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Roger Davis v. Nassau County

November 5, 2011

ROGER DAVIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
NASSAU COUNTY, NASSAU COUNTY TRAFFIC AND PARKING VIOLATIONS AGENCY, PATRICIA REILLY COMMISSIONER, AND UNKNOWN OTHERS,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

The Plaintiff in this case, Roger Davis ("Davis"), commenced this action against the Defendants, Nassau County, the Nassau County Traffic & Parking Violations Agency (the "Agency"), Patricia Reilly as Commissioner for the Agency, and "unknown others." The complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law stemming from the Defendants' alleged failure to adhere to New York speedy trial rules in trials involving traffic violations and for suspending Davis' driver's license without finding him guilty of any violation. On March 8, 2011, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

On or about November 9, 2001, the Plaintiff was driving on the Long Island Expressway in Nassau County when he received a ticket for an alleged traffic violation; specifically for illegal driving on the shoulder of the road. On December 27, 2001, Davis pled not guilty to this charge.

Almost three years later, on August 2, 2004, the Plaintiff received notice that he was to appear for a trial before the Agency on September 7, 2004. The notice stated in capital letters that failure to appear would result in suspension of his driver's license. However, Davis refused to appear because of his belief that the delayed trial date violated the speedy trial law of New York State, namely Criminal Procedure Law § 30.30 ("CPL § 30.30"). Therefore, on September 1, 2004, the Plaintiff hand delivered a letter to Commissioner Patricia Reilly ("Reilly"), one of the Defendants in the instant action, which informed her of his refusal.

On September 2, 2004, the Plaintiff received a letter in response from the Clerk of the Court. The letter stated that CPL § 30.30 did not apply to traffic violations and that he was therefore required to appear to plead his case on the scheduled September 7, 2004 trial date. The letter also offered Davis the opportunity to obtain an adjournment if he needed to do so. However, Mr. Davis did not appear for trial on September 7, 2004. He was subsequently sent a notice of another trial date, but he did not appear on that date either. The Plaintiff sent Reilly another letter, which informed her that his prosecution was untimely and the charges against him should be dismissed. Thereafter, on January 13, 2005, the Plaintiff's license was suspended for failure to attend his scheduled trial dates.

Davis did not appeal this decision within the New York state court system. Instead, on August 31, 2006, he filed this action in federal court claiming damages under (1) CPL § 30.30 for the Defendants' alleged failure to adhere to New York state speedy trial rules in trials involving traffic violations; and (2) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his constitutional speedy trial rights and suspending his driver's license without a finding of guilt. The Plaintiff alleges that the latter action caused him undue hardship because it impaired his ability to earn a living.

On September 11, 2006, the named Defendants appeared at a hearing regarding Plaintiff's request for an injunction to reinstate his driver's license while this action was pending. The Defendants argued at that hearing that (1) the speedy trial rules do not apply to trials for traffic violations; (2) the Plaintiff's license was suspended only after he failed to appear for the very trial that he claims was delayed; and (3) only the state, not the county, could restore the Plaintiff's driver's license. The Court denied the Plaintiff's motion for an injunction, but did not dismiss the action. Following the September 11, 2006 hearing before this Court the Plaintiff appeared at the Agency, pled guilty, paid a fine and had his license restored.

On March 8, 2011, the Defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment. The motion is unopposed.

B. The Causes of Action

Due to the fact that the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will hold the complaint to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 101 S. Ct. 173, 176, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163 (1980); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S. Ct. 594, 595, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972). The Court should "read the pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)); Cole v. Fischer, 379 F. App'x. 40, 41 (2d Cir. 2010).

Reading the pro se complaint liberally, with respect to the Section 1983 claim, the Plaintiff appears to be asserting causes of action for (1) the violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment; and (2) the violation of his constitutional due process rights when they suspended his driver's license without finding him guilty of a violation.

In addition, it appears that the Plaintiff is alleging a violation of New York State speedy trial law, CPL § 30.30, for the failure to schedule a trial within 30 days of his non-guilty plea.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 ("Fed. R. Civ. P. 56"), a court may not grant a motion for summary judgment unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Globecon Group, LLC v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 434 F.3d 165, 170 (2d Cir. 2006). In determining whether an issue is genuine, "[t]he inferences to be drawn from the underlying affidavits, exhibits, interrogatory answers, and depositions must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 46 F.3d 196, 202 (2d ...


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