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Caidor v. M&T Bank

March 27, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge



On March 8, 2005, Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1988. In his complaint Plaintiff asserts that Defendants deprived him of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they allegedly restrained, arrested and prosecuted him. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' conduct constituted (1) a deprivation of his right to due process and equal protection; (2) false arrest and imprisonment; (3) malicious prosecution; and (4) conspiracy.

Currently before the Court are the motions of Michael Harrington, C. Devito, City of Syracuse, and Syracuse Police Department (collectively the "City Defendants"), and Onondaga County and Onondaga County Sheriff Custody Booking Division (collectively the "County Defendants") to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn3


On March 8, 2004, Plaintiff went to one of M&T Bank's ATMs to withdraw funds using a credit card. The ATM "took" his card. As a result, Plaintiff went into the bank and requested that a bank employee retrieve the card for him. A bank employee retrieved the card but refused to return the card to Plaintiff because he allegedly did not have sufficient identification to prove that the credit card belonged to him. Even after Plaintiff showed additional identification and repeatedly requested that the bank employee return the card to him, he would not do so.

The Bank called the Syracuse Police who eventually arrested Plaintiff and charged him with Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree, a misdemeanor, under New York Penal Law § 140.10; this charge was later reduced to Trespass. The Syracuse Police transported Plaintiff to the Onondaga County Justice Center where the Onondaga County Sheriff Booking Division booked and processed him. Defendants confined Plaintiff at the Justice Center until his arraignment the next day.*fn5

On May 7, 2004, Plaintiff was tried on the Trespass charge in the City of Syracuse Criminal Court. After hearing all of the evidence, the judge dismissed the charges against Plaintiff. Subsequently, on March 8, 2005, Plaintiff commenced this action.


A. Standard of Review

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, "'the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true,' and afford the non-moving party all favorable inferences therefrom." Beattie v. Farnsworth Middle Sch., 143 F. Supp. 2d 220, 226 (N.D.N.Y. 1998) (citing Staron v. McDonald's Corp., 51 F.3d 353, 355 (2d Cir. 1995)) (other citation omitted). "A motion to dismiss should only be granted if 'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Harris v. McGinnis, No. 02 Civ. 6481, 2004 WL 2187137, *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2004) (quotation and other citation omitted). Moreover, "'the Court must limit its analysis to the four corners of the complaint'" when deciding the motion. Chase v. Czajka, No. 04 Civ. 8228, 2005 WL 668535, *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 23, 2005) (quoting Vassilatos v. Ceram Tech Int'l Ltd., 92 Civ. 4574, 1993 WL 177780 at *5 (S.D.N.Y. May 19, 1993)) (footnote omitted). However, "[t]he Court . . . may consider documents attached to the complaint as an exhibit or incorporated in the complaint by reference," and matters of which judicial notice may be taken. Id. (citing Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002)) (other citation omitted).

Additionally, courts are required to hold pro se complaints to a less stringent standard than complaints that lawyers prepare. See Boddie v. Schnieder, 105 F.3d 857, 860 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed. 2d 652 (1972) (per curiam)). "However, '[d]ismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper if the complaint lacks an allegation regarding an element necessary to obtain relief. . . .'" Chase, 2005 WL 668535, at *5 (quoting 2 Moore's Federal Practice § 12.34[4][a], at 12'72.7 [sic] (2004)). Moreover, a court should not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend "'when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated.'" Sullivan v. Schweikhard, 968 F. Supp. 910, 916 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (quotation and other citations omitted); see also Pagburn v. Culbertson, 200 F.3d 65, 70-71 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation omitted).

B. Whether the "Onondaga County Sheriff Custody Booking Division" is an entity subject to suit "Under New York law, departments which are merely administrative arms of a municipality, do not have a legal identity separate and apart from the municipality and cannot sue or be sued." Hall v. City of White Plains, 185 F. Supp. 2d 293, 303 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (citations omitted); see also Manning v. County of Westchester, No. 93 Civ. 3366, 1995 WL 12579, *2 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 1995) (removing the Westchester County Police Department as a named defendant where the County of Westchester, the real party in interest, was already a named defendant). A county is a municipality under New York law, see Baker v. Willett, 42 F. Supp. 2d 192, 198 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (citing N.Y. Gen. Mun. Law § 2 (McKinney 1986)); and "[a] police department is an administrative arm of the municipal corporation." Id. (citing Loria v. Town of Irondequoit, 775 F. Supp. 599, 606 (W.D.N.Y. 1990)) (other citation omitted). Therefore, "[a] police department cannot sue or be sued because it does not exist separate and apart from the municipality and does not have its own legal identity."

Id. (citations omitted) (holding that the county sheriff's department was an administrative arm of the county and that the claims against the county sheriff's department were redundant of the claims against the county).

County Defendants assert that the "Onondaga County Sheriff's Custody Booking Division" does not exist as an entity and, therefore, cannot be sued. In response, Plaintiff claims that, even if he sued the wrong named entity, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department had notice of the claims against it and is an entity subject to suit.

