a friend outside the City of Oneonta. Based upon the woman's account of the assault, the police suspected the assailant to be a young black male. The New York State Police supervised the investigation, and using dogs, traced the assailant's path to a wooded area at the base of the State University of New York's Oneonta campus (SUCO).

 Later on September 4th, Sgt. Shedlock of the Oneonta Police Department contacted Merritt Hunt, a lieutenant with the SUCO Public Safety Office (PSO). Sgt. Shedlock asked Lt. Hunt if SUCO could provide information on black male students to the State Police for purposes of the investigation. Lt. Hunt contacted the Assistant Director of Housing for SUCO who told him such information could be provided. Lt. Hunt also asked John Edmondson, the Director of PSO, to contact Eric Wilson, the Director of the SUCO Computer Center in order to get the information.

 The list generated by the SUCO Computer Center was given to the PSO and was subsequently delivered to defendant Karl Chandler, a State Police investigator. After obtaining this list, the law enforcement officers questioned those individuals on the list in the dorms and at other locations on campus. Law enforcement officials also questioned a number of black persons in and around Oneonta who were not students at SUCO.

 On the prior motions, the Court (1) denied defendant Hartmark's and the State defendants' motion to dismiss the Federal Education and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) claims against defendants Hartmark, Hunt, and Wilson, and held that they were not entitled to qualified immunity; (2) denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 based on the alleged violations of FERPA; (3) denied the State defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; (4) granted summary judgment dismissing all Fourth Amendment claims as against all defendants; (5) dismissed with leave to replead the equal protection claims; (6) dismissed with leave to replead all 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims as against all defendants; (7) dismissed all conspiracy claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 based on the alleged Fourth Amendment and equal protection claims; (8) dismissed all FERPA claims alleged against the State police and Oneonta law enforcement officials; (9) dismissed all claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (10) dismissed the pendent state law claims brought under New York Civil Rights Law § 40-c and New York Personal Privacy Protection Law §§ 91-99.

 Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint which has added 27 new named parties who have asserted Fourth Amendment claims and claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, in addition to the claims remaining from the previous motions. In addition, the amended complaint added new defendants from the Otsego County Sheriffs department. Finally, plaintiffs repleaded the equal protection and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claims.

 Of the motions now before the Court, (1) the defendant Leif Hartmark has moved for an order dismissing plaintiffs' equal protection claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or an order declaring that the claim is barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity; (2) the city of Oneonta defendants have moved pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and/or 56 claiming that a) certain claims are barred by the law of the case pursuant to this Court's previous decisions, b) the Fourth Amendment claims are insufficiently pleaded, c) plaintiffs' equal protection, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1985, 1986, and Title VI claims fail to state a claim, d) the conspiracy claim against the Oneonta police officers should be dismissed, e) the individual Oneonta officers are entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity, and f) all claims against the city of Oneonta should be dismissed; (3) the New York State defendants have moved pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and/or 56 for substantially the same relief as the Oneonta defendants.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. Law Of The Case

 "The law of the case doctrine 'posits that when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case'" DiLaura v. Power Authority of N.Y., 982 F.2d 73, 76(2d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted). Reconsideration of a prior decision is discretionary, and the factors that generally compel reconsideration are "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. v. National Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255(2d Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 820, 121 L. Ed. 2d 34, 113 S. Ct. 67(1992) (citation omitted). Moreover, the Court notes that the Local Rules provide a mechanism for seeking the reconsideration of a decision of this Court. See, L.R. 7.1(g). Accordingly, the Court is disinclined to reconsider a prior decision unless plaintiff has made a proper showing.

 In this instance, plaintiffs have made no showing that the controlling law relevant to the issues presented has changed, that new evidence has been uncovered, or that justice plainly warrants reconsideration. Thus, the Court reaffirms its prior holdings with respect to this case as to the issues that the parties may seek to relitigate. In particular, the Court will not revisit its (1) denial of defendant Hartmark's and the State defendants' motion to dismiss the Federal Education and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA) claims against defendants Hartmark, Hunt, and Wilson, and holding that they were not entitled to qualified immunity; (2) denial of the law enforcement defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of an alleged qualified immunity; (3) denial of the defendants' motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 based on the alleged violations of FERPA; (4) denial of the State defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; and (5) grant of defendants' summary judgment motion dismissing all Fourth Amendment claims as alleged by the then plaintiffs.

 B. Standards On A Motion To Dismiss Pursuant To Rule 12(b)(6) Or For Summary Judgment Pursuant To Rule 56

 On a dismissal motion for failure to state a claim the general rule is that the allegations in a plaintiff's complaint are deemed to be true and must be liberally construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Dahlberg v. Becker, 748 F.2d 85, 88 (2d Cir. 1984) cert. denied 470 U.S. 1084, 85 L. Ed. 2d 144, 105 S. Ct. 1845 (1985). A complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff cannot in any way establish a set of facts to sustain her claim which would permit relief. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 10, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980); Bass v. Jackson, 790 F.2d 260, 262 (2d Cir. 1986).

 If on a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided for in Rule 56..." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion for summary judgment should be granted "if the pleadings...together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact..." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). There must be more than a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Delaware & H. R. Co. v. Conrail, 902 F.2d 174, 178 (2d Cir. 1990) quoting Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). All ambiguities must be weighed in favor of the non-moving party. Ramseur v. Chase Manhattan Bank, 865 F.2d 460, 465 (2d Cir. 1989). "Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991) cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849, 112 S. Ct. 152, 116 L. Ed. 2d 117 (1991). The parties to this motion have submitted affidavits with exhibits to the Court. Thus, the Court will, where necessary, treat these motions as if for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 and apply the foregoing standards.

 C. Fourth Amendment Claims

 As to the Fourth Amendment claims, the Court will consider only those 27 new plaintiffs who were not parties to the action in the previous motions. *fn1"

 All personal interaction between law enforcement officers and individual citizens cannot be said to involve seizures. In order to state a claim for relief under the Fourth Amendment, the plaintiffs are required to show that an unreasonable search and seizure occurred. "Only when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen may we conclude that a 'seizure' has occurred." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1879 n.16, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889 (1968). The Supreme Court later explained that a seizure has occurred only when, in light of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, the reasonable person would not feel free to leave. United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 100 S. Ct. 1870, 1877, 64 L. Ed. 2d 497 (1980). Under the applicable standard, "a person has been seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment only if, in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave." Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S. Ct. at 1877. Examples of a show of authority which could indicate a seizure are "the threatening presence of several officers, the display of a weapon by an officer, some physical touching of the person of the citizen, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer's request might be compelled." Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554, 100 S. Ct. at 1877. However, the Court is mindful that "even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular individual, they may generally ask questions of that individual." Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 111 S. Ct. 2382, 2386, 115 L. Ed. 2d 389 (1991).

 The plaintiffs now claim that 27 additional individuals were deprived of their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by the named Oneonta Police Officers, SUCO Public Safety Officers, and State Police Officers, and all other unidentified officers of these three organizations. The allegations of Fourth Amendment violations, set forth in the second amended complaint, generally are vague and conclusory. The Court finds that only 5 plaintiffs: Darnell Lemons, Ronald Jennings, Felix Francis, Vincent Quinones, and ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.