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Ernest L. Robinson, Iii v. Town of Kent

July 24, 2012

ERNEST L. ROBINSON, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWN OF KENT, NEW YORK, KATHY DOHERTY, AS SUPERVISOR FOR THE TOWN OF KENT, TIMOTHY CURTIS, AS TOWN ATTORNEY, MICHELLE SCLAFANI, AS SENIOR JUSTICE COURT CLERK, JOSEPH CHARBONNAEAU, AS SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, AND MICHAEL TIERNEY, PENNY OSBOURNE, LOUIS TARTARO AS TOWN BOARD MEMBERS, DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Ernest L. Robinson, III ("Plaintiff") brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Town of Kent, New York ("Town of Kent" or the "Town"), Kathy Doherty, as Supervisor for the Town of Kent, Timothy Curtiss (sued herein as Timothy Curtis), as Town Attorney, Michelle Sclafani, as Senior Justice Court Clerk, Joseph Charbonneau (sued herein as Joseph Charbonnaeau), as Special Prosecutor, and Michael Tierney, Penny Osbourne, and Louis Tartaro as Town Board Members (collectively, "Individual Defendants"), alleging violations of his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and state law claims for abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 78-111.

Defendants have now moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that Plaintiff has failed to state any plausible claims of entitlement to relief. Doc. 20. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED in full.

I.Background

A.Factual Background

The following facts, which are taken from the Amended Complaint, are assumed to be true for the purposes of the instant motion.*fn1

Beginning in or around 2008, Plaintiff and his brother, Town employee Stanley Robinson, were involved in a dispute over their deceased mother's estate. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. For reasons that are not specified in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff obtained two Orders of Protection against his brother. Id. ¶ 16. On April 25, 2008, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Kathy Doherty, the Town Supervisor, to advise her that his brother was violating the Orders of Protection during work hours and while using a Town vehicle, by trespassing on Plaintiff's property and storing Town property on the premises. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. Plaintiff alleges, on information and belief, that his brother was never investigated for the alleged violations of the Orders of Protection. Id. ¶ 20.

After Plaintiff sent the letter to Doherty, his brother charged him with harassment in the Justice Court of the Town of Kent ("Town Justice Court"). Id. ¶ 19. On June 26, 2008, Plaintiff appeared in the Town Justice Court pro se in response to a summons and was directed to return for trial on July 31, 2008. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. On July 31, 2008, Plaintiff appeared in Town Justice Court as required, this time with an attorney, George T. Delaney, Esq. Id. ¶ 27. At that time, Timothy Curtiss, the Town Attorney and a defendant herein, offered to settle the matter by granting Plaintiff an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which he declined. Id. ¶ 29. The charges against Plaintiff were then dismissed by Judge Peter Collins, because the complainant, Plaintiff's brother, was not present. Id. ¶¶ 30-33. Michelle Sclafani, the Senior Justice Court Clerk and a defendant herein, was not present in the courtroom at the time of Judge Collins' ruling, but before leaving the Town Justice Court on that day Delaney informed her that the case against Plaintiff had been dismissed. Id. ¶ 34. However, in or around November 2008, Plaintiff learned that the case against him had been restored to the Town Justice Court's calendar with a trial date of May 7, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 37-38.

Plaintiff believes that the charges against him were reinstated in order to punish him for publicly criticizing Doherty, the Town's political leader, and for informing people in the community about the Town's failure to investigate his complaints about his brother. Id. ¶¶ 21, 35-37, 69. Plaintiff also alleges that "the Town and its employees undertook a concerted effort to chill [his] speech and silence him" in order to stop him from criticizing Doherty. Id. ¶¶ 21-23. In this context, Plaintiff claims that he was treated differently from Town employees, such as his brother, and from supporters of Doherty. Id. ¶ 24.

On May 6, 2009, Delaney filed a motion for recusal because of Judge Collins' political relationships with numerous witnesses that Plaintiff had subpoenaed for trial, and due to the circumstances surrounding the unexplained reinstatement of the charges against Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 39, 41-43. Delaney also alleged that Curtiss and Doherty had tampered with Plaintiff's witnesses, including several members of the Town Board subpoenaed by Plaintiff (who are not identified anywhere in the Amended Complaint), by advising them not to appear for trial. Id. ¶¶ 44-46. Judge Collins denied Plaintiff's motion.*fn2 Id. ¶ 47. Delaney also requested that the charges against Plaintiff be dismissed based on the prior dismissal and the lack of probable cause for either the initial action or the reinstatement of the charges against Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 49-50, 68. In response, Curtiss said that he would re-charge Plaintiff if Judge Collins dismissed the case.

Id. ¶ 52. Therefore, Delaney withdrew the motion to dismiss. Id. ¶ 54. Plaintiff was arraigned and released on his own recognizance after entering a plea of not guilty, and his trial was rescheduled for May 28, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 51, 55.

On May 28, 2009, Judge Collins informed the parties that the daughter of one of the potential witnesses had previously been employed by the Court. Id. ¶¶ 56-57. Based on this information, Delaney renewed his motion for recusal, which Judge Collins granted. Id. ¶ 58.

In or around September 2009, Plaintiff's case was returned to the Town Justice Court. Id.

¶ 60. The Town Board subsequently appointed Joseph Charbonneau as a special prosecutor. Id.

¶ 61. Plaintiff alleges that Charbonneau was appointed by the same Town Board members who had been subpoenaed by Delaney to testify at trial. Id. ¶ 62. As previously noted, these Town Board members are not identified anywhere in the Amended Complaint. Plaintiff claims that the Town Board did not have the authority to appoint a special prosecutor, and thus Charbonneau did not have the authority to prosecute him. Id. ¶¶ 40, 48, 61-64.

Plaintiff's case was subsequently transferred to the Town Justice Court of the Village of Brewster ("Brewster Justice Court"). Id. ¶ 65. In connection with the transfer, Delaney ordered transcripts of the proceedings that had been held in the Town Justice Court, and received transcripts for June 26, 2008, May 7, 2009 and May 28, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 70-71. Plaintiff alleges that the transcript from June 26, 2008 was created after-the-fact by Sclafani to falsely indicate that Delaney had appeared on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. ¶¶ 72-73. Plaintiff claims that the proceedings set forth in the June 26, 2008 transcript never occurred, and alleges that the transcript was created to avoid dismissal of the charges against him. Id. ¶¶ 72, 75. Delaney filed a motion to dismiss the ...


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