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Ronald J. Brown v. Investigator Robert

August 24, 2011

RONALD J. BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INVESTIGATOR ROBERT KOPEK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Ronald J. Brown ("Plaintiff") filed this action for money damages on January 6, 2010, in response to his arrest for criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 265.02 (McKinney). Complaint ("Compl.") (Dkt. No. 1) at

1. Plaintiff brought this action naming twelve Defendants, including: Investigator Robert Kopek #4593 ("Investigator Kopek"); the Utica Police Department; Mayor of Utica David R. Roefaro ("Mayor Roefaro"); the Oneida County Public Defenders' Office ("public defenders' office"); public defender Leland D. McCormac, III, Chief Trial Counsel ("Leland McCormac III"); public defender Patrick J. Marthage, First Assistant ("Patrick Marthage"); public defender Adam P. Tyksinski ("Adam Tyksinski); the Oneida County District Attorneys' Office ("district attorneys' office"); District Attorney Scott D. McNamara ("Scott McNamara"); District Attorney Michael Nolan ("Michael Nolan"); Judge John S. Balzano, Oneida County Court Judge sitting in Utica, NY ("Judge Balzano"); and Barry M. Donalty, Supervising County Court Judge ("Judge Donalty") (collectively, "Defendants"). Id. Plaintiff has made numerous allegations against Defendants individually in addition to alleging a conspiracy among Defendants to commit civil rights violations. See id. Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motions to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, which were filed on February 3, 2011 and February 24, 2011. Motion to Dismiss ("Mot. Dismiss 14") (Dkt. No. 14); Motion to Dismiss ("Mot. Dismiss 15") (Dkt. No. 15); Motion to Dismiss ("Mot. Dismiss 17") (Dkt. No. 17). Plaintiff filed a Response in opposition to the motion to dismiss on March 13, 2011. Dkt. No. 20 ("Opp'n M.D.") For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motions to dismiss are granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff states that his February 21, 2010 arrest stems from events beginning in 2008 when Plaintiff's ex-convict neighbor, Anthony Washington, began harassing him. See Compl. at 5. Plaintiff claims that he notified law enforcement officials "forty plus" times of harassment by his neighbor, but that he was provided no aid. See id. at 5. Approximately six weeks before his arrest, Plaintiff states that he personally delivered a letter to Mayor Roefaro's office, explaining the situation with his neighbor and arguing that it is irresponsible for the government to let a convict out of jail. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that Mayor Roefaro did nothing to aid his problem, and was offended by Plaintiff's letter. Id.

On February 21, 2010, Plaintiff was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. Id. at 3. Plaintiff was found in possession of a concealed pipe, which Plaintiff claims he procured against his neighbor in self defense. Id. at 3, 6. Plaintiff claims that he called the police after the neighbor kicked Plaintiff's dog "thirty-two feet in the air." Id. at 5-6. As a result, Plaintiff states that he had no choice but to use the pipe in self-defense while waiting for the police to arrive.Id. at 6. Plaintiff voluntarily produced the pipe at the request of the arresting officer. Id. at 3. Investigator Kopek was the officer that filled out the arrest report and initial criminal complaint. See id. at 3; Opp'n M.D. at 13. Plaintiff accuses Investigator Kopek of lying in his arrest report and criminal complaint. Compl. at 6. Upon his arrest, Plaintiff states that he was taken to "Utica Lockup." Id. at 7. Once there, Plaintiff alleges that his shirt and shoes were removed, and that the officers opened "the outside door" to let cold air in to "see how far they could drop [Plaintiff's] body temperature." Id.

