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Figueroa v. New York State

February 28, 2006


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



Plaintiff Raymond Figueroa ("Plaintiff") has brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against the State of New York, Mr. Hamalton, William Maldonado, James Walker, Mr. Smith, Fifth Precinct, Thomas Spota, District Attorney's Office, the Suffolk County Legal Aid Society ("Legal Aid") and three attorneys employed by Legal Aid, to wit, John Schick ("Schick"), Michael Ahern ("Ahern"), and Victor Valasquez ("Valasquez") (collectively, the "Legal Aid Defendants"), Harry Tilis ("Tilis"), Christopher J. Cassar ("Cassar") and the Suffolk County Correctional Facility, Thomas Murphy, Warden (collectively, "Defendants"). Presently before the Court are four motions to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6) by: (1) the State of New York; (2) Legal Aid, Schick, Ahern, and Valasquez; (3) Tilis; and (4) Cassar. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are GRANTED in their entirety.


According to Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff was arrested and arraigned in November 2003 for possession of drugs. (Compl. ¶ 1.) He was later released on his own recognizance. (Id.) In December 2003, he was again arrested and arraigned on a drug charge. (Id.) He made a number of appearances before the County Court, Suffolk County through several different attorneys and made multiple requests to have his attorneys discharged, some, if not all, of which were granted. (Id. ¶¶ 3-6.) Plaintiff now asserts claims against all of the attorneys who represented him for alleged constitutional violations. He also asserts that he has been mistreated in jail and that the judicial system is "corrupt" and that "no lawyer will fight for me." (Id. ¶ 7.)


I. Motion to Dismiss: Legal Standards

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court must limit itself to the facts stated in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint. Hayden v. County of Nassau, 180 F.3d 42, 54 (2d Cir. 1999). The court must accept the factual allegations contained in the complaint as true, and view the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor. Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only if it appears beyond doubt that a plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling him to relief in support of his claim. Zerilli-Edelglass v. New York City Transit Auth., 333 F.3d 74, 79 (2d Cir. 2003).

Additionally, this court must construe pro se complaints like Plaintiff's liberally, applying a more flexible standard to evaluate their sufficiency than the standard used to review complaints submitted by attorneys. Lerman v. Bd. of Elections in City of New York, 232 F.3d 135, 140 (2d Cir. 2000). In order to justify the dismissal of a plaintiff's pro se complaint, it must be beyond doubt that he can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Id. And the above standards apply with particular strictness where, as here, the plaintiff files a pro se complaint alleging civil rights violations. Deravin v. Kerik, 335 F.3d 195, 200 (2d Cir. 2003).

Nevertheless, a litigant's exercise of his right to self-representation does not exempt him from complying with the relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983). Although a court must accept the facts alleged in the non-movant's complaint, "conclusory allegations of the legal status of the defendants' acts need not be accepted as true for the purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss." In re Am. Exp. Co. Shareholder Litig., 39 F.3d 395, 400 n.3 (2d Cir. 1994). "[C]courts do 'not accept conclusory allegations on the legal effect of the events plaintiff has set out if these allegations do not reasonably follow from his description of what happened.'" First Nationwide Bank v. Gelt Funding Corp., 27 F.3d 763, 772 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Kadar Corp. v. Milbury, 549 F.2d 230, 233 (1st Cir. 1977)). And this rule applies even to a prisoner appearing pro se and presenting civil rights claims. See Nelson v. Michalko, 35 F. Supp. 2d 289, 292-93 (W.D.N.Y. 1999).

II. Plaintiff's Claims Against the Legal Aid Defendants

A. The Allegations in the Complaint

The Legal Aid Defendants represented Plaintiff for approximately one month, from December 2003 to January 2004. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5; Legal Aid Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.)*fn1 After his arraignment, Plaintiff advised an unnamed Legal Aid attorney and the Assistant District Attorney that he wanted to testify before the Grand Jury. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Thereafter, Plaintiff was brought to court and informed that he had already been indicted. (Id.) At that time, the unnamed Legal Aid Attorney made an oral application for permission to file a motion to dismiss the indictment because Plaintiff was not afforded an opportunity to testify before the Grand Jury, which apparently was not granted. (Id.) The following day, Plaintiff was brought to court and met with Schick who advised him not to testify before the Grand Jury, with which advice Plaintiff disagreed. (Id.) On December 26, 2003, Schick appeared in court again with Plaintiff for his arraignment. (Id. ¶ 5.) On that date, pursuant to Plaintiff's request, Schick filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on Plaintiffs' behalf. (Legal Aid Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.) Plaintiff alleges that he told the state judge that he had "five letters . . . about issues of law that [he] wanted [Schick] to put on the record," but Schick refused. (Compl. ¶ 5.) At some unspecified time, Ahern and Valasquez became Plaintiff's new attorneys. (Id.)

Thereafter, the motion to dismiss the indictment was granted. (Id.) At the next court proceeding, the court informed plaintiff that Legal Aid was relieved from representing him due to a conflict of interest, and the court appointed Tilis, an 18B ...

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