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Richard T. Capo, Jr v. County of Steuben

March 6, 2012

RICHARD T. CAPO, JR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF STEUBEN, STEUBEN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, JOHN C. TUNNEY AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF COUNTY OF STEUBEN, AND PATRICIO JIMENEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE STEUBEN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Siragusa, J.

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This case is before the Court on a Notice of Motion, filed by Defendants on October 21, 2011, ECF No. 2, seeking an Order dismissing Plaintiff's summons and complaint, Sept. 8, 2011, ECF No. 1, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The Court will adopt the factual allegations from the Complaint for the purposes of analyzing Defendants' motion to dismiss. Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (1999), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1052 (2000). Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 20, 2009, Assistant District Attorney Patricio Jimenez ("Jimenez") began an investigation of Plaintiff and subsequently filed a "Prosecutor's Information" charging him with a misdemeanor: Stalking in the Third Degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 120.50(3). Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1-1. The Prosecutor's Information was accompanied by a supporting deposition from Jennifer Adriance, Plaintiff's estranged wife. Id. Using the Prosecutor's Information, Jimenez obtained an arrest warrant from the Honorable Peter C. Bradstreet, Steuben County Court Judge. Plaintiff was arrested by the Steuben County Sheriff's Department on or about September 11, 2009, arraigned before a town justice, entered a not guilty plea, and was released with an Order of Protection. Compl. ¶ 17.

On or about July 9, 2010, Plaintiff's attorney in the state criminal case moved for dismissal of the charges, arguing they had been illegally initiated. Id. ¶ 18. In an affirmation opposing the motion and filed with the Corning City Court, Christopher M. Tunney ("Tunney"), an Assistant District Attorney for Steuben County, admitted that in filing a Prosecutor's Information, "the letter of the CPL*fn1 was not exactly followed; however, going forward with these charges [sic] would result in nothing more than harmless error." Tunney Aff. ¶ 4, Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 1-1. In that regard, Plaintiff alleges that no grand jury directed the filing of a prosecutor's information, which would have been the only legitimate way that such an instrument could be used to commence a criminal action. Plaintiff also states that the case against him, commenced as it was with an improperly-filed prosecutor's information, was one of a pattern of at least four cases in which the Steuben County District Attorney's Office improperly employed prosecutors informations to commence criminal actions. The stalking charge against Plaintiff was dismissed on July 13, 2010. Compl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 1.

Plaintiff lists the following causes of action in his complaint: (1) denial of Plaintiff's rights under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all individual district attorneys; (2) claim against County of Steuben for the actions of the Steuben County District Attorney's Office pursuant to Monell v. New York City Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) claim against County of Steuben for actions of the Steuben County District Attorney's Office and Jimenez for violations of Plaintiff's Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); (4) negligent hiring, training and supervision by the County of Steuben; (5) abuse of process (pendent claim) against the County of Steuben and the Steuben County District Attorney's Office; (6) abuse of process (pendent claim) against Jimenez; and (7) malicious prosecution (pendent claim) against all the defendants.

Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint arguing as follows: Point I, Plaintiff's claim is barred by res judicata; Point II, Plaintiff failed to file a Notice of Claim as required by New York General Municipal Law § 50-e; and Point III, Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, Oct 21, 2011, ECF No. 2-7. Plaintiff has filed an opposing memorandum, Nov. 23, 2011, ECF Nos. 5 (cover page) and 5-1 (body of the memo), and Defendants filed a reply memorandum, Dec. 21, 2011, ECF No. 7. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on Thursday, January 19, 2012.

STANDARD OF LAW

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), clarified the standard to be applied to a 12(b)(6) motion:

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a Plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Id. at 1964-65 (citations and internal quotations omitted); see also, ATSI Communications, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) ("To survive dismissal, the plaintiff must provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient 'to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'") (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly) (footnote omitted); Iqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2007) (Indicating that Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly adopted "a flexible 'plausibility standard,' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible[,]" as opposed to merely conceivable.)

When applying this standard, a district court must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (1999), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 1052 (2000). On the other hand, "[c]onclusory allegations of the legal status of the defendants' acts need not be accepted as true for the purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss." Hirsch v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 72 F.3d 1085, 1092 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing In re American Express Co. Shareholder Litig., 39 F.3d 395, 400--01 n. 3 (2d Cir. 1994)). As the Supreme Court clarified in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009):

Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id., at 555, (Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation" (internal quotation marks omitted)). Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper technical, code pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id., at 556. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. 490 F.3d at 157 ...


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