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Koltun v. Berry

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 21, 2014

VICTOR KOLTUN, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY BERRY, B. HAROLD RAMSEY, AARON WEAVER, THOMAS NAFFY, : JOSEPH CORTES, RUDY SIMMONS, MICHAEL FERRARA, JOSEPH D'AMICO, FRANCIS D. PHILLIPS II, GARRY COOPER, JAMES WINSLOW and PAUL BRITE, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING REPORTS

PAUL A. CROTTY, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Victor Koltun brings claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging that almost everyone (judges, police officers, prosecutors, and defense attorneys) violated his constitutional rights.[1] Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV issued three Reports and Recommendations ("R&Rs") recommending dismissal of all claims, with leave to amend only as to the false arrest and supervisory liability claims. Upon consideration of the R&Rs and Koltun's objections, the Court adopts the R&Rs in their entirety.

BACKGROUND

I. Koltun's Complaint

Koltun claims that Defendants violated his constitutional rights during the investigation of two homicides and the subsequent criminal proceedings against him. The Defendants fall into four categories: (1) Judges Jeffrey Berry and B. Harold Ramsey (the "Judicial Defendants"); (2) Newburgh Police Officers Aaron Weaver, Thomas Naffy, Joseph Cortes, and Michael Ferrara, and New York State Police Officers Rudy Simmons and Joseph D'Amico (the "Law Enforcement Defendants"); (3) Francis D. Phillips II and Garry Cooper of the Orange County District Attorney's office (the "OCDA Defendants"); and (4) James Winslow and Paul Brite (the "Defense Counsel Defendants").

Koltun states that he is an "ultra-orthodox Jewish person and a Rabbi.'"[2] Koltun alleges that when the Law Enforcement Defendants arrived at his house on Saturday, November 6, 2010 to question him about two murders, he told them that he did not want to speak with them without first consulting his attorney, but he could not call his attorney on the Sabbath. He alleges that the Law Enforcement Defendants then "applied psychological pressure" and "lured" him to the police station, where they attempted to coerce a confession.

Newburgh police arrested Koltun on December 1, 2010, and Newburgh City Judge B. Harold Ramsey arraigned him. Koltun was charged with, inter alia, two counts of murder in the first degree under New York Penal Law § 125.27. Koltun alleges that during a subsequent grand jury presentation and other proceedings, Weaver, Naffy, Cortes, and Simmons perjured themselves when testifying against him. He also alleges that the OCDA Defendants used illegally obtained evidence to prosecute him. He asserts that his questioning, his arrest, and the alleged grand jury perjury were motivated by anti-Semitic animus. In addition, he claims that Judge Ramsey violated his civil rights by arraigning him and setting bail, rather than releasing him outright.

Koltun also alleges that the Defense Counsel Defendants, who were court-appointed attorneys, failed to effectively represent him in the criminal action against him, acted in concert with the other Defendants, were negligent, and committed legal malpractice. Finally, he alleges that Judge Jeffrey G. Berry, the Orange County judge who presided in his criminal case, violated his rights by denying his pre-trial motions.

II. Procedural History and Magistrate Judge Francis's R&Rs

All Defendants except Judge Berry and Judge Ramsey moved to dismiss Koltun's claims. On June 28, 2013, Koltun filed an Affirmation requesting additional time to respond to the OCDA Defendants' and Defense Counsel Defendants' motions to dismiss, along with other applications for relief. On July 9, 2013, Magistrate Judge Francis denied Koltun's request for additional time to respond because it was untimely. Nonetheless, the Affirmation itself contained a response to the motions, and the Magistrate Judge indicated that he would consider it. ( See Dkt. No. 58). Magistrate Judge Francis denied all other applications as lacking merit.

On July 19, 2013, Magistrate Judge Francis issued two R&Rs. The first recommends that the Court grant the motions to dismiss Koltun's claims against the Defense Counsel Defendants and the OCDA Defendants in their entirety. The second recommends sua sponte dismissal of Koltun's claims against the Judicial Defendants. On October 25, 2013, Magistrate Judge Francis issued a third R&R, recommending that the Court grant the Law Enforcement Defendants' motions to dismiss. More specifically, the three R&Rs recommend as follows:

Category of Defendants Recommendations and Rationale Defense Counsel 1. The § 1983 claims should be dismissed because the defendants Defendants did not act "under color of state law." 2. The conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 should be dismissed because the relevant allegations are too vague and conclusory to state a claim. 3. The Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction over Koltun's remaining state-law claims. OCDA Defendants 1. The claims should be dismissed because the defendants are entitled to absolute immunity and because the claims are otherwise barred by the Eleventh Amendment. 2. The Court should also deny Koltun's request that his state-court proceedings be enjoined. See Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 45 (1971) (holding that federal courts should generally abstain from enjoining state