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Sanzone v. Donovan

November 9, 2010

STEVEN SANZONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY DANIEL M. DONOVAN, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY DUNCAN BROWN, AND ATTORNEY ROBERT DEPALMA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matsumoto, United States District Judge.

NOT FOR PRINT OR ELECTRONIC PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

On July 7, 2009, Steven Sanzone ("plaintiff") commenced this pro se action against Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan ("Donovan"), Assistant District Attorney Duncan Brown ("Brown"), and attorney Robert DePalma ("DePalma," and together with Donovan and Brown, "defendants"), alleging violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Defendant DePalma now moves for an order pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a) granting him leave to amend his answer to assert as an affirmative defense the expiration of the statute of limitations, and for an order pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings dismissing the complaint. Defendants Donovan and Brown also move to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, defendant DePalma's motion to amend his answer is granted, the defendants' motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings are granted and the complaint is dismissed. The court also denies as futile plaintiff's request to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from plaintiff's complaint, which the court must assume to be true for the purpose of resolving defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for judgment on the pleadings. Where indicated, the factual background is supplemented by facts and information drawn from documents external to the complaint, which plaintiff explicitly references, relies upon or cites to within the Complaint, or are in the purview of judicial notice. These external documents have been provided to the court as attachments to the defendants' motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings.

On October 25, 2005, plaintiff was arrested and indicted by a grand jury of three counts of intimidating a witness in the third degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 215.15(1)); one count of criminal contempt in the first degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 215.51(b)); two counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 240.30(1)(b)); and one count of criminal contempt in the second degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 215.50(3)). (ECF No. 35, Ex. B, Indictment No. 310/2005 dated October 25, 2005.) On November 14, 2005, plaintiff pleaded guilty to criminal contempt in the first degree, a class E felony. (Id., Ex. C, Transcript of Plea Allocution, dated November 14, 2005 ("Tr.").) Plaintiff allocuted under oath that his plea of guilty was voluntary, of his own free will, and that he was "100% satisfied" with the work of his attorney. (Id. at 6-7.) He told the court that he had no questions at all about the plea agreement or the sentence he could receive. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff was sentenced on January 5, 2006. (ECF No. 31, Ex. F, Transcript of Sentencing, dated January 5, 2006.)

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 7, 2009, plaintiff filed the instant Complaint, alleging that defendants "trick[ed] [him] into pleading guilty to charges not on the indictment" and "conspired to have [him] plead guilty to more serious charges that were not on the original indictment." (ECF No. 1, Complaint ("Compl.") at 1-2.) Plaintiff seeks to have all state criminal charges against him dismissed and to recover $10,000,000 in damages from each defendant. (Id. at 2.)

Defendant DePalma filed his Answer on August 20, 2009, denying the plaintiff's allegations and alleging affirmative defenses. (ECF No. 6, Answer.) On February 10, 2010, defendant DePalma filed a Motion for Leave to Amend His Answer and for Judgment on the Pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(c) on the following grounds, that: (1) defendant should be given leave to amend his answer to add the affirmative defense of the expiration of the statute of limitations; (2) plaintiff's claims are time barred; (3) plaintiff's claims are barred pursuant to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); and (4) defendant is not a state actor subject to the court's jurisdiction under § 1983. (ECF No. 30, Ex. 1, Mem. of Law in Support of Def. Robert DePalma's Mot. for Leave to Amend His Answer and for Judgment on the Pleadings ("DePalma Mem.").)

On February 16, 2010, defendants Donovan and Brown filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) or in the alternative for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56, and served a Notice to Pro Se Litigant Pursuant to Local Rule 12.1. Defendants Donovan and Brown set forth similar arguments regarding the statute of limitations and the bar pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey and also argue that: (5) defendants Donovan and Brown are immune from liability; (6) plaintiff has failed to allege a conspiracy claim; and (7) any state law claims must be dismissed for failure to comply with New York state law. (ECF No. 36, Mem. of Law in Support of Defendants [Donovan's and Brown's] Mot. to Dismiss the Compl. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) ("Defs'. Mem.").)

On March 2, 2010, plaintiff filed memoranda in opposition to defendant DePalma's motion for judgment on the pleadings and defendant Donovan's and Brown's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 32, Mem. of Law in Support of Pl.'s Opp. to Def. DePalma's Mot. for Leave to Amend His Answer, for a Judgment on the Pleadings and for Leave for Plaintiff to Amend Complaint ("Pl. Opp. to DePalma Mot."); ECF No. 37, Mem. of Law in Support of Pl.'s Opp. to Defs. Donovan and Brown's Mot. to Dismiss for Leave to and for Leave for Pl. to Amend Complaint ("Pl. Opp. to Donovan and Brown Mot").) Plaintiff further requested leave to amend his complaint should the court find any deficiencies therein. (ECF No. 32, Pl. Opp. to DePalma Mot., at 19; ECF No. 37, Pl. Opp. to Donovan and Brown Mot., at 22-23.) Defendants filed reply memoranda in response to plaintiff's opposition memoranda. (ECF No. 32, Ex. 1, Def. DePalma's Reply in Further Support of His Mot. to Dismiss; ECF No. 38, Defendants' Reply Mem. of Law in Further Support of Their Mot. to Dismiss the Complaint.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard

In considering a motion to dismiss or a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12, the court construes the complaint liberally, "accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 152 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Gregory v. Daly, 243 F.3d 687, 691 (2d Cir. 2001)); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).*fn1 Additionally, as plaintiff is proceeding pro se, his complaint is held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94, and the court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally and to interpret them as raising the strongest arguments they suggest, Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2006). Nevertheless, in order to survive a ...


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