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Terwilliger v. McLeod

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 21, 2013

REBEKAH TERWILLIGER, as Natural Parent and Guardian of DT, an Infant and DANA ECHAURI, as Natural Parent and Guardian of VO, an Infant, Plaintiffs,
v.
SUZANNE McLEOD, Superintendent of Schools for Union-Endicott Central School District, Individually and in her Official Capacity, ANNMARIE FOLEY, Principal of Jennie F. Snapp Middle School, Individually and in her Official Capacity, SCOTT ALSTON, Detective for the Endicott Police Department and MICHAEL S. HILLA, Juvenile Officer for the Endicott Police Department, Individually and in his Official Capacity, Defendants.

ORDER

THOMAS J. McAVOY, District Judge.

Defendants, Scott Alston and Michael S. Hilla having filed a Notice of Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to FRCP 12(c) dated March 17, 2013, together with Attorney's Affirmation, Memorandum of Law and exhibits thereto, and the Plaintiffs, Rebekah Terwilliger and Dana Echauri, as natural parents and guardians of DT and VO, respectively, having filed a Memorandum of Law in Response to the Defendants' Motion dated April 2, 2013, together with all attachments thereto, and the Defendants having filed a Reply Memorandum of Law,

NOW, upon reading and filing the Notice of Motion, Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, Attorney's Affirmation of Kevin G. Martin, all dated March 17, 2013, and the Reply Memorandum of Law dated April 7, 2013, together with all the attachments thereto, all filed by Defendants Scott Alston and Michael S. Hilla in support of the motion, and the Memorandum of Law in Response to the Defendants' Motion dated April 2, 2013, together with the attachments thereto filed by Plaintiffs Rebekah Terwilliger and Dana Echauri n opposition to the motion, and the parties having appeared in this Court for oral argument on April 26, 2013 by their attorneys Kevin G. Martin, Esq., Martin & Rayhill, P.C. for the moving Defendants, and The Law Office of Ronald Benjamin, Amy Chambers, Esq., of counsel, for the Plaintiffs, it is hereby

ORDERED, that the Defendants Scott Alston and Michael S. Hilla's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to FRCP 12(c) is GRANTED and the Plaintiffs' Complaint is DISMISSED as against the moving Defendants Scott Alston and Michael S. Hilla in accordance with the Court's Decision, which is attached hereto and made a part hereof.

THE COURT: All right. The defendants Alston and Hilla move to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(c)for a grant of qualified immunity on any claims not dismissed or for abstention pursuant to Younger and Colorado River.

Rule 12(c) motions are decided under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard. Rule 12(b)(6) requires the complaint to obtain sufficient factual allegations to make out plausible claims for relief. See Ashcroft vs Iqbal , 129 Supreme Court 1937 at 1949. Legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations, threadbare recitals of a cause of action, and mere conclusory statements are insufficient. Iqbal 149.

The complaint alleges violations of plaintiffs' constitutional rights and clearly defines how these rights have been violated. Further, plaintiffs argue that the complainant's allegations support claims for other constitutional violations, including the First Amendment. The Court will review the allegations to determine what potential claims have been pled.

Plaintiffs allege that defendants Alston and Hilla interrogated them without advising them of their constitutional right to counsel. This invokes the constitutional rights protected by Miranda versus Arizona. While Broome County Family Court Judge Pines addressed DT's alleged Miranda violation, he did not address the same claim by VO. Nevertheless, a Miranda violation by itself is not actionable under Section 1983. See Jocks v. Tavernier , 316 Fed 3d 128 at 138. Deshawn E by Charlotte E versus Safir, 156 Fed 3d 340, 346. See also Neighbour versus Covert, 68 Fed 3d 1508 at 1510 through 1511. Thus, any claim based upon a denial of Miranda warnings is dismissed.

The allegation also raises, potentially, Sixth Amendment denial of counsel claims. However, such claims fail because an individual's Sixth Amendment right to counsel attaches only at or after the time that adversary judicial proceedings have been initiated against him. Kirby versus Illinois, 406 U.S. 682 at 688.

Under New York law, adversary judicial proceedings are commenced by the filing of an accusatory instrument. Brown v. Martin, 2004 Westlaw 1774328 at star five. Because plaintiffs had not been charged with any acts of juvenile delinquency at the time of their questioning, their Sixth Amendment right had not attached. Contes versus City of New York, 199 Westlaw 500140 at star eight.

Thus, any claim based upon the Sixth Amendment is dismissed.

The complaint also alleges that DT's constitutional rights were violated when Officer Hilla coerced him to make a false confession. This implicates the Fifth Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides that a person shall not be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.

As indicated, the simple failure to advise DT of his Fifth Amendment rights by a Miranda warning does not form the basis of an actionable 1983 claim. However, a Section 1983 action may exist under the Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination clause if coercion was applied to obtain an inculpatory statement and the statement was used against the plaintiff in a criminal proceeding. See Chavez versus Martinez, 538 U.S. 760, 766. Weaver versus Brenner, 40 Fed 3d 527 at 536.

Judge Pines' decision did not address the voluntariness of DT's statement, only whether it was made during a custodial interrogation. While it seems unlikely that constitutionally offensive coercion could be applied in a non-custodial setting during which the parties were free to leave, the Court need not address the question of plausibility. This is because it has not been ...


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