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James R. Brown v. Dean Rowe

November 7, 2012

JAMES R. BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEAN ROWE, POLICE OFFICER; AND HUDSON NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY, Senior United States District Judge

DECISION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff James R. Brown, proceeding pro se, commenced this action on April 26, 2012. The complaint alleges claims against the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 sounding in false arrest and malicious prosecution.*fn1 Now before the Court is Defendants' motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(6) seeking to dismiss the complaint in its entirety. See Mot., dkt. 12. Plaintiff opposes that much of the motion seeking to dismiss the claims against the Hudson Police Department, but asserts that he has withdrawn the claims against Defendant Rowe "because plaintiff[']s conviction [stemming from the arrests by Rowe] remains intact." Pl. Opp. Aff. ¶¶ 7-8, dkt. # 17. Plaintiff states that he intends to pursue post-conviction remedies to have his convictions vacated, and then will reassert the claims against Rowe. Id. He argues that dismissal of the claims against Rowe should, therefore, be without prejudice. Defendants argue that the dismissal should be with prejudice because there exists other valid reasons for the dismissal of these claims that cannot be cured by re-pleading. See Reply MOL, pp. 1-2.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"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.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957)). "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 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1964-65. "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 1965. "'[T]he pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.'" Id. at 1965 (quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). "To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A complaint does not suffice "if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal, at 1950. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 557) (internal quotations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

a. Claims Against Dean Rowe

As indicated above, Plaintiff concedes that he cannot sustain any claims against Rowe (Causes of Action One through Four) because his convictions arising from Rowe's arrests remain intact. Pl. Aff., ¶ 7. Plaintiff is correct that the claims are subject to dismissal. The subsequent convictions necessarily indicate that there existed probable cause to arrest plaintiff, and any malicious prosecution claim is barred because the prosecutions did not end favorably to plaintiff. See Williams v. City of New York, 368 Fed. Appx. 263, 264 (2d Cir. March 08, 2010);*fn2 Pooler v. Hempstead Police Dept. --- F. Supp.2d ----, 2012 WL 4060743, at *5 (E.D.N.Y Sept. 14, 2012);*fn3 see also See Devenpeck v. Alford, 125 S. Ct. 588, 593 (2004);*fn4 Amore v. Novarro, 624 F.3d 522, 536 (2d Cir. 2010);*fn5 Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 2006).*fn6 Moreover, the claims "are barred by the favorable termination doctrine articulated in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87, 114 S. Ct. 2364, 129 L. Ed.2d 383 (1994)." Williams, 368 Fed. Appx. at 264;*fn7 see Younger v. City of N.Y., 480 F. Supp.2d 723, 730 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).*fn8 Thus, plaintiff's claims against Rowe must be dismissed.

To the extent that the parties argue over whether the dismissal should be with or without prejudice, plaintiff's decision to withdraw the claims is not dispositive of this issue. Rather, the Court looks to the other arguments presented for dismissal to determine whether the claims may be re-pleaded if plaintiff is able to vacate his convictions.*fn9

1. First and Second Causes of Action

All of the allegations in the Complaint are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging deprivations of plaintiff's federal constitutional rights. See generally Compl.; see also Pl. Aff., § 9 (attesting that he brings claims under § 1983 only, not under state law). The First and Second Causes of Action sound in false arrest based on a May 3, 2011 arrest by Rowe accusing plaintiff of possessing a stolen laptop computer. See Compl ¶¶ 6-9, 16-19. Defendants argue that Rowe is entitled to qualified immunity on the claims in the First and Second Causes of Action. The Court agrees.

While qualified immunity is usually not susceptible to resolution at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, the allegations in the Complaint and its attachments demonstrate that Rowe is entitled to this immunity on these claims. Attached to the Complaint is a sworn deposition from Brandon Santos. Compl. ex. B. Santos attests that he purchased the stolen laptop computer from an individual outside of a bar in the City of Hudson. Id. Santos had purchased other "stuff" from the seller before, and described the seller as an African America male "in his forties about 6'1" or 6"2" maybe 180 pounds" with a scar on his face. Id. In the arrest report, also attached to the Complaint, Plaintiff is described as a male, age 45, Black, 5'10," 180 pounds, with a scar near his left eyebrow. Id. Santos further attests that he "picked out the black guy who sold me the computer in four different [Police Department mug shot] pictures." Id.

Also attached to the Complaint is a sworn statement by plaintiff. Compl. ex. A. In this, plaintiff attests, inter alia, that when questioned by Rowe about the stolen laptop, plaintiff stated that he had previously helped two people "sell their computers ... so that they [could] buy drugs," but that he did not "recall seeing" the laptop in question (Rowe showed plaintiff a picture of the stolen laptop), that he would "need a few days to think about it," and that if he "didn't get back to [Rowe], that is to be taken to mean that [he had] no" involvement with the laptop. Compl. Ex. A.

Based on Santos' identification of an individual matching plaintiff's description as the seller of the stolen laptop, Santo's selection of plaintiff's picture from the Police Department's mug shots, and plaintiff's statement that he had aided in the sale of other computers to help with drug purchases, Rowe had, at the least, arguable probable cause to arrest plaintiff for possessing stolen property. See Droz v. McCadden, 580 F.3d 106, 109 (2d Cir. 2009);*fn10 see also Coons v. Casabella, 284 F.3d 437, 441 (2d Cir. 2002);*fn11 Hahn v. County of Otsego, 820 F. Supp. 54, 55 (N.D.N.Y. 1993),*fn12 aff'd, 52 F.3d 310 (2d Cir. 1995). Indeed, reasonable officers objectively viewing the available evidence could have believed that they had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for possessing the stolen laptop and selling it to Santos outside the bar in the City ...


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