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Santiago v. Fischer

November 18, 2009

OMAR SANTIAGO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN FISCHER, IN HIS CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES (DOCS), AND IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; ANTHONY J. ANNUCCI, IN HIS CAPACITY AS DEPUTY COMMISSIONER AND COUNSEL FOR DOCS, AND IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, JR., FORMER ACTING COMMISSIONER OF DOCS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; GLENN S. GOORD, FORMER COMMISSIONER OF DOCS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; AND JOHN/JANE DOES 1--50 (DOCS SUPERVISORY, TRAINING, AND POLICY PERSONNEL), IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Omar Santiago brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), claiming that defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also asserts a supplemental state law claim for false arrest/imprisonment.*fn1

Defendants move to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

For the reasons set forth below, the 12(b)(1) motion is granted, but only with respect to the defendants in their official capacities. Defendants' 12(b)(6) motion is granted with respect to the state law false arrest claim in its entirety, and granted with respect to the § 1983 claim as to defendants LeClaire and Goord. As to the remaining defendants, the 12(b)(6) motion is denied.

I. Background

On October 30, 2001, plaintiff was convicted of Assault in the Second Degree in the Kings County Supreme Court. (Def.'s Decl. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. B.) He was sentenced as a second felony offender to a determinate prison term of three years. (Id.) Although not imposed by the court at sentencing, plaintiff was also given a five-year term of post-release supervision ("PRS") upon his release from prison on April 6, 2004. (Compl. at 5.) This sentence was administratively imposed by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law § 70.45 as it existed at that time.*fn2

On June 9, 2006, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that it is unconstitutional for DOCS to administratively impose PRS as that duty belongs only to the courts. See Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71, 75 (2d Cir. 2006) ("Only the judgment of a court, as expressed through the sentence imposed by a judge, has the power to constrain a person's liberty."). On April 29, 2008, the New York State Court of Appeals likewise struck down administratively-imposed PRS as a matter of state law in two cases. See People v. Sparber, 10 N.Y.3d 457, 470 (2008) ("sentencing is a uniquely judicial responsibility"); Garner v. New York State Dep't of Correctional Services, 10 N.Y.3d 358, 362 (2008) ("DOCS's imposition of the PRS term contravenes the CPL's express mandate that sentencing is a judicial function"). The Court of Appeals noted that the PRS improperly imposed by DOCS could be remedied through resentencing by the court. See Garner, 10 N.Y.3d at 363 n.4; see also Earley v. Murray, 2007 WL 1288031, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 1, 2007)(applying same resentencing remedy in district court on remand from Second Circuit). The New York legislature codified this resentencing remedy with the passage of Correction Law § 601-d and Penal Law § 70.85, effective June 30, 2008. See Nazario v. State, 24 Misc. 3d 443, 447--48 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. 2009) (providing legislative history).

On or about September 5, 2008, plaintiff was arrested and charged with violating the terms of his PRS, which, as imposed by the DOCS, was still in effect.*fn3 While he was imprisoned, plaintiff's case was returned to the original trial court for resentencing pursuant to Sparber and Correction Law § 601-d. Over the objection of the New York State Division of Parole (see Def.'s Decl. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. C), the Kings County Supreme Court declined to impose PRS on plaintiff, "in the interests of justice and equity." (Id., Ex. D.) Plaintiff was then released pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus on December 8, 2008.*fn4 Following his release, plaintiff brought the instant action against defendants in their individual and official capacities, claiming that their collective conduct in "implementing, promulgating, enforcing, and/or effectuating" the policy of administratively-imposed, extra-judicial PRS violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights, and further constituted common-law false arrest. (Compl. at 7--8.)

Defendants move to dismiss on a number of grounds. First, they argue that the entire action is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and therefore must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Mot. Dismiss at 21.) Second, defendants contend that plaintiff's claims are barred by the respective statutes of limitation. (Id. at 3.) Third, defendants claim that they are entitled to qualified immunity, "as . . . PRS was mandated by state law and was believed until recently by courts statewide to apply automatically by operation of law." (Id.) Finally, defendants argue that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for either cause of action. (Id. at 20, 22.)

II. Discussion

A. Eleventh Amendment

It is well settled that the Eleventh Amendment's grant of immunity to the states extends to claims for damages against state officials sued in their official capacity. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974). While prospectiverelief is not similarly barred (see Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)), plaintiff requests only damages in the instant complaint. (Compl. at 2.) Thus, his claims against defendants in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Posr v. Court Officer Shield No. 207, 180 F.3d 409, 414 (2d Cir. 1999) (upholding 12(b)(1) dismissal of claims against state officials due to Eleventh Amendment); see also Krebs v. New York State Div. of Parole, 2009 WL 2567779, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2009) (dismissing § 1983 claim on same grounds). Accordingly, the subsequent analysis applies only to the claims against defendants in their individual capacities, as the claims against them in their official capacities are dismissed.

B. Statutes of Limitation

Although neither party addressed this issue in their respective memoranda of law, the two claims that together make up plaintiff's lawsuit require analyses of different statutes of limitation. Plaintiff's first claim is made pursuant to § 1983, with federal jurisdiction predicated upon 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Compl. at 7.) Plaintiff's second claim, for false arrest, is notbrought pursuant to § 1983, but is instead a state cause of action. (See id. at 8.) This distinction factors into both the statutes of limitation periods, and the claims' accrual dates, as discussed below.

1. Section 1983 Claim

Because there is no federal statute of limitations for § 1983 claims, courts must apply the state limitations period. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988(a) (2003); Shomo v. City of New York, 579 F.3d 176, 181 (2d Cir. 2009); MARTIN A. SCHWARTZ & KATHRYN R. URBONYA, SECTION 1983 LITIGATION 167 (2d ed. 2008). In New York, the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions is generally three years. Lynch v. Suffolk County Police Dep't Inc., 2009 WL 3287565, at *2 (2d Cir. Oct. 14, 2009). In determining the date of accrual, federal law applies. See Rene v. Jablonski, 2009 WL 2524865, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2009) (citing M.D. v. Southington Bd. of Educ., 334 F.3d 217, 221 (2d Cir. 2003)). "Section 1983 claims generally accrue when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury, which is the basis of her claim." SCHWARTZ & URBONYA at 168--69 (citations omitted); see Rene, 2009 WL 2524865, ...


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