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Faber v. Monticello Central School District

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 6, 2013

BRYAN FABER, Plaintiff,


EDGARDO RAMOS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Bryan Faber ("Plaintiff" or "Faber") brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jeanine Nielsen ("Nielsen"), Deb Fasce ("Fasce"), the Monticello Central School District (the "School District" or "MCSD"), and the Monticello Board of Education (the "Board of Education" or "the Board") (collectively, the "Defendants"), [1] alleging violations of Plaintiff's First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims for false imprisonment; negligent hiring, retention and supervision; negligence; assault and battery; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Complaint ("Compl.") (Doc. 1.) On March 8, 2010, Defendants removed this case from New York State Supreme Court, Sullivan County, to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a).[2] Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (Doc. 31.)

For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

I. Statement of Facts

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.

In the summer of 2008, Plaintiff was enrolled in the summer program at Monticello High School. Declaration of Deborah Fasce ("Fasce Decl.") ¶ 5. On the morning of July 8, 2008, while Plaintiff was in the school library talking to his friends, the school librarian, Ms. Greene, asked him to stop talking and yelling. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7.[3] Faber refused to stop talking as directed because, in his words, he was "bored." Id. ¶ 8. Ms. Greene then called for a safety officer to escort Plaintiff from the library to Defendant Nielsen's office, who was the acting summer school assistant principal at the time. Declaration of Gregg T. Johnson ("Johnson Decl.") Ex. C (Faber Depo. Tr.) at 141-42. Plaintiff waited in a seating area until he moved into Nielsen's office. Id. at 142. Two security guards were present in the office with Faber; one stood against the wall to the left of Nielsen's desk and the other stood in the door frame of the office. Declaration of Jennielena Rubino ("Rubino Decl.") Ex. 1 (Nielsen Depo. Tr.) at 10. According to Plaintiff, Nielsen then informed him that somebody had complained about him being "high" and that he wasn't acting the way he normally acts. Johnson Decl. Ex. F (Faber 50h Tr.) at 30-31. Nielsen testified, on the other hand, that when she first saw Faber on July 8, 2008, he appeared "fine" and was "cooperative." Rubino Decl. Ex. 1 (Nielsen Depo. Tr.) at 18. She further testified that Faber did not display any of the typical characteristics of an individual who is "high, " that nobody told her that he displayed those characteristics, and that Ms. Greene did not inform her that he looked high. Id. at 26-27.

Plaintiff testified that he responded to Nielsen by stating that he was not high and that he was on medication, which he had taken that morning and which made him look "high." Johnson Decl. Ex. F (Faber 50h Tr.) at 30-31; Rubino Decl. Ex. 2 (Faber Depo. Tr.) at 21-22, 25, 47; Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 13. Plaintiff further testified that "[a] lot of people" have told him that his medication makes him look high, such as his mother, grandmother, and the school secretary, and that he has been accused of being high at school at times he has taken his medication. Rubino Decl. Ex. 2 (Faber Depo. Tr.) at 25. Moreover, Plaintiff testified that his medication made him look "tired" and caused him to "act[] happy and laugh[] and [be] just crazy, " and generally made him act "differently." Id. at 26. According to Plaintiff, Nielson then asked him to empty his pockets. Id. at 142. Plaintiff complied with Nielson's request because he "was under the assumption [he] wasn't allowed to" refuse and "had nothing to hide." Id. at 144. Faber testified that he emptied his pants pockets only and that the items he removed from them included a pack of cigarettes, money, and his wallet. Id. Plaintiff assumed that Nielsen was looking for "weed" when she asked him to empty his pockets. Id. at 146. Nielsen, on the other hand, claims that she did not ask Plaintiff to empty his pockets and that he never emptied his pockets while he was in her office.[4] Declaration of Jeanine Nielsen ("Nielsen Decl.") ¶ 10; Rubino Decl. Ex. 1 (Nielsen Depo. Tr.) at 24. It is undisputed that neither Nielsen nor Fasce touched Plaintiff at any time during the July 8, 2008 incident and that he did not suffer any physical injuries as a result of the alleged search. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 24-26, 28.

Fasce, the Student Services Liaison, was present in Nielsen's office at the time Plaintiff was asked to empty his pockets. Rubino Decl. Ex. 2 (Faber Depo. Tr.) at 61. After they left Nielsen's office, Plaintiff told Fasce that he wanted to go back to regular school. Id. at 60. Plaintiff claims that Fasce responded: "Oh, you have been suspended for two years. You don't have the skills to go back and you are not going to succeed." Id. Plaintiff responded by saying, "Whatever." Id. Fasce claims, however, that she made a comment to Faber "about getting his act together so he could re-enter the day program which he had worked so hard to return to." Fasce Decl. ¶ 8. According to Fasce, she "would never say anything derogatory to [her] students" and did not tell Faber that he did not have the skills to succeed in school. Id.

After leaving Nielsen's office, Plaintiff returned to the library and subsequently attended the rest of his classes that day without incident. Defs.' 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 29-30.

II. Legal Standard on Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "An issue of fact is genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Senno v. Elmsford Union Free Sch. Dist., 812 F.Supp.2d 454, 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing SCR Joint Venture L.P. v. Warshawsky, 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009)). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the litigation under the governing law. Id. The party moving for summary judgment is first responsible for demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, "the nonmoving party must come forward with admissible evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to avoid summary judgment." Saenger v. Montefiore Med. Ctr., 706 F.Supp.2d 494, 504 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jaramillo v. Weyerhaeuser Co., 536 F.3d 140, 145 (2d Cir. 2008)).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'" Brod v. Omya, Inc., 653 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Williams v. R.H. Donnelley, Corp., 368 F.3d 123, 126 (2d Cir. 2004)). However, in opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely on unsupported assertions, conjecture or surmise. Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995). The non-moving party must do more than show that there is "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." McClellan v. Smith, 439 F.3d 137, 144 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). To defeat a motion for summary judgment, "the non-moving party must set forth significant, probative evidence on which a reasonable fact-finder could decide in its favor." Senno, 812 F.Supp.2d at 467-68 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986)).

III. Plaintiff's Section 1983 Claims[5]

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully searching him without any reasonable suspicion that he was concealing contraband in his pockets. Pl.'s Mem. L. Opp. 7-10. Defendants, on the other hand, argue that the July 8, 2008 "search" of Plaintiff was reasonable, was not excessively intrusive, and was consented to by Plaintiff. Defs.' Mem. L. 5-7. Moreover, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claim against Fasce must be dismissed as it is undisputed that she was not involved in the search at issue; that the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and that Plaintiff's claim against the School District ...

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