him egress from the Town Hall and the jail; arrested him without a warrant; and chained and detained him in a cell for several hours without the inception of a riot, insurrection, or invasion and without probable cause. See Plaintiff's Complaint at P 33.
In his fifth cause of action, plaintiff claims that the New York State Police failed to properly train and supervise its employees with regard to individual rights secured by the Constitution. See id. at P 34. Finally, in his sixth cause of action plaintiff alleges that the Town has one or more contracts with the State Police, that Judge Hutchins incorrectly refused to accept documents that would have cleared plaintiff of the charges and ordered him to appear in court at a later date, and that the New York State Police and the Town violated their contracts on June 29, 1996, when they arrested, searched and jailed plaintiff without a warrant or a victim's complaint. See id. at PP 38-39.
Relying upon the facts set forth in plaintiff's complaint as well as in Judge Hutchins' affidavit, it appears that the following events underlie plaintiff's claims. In the early morning of July 29, 1996, State Trooper Howard observed that Mr. Estes-El was operating his car with an obstructed license plate, a violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 402. Since this conduct constituted an infraction, State Trooper Howard stopped Mr. Estes-El and asked to see his license. In response to questions, Mr. Estes-El admitted that he did not have a license issued either by New York or any other state. Therefore, State Trooper Howard arrested plaintiff for aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree, a misdemeanor under N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 511, and issued him two uniform traffic tickets, one for the infraction and one for the misdemeanor.
State Trooper Howard then contacted Judge Hutchins, Town Justice for the Town of Indian Lake, to arraign plaintiff on the infraction and the misdemeanor. The arraignment, held at approximately 2 a.m., was attended only by plaintiff, Judge Hutchins, and two New York State Troopers. Judge Hutchins gave copies of the two tickets to plaintiff which he took under protest. Plaintiff entered a plea of not guilty. Judge Hutchins set the bail on the misdemeanor at $ 500 and rescheduled the matter for an appearance on August 8, 1996. He then remanded plaintiff to the custody of the Hamilton County sheriff where he was jailed for twelve hours at the Hamilton County Jail in Lake Pleasant, New York. Plaintiff was released upon making the bail the next morning.
According to Judge Hutchins' affidavit, plaintiff argued at the arraignment that the court had no jurisdiction over him, that the tickets had no merit, and that he should have an immediate probable cause hearing. Judge Hutchins told plaintiff that he would schedule the matter for an appearance so that Mr. Estes-El could make his motions at that time. Judge Hutchins also told plaintiff that he could apply for the appointment of counsel on the misdemeanor if he could not afford one.
On August 8, 1996, plaintiff appeared before Judge Hutchins and submitted papers containing arguments similar to those he had made at his arraignment. He had not served these papers on the court or the District Attorney until that evening. Therefore, Judge Hutchins adjourned the matter until October 10, 1996, and instructed plaintiff to serve any papers he had on the District Attorney. At that time, the District Attorney announced his readiness for trial.
By letter dated October 3, 1996, the District Attorney informed the court that he was presenting the matter to the grand jury on October 22, 1996, in accordance with New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.20.
Therefore, Judge Hutchins stayed the matter pending the application to the grand jury and a possible indictment pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.20(2). On October 8, 1996, the court advised plaintiff that he would not have to appear on October 10, 1996, because the matter had been adjourned. On October 22, 1996, the grand jury indicted plaintiff on the misdemeanor charge of aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree. Plaintiff was to be arraigned on November 1, 1996, in Hamilton County Court. At this point, Judge Hutchins was divested of jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to New York Criminal Procedure Law § 170.20(1).
With these facts in mind, the court will consider each of the issues raised by the present motions seriatim.
I. Section 1985 Conspiracy
In his complaint, plaintiff does not specify upon which of § 1985's subdivisions he is relying. Reading liberally the allegations in the complaint, however, the only possible basis for plaintiff's claims under that statute is subdivision three, which in essence proscribes conspiracies to deprive a person of equal protection of the laws or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws.
