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Maldonado v. New York County Sheriff

September 6, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the defendants, the New York County Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff Waites, and Sergeant Stavola, move to dismiss this action brought against them by the plaintiff, Reverend Alexandra Maldonado, a.k.a. Alexandra Riera Schenk, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of the laws by improperly carrying out a court order evicting her from rental property located at 106 East 104th Street in New York, New York. The plaintiff alleges that she had obtained a stay of the eviction pending an appeal to the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court of the trial court's order to evict her and that, motivated by racial animus, the Sheriff's Office and the individual defendants ignored this stay, refused to meet with her to discuss the stay,*fn1 and evicted her.*fn2 (Compl. 1--3.) The plaintiff also asserts that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy that was "based on racial hatred." (Compl. 3.)*fn3

The defendants assert that the Sheriff's Office was executing a warrant pursuant to a valid court order and that each of the individual defendants is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity.

For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion to dismiss is granted and the complaint is dismissed.



On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the allegations in the Complaint are accepted as true. Grandon v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 147 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 1998). In deciding a motion to dismiss, all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Gant v. Wallingford Bd. of Educ., 69 F.3d 669, 673 (2d Cir. 1995); Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 11 (2d Cir. 1989). The Court's function on a motion to dismiss is "not to weigh the evidence that might be presented at trial but merely to determine whether the complaint itself is legally sufficient." Goldman v. Belden, 754 F.2d 1059, 1067 (2d Cir. 1985). Therefore, the defendants' present motion should only be granted if it appears that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of her claims that would entitle her to relief. See Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (citing Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45--46 (1957); Grandon, 147 F.3d at 188; Goldman, 754 F.2d at 1065. The allegations of a pro se plaintiff should be construed liberally. See McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 279 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting that courts "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them 'to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest'" (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994))); Cooney v. Consol. Edison, 220 F. Supp. 2d 241, 244 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).

While the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the Court is not required to accept legal conclusions asserted in the Complaint. See Smith v. Local 819 I.B.T. Pension Plan, 291 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 2002); Barile v. City of Hartford, 386 F. Supp. 2d 53, 54 (D. Conn. 2005).

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Court may consider documents that are referenced in the Complaint, documents that the plaintiff relied on in bringing suit and that are either in the plaintiff's possession or that the plaintiff knew of when bringing suit, or matters of which judicial notice may be taken. Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Taylor v. Vermont Dep't of Educ., 313 F.3d 768, 776 (2d Cir. 2002); Kramer v. Time Warner, Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991); Brass v. Am. Film Techs., Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir. 1993); Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47--48 (2d Cir. 1991); VTech Holdings Ltd. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 172 F. Supp. 2d 435, 437 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).


For the purposes of this motion, the following facts are accepted as true.

A dispute arose between Ms. Maldonado, pastor and president of El Camino Outreach Center, and Intertrade International, Inc. ("Intertrade"), the owner of several properties that were rented by Ms. Maldonado for use in the operation of her ministry, including property at 106 East 104th Street. The parties disputed moneys owed for rent, taxes, and other expenses by Ms. Maldonado to Intertrade in connection with the rental of 106 East 104th Street and other properties. (Decision and Order of June 30, 2005 in Intertrade Int'l, Ltd. v. Maldonado, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, Index No. 600580/04, annexed to Compl.) In a decision and order dated June 30, 2005, Justice Sherry Heitler of the New York State Supreme Court directed that a judgment be entered in favor of Intertrade for possession of several rental properties, including the 106 East 104th Street property, together with an award of monetary damages. (June 30 Decision and Order at 4.) On August 23, 2005, Justice Heitler issued an Order and Judgment that, among other things, directed the Sheriff to place Intertrade in possession of the property at 106 East 104th Street. (Order and J., Aug. 23, 2005, attached as Ex. C to Decl. of Edwin M. Levy, Nov. 3, 2005 ("Levy Decl.").) The Sheriff's Office issued a notice on September 28, 2005 stating that it would remove the plaintiff from the premises on ...

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