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Skinner v. Chapman

May 30, 2007

DAVID M. SKINNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARC CHAPMAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, David Skinner, brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related statutes against several defendants regarding his arrest, trial and conviction for obstructing governmental administration in connection with the temporary confinement of his dog. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court dismissed all the claims against the named defendants on initial review except those against Marc Chapman ("Chapman"), a Sergeant with the Wayland, New York Police Department, and Debra Breese ("Breese"), a dog-control officer for the town (Dkt. #11).

Breese and Chapman have both moved to dismiss the complaint against them pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) based on res judicata, the statute of limitations, and for failure to state a claim. (Dkts. ##6 and 8). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

Plaintiff alleges that on September 14, 2002, he was charged with one count of obstructing governmental administration in the second degree when he refused to allow Breese access to his home.

Plaintiff claims that on September 13, 2002, Breese was summoned to his house to investigate a dog-bite incident that had allegedly occurred in his neighbor's adjacent yard. Breese told plaintiff he could keep his dog tied in his yard or inside his home for 10 days. The next day, Breese received another complaint that plaintiff's dog was at large again. Breese went to plaintiff's home and demanded that plaintiff turn over his dog. Plaintiff refused to allow her into the house to seize the dog because Breese did not have a warrant. Breese also had not filed a deposition regarding these facts, nor had she received an order authorizing her to seize the dog.

Breese then left plaintiff's home and returned with Chapman. Chapman and Breese demanded that plaintiff allow them to take the dog, and again plaintiff refused because they still did not have a warrant or court order. Chapman then threatened plaintiff with prosecution for obstructing governmental administration, but plaintiff continued to refuse them access to his home or his dog without a court order.

Chapman and Breese then left and went to Chapman's office where he completed the necessary paperwork charging plaintiff with obstructing governmental administration. They returned to plaintiff's home later that night where Chapman told plaintiff that he could either surrender the dog and be given an appearance ticket, or Chapman would wake the Village Judge, obtain a warrant for plaintiff's immediate arrest, and take plaintiff to jail. Plaintiff capitulated and defendants seized his dog. Plaintiff was given a summons to appear in Village Court on the charge of obstructing governmental administration in violation of N.Y. PENAL L. § 195.05.*fn1

A jury trial was held in Wayland Town Court on May 2, 2003, after which plaintiff was convicted of one count of obstructing governmental administration, second degree, and sentenced to one year imprisonment.*fn2 On February 2, 2006, Steuben County Court overturned plaintiff's conviction, vacated the sentence and dismissed the charge against him.

Plaintiff claims that Chapman and Breeze violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unlawful search and seizure. He also alleges that Chapman and Breese falsely arrested him for allegedly obstructing governmental administration, and conspired with the District Attorney's Office to maliciously prosecute him. He seeks $5,000,000 in damages.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Dismiss Standards

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court should grant the motion only "if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). In ruling on such a motion, the Court must read the plaintiff's complaint generously, drawing all reasonable inferences from the complaint's allegations, Mills v. Polar Molecular Corp., 12 F.3d 1170, 1174 (2d Cir.1993), and accepting "the material facts alleged in the complaint as true." Frasier v. General Electric Co., 930 F.2d 1004, 1007 (2d Cir.1991). The Court's task in deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion "is merely to assess the legal feasibility ...


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