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TORRES v. KNAPICH

May 1, 1997

LAUREANO TORRES, Plaintiff, against DETECTIVE RICHARD KNAPICH, and BART WORDEN, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHEINDLIN

 SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.:

 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility. During his incarceration, he was also a client at the Guidance Center, a not-for-profit psychiatric clinic. On or about May 24, 1995, Alejandro Loretan ("Loretan"), another client of the Guidance Center, allegedly complained to Bart Worden ("Worden"), a psychiatric social worker employed there, that he had been sodomized by Plaintiff on the grounds of the clinic. After Worden allegedly relayed this information to the NRPD, Detective Knapich of the NRPD ("Knapich") arrested Plaintiff on May 31, 1995. Plaintiff claims that, during his lengthy interrogation, "Knapich physically and verbally abused plaintiff by punching and pushing him in an attempt to obtain a confession" from him, as well as prevented Plaintiff from contacting an attorney for more than three hours. Plaintiff's Proposed Second Amended Complaint at P 9. Plaintiff was subsequently incarcerated for the next eight days, during which Knapich conducted an investigation of the matter, and allegedly made "false and defamatory statements to members of plaintiff's community concerning deviate sexual acts." Plaintiff's Proposed Second Amended Complaint at P 19. Plaintiff was released from police custody on June 7, 1995, and on October 26, 1995, all charges against Plaintiff were dismissed. See Plaintiff's Unmarked Exhibit. Plaintiff was then discharged from the psychiatric treatment program in which he had been participating based in part on these incidents. See Letter from Worden to Plaintiff dated June 12, 1995 ("Worden Letter").

 On September 6, 1996, Plaintiff commenced this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. *fn2" He alleged that Defendants violated his federal due process rights by (1) failing to follow lawful procedures during his arrest; (2) denying him assistance of counsel during his interrogation; (3) beating him to force him to confess; and (4) wrongfully removing him from a psychiatric treatment program. On November 22, 1996, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his Complaint. *fn3" Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on December 3, 1996, in which he provided additional facts in support of his claims. On January 24, 1997, Plaintiff requested leave to file a proposed Second Amended Complaint. *fn4"

 II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR MOTION TO AMEND A COMPLAINT

 Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), leave to amend a complaint is generally given freely. However, the court may exercise its discretion to deny leave in a number of circumstances. For example, prior to granting leave to amend, a court must examine the proposed claims to determine if they are futile on their face. See Town of New Windsor v. Tesa Tuck, Inc., 919 F. Supp. 662, 678 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); Barrett v. U.S. Banknote Corp., 806 F. Supp. 1094, 1098 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). If those claims would be futile, leave to amend should not be granted. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 9 L. Ed. 2d 222, 83 S. Ct. 227 (1962). An amendment is considered futile if the amended pleading fails to state a claim or would be subject to a successful motion to dismiss on some other basis. See, e.g., S.S. Silberblatt, Inc. v. East Harlem Pilot Block-Building 1 Housing Development Fund Co. Inc., 608 F.2d 28, 42 (2d Cir. 1979); Chan v. Reno, 916 F. Supp. 1289, 1302 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

 III. DISCUSSION

 Because the Proposed Second Amended Complaint does not make clear which allegations are made against the NRPD alone, I will assume that all claims previously interposed against Knapich and Worden, except for Plaintiff's Fifth Cause of Action, *fn5" also apply to the NRPD. In order to hold a municipality liable for the actions of its employees, a plaintiff must allege the existence of a municipal policy or custom under which the employee acted. Absent this allegation of municipal policy or custom, a plaintiff's claims must be dismissed. Because Plaintiff has failed to allege such municipal policy or custom with respect to the claims he seeks to assert against the NRPD, Plaintiff's claims would be futile. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint is denied.

 A. Municipal Liability Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

 To sue a municipality, a plaintiff must assert that the existence of a municipal 'policy or custom' was the cause of his injuries. Indeed, it is well-settled that:

 
[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.

 Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978); accord Dwares v. City of New York, 985 F.2d 94 (2d Cir. 1993); Ricciuti v. N.Y.C. Transit Authority, 941 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1991); Sarus v. Rotundo, 831 F.2d 397 (2d Cir. 1987). See also Covington v. City of New York, 916 F. Supp. 282, 288 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) ("A municipality and its supervisory officials . . . may not be held liable in a § 1983 action for the conduct of a lower-echelon employee solely on the basis of respondeat superior."); Griffen v. City of Mount Vernon, 553 F. ...


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