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ACKERMANN v. DOYLE

April 20, 1999

JOHN R. ACKERMANN, PLAINTIFF
v.
ROBERT W. DOYLE, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND MARY M. WERNER, DISTRICT ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This lawsuit arises out of the pro se plaintiffs dissatisfaction with the defendants' handling of his case in the New York State Supreme Court, Suffolk County. That case — which the plaintiff describes as a "negligence" lawsuit — stemmed from allegations that the Town of Riverhead illegally seized and destroyed the plaintiffs personal property, namely, a bronze storage box which the plaintiff characterizes as a family heirloom valued at several thousands of dollars. At issue is the defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties appeared before the Court for oral argument on April 16, 1999. This written opinion follows.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are derived from the Complaint, and from several of the exhibits attached to the defendants' moving papers, including Decisions, Orders and filings in the plaintiffs related state and federal cases.

Initially, the Court notes that during oral argument, the plaintiff objected to the Court's consideration of these exhibits on the ground that they were outside the scope of a motion to dismiss. However, when considering a motion to dismiss the complaint, the district court may consider the allegations in the complaint and "all papers and exhibits appended to the complaint, as well as any matters of which judicial notice may be taken." Hirsch v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 72 F.3d 1085, 1092 (2d Cir. 1995) (emphasis added). Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b) provides, in pertinent part, that "[a] judicially noticed fact must be one not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be reasonably questioned." In the Court's view, the Decisions, Orders and filings in the plaintiffs related state and federal cases are capable of determination by sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. It also is entirely proper for this Court to take judicial notice of the actions taken in the related state and federal court actions "`to establish the fact of such litigation and related filings.'" Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Rotches Pork Packers, Inc., 969 F.2d 1384, 1388 (2d Cir. 1992).

A. The New York State Lawsuit (the "State Case")

In or about March 1993, the plaintiff, John R. Ackerman ("Ackerman" or the "plaintiff') filed a pro se lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court, Suffolk County, raising a "negligence" claim against the Town of Riverhead. According to the Complaint filed in the State Case, the "negligence" claim arose from an incident in June 1987, when a Town of Riverhead Police Officer "entered the plaintiffs domicile . . . and, without benefit of a search warrant, or permission or knowledge of this plaintiff, unlawfully and negligently seized the plaintiff's personal property, namely, [a] metal storage box . . ." The Complaint in the State Case further alleges that in 1990, the Town of Riverhead destroyed the box, and that the plaintiff "had no knowledge that the metal storage box . . . had been in [the Town's] custody" and destroyed until July 1992, when he was informed of what had transpired by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.

According to the plaintiff, "[h]aving complied with applicable statutes and rules of the court, and having paid all court fees, this case was certified for trial on March 7, 1995 by the Hon. W. Bromley Hall, Justice of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, New York."

However, on April 10, 1996, the defendant Honorable Robert W. Doyle "marked this plaintiff's case off the Supreme Court, Suffolk County, New York, trial calendar solely because said plaintiff failed to appear for calendar call on that date." According to the plaintiff, his "failure to appear was solely and only the result of the failure of the State Supreme Court, Suffolk County, New York to notify the plaintiff herein of the calendar call."

On May 1, 1996, the plaintiff states that he filed a motion to restore his State Case to the trial calendar, which Justice Doyle denied in a Decision and Order dated August 14, 1996, on the ground that the plaintiff's motion papers did not "apprise the court of the basis of the instant action []or . . . satisfactorily demonstrate its merit." The plaintiff moved for reconsideration on September 12, 1996, which Justice Doyle denied on December 2, 1996.

On January 15, 1997, the plaintiff alleges that he submitted another motion to restore his case to the trial calendar, which Justice Doyle denied on April 10, 1997.

The plaintiff appealed from Justice Doyle's April 10, 1997 Decision to the Appellate Division, Second Department. On December 15, 1997, the "Court refused to hear such appeal on the grounds that plaintiff's motion to restore his case to the trial calendar, dated January 15, 1997, was in effect a motion to reargue which is not appealable." The Court takes judicial notice of the Second Department's decision, which is attached as an exhibit to the defendant's moving papers. The Second Department dismissed the plaintiff's appeal on the ground that "no appeal lies from an order denying reargument." Apparently, the plaintiff did not appeal any of Justice Doyle's other decisions in the case, including the original Order dated August 14, 1996, which denied his motion to vacate the dismissal and restore the case to the calendar.

B. The Prior Federal Lawsuit (the "Federal Case")

The pro se plaintiff initiated a lawsuit against the Town of Riverhead in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in January 1993, approximately two months before initiating the State Court lawsuit. The Federal Case, Docket Number CV 93-246, was assigned to United States District Judge Leonard D. Wexler.

The Federal Case, like the State Case, arose from the June 1987 search of the plaintiffs home and seizure of the storage box. Specifically, the Complaint stated that the "defendant Town of Riverhead violated his . . . civil rights in that agents of said defendant unlawfully seized, retained and destroyed a metal storage box which was a family heirloom and the lawful property of the plaintiff." The Complaint in the Federal Case raised a single cause of action for a Judgment declaring that "the defendant Town of Riverhead unlawfully seized and destroyed this plaintiff's personal property in violation of his civil rights," and sought an Order directing the Town of Riverhead to "compensate the plaintiff for the costs and disbursements of this action."

On May 5, 1993, the plaintiff entered into a Stipulation of Discontinuance with Prejudice, which Judge Wexler "So Ordered." Two days later, on May 7, 1993, the plaintiff signed a release which stated, in relevant part, that in exchange for consideration of $1,500, the plaintiff:

    hereby acknowledge[s], releases and discharges [the]
  Town of Riverhead [and its] heirs, executors,
  administrators, successors and assigns from all
  actions, causes of action, suits, debts, dues, sums of
  money, accounts, reckonings, bonds, bills,
  specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies,
  agreements, promises, variances, trespasses, damages,
  judgments, extents, executions, claims and demands
  whatsoever, in law, admiralty or equity, which against
  the
  RELEASEE, the RELEASOR, RELEASOR'S heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns ever had, now have or hereafter can, shall or may, have for, upon, or by reasons any matter, cause or thing whatsoever from the ...

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