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La Grande v. Town of Bethlehem Police Department

September 1, 2009

QUENTIN LA GRANDE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF BETHLEHEM POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff pro se Quentin La Grande ("Plaintiff" or "La Grande") commenced the instant action against Defendants Robert Helligrass*fn1 , Stephen Kraz*fn2 and the Town of Bethlehem Police Department (collectively, "Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1). Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 13) and Plaintiff's Motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 12). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to dismiss is granted and Plaintiff's Motion for summary judgment is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

According to Plaintiff, "[o]n April 1, 2008 I was threaten by Patrol Officer William Craz. Patrol Officer called me a 'Nigger,' and also threaten to cause bodily harm to me. On April 2, 2008 I met with Seargent R.J. Helliergrass and was interogated, and racial harrassed. On or about April 5, 10, 15, May 6, 8, 10, 15, and June 6, 2008, I have been followed by the Bethlehem Police Department." Compl. at 2. Plaintiff's jurisdictional statement asserts that the Complaint is being brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 1.

In lieu of filing an answer, on March 11, 2009, Defendants filed the Motion to dismiss presently before the Court. Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 13). Plaintiff also filed a Motion for summary judgment on February 24, 2009, which is now before the Court. Mot. for Sum. Judg. (Dkt. No. 12).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

a. Standard of Review

In order to withstand a motion to dismiss, "a [pleading] must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A party must plead with such factual detail so as to sufficiently "'nudge [] [its] claims . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While stating a claim does not require the recitation of detailed factual allegations, it does, however, require facts sufficient to state a claim to relief that is prima facie plausible. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must accept the allegations in the well-pleaded complaint as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1973); Global Network Commc'ns, Inc. v. City of New York, 458 F.3d 150, 154 (2d Cir. 2006); King v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 284 F.3d 352, 356 (2d Cir. 2002).

In assessing the legal sufficiency of the Complaint, the Court is mindful that La Grande is a pro se litigant and his submissions are subject to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). The Court must "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them 'to raise the strongest arguments they suggest.'" McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999); see Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 687 (2d Cir. 2004) (""It is well-established that 'when a plaintiff proceeds pro se the court is obligated to construe his pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations'") (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)). However, a plaintiff's pro se status "does not exempt [him] from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law." Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 92 (2d Cir. 1983).

b. Analysis

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn3 Mot. to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 13) at 1. Defendants specifically argue that all causes of action against the Town of Bethlehem Police Department must be dismissed as it is not a legal entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and further that Plaintiff's entire Complaint should be dismissed for failing to state a cause of action. Id. at 4.

i. Town of Bethlehem Police Department

The Town of Bethlehem moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on the ground that it is not susceptible to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. While a municipality may be susceptible to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a municipal police department is not. See Walker v. Waterbury Police Dep't., 08-cv-959 (JG) (AKT), 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7933, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2009). "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." Id. (citing Hall v. City of White Plains, 185 F. Supp. 2d 293, 303 (S.D.N.Y. 2002)). Accordingly, claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 will be dismissed against a municipality's police department. See Walker, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7933, at *5 (internal citation omitted); see also Baker v. Willett, 42 F. Supp. 2d 192, 198 (N.D.N.Y. 1999).

Here, Plaintiff has sued the Town of Bethlehem Police Department along with two individual officers of the department. See generally Compl. Plaintiff's Complaint asserts that it is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and does not provide any other basis for the claims. Id. at 1. Since the Bethlehem Police Department cannot be sued pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ...


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