Based upon the relevant case law, the Court concludes that, because Plaintiff brought claims against the County of Onondaga, even if the "Custody Booking Division" existed or even if Plaintiff had asserted claims against the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department -- which he did not -- those claims would be redundant of the claims he brought against Onondaga County, which is the real party in interest. Accordingly, the Court grants County Defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against the "Onondaga County Sheriff's Custody Booking Division."*fn6

C. Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims*fn7

To state a claim under § 1983 a plaintiff must allege (1) that some person deprived him of a federal right and (2) that that person was acting under color of state law.*fn8 See Hall v. Dworkin, 829 F. Supp. 1403, 1409-10 (N.D.N.Y. 1993) (quoting Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S 635, 640, 100 S.Ct. 1920, 64 L.Ed. 2d 572 (1980)). Moreover, "'[t]o state a civil rights claim under § 1983, a complaint must contain specific allegations of facts which indicate a deprivation of constitutional rights; allegations which are nothing more than broad, simple and conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim under § 1983.'" Id. (quoting Spear v. West Hartford, 954 F.2d 63, 68 (2d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, __ U.S. __, 113 S.Ct. 66, 121 L.Ed. 2d 33 (1992)). In other words, a complaint under § 1983 is insufficient if it does not contain some specific allegations of fact indicating a deprivation of rights.*fn9 See id. (quotation omitted). Finally, personal involvement of a named defendant is a prerequisite to an award of damages in a § 1983 action. See McLaurin v. New Rochelle Police Officers, 373 F. Supp. 2d 385, 395 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing Wright v. Smith 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994)).

1. Preliminary Matters

a. Plaintiff's First Amendment Claim

With regard to Plaintiff's allegation that Defendants deprived him of his First Amendment right to freedom of expression, even when liberally read, Plaintiff's complaint does not allege any incidents or facts that tend to suggest that Defendants deprived him of this right. Accordingly, the Court grants City Defendants' and County Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment claims.

b. Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment Claim

The Fifth Amendment does not regulate the activities of state officials or state actors; rather, it governs the actions of the Federal Government and federal employees. See Cassidy v. Scoppetta, 365 F. Supp. 2d 283, 286 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (quoting Dawkins v. City of Utica, 1997 WL 176328, *4 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 4, 1997)). Plaintiff's complaint does not name any federal employees or agencies as Defendants. Accordingly, the Court grants City Defendants' and County Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claims.

c. Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claim

The Eighth Amendment applies only to those persons who have been convicted and not to arrestees. See Jones v. McMahon, No. 5:98-CV-374, 2005 WL 928667, *4 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2005) (citation omitted). Since Plaintiff was only an arrestee, he cannot maintain an Eighth Amendment claim. Accordingly, the Court grants City Defendants' and County Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.

d. Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Substantive due Process Claim

With regard to claims of cruel and unusual punishment, detainees are afforded at least as much protection from cruel detention conditions under the Fourteenth Amendment as convicted prisoners are afforded under the Eighth Amendment. See Esmont v. City of N.Y., 371 F. Supp. 2d 202, 217 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244, 103 S.Ct. 2979, 77 L.Ed. 2d 605 (1983)). However, substantive due process analysis is not available "[w]here a particular Amendment 'provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection. . . .'" Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 273 (1994) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S., at 395, 109 S.Ct., at 1871) (footnote omitted). Thus, "[c]onstitutional claims related to a plaintiff's arrest, detention, or prosecution must be brought pursuant to the Fourth Amendment rather than the due process clauses." Jones, 2005 WL 928667, at *2 (citations omitted). Therefore, § 1983 claims based upon malicious prosecution and false arrest, as well as constitutional claims arising out of the arrest, detention and prosecution of a plaintiff do not state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment's substantive due process clause. See Danielak v. City of N. Y., No. 02-CV-2349, 2005 WL 2347095, *11 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 26, 2005) (citing Murphy v. Lynn, 118 F.3d 938, 944 (2d Cir. 1997); Mayer v. City of New Rochelle, No. 01Civ. 4443, 2003 WL 21222515, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. May 27, 2003)) (other citation omitted).Accordingly, because Plaintiff's claims arise from his arrest, detention and prosecution, the Court grants City Defendants' and County Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claims.

e. Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Claim

"'The equal protection clause directs state actors to treat similarly situated people alike. . . . To prove an equal protection violation, claimants must prove purposeful discrimination . . . directed at an identifiable or suspect class.'" Danielak, 2005 WL 2347095, *12 (quotation omitted). Thus, to state an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must allege (1) that he was selectively treated in comparison to other similarly situated people and (2) "'that such selective treatment was based on impermissible considerations such as race, religion, intent to inhibit or punish the exercise of constitutional rights, or malicious or bad faith intent to injure a person.'" Bullock v. Gerould, 338 F. Supp. 2d 446, 449 (W.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Freedom Holdings, Inc. v. Spitzer, 357 F.3d 205, 234 (2d Cir. 2004)).

Liberally read, Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendants arrested, maliciously prosecuted and conspired against him because of his race. See Complaint at ¶¶ 32, 33, 45, 49. Although Plaintiff alleges that the Bank employees required him, a black male, to produce more identification than white people, Plaintiff's complaint fails to allege that either City Defendants or County Defendants treated him differently than other similarly-situated people. See Complaint at ¶ 15. In addition, except for a conclusory allegation that City Defendants and County Defendants, including Defendants Devito and Harrington, treated him in the manner that they did because he is a black male, Plaintiff fails to allege any facts indicating purposeful discrimination. Accordingly, the Court grants City Defendants' and County Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim.

2. Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claims

The Fourth Amendment provides the source for a plaintiff's ยง 1983 claims based upon false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. See Danielak, 2005 WL 2347095, at *11 (citing Murphy v. Lynn, 118 F.3d 938, 944 (2d Cir. 1997); Mayer v. City of New ...

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