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Cabble v. City of New York

March 30, 2009

CHARLES CABBLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this action brought against the City of New York ("Defendant"),*fn1 Plaintiff Charles Cabble ("Plaintiff"), in his Amended Complaint, raises claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, asserting that Defendant violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as well as New York state law tort claims. The court has jurisdiction of Plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343 and supplemental jurisdiction of his state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Defendant moves pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for judgment on the pleadings dismissing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in its entirety. Defendant proffers evidence and documents in support of its motion, arguing that those materials are properly considered on a Rule 12(c) motion because they are incorporated by reference into the Amended Complaint, constitute matters of public record, and/or are documents upon which Plaintiff relied in framing his complaint. The Court did not find it necessary to consider these additional documents in determining the issues raised in this motion practice. The Court has thoroughly considered all of the parties' submissions. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted. Plaintiff's request for leave to further amend the complaint is also granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts, alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, are taken as true for the purposes of the instant motion. On March 15, 2003, a woman falsely reported to the New York Police Department ("NYPD") that Plaintiff had engaged in conduct constituting rape, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, assault and harassment of her on or about March 1, 2003. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.) The police arrested and detained the plaintiff on March 15, 2003.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 15.) Shortly thereafter, on April 1, 2003, a second woman falsely reported to the NYPD that the Plaintiff had engaged in conduct constituting attempted rape, attempted sodomy, forcible touching, unlawful imprisonment, sexual abuse and harassment on or about August 26, 2002, October 12, 2002, and December 25, 2002. (Id. ¶ 17.) Following this second report, Plaintiff was again arrested by police on April 1, 2003, and incarcerated at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility, where he would remain until he was released on his own recognizance on November 10, 2003. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 21.)

Additionally, each woman made false statements to employees of the Bronx District Attorney's Office, resulting in the prosecution of Plaintiff. Each further gave false testimony before a Grand Jury, resulting in the indictment of Plaintiff on multiple counts of violating New York Penal Law § 130.65 (Sexual Abuse First Degree), § 130.52 (Forcible Touching), § 110/130.35 (Attempted Rape First Degree), § 130.35 (Rape First Degree), and § 130.25 (Rape Third Degree). (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Plaintiff was ultimately tried before Justice Steven Barrett in the Bronx Supreme Court from March 1-10, 2004. (Id. ¶ 43.) During the course of the trial, 10 of the 25 counts against Plaintiff were dismissed or withdrawn and, on March 12, 2004, Plaintiff was acquitted of all the remaining charges. (Id. ¶¶ 44-45.)

DISCUSSION

Pleading Standard

In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, the Court applies the same standard as that applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, accepting the allegations contained in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (2d Cir. 1999). Specific facts are not necessary so long as the pleading "give[s] the defendants fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Nonetheless, a pleader must also "amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible." Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-158 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 127 S.Ct. 1955). The complaint "must contain specific allegations of fact 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." Torres v. Mazzuca, 246 F. Supp. 2d 334, 338 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (quoting Alfaro Motors, Inc. v. Ward, 814 F.2d 883, 887 (2d Cir. 1987)).

42 U.S.C. § 1983 and State Tort Claims

Plaintiff alleges that he suffered malicious prosecution, abuse of process and false arrest and, because the arresting and prosecuting officials acted under color of law and violated his federal constitutional rights, asserts that he has such causes of action under Section 1983. Plaintiff has, however, failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted with respect to any of the three causes of action.

Malicious Prosecution

"Section 1983 liability may be anchored in a claim for malicious prosecution, as this tort typically implicates constitutional rights secured by the fourteenth amendment, such as deprivation of liberty." Cook v. Sheldon, 41 F.3d 73, 79 (2d Cir. 1994) (internal citations omitted). The tort also implicates Fourth Amendment rights, namely the right to be free of unreasonable seizure of the person in the form of restraints on personal liberty. Singer v. Fulton County Sheriff, 63 F.3d 110, 116 (2d Cir. 1995). "A plaintiff asserting a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim under § 1983 must therefore show some deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of 'seizure.' This requirement is necessary to ensure that the § 1983 plaintiff has suffered a harm of constitutional proportions - i.e., a harm cognizable under § 1983." Id. Here, Plaintiff's seven-month pretrial detention constitutes the requisite deprivation of liberty.

The remaining elements of the Section 1983 malicious prosecution tort are borrowed from state law. See Cook, 41 F.3d at 79. In New York, a plaintiff alleging malicious prosecution must show that: (1) the defendant commenced a criminal proceeding against him; (2) the proceeding ended in the plaintiff's favor; (3) the defendant did not have probable cause to believe the plaintiff was guilty of the crime charged; and (4) the defendant acted with actual malice. See Martin v. City of Albany, 42 N.Y.2d 13, 16 (N.Y. 1977).

The parties dispute principally whether the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint satisfies the third element, probable cause.*fn3 Under New York law, a grand jury indictment creates a presumption of probable cause for the purposes of defending against a malicious prosecution claim.*fn4 See also Chodkowski v. City of New York, 2007 WL 2717872, *6, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67822, *21-*22 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (dismissing the complaint where Plaintiff was not able to overcome the presumption of probable cause created by the indictment); Barrington v. Johnson, 2006 WL 3457816, *1, 2006 ...


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