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Walker v. Youman

March 3, 2006

JAMES WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MALICHI R. YOUMAN ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff James Walker ("Plaintiff" or "Walker") is a pro se litigant who has brought suit against New York City Police Sergeant Coyles, Officer James Youman, Officer Connor, Officers Doe 1-6, Raymond Kelly, Precinct 100, New York City, and the New York City Police Department under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that Defendants illegally searched, seized, and arrested Plaintiff in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

At this time, the court considers the Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual Background

The facts as alleged in the complaint are deemed to be true for the purposes of this motion. On January 12, 2002, Officers Youman and Connor ("the officers") responded to a 911 call regarding a domestic dispute. (Am. Compl., at 2.) The officers arrived at an apartment shared by Plaintiff and his "common-law spouse" Julie Stephens. Plaintiff was not present, and the officers spoke with Stephens, who told the officers that Plaintiff waived a handgun at her and threw a bowl of cereal on her because she refused to permit him to use her automobile. (Id.) The Plaintiff asserts, and I deem as true for the purposes of this Memorandum and Order ("M&O"), that he never did so. The officers found Plaintiff on Beach 86th Street, in Rockaway Beach in New York. The officers stopped Plaintiff, who denied having anything other than a verbal altercation with Stephens. (Id.) The officers searched Plaintiff without consent, and found no weapon on his person or any other items of note beyond three cellular phones. (Id.) The officers, with Plaintiff, returned to the apartment, where the officers told Stephens that Plaintiff stated that he threw the gun in the apartment. (Id.) Stephens consented to a search of the apartment, which again revealed no gun or other contraband. (Id.)

The officers arrested Plaintiff, detained him for about thirty minutes, then took him to the 100th Precinct. On route, Plaintiff overheard Officer Youman tell another officer that "we are going to have to say that he had a gun, because that will give us probable cause to search him and arrest him." (Id., at 3.) While searching Plaintiff in the stationhouse, Officer Youman produced a "black plastic film holder, which he alleged had fifteen bags of cocaine along with a digital scale," and claimed that it was recovered from Plaintiff's sweatpants. (Id.) According to the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the five arresting officers, including Officers Youman and Connors, and Sergeant Coyles, were aware that the final report contained the false allegation that Plaintiff had a gun in his possession at the time of the arrest. (Id.)

As a result, Plaintiff was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, menacing in the second degree, and "possession of [a] controll[e]d substance in [the] third degree and [possession of] drug paraphernalia." (Id., at 2.) However, the prosecution only obtained an indictment on the drug related offenses. (Pl.'s Aff. Opp. Mot. Dismiss, at 2.) The Plaintiff's Section 1983 and 1985 claims seeking damages of $25 million ensued.

On February 4, 2003, Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom granted Defendants' request to stay the claims pending the resolution of Plaintiff's criminal proceedings. On March 22, 2005, Plaintiff was convicted of: "Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree (Penal Law Section 220.16(1), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Fourth Degree (Penal Law Section 220.09(1), and Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia in the Second Degree (Penal Law Section 220.50(3)." (Frommer Decl., dated Apr. 25, 2005, Ex. C, at 1.) The stay was lifted on April 5, 2005, and on May 2, 2005, Defendants filed the instant Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss urging that the Plaintiff's claims be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motion with an affidavit.*fn2 This M&O will address the sufficiency of the Plaintiff's constitutional claims.

II. Discussion

A. Inadvertent Referral

As a preliminary matter, on October 18, 2005, I issued an Order referring this motion to Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom for a Report and Recommendation. (Order, dated Oct. 18, 2005.) However, this Order was incorrectly docketed. I now rescind this Order, and shall proceed to decide the instant motion.

B. Standard of Review

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (2d Cir. 1999). The complaint may be dismissed only if "it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Hoover v. Ronwin, 466 U.S. 558, 587 (1984) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). In deciding such a motion, the "issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Bernheim v. Litt, 79 F.3d 318, 321 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotations omitted).

Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his pleadings must be read liberally and interpreted as raising the strongest arguments they suggest. McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). If a liberal reading of the complaint "gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated," this court must grant leave to amend the complaint. SeeCuoco v. ...


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