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Otis Bridgeforth v. County of Rensselaer

July 12, 2012




Plaintiff Otis Bridgeforth ("Plaintiff") commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pro se and in forma pauperis on July, 17, 2008. See Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court are: (1) a Motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants on September 19, 2011; and (2) a Response and Cross-Motion seeking assorted relief filed by Plaintiff on September 28, 2011. Dkt Nos. 114 ("Motion"); 119 ("Cross-Motion").


A cursory review of the record reveals a convoluted procedural history, laden with extensive and often inappropriate and untimely filings. The case itself arises from Plaintiff's arrest at his home in the city of Troy, New York and Plaintiff's subsequent allegations of official misconduct on the part of Troy police officers. See generally Dkt. No. 10 ("Second Amended Complaint"). Plaintiff alleges that he was violently attacked by heavily-armed officers who came to his apartment in response to a claim that he had been brandishing a handgun. Id. Plaintiff has specifically alleged that during the arrest he was forcibly handcuffed by Defendant Officer Robert Nuttal ("Nuttal") and repeatedly kicked, while subdued and handcuffed, by Defendant Officer William Bowles ("Bowles"). Dkt. No. 114-3 at 33-35.

In the interests of judicial economy and minimizing inevitable redundancy, however, the Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the facts underlying this action and recites the them only to the extent necessary to resolve the instant Motions. For a more detailed statement of facts, reference is made to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. Further, the Court provides a brief procedural history in an effort to provide a general context for the instant Motions.

Plaintiff initially filed his civil rights Complaint on July 17, 2008. Compl. Prior to services of Summonses and Complaints upon the twenty-four named defendants, Plaintiff amended his Complaint and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. Nos. 6, 7. Before the Court adopted a Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Randolph F. Treece, United States Magistrate Judge, dismissing the Complaint for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and 10, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, naming twenty-six individuals as defendants, including law enforcement officers, attorneys, then Rensselaer County District Attorney and her staff, and two judges. Dkt. Nos. 8 ("August 2008 Report-Recommendation"), 11 ("August 2008 Order"). On December 8, 2008, the Court adopted another Report-Recommendation by Judge Treece and, inter alia, dismissed most of the named defendants and all of Plaintiff's claims except for his excessive force claim against nine current and former members of the Troy Police Department. Dkt. Nos. 19 ("December 2008 Order"), 14 ("October 2008 Report-Recommendation").

In the intervening years, Plaintiff has filed numerous motions without the assistance of counsel, seeking, inter alia, injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment. See, e.g., Dkt. Nos. 59, 68. The Court does not find it necessary to recount in detail this extensive motion practice but notes that the majority of these motions have either been denied or struck by the Court or by Judge Treece, often due to procedural error. See, e.g., Dkt. Nos. 69, 72, 95. On January 3, 2011, Defendants also filed a Motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 because Plaintiff had failed to appear at a scheduled deposition. Dkt. No. 83. On March 28, 2012, the Court denied Defendant's Motion in addition to an assortment of requests by Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 125.

Based on the December 2008 Order and subsequent decisions, the only claim still before the Court is Plaintiff's allegation that he was subjected to excessive force by his arresting officers. Defendants have moved for summary, arguing that: (1) Plaintiff's excessive force claim fails as a matter of law; (2) the Troy police officers are entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) the Defendants with no personal involvement are entitled to summary judgment. Mot. at ii. Plaintiff has filed a Response and Cross-Motion, in which: (1) he contends that there are factual disputes, making a grant of summary judgment for Defendants inappropriate; and (2) he appears to request that the Court reconsider past decisions and orders, including more than one that have been the subject of previous motions for reconsideration. Cross-Mot. at 1-2.*fn1

For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendants' Motion as to all Defendants other than Defendant Bowles, denies Defendants' Motion as to Defendant Bowles, and denies Plaintiff's Cross-Motion in its entirety.


A. Summary Judgment

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs a court to grant summary judgment if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Although "[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary" will not preclude summary judgment, "summary judgment will not lie if . . . the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party claims will demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of a material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). However, if the moving party has shown that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate "the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. This requires the non-moving party to do "more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

At the same time, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Grp. of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court's duty in reviewing a motion for summary judgment is "carefully limited" to finding genuine disputes of fact, "not to deciding them." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).

Credibility determinations are ordinarily the province of a jury, not a judge. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However, in the "rare circumstance where the plaintiff relies almost exclusively on his own testimony, much of which is contradictory and incomplete," a court may appropriately conclude at the summary judgment stage that no reasonable jury would credit the plaintiff's testimony. Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 554 (2d Cir. 2005). "[T]his narrow exception is for testimony by a non-movant that possesses the following two characteristics: (1) it constitutes almost the exclusive basis for a disputed issue of fact in the case (or, expressed differently, it is largely unsubstantiated by any other direct evidence); and (2) it is so lacking in credibility (because the testimony is incomplete and/or replete with inconsistencies and improbabilities) that, even after drawing all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant, no reasonable jury could find for the non-movant." Bradley v. Rell, 703 F. Supp. 2d 109, 114 (N.D.N.Y. 2010) (citations omitted). "Under these circumstances, the moving party must still meet the difficult burden of demonstrating that there is no evidence in the record upon which a reasonable factfinder could base a verdict in the plaintiff's favor." Id. at 554 (citing ...

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