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Hines v. City of Albany

February 8, 2008

CONSTANCE HINES AND MARSHAY HINES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF ALBANY; THE ALBANY POLICE DEPARTMENT; JAMES W. TUFFEY, ALBANY CHIEF OF POLICE; AND OFFICERS JOHN DOE 1 THROUGH 5, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Neal P. McCurn, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM, DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Constance and Marshay Hines ("Plaintiffs") bring this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants, the City of Albany ("the City"), the Albany Police Department ("the Police Department"), the Albany Chief of Police, James W. Tuffey ("Tuffey"), and five unidentified officers named John Doe 1 through 5 ("the Officers"), violated rights guaranteed them by the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss the entire complaint by defendants City, Police Department and Tuffey ("Defendants") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs oppose, and Defendants reply. Oral argument was heard regarding the pending motion on November 7, 2007 in Syracuse, New York. Decision was reserved. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants oppose. Decision on the Rule 15 motion is made on the papers submitted without oral argument. Because resolution of the Rule 15 motion will affect the court's analysis of the Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court will address the motion to amend at the outset.

II. Rule 15(a) Motion to Amend

Plaintiffs filed their motion to amend the complaint after Defendants filed their answer. Accordingly, Plaintiffs are not entitled to amend the complaint as a matter of right, but instead must receive leave of the court pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). Rule 15 provides that leave of the court to amend a pleading "shall be freely given when justice so requires." Id. However, the court has discretion to deny a motion to amend "for good reason, including futility, bad faith, undue delay, or undue prejudice to the opposing party." McCarthy v. Dun & Bradstreet Corp., 482 F.3d 184, 200 (2d Cir. 2007), citing Forman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227 (1962)). Here, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' proposed amendment of the complaint would result in undue delay and undue prejudice to Defendants, and that it would be futile.

A. Undue Delay and Prejudice

Initially it should be noted that absent a showing of bad faith or undue prejudice, mere delay may not provide the sole basis to deny a motion to amend. See Twisted Records, Inc. v. Rauhofer, No. 03-CV-2644, 2005 WL 517328, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 3, 2005) (citing Block v. First Blood Assocs., 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1993)) (internal quotation omitted). In order to decide whether a proposed amendment of a pleading will cause undue prejudice to the opposing party, courts will generally consider whether the amendment would (i) require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial; (ii) significantly delay the resolution of the dispute; or (iii) prevent the plaintiff from bringing a timely action in another jurisdiction.

Twisted Records, 2005 WL 517328, at *6 (quoting Monahan v. New York City Dep't of Corrections, 214 F.3d 275, 284 (2d Cir.2000) (quoting Block, 988 F.2d at 350)). Typically, the first two considerations are given more emphasis. See Twisted Records, 2005 WL 517328, at *6 (citing E.E.O.C. v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., 211 F.R.D. 225, 227 (S.D.N.Y.2002); Tokio Marine & Fire Ins. Co. Ltd. v. Employers Ins. of Wausau, 786 F.2d 101, 103 (2d Cir.1986)).

Here, Plaintiffs propose to amend their complaint with further allegations in support of their Monell claim.*fn2 In addition, the Albany Police Department has been eliminated as a defendant in the proposed amended complaint.*fn3 In opposition to the motion to amend, Defendants argue that they would be prejudiced because the additional information contained in the proposed amended complaint was available to Plaintiffs at the time the original complaint was filed. Defendants further argue that amending the complaint at this stage would delay this court's decision on the pending motion to dismiss. Because of the procedural posture of this case, granting Plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint will not require Defendants to expend additional resources to conduct discovery or prepare for trial, nor will it significantly delay resolution of the pending motion to dismiss, notwithstanding Defendants' argument to the contrary. Accordingly, the court finds that amendment of the complaint will not result in delay or undue prejudice to Defendants. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs' motion to amend may still be denied if Defendants successfully establish that amendment of the complaint would be futile.

B. Futility

"[I]t is well established that leave to amend a [pleading] need not be granted when amendment would be futile." Savitzky v. Mazzella, 210 Fed. Appx. 71, 72, 2006 WL 3826703 (2d Cir. Dec. 21, 2006) (quoting Ellis v. Chao, 336 F.3d 114, 127 (2d Cir. 2003)). See also Forman, 371 U.S. at 182. It is axiomatic that the party opposing an amendment has the burden of establishing that leave to amend would be futile. Staskowski v. County of Nassau, No. 05-CV-5984, 2007 WL 4198341, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2007). Where no colorable grounds exist to support a claim or defense, a motion to amend will be denied on the basis of futility. See Estate of Ratcliffe v. Pradera Realty Co., No. 05-CV-10272, 2007 WL 3084977, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2007) (citing Barrett v. United States Banknote Corp., 806 F.Supp.1094, 1098 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). On the other hand, if the movant has colorable grounds to support its claim or defense, justice requires that leave to amend be granted. See Ryder Energy Distrib. Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities, Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 783 (2d Cir. 1984). Said "colorable grounds" requirement mandates that a district court may not deny a motion for leave to amend a pleading when said pleading is sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which is to say, that colorable grounds exist. See Kassner v. 2nd Avenue Delicatessen, Inc., 496 F.3d 229, 244 (2d Cir. 2007); Ratcliffe, 2007 WL 3084977, at *4. Therefore, the futility analysis of Plaintiffs' motion to amend mirrors the analysis of Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. To be sure, the only proposed amendments which are opposed by Defendants concern Plaintiffs' Monell claims. Accordingly, the court will concurrently decide Plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint and Defendants' motion to dismiss.

III. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs commenced this action on December 19, 2006, alleging that (1) Defendants, in their individual and official capacities, violated Plaintiffs' right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, guaranteed under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, when they detained Plaintiffs for eight hours on April 29, 2006; and (2) Defendants, in their individual and official capacities, violated Constance Hines' right to be free from the deprivation of her property without due process of law, guaranteed her under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, when they seized her Cadillac Escalade and failed to provide her with a post-deprivation hearing.

Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' first claim for unlawful search and seizure should be dismissed because the Officers are entitled to qualified immunity. As to Constance Hines' illegal seizure and due process claim, Defendants argue that first, they are not the proper defendants, and in any event, the claim is not ripe. Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim against them under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694-95, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2037-38 (1978), and that they have failed to allege any personal involvement on behalf of Tuffey in order to state a claim against him.

After oral argument was heard on the motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend their complaint to remove the Albany Police Department as a defendant and to set forth further allegations in support of their Monell claims. For the reasons stated at 4 supra, the motion to amend will be decided concurrently with the motion to dismiss. Said motions will therefore be decided considering the allegations in the complaint as well as allegations which appear in the proposed amended complaint, where appropriate. Because, in all respects relevant to the court's analysis, Plaintiffs have supplemented their allegations by their proposed amended complaint, the court will only cite the source of an allegation where it appears in the proposed amended complaint.

B. Factual Background

As will become apparent, Defendants rely on facts outside of the complaint in support of their arguments for dismissal of the claims therein. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that for purposes of deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court will, as it must, accept the following allegations of fact in the complaint as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. World Religious Relief, Inc. v. Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., No. 05-CV-8257, ...


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