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Dudley v. City of Glens Falls

United States District Court, Second Circuit

September 23, 2013

JAMIE S. DUDLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF GLENS FALLS; POLICE OFFICER WILLIAM F. HOLMES, Defendants.

JAMIE S. DUDLEY, 11-A-5490, Franklin Correctional Facility, Malone, New York, Plaintiff pro se.

JAMES A. RESILA, ESQ., CARTER, CONBOY LAW FIRM, Albany, New York, Attorneys for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force by tasing him while he was being processed at the Glens Falls Police Station. See Dkt. No. 2. On November 13, 2012, Defendants moved for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 15. In a September 6, 2013 Report-Recommendation and Order, Magistrate Judge Treece recommended that the Court (1) grant the motion as to Plaintiff's municipal liability claim against Defendant City of Glens Falls; (2) deny the motion as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim against Defendant Holmes; and (3) deny the motion as to Defendant Holmes' qualified immunity defense. See Dkt. No. 46 at 12. On September 19, 2013, Defendants objected to the Report-Recommendation and Order insofar as it recommended denying the motion as to Defendant Holmes. See Dkt. No. 47.

Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

On May 8, 2011, the Glens Falls Police pulled over and arrested Plaintiff on a felony charge of Driving While Intoxicated ("DWI"), after he refused to take a breathalyser test. See Dkt. No. 15-8; Dkt. No. 2 at 4.[1] Plaintiff was taken to the Glens Falls' Police Station where he was processed by Defendant Holmes. See Dkt. No. 15-1 at ¶ 3. A video, submitted by Defendants, depicts some of the events which occurred at the station on May 8, 2011. See Dkt. No. 15-2 (the "Video" has been traditionally filed with the Court).

During the relevant portion of the video, Plaintiff is handcuffed and seated in a chair with his foot shackled to the wall. See id. Although the video contains no audio, the video appears to show Plaintiff conversing with Defendant Holmes. See id. At one point during the video, Plaintiff kicks a chair next to the one in which he is seated into an adjacent desk, stands up, grabs the same chair and lifts it off the ground. See id. Plaintiff then lets go of the chair and begins to sit back down in his own chair. See id. Before he is completely seated, however, Defendant Holmes shoots Plaintiff with a taser, causing him to fall to the floor. See id. Plaintiff is thereafter subdued by Defendant Holmes and other officers. See id.

As a result of this incident, Plaintiff later pled guilty to menacing in the second degree. See Dkt. No. 24 at 2; Dkt. No. 15-9.

In an August 6, 2013 Report-Recommendation and Order, Magistrate Judge Treece recommended that the Court grant in part and denied in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 46. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Treece found that Plaintiff is not precluded from bringing his excessive force claim because of the doctrine of issue preclusion. See id. at 4-5. The recommendation noted that, although Plaintiff pled guilty to menacing in the second degree, Defendants failed to offer any relevant court documents to establish that the plea court even contemplated the issue of whether the amount of force used by Defendant Holmes was reasonable under the circumstances. See id. at 5. Further, the recommendation noted that it does not "appear that a determination as to whether the amount of force used by Defendant Holmes was reasonable under the circumstances is an element of menacing in the second degree." See id. Magistrate Judge Treece did find, however, that because Plaintiff pled guilty to menacing in the second degree as a result of the May 8, 2011 events, Plaintiff is precluded from arguing that he did not place or attempt to place Defendant Holmes in reasonable fear of physical injury prior to being tased. See id. at 6 (citation omitted).

Next, distinguishing the case relied upon by Defendants, Magistrate Judge Treece found that there is an issue of fact as to whether the amount of force used by Defendant Holmes was reasonable. See id. at 7 (citing Hardy v. Plante, 2009 WL 249787, *2 & *6 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 3, 2009)). Regarding the video, the recommendation noted that the video does not necessarily support Defendants' claim because, among other things, it lacks audio, it is unclear where Defendant Holmes was standing prior to deploying the taser or whether Defendant Holmes was actually in danger of being struck with the chair. See id. at 8. Further, the recommendation noted that there "appears to be an appreciable delay between the time Plaintiff put down the chair and the time he was tased. Indeed, Plaintiff had already put the chair down and was attempting to sit back down in his chair when he was tased." See id. Similarly, Magistrate Judge Treece recommended denying the motion on summary judgment grounds because a genuine issue of material fact exists as to what the precise circumstances surrounding Defendant Holmes' use of the taser, thereby making such a finding premature. See id. at 9.

Finally, Magistrate Judge Treece recommended granting Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's municipal liability claim against Defendant City of Glens Falls. See id. at 10-11.

In his objections to Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation and Order, Defendant Holmes argues that it was error to find that Plaintiff is not precluded from raising his excessive force claim. See Dkt. No. 47 at 2. Defendant Holmes asserts that "the video... clearly establishes the conduct fo the plaintiff which led to the menacing charge to which plaintiff pled guilty." See id. Further, Defendant Holmes claims that Magistrate Judge Treece failed to take into account that the menacing conduct led to the use of the taser, not the underlying reason for which Plaintiff was already in police custody (the DWI). See id. Next, Defendant Holmes again relies on Hardy v. Plante to support his ...


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