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Fox v. County of Yates

United States District Court, W.D. New York

February 12, 2013

Patricia A. FOX, Plaintiff,
v.
The COUNTY OF YATES, et al., Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Anthony J. Laduca, Laduca Law Firm LLP, Rochester, NY, for Plaintiff.

Beverley Suzanne Braun, Jaeckle Fleischmann & Mugel, LLP, Buffalo, NY, for Defendants.

DECISION & ORDER

MARIAN W. PAYSON, United States Magistrate Judge.

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

Plaintiff Patricia A. Fox (" Fox" ) initiated the pending civil rights action against defendants the County of Yates (" the County" ), Sheriff Ronald G. Spike (" Spike" ), Undersheriff John C. Gleason (" Gleason" ) and Lieutenant Clay Rugar (" Rugar" ) (collectively, " defendants" ), asserting various constitutional and state law claims arising out of her employment as a corrections officer at the Yates County Jail (" the jail" ) and her prosecution for allegedly falsifying time cards during her employment. (Docket # 7). The district judge dismissed the majority of Fox's claims by Decision and Order dated November 12, 2010, 2010 WL 4616665. (Docket # 16). As a result of tat decision, two causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 remain: one for malicious prosecution and one for gender discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. ( Id. at 24-25).

Currently pending before this Court is Fox's motion to compel defendants to produce the prosecutor's legal charge to the grand jury that returned the indictment against Fox. (Docket 35, 37). According to Fox, disclosure of the charge is necessary to enable her to meet one of the elements of her malicious prosecution claim— the absence of probable cause for the criminal charges brought against her. (Docket # 37 at 10).

Defendants oppose the motion on several grounds. First, they contend that Fox is collaterally estopped from challenging the sufficiency of the grand jury proceedings because the state court previously determined the proceedings were sufficient. (Docket # 36-10 at 2-3). In addition, they maintain that Fox has not satisfied her burden of demonstrating a particularized need for the grand jury charge. ( Id. at 5-8). Finally, they assert that Fox's request is more appropriately addressed to the state court. ( Id. at 4-5).

For the reasons discussed below, Fox's motion is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Fox's Allegations of Malicious Prosecution

In her Amended Complaint, Fox alleges that during the period of her employment at the jail she reported to her supervisors several instances of employee misconduct. (Docket # 7 at ¶¶ 18-28). Fox claims that in retaliation for her reports of misconduct, she was subjected to repeated instances of harassment and discrimination by the individual defendants and other jail employees. ( Id. at ¶¶ 29-33). According to Fox, part of their retaliation included the initiation of false criminal charges against her. ( Id. at ¶ 50).

The offenses for which she was indicted involved allegations that Fox falsified her time cards by including overtime that had not been approved under the jail's overtime

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policy. ( Id. at ¶¶ 51-59). Specifically, the policy required certain employees, including Fox, to obtain a supervisor's written approval in order to be paid for overtime that the employee had worked. ( Id. at ¶ 42). According to Fox, she worked overtime on four separate shifts, August 16-17, September 3-4, September 17 and September 27, 2007. ( Id. at ¶ 52). Fox requested and received overtime approval for those dates. ( Id. at ¶ 53). Fox concedes, however, that she violated the policy by adding on her time card for each of those dates an additional half-hour of unapproved overtime to the approved overtime. ( Id. at ¶¶ 53-54). Fox maintains that she actually worked the extra time, thus making her alterations non-criminal. ( Id. at ¶ 59).

According to Fox, defendants directed two criminal investigators, Lieutenant Sotir (" Sotir" ) and Investigator Backer (" Backer" ), to question her about the time cards as part of their plan to initiate false criminal charges against her. ( Id. at ¶ 55). Fox asserts that the defendants and the investigators knew or should have known that she had actually worked the additional two hours of overtime and was entitled be paid for that time, even if she had violated the overtime policy. ( Id. at ¶ 56). Fox claims that she informed Sotir and Backer that she had actually worked those hours when they interviewed her. ( Id. at ¶¶ 60-61). Fox also alleges that Sotir and Backer made an electronic recording of the interview. ( Id. at ¶ 60).

Fox's Amended Complaint further alleges that when Sotir and Backer completed their investigation, defendants allegedly directed them to initiate a criminal prosecution against Fox despite their knowledge that Fox had actually worked the overtime listed on her time cards. ( Id. at ¶ 62). Fox further alleges that Backer proceeded to prepare a felony complaint charging Fox with falsifying business records. ( Id. at ¶¶ 61, 63).

Fox's Amended Complaint does not include any allegations concerning the Yates County District Attorney, Susan Lindenmuth (" Lindenmuth" ), who presented the case to the grand jury and handled the criminal prosecution. Nor has Fox asserted any allegations in connection with this motion that ...


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