United States District Court, Southern District of New York
March 25, 2003
DOMINICK RUSSO, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST THE CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICER DELIA CUEBAS, SHIELD NUMBER 06988, RAYMOND P. MARTINEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS COMMISSIONER OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES, AND RICHARD E. JACKSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS FORMER COMMISSIONER OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES, HOWARD SAFIR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas P. Griesa, United States District Judge
This is an action in which plaintiff claims that he was improperly arrested and held by the New York City Police. The allegations are of an unusual nature. Plaintiff claims that he received a ticket for failure to wear a seatbelt. The ticket indicated that the fine was $65, which plaintiff promptly paid. However, the ticket was incorrect because the fine for this offense had been increased to $70. The record of plaintiff's payment indicated that he did not pay the proper amount, and his driver's license was suspended. Subsequently, plaintiff was again stopped for failing to wear his seatbelt. Apparently plaintiff was not notified of this. The officer made a computer check of plaintiff, which showed the suspension of the license, and arrested plaintiff for driving without a license. The officer handcuffed plaintiff, and took him to a police station, where he remained in custody for about 15 hours. At a later time plaintiff appeared in New York County Criminal Court, where the charge against was dismissed. This occurred on January 22, 2001.
Plaintiff has sued the City of New York, the police officer who arrested him, and a former New York City police commissioner. Plaintiff has also sued both the former and current commissioners of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Richard E. Jackson and Raymond P. Martinez, respectively. Jackson was commissioner at the time of the incidents in question. Martinez did not take office until February 13, 2001.
Plaintiff seeks to make this lawsuit a class action, asserting that there are others who have been subjected to arrest under similar circumstances, or are subject to being so arrested.
Defendant Martinez moves to dismiss the complaint as against him. Out of the five causes of action, only the Fourth and Fifth are against Martinez, who is named in them along with Jackson. The Fourth Cause of Action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that the rights of plaintiff and the class members under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated. The Fifth Cause of Action appears to charge malicious prosecution under state law. The relief sought is both damages and injunctive relief.
There has been no class action certification.
At the outset, it is necessary to determine whether the individual plaintiff has any valid cause of action against the moving defendant, Martinez. If he does not, then his individual claims must be dismissed and obviously he cannot act as a class representative in class claims against Martinez.
Plaintiff cannot sue Martinez in his official capacity for damages because this would violate the Eleventh Amendment. In any event, there is no cause of action for damages against Martinez, either in his official or individual capacity, because the alleged wrongdoing against plaintiff occurred before Martinez took office. As far as injunctive relief is concerned, plaintiff's injury is in the past and there is no indication that he could possibly be subjected to the same difficulty in the future.
This means that there is no claim against Martinez for either damages or injunctive relief. It follows that plaintiff cannot represent a class of other persons in asserting any claims in this case against Martinez.
For these reasons, both the individual claim of plaintiff and the alleged claims of the class against defendant Martinez are dismissed.
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