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Alvarez v. Strack

October 20, 2010

MARIO ALVAREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BADGE JOSEPH STRACK #62, SERGEANT JOHN DOE, OFFICER JANE DOE, N.Y.S. P. OFFICER JOHN DOE, #1 JOHN DOE, #2 JOHN DOE, AND #3 JOHN DOE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul G. Gardephe, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), pro se Plaintiff Mario Alvarez requests leave to amend his complaint to name five defendant police officers whom Alvarez originally sued as "Sergeant John Doe," "John Does #1-3," and "Officer Jane Doe." (Docket No. 13) Alvarez's complaint, which was filed on January 7, 2009, seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for physical and emotional injuries sustained during an arrest on January 7, 2006. (Cmplt. ¶ II(1A)) Alvarez has also filed a motion for appointment of counsel. (Docket No. 16) For the reasons set forth below, both motions will be DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On January 7, 2009, Alvarez filed a complaint alleging that City of Newburgh police officers had violated his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while arresting him on January 7, 2006. (See Cmplt.) The complaint alleges that two Newburgh police officers -- Joseph Strack and "Jane Doe" -- detained Alvarez on a "warrant for a $90 fine [Alvarez had] failed to pay," and that they insisted on handcuffing Alvarez and transporting him to the Newburgh police station despite his offer to pay the fine. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 2-5) At the police station, Alvarez complained to "Sergeant John Doe" about "rough treatment" he had received from Strack and Jane Doe. (Cmplt. ¶ 6) "Sgt. John Doe told [Alvarez] to 'Shut the f-k up,' and when [Alvarez] refused he was hit from behind by several unidentified officers and knocked to [the] floor." (Cmplt. ¶ 6) "Several unidentified officers" then allegedly sprayed Alvarez with Mace, beat him, and conducted a full-body search, including an anal probe. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 7-13) The complaint names as defendants Joseph Strack, "Sergeant John Doe," "New York State Police Officer John Doe," "Newburgh Police Officers John Doe #1-3," and "Jane Doe." (See Cmplt)

On June 5, 2009, Alvarez served interrogatories requesting the identities of the officers present in the "Booking Area of the Newburgh City Police Department between 7:00 P.M. and 9:00 P.M." (See Pltf. Mot. to Compel (Docket No. 17), Ex. A) On June 23, 2009, Strack's counsel provided Alvarez with all the names he requested except for that of "New York State police officer John Doe," which counsel claimed was "unknown." (See Pltf. Mot. to Compel, Ex. B)

On May 27, 2010 -- nearly a year after receiving the names of the other officers present when the alleged abuse occurred -- Alvarez filed the instant motion to amend. The motion requests leave to amend the complaint to name the five officers identified in the answers to Alvarez's interrogatories. (See Pltf. Mot. to Amend) Alvarez's accompanying Affirmation asserts that "the defendants will in no way be prejudiced or harmed by [the] Amended Complaint because it only identif[ies] the real names of 5 of 6 defendants that were already known from the start of this action." (Pltf. Aff. in Support of Mot. to Amend ¶ 5) Alvarez further argues that his motion to amend should be granted because he "misunderstood the correct procedures . . . and always made a good faith eff[o]rt to comply with all the numerous procedures in the litigation to date," and "should not be punished for mistakes in litigating Court actions." (Pltf. Aff. in Support of Mot. to Amend ¶ 6)

On July 6, 2010, Alvarez moved for appointment of counsel. (Docket No. 16)

DISCUSSION

I. MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT

Alvarez requests leave to amend his complaint on the ground that "justice so requires" (Pltf. Aff. in Support of Mot. to Amend ¶ 4) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2)). The proposed new defendants argue, however, that Alvarez's claims against them are time-barred, and that the "relation back" provisions of Federal Rule 15(c)(1)(C) do not apply. (Def. Br. 2)

In New York, claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must be brought within three years of the events giving rise to the cause of action. Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 225 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73, 76 (2d Cir. 2004)). Because the events giving rise to Alvarez's claims occurred on January 7, 2006, his proposed amendment in May 2010 falls outside the statute of limitations. Accordingly, the amendment is timely only if it relates back to the date of Alvarez's complaint, which was filed on January 7, 2009.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(C), which governs the relation back of untimely amendments, provides as follows:

An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when . . . the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for ...


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