See Mian v. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Sec., 7 F.3d 1085, 1087 (2d Cir. 1993) (citing United Bhd. of Carpenters, Local 610 v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825, 828-29, 103 S. Ct. 3352, 3356, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1049 (1983)). Thus, in determining whether plaintiff has stated a cognizable claim under § 1985, the court assumes that he is relying upon subdivision three of that statute.
It is difficult to determine the exact parameters of plaintiff's § 1985 conspiracy claim. In his complaint, he alleges only that each of the officers' and officials' acts "under 'color' of state law is in direct violation of their oath of office and equates to criminal conspiracy under Section 1985." See Plaintiff's Complaint at Introduction. He also contends that the Town created a policy or custom "to act in a conspiracy with the other Defendants herein to violate Plaintiff's rights." See id. at P 26.
The Second Circuit has enumerated the following four elements of a section 1985(3) claim: "'(1) a conspiracy; (2) for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; (3) an act in furtherance of the conspiracy; (4) whereby a person is either injured in his person or property or deprived of any right of a citizen of the United States.'" Lynch C.O. v. Slayton, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, No. 95- CV-856, 1996 WL 31314, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 23, 1996) (quoting Mian, 7 F.3d 1085 at 1087). In addition to these elements just enumerated, there also must be a showing that the conspiracy was "'motivated by "some racial or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidious discriminatory animus behind the conspirators' action."'" Id., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, *14, 1996 WL 31314, at *5 (quoting Mian, 7 F.3d at 1088 (quoting in turn Scott, 463 U.S. at 829, 103 S. Ct. at 3356)). Thus, "'to state a claim [under section 1985(3)], plaintiff must first show that she is a member of a group protected under the statute.'" 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, *14, 1996 WL 31314, at *5 (quoting Srubar v. Rudd, et. al., 875 F. Supp. 155 at 162 (citing in turn Gleason v. McBride, 869 F.2d 688, 694-695 (2d Cir. 1989))). "'When a plaintiff fails to establish membership in a protected group, a civil rights conspiracy complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 may be dismissed.'" 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, *14, 1996 WL 31314, at *5 (quoting Srubar, 875 F. Supp. at 162 (citing in turn Gleason, 869 F.2d at 694-95)).
Plaintiff's complaint is completely devoid of any allegations that he is a member of a protected class or that defendants acted with a race or class-based discriminatory animus. See Lucas v. New York City, 842 F. Supp. 101 (S.D.N.Y. 1994) (the court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim under § 1985(3) because "the complaint [was] devoid of any allegation of class-based, invidious discriminatory animus[.]"); Carino v. Town of Deerfield, 750 F. Supp. 1156 (N.D.N.Y. 1990), aff'd without pub'd opinion, 940 F.2d 649 (2d Cir. 1991) (court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment because plaintiffs "did not identify the 'protected class' to which they allegedly belonged; nor had they alleged that the defendants acted with a race or class-based discriminatory animus."). Furthermore, even if the complaint somehow could be construed as containing vague or conclusory allegations of invidious motivation (which it cannot), more would be required to survive defendants' motion to dismiss. Lynch C.O., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, *4, 1996 WL 31314, *5 (citing Srubar, 875 F. Supp. at 162). Therefore, in light of the foregoing, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to assert a viable claim under § 1985(3).
However, since Mr. Estes-El is appearing pro se, under Mian, the court must provide him with the opportunity to amend his complaint in this regard, unless, of course, such amendment would be futile.
Before considering the extent of such amendment, however, because it appears that there may be other problems with plaintiff's claims, the court will proceed to consider those before determining the parameters of any amendment.
II. Judicial Immunity
Judge Hutchins argues that he is entitled to dismissal of the complaint as against him based upon the doctrine of judicial immunity. In this regard, Judge Hutchins asserts that his only involvement in the acts complained of was in his capacity as the Town Justice of the Town of Indian Lake. See Hutchins' and Town's Memorandum of Law at 1. In this capacity, he asserts that he is responsible for hearing and adjudging misdemeanors and infractions which occur in the Town. See id. He also argues that he had personal jurisdiction over Mr. Estes-El because plaintiff was taken into custody for violation of New York law in the presence of a State Trooper who issued tickets accusing plaintiff of violating New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §§ 402 and 511. See id. at 1-2.
