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Charles D. Utsey v. Officer Jon Murphy; Menands Village Police Dept; Ada Renee Merges; and David Soares

August 9, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge:



In this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"), the two remaining defendants, Officer Jon Murphy ("Officer Murphy") and Village of Menands ("Village"), move (Dkt. No. 49) for partial summary judgment. Plaintiff submits no opposition. As explained below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.


This action stems from an incident occurring on September 27, 2006, when Officer Murphy of the Menands Village Police Department arrested plaintiff Charles D. Utsey ("Utsey") and charged him with operating a vehicle without insurance, operating a vehicle while the registration was suspended, aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, and resisting arrest. The accusatory instrument charging resisting arrest, signed by Officer Murphy, states:

The above named defendant [Utsey] was stopped for having a suspended license and driving a vehicle with a suspended registration. The writer gave [Utsey] instructions as to putting his hands behind his back and [Utsey] did not. [Utsey] kept reaching to put his phone away. [Utsey] was placed in handcuffs and the writer started searching [Utsey]. While the writer was searching [Utsey] he kept trying to pull away from the writer and wouldn't let the writer search him.

The Albany County District Attorney prosecuted the charges. On September 30, 2008, Menands Village Court Justice David C. Rowley dismissed the case on speedy trial grounds.

Utsey brought this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting Fourth Amendment violations, assault, and illegal arrest claims against Officer Murphy; a claim for failure to train and supervise against the Menands Village Police Department; and deprivation of due process and related claims against the District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney. On January 13, 2010, the Court issued a Memorandum-Decision and Order (Dkt. No. 32) deeming Utsey's claim against the Menands Village Police Department to be a claim against the Village*fn1 ; dismissed any claim for assault under New York State law as time-barred; construed the assault allegations as stating a section 1983 claim that Officer Murphy used excessive force during the arrest; and dismissed all claims against the Assistant District Attorney and District Attorney. The remaining claims were that Officer Murphy violated Utsey's Fourth Amendment rights in connection with the traffic stop, arrest, and search; that Officer Murphy used excessive force in arresting Utsey; and that the Village failed properly to train and supervise Officer Murphy.


Applicable Law

Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue with regard to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Stated otherwise, summary judgment is appropriate "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). When deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must "resolve all ambiguities and draw all factual inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion." McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir.1999). Where, as here, the non-movant is proceeding pro se, the court must read that party's papers liberally and interpret them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Id. (citation omitted).

The Village's Motion

The Village contends that Utsey has failed to set forth a cognizable cause of action for municipal liability. It has long been the law that "a local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead, it is when execution of a governments policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983." Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); accord Session v. Rodriguez, 370 Fed.Appx. 189, 192 (2d Cir. 2010). Municipal liability may be premised on a failure to train employees when the inadequate training or supervision "reflects deliberate indifference to ... constitutional rights[.]" City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989). "'Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell.'" Henderson v. Town of Greenwich, 317 Fed.Appx. 46, 47 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-24 (1985)).

As movants point out, Utsey submits no evidence that any official policy or custom exists or that other similar events have occurred. There is no ...

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