Plaintiff accuses the public defenders' office of conspiring with the district attorneys' office to willingly disregard "a lawful order from a Oneida County Court Judge" to appoint a public defender for Plaintiff, and instead placed him in a thirty-day medical hold for evaluation "to shut [him] up." Id. Plaintiff claims that Scott McNamara and Michael Nolan (collectively, "individually named district attorneys") attempted to force Plaintiff to sign a waiver of his civil rights prior to a grand jury hearing. Id. at 4. Plaintiff did not sign the letter and accuses the individually named district attorneys of limiting his testimony before the grand jury and allowing the grand jury to see him display anger. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Donalty had knowledge that Plaintiff was forced to sign the waiver because he disregarded Plaintiff and did not "look surprised" when informed of the incident. See id. at 5.Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Judge Balzano "rule[d] against [t]he Constitution of [t]hese United States." Id.

Based on the foregoing facts and allegations, Plaintiff claims that all Defendants have been "constitutionally irresponsible[]," and accuses Defendants of "abuse of power, wrongful imprisonment, obstruction of justice, and dereliction of duty." Id. at 9, 13-14. Plaintiff seeks $50,000,000 in damages. Id. at 12.

Defendants moveto dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with respect to Investigator Kopek, Mayor Roefaro, and the Utica Police Department based on qualified immunity to liability for civil damages liability, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss ("Mem. Supp. M.D. 14") (Dkt. No. 14-3) at 4-6. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with respect to the public defenders' office, Leland McCormac III, Patrick Marthage, Adam Tyksinski, the district attorneys' office, Scott McNamara, and Michael Nolan for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Defs.' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss ("Mem. Supp. M.D. 15") (Dkt. No. 15-1) at 2, 4. Finally, Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint with regard to Judge Balzano and Judge Donalty based on the judiciary's absolute immunity to suits for money damages, and on Eleventh Amendment immunity to lawsuits against officials in their official capacity. See Defs.' Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss ("Mem. Supp. M.D. 17") (Dkt. No. 17-1) at 3.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), a court "must accept as true all material factual allegations in the complaint, but [it is] not to draw inferences from the complaint favorable to plaintiffs." J.S. ex rel. N.S. v. Attica Cent. Schs., 386 F.3d 107, 110 (2d Cir. 2004). A court "may consider affidavits and other materials beyond the pleadings to resolve the jurisdictional issue, but [it] may not rely on conclusory or hearsay statements contained in the affidavits." Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading 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). This statement "must provide the defendant with 'fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336 (2005) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "To survive a motion to dismiss" for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 500 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A case should not be dismissed unless the court is "satisfied that the complaint cannot state any set of facts that would entitle the plaintiff to relief." Miller v. Wolpoff & Abramson, L.L.P., 321 F.3d 292, 300 (2d Cir. 2003).

When considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations made by the non-moving party as true and "draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party's favor" to determine whether they plausibly give rise to relief. In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig., 503 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50. Any legal conclusions, deductions, or opinions couched as factual allegations are not accorded a presumption of truthfulness. See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1951-52; NYSE Specialists, 503 F.3d at 95. "The issue is not whether a plaintiff is likely to prevail ultimately, 'but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'" Gant v. Wallingfor Bd. of Educ., 69 F.3d 669, 673 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Weisman v. LeLandais, 532 F.2d 308, 311 (2d Cir. 1976)). "This standard is applied with even greater force where the plaintiff alleges civil rights violations or where the complaint is submitted pro se." Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir. 1994); see also Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1015 (2d Cir. 1991). The Court must liberally construe pro se submissions, McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999), and interpret them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). At the same time, "pro se status does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law." Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 477 (2d Cir. 2006).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendantsmove to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with respect to the public defenders' office, Leland McCormac III, Patrick Marthage, Adam Tyksinski, the Oneida County District Attorneys' Office, Scott McNamara, and Michael Nolan, based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), because the Plaintiff's complaint does not contain any statement of federal subject matter jurisdiction. See Mem. Supp. M.D. 15 at 2. Defendants assert that Leland McCormac III, Patrick Marthage, and Adam Tyksinski (collectively, "three individually named public defenders") and the public defenders' office are not subject to jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Mem. Supp. M.D. 15 at 5-6. Although only a portion of Defendants raise subject matter jurisdiction as a defense in Mem. ...


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