"'Absolute immunity is appropriate for judges in the exercise of their judicial function.'" Lynch C.O., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, 1996 WL 31314, at *8 (quoting Tulloch v. Coughlin, 50 F.3d 114, 116 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing in turn, inter alia, Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54, 87 S. Ct. 1213, 1217-18, 18 L. Ed. 2d 288 (1967))). This "'immunity confers complete protection from civil suit.'" Id., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, 1996 WL 31314, at *8 (citing Tulloch, 50 F.3d 114 at 116). Judges enjoy immunity from personal liability because without it they "'would be subject to harassment and intimidation and would thus "lose" that independence without which no judiciary can either be respectable or useful.'" 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, 1996 WL 31314, at *8 (quoting Young v. Selsky, 41 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, U.S. , 115 S. Ct. 1837, 131 L. Ed. 2d 756 (1995) (quoting in turn Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 509, 98 S. Ct. 2894, 2912, 57 L. Ed. 2d 895 (1978) (quoting in turn Bradley v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335, 13 Wall. 335, 347, 20 L. Ed. 646 (1972)))).
So expansive is judicial immunity that it "'applies 'however erroneous the act may have been, and however injurious in its consequences it may have proved to the plaintiff.'" Lynch C.O., 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 889, 1996 WL 31314, at *8 (quoting Young, 41 F.3d 47 at 51 (quoting in turn Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199-200, 106 S. Ct. 496, 499, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507 (1985) (quoting in turn Bradley, 13 Wall. at 347))). Just how broad this immunity sweeps is demonstrated by the Supreme Court's decision in Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 112 S. Ct. 286, 116 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1991). In Mireles, the Court held that judicial immunity is overcome in only two sets of circumstances: (1) when the action is nonjudicial; i.e., not taken in the judge's judicial capacity; or (2) when the action, although judicial in nature, is taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction. Ferran v. State of New York Div. of State Police, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18661, No. 91- CV-178, 1992 WL 1694, *3 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 2, 1992) (citing Mireles, 502 U.S. 9 at 11, 112 S. Ct. at 288, 116 L. Ed. 2d at 13 (internal citations omitted)).
"To determine whether an action is 'judicial,' the [Mireles ] Court reiterated the test set forth in Stump v. Sparkman that the analysis relates '"to the nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity."'" Ferran, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18661, 1992 WL 1694, at *3 (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. 9 at 11, 112 S. Ct. at 288, 116 L. Ed. 2d at 14 (quoting in turn Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331, 98 S. Ct. 1099 (1978))). The Mireles Court went on to note that "the analysis is of the nature of the act in question, not the specific act, because 'if only the particular act in question were to be scrutinized, then any mistake of a judge in excess of his authority would become a "nonjudicial" act. . . . If judicial immunity means anything, it means that a judge "will not be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error . . . or was in excess of his authority."'" Ferran, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18661, 1992 WL 1694, at *3 (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. 9 at 12, 112 S. Ct. at 288, 116 L. Ed. 2d at 15 (quoting in turn Stump, 435 U.S. at 356)) (other citation omitted).
An examination of the allegations in plaintiff's complaint that pertain to Judge Hutchins reveals that neither of these exceptions to judicial immunity is present in this case. Other than the conclusory allegation that all defendants were acting outside the scope of their employment, plaintiff nowhere states that Judge Hutchins was acting in other than a judicial capacity. He claims only that what Judge Hutchins did in that capacity was in error. Given the Supreme Court's holding in Mireles, such allegations are insufficient to circumvent Judge Hutchins' judicial immunity defense based upon nonjudicial actions.
Mr. Estes-El also claims that Judge Hutchins lacked jurisdiction over his case. The basis for this assertion is plaintiff's contention that
Trooper Howard and Judge Hutchins at no time during the arrest and the jailing of the Plaintiff had any documents filed by the District Attorney's office to start the legal process to give the Court jurisdiction to hear the case. Therefore the Court of Indian Lake has violated the Plaintiff's right to due process and has tried to assume jurisdiction by arresting and jailing the Plaintiff without the District Attorney's Complaint and affidavit in support of his Complaint.