The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUNSON
Plaintiff originally filed his complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("Southern District").
Upon motion by Defendants Town of Indian Lake ("Town") and Judge Barry J. Hutchins, Judge Cedarbaum transferred the case to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) because venue was improper in the Southern District.
Presently before the court are motions filed on behalf of all of the parties to this action. Defendants Town and Judge Hutchins move to dismiss and/or for summary judgment on two grounds. First, they contend that the claims against Judge Hutchins should be dismissed on the ground of absolute judicial immunity. Second, they assert that the complaint should be dismissed against the Town because the Town has absolute immunity and because the Town is not responsible for the acts of its judicial officers. In the alternative, they seek summary judgment with respect to the claims against the Town.
Defendant State of New York moves to dismiss the complaint against the New York State Police on the ground that the Eleventh Amendment bars plaintiff's action. In addition, State Trooper Howard has requested, although not by formal motion, an extension of time in which to file an answer to plaintiff's complaint.
Rather than submit papers in opposition to defendants' motions, plaintiff moves to strike the answer of the Town and Judge Hutchins and for summary judgment against these defendants. In addition, he moves to dismiss the motion of the New York State Police and State Trooper Howard and for summary judgment against these defendants.
On January 23, 1997, the court received a letter from Mr. McNally on behalf of the Town and Judge Hutchins complaining about the lateness of Mr. Estes-El's motions and requesting that the court not consider them. See McNally Letter dated January 20, 1997, at 1. In the alternative, Mr. McNally asks that if the court considers plaintiff's motions, it accept his letter as his opposition to the same. See id.
On January 23, 1997, the court also received a letter from Mr. Estes-El. In that letter, Mr. Estes-El states that he will appear in court on January 27, 1997, as instructed; but he also asks that the court grant him an extension of twenty days in which to respond to the Town's and Judge Hutchins' motion. See Estes-El letter dated January 22, 1997, at 1. In support of this request, Mr. Estes-El asserts that he cannot properly respond to these motions until defendants' attorneys respond to his request for "[a] notice from the defendant and defendants' attorneys of record, that he [the defendants' attorney] has been authorized by defendants to represent them in their unofficial capacity and in their official capacity."
See id. at 2 and attachments thereto. Mr. Estes-El then states that their replies "would eliminate the need to make a motion before the court to determine if there is a conflict of interest as stated in the case of Monell vs Department of Social Services." See id. at 2. Mr. Estes-El explains that he also is asking for a stay because he has not received discovery material which he has requested "that would expedite this court's business and help to bring this court case to a close." See id.
Finally, Mr. Estes-El asserts that he is concerned about a "petition for writ of review (certiorari), request for temporary stay" which he filed in the Southern District prior to the transfer of this case to this court. See id. at 3. Mr. Estes-El contends that "this writ is critical to prevent the defendants from carrying on and going forward with their illegal actions and unconstitutional actions and civil rights violations and due process violations as stated in the writ." See id. With respect to this last concern, Mr. Estes-El appears to be under the mistaken impression that Judge Cedarbaum did not consider his petition. To the contrary, in a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated October 31, 1996, Judge Cedarbaum denied Mr. Estes-El's "petition for review and request for a temporary stay."
See Order of Judge Cedarbaum dated October 31, 1996. Therefore, no further action is required with respect to plaintiff's petition.
On January 27, 1997, the court heard oral argument in support of, and in opposition to, these motions. At that time, the court reserved decision and informed the parties that a written decision would be forthcoming. The following constitutes the court's disposition of these motions.
Plaintiff pro se, Melvin Estes-El, alleges violations of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a conspiracy to violate these rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985.
In his complaint, plaintiff asserts six causes of action, five of them purport to state federal claims and the sixth is classified as a pendant state claim. Basically, plaintiff complains that defendants violated his rights which are protected by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. His sixth cause of action, the pendant state claim, alleges a number of violations of an unspecified source.
More specifically, in his first cause of action, plaintiff contends that defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights when, without a legal warrant stating probable cause, they arrested him on June 29, 1996. See Plaintiff's Complaint at P 29. In his second cause of action, plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his Sixth Amendment right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him and to be confronted with the accuser. See id. at P 30. He also claims that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when they restrained him in handcuffs; forced him to produce $ 500 in bail to gain his freedom from jail; caused him to be strip-searched and have his clothing and personal property taken away; and fed him only tea, bread and tomato soup during his twelve hours of incarceration. See id. at P 31.
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 ...