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Valez v. City of New York

April 13, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge


Plaintiff Wilfredo Valez ("Valez" or "plaintiff")*fn1 brings this civil rights action against defendants City of New York (the "City") and Police Officer Gianpaol Dilisio ("Dilisio")*fn2 alleging that Valez was subjected to false arrest and malicious prosecution. The City and Dilisio (collectively, the "City Defendants") have moved to dismiss Valez's amended complaint through a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative, through summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted as to Valez's federal claims, and this Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.


The factual background to this case has already been addressed in an Opinion and Order of December 16, 2008, Valez v. City of New York, No. 08 Civ. 3875 (DLC), 2008 WL 5329974 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2008) (the "December 16 Opinion"), and an Opinion and Order of October 1, 2009, Valez v. City of New York, No. 08 Civ. 3875 (DLC), 2009 WL 3170098 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2009) (the "October 1 Opinion"), familiarity with which is assumed. Only the facts necessary to a resolution of the pending motion are described here. These facts, taken from the January 15, 2009 amended complaint (the "Amended Complaint"), are assumed to be true for the purposes of deciding the motion.

In 2005, Valez rented an apartment from Francesco Turdo and Vivian Pecoraro (the "landlords"). In or about July 2005, the landlords formulated a plot to have Valez arrested in retaliation for suing them in Housing Court and for reporting them for "renting out an illegal apartment." To carry out the plot, the landlords contacted a police officer, Dilisio, whom they asked to arrest Valez for having marijuana plants in his backyard.*fn3 The landlords supplied Dilisio with Valez's name, address, and physical description. Valez alleges that he did not own or control the marijuana plants in the backyard, and asserts that "all the parties" were aware of that fact.

On July 18, 2005, Dilisio and other police officers approached Valez's home and arrested him for planting marijuana in his yard. The officers stated that they were "acting on orders of plaintiff's landlord." Dilisio effected Valez's arrest without conducting any investigation. Valez maintains that, "but for the acts of [the landlords]," he would not have been arrested by Dilisio.*fn4

Thereafter, Valez was held for over ten days in police custody. Valez was charged with possession of illegal drugs, tried, and acquitted of all charges. Valez maintains that these facts are suggestive of deprivations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Valez's Amended Complaint alleges violations of his federal and state constitutional rights by the City Defendants, and seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988.*fn5


The City Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings is now before this Court following a protracted dispute concerning whether this case had been settled. On October 17, 2008, the City Defendants reported by letter that they had reached a settlement agreement with Valez. See December 16 Opinion, 2008 WL 5329974, at *1 n.1. Valez thereafter refused to recognize the purported agreement and continued to press his claims against the City Defendants by filing an Amended Complaint on January 15, 2009. By letter motion of January 29, 2009, the City Defendants moved to enforce the agreement, which was purportedly entered into with Valez's attorney on or about October 1, 2008, to settle Valez's claims for the sum of $5,000. This dispute was then referred to the Honorable Debra Freeman, United States Magistrate Judge, to prepare a Report and Recommendation (the "Report") as to whether the settlement agreement was valid. Judge Freeman's Report of August 27, 2009, recommended that the putative agreement not be enforced. This Court then adopted that recommendation. See October 1 Opinion, 2009 WL 3170098. The City Defendants filed their motion for judgment on the pleadings on November 16, 2009, which became fully submitted on February 5, 2010.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Rule 8(a) pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations," but "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citation omitted).

"After the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, the court must "apply the same standard as that applicable to a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), accepting the allegations contained in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 157 n.4 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).*fn6 "To survive a Rule 12(c) motion, [Valez's] 'complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 160 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949). "'The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'" Id. at 161 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

To sustain a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Valez must show that he "was deprived of 'rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws [of the United States]'" by a person acting under color of state law. Burg v. Gosselin, 591 F.3d 95, 97 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). "Section 1983 is only a grant of a right of action; the substantive right giving rise to the action must come from another source." Singer v. Fulton County Sheriff, 63 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 1995). Therefore, "the first step in any § 1983 claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed." Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 252-53 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). Valez's ยง 1983 claim references a deprivation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but the Amended Complaint does not characterize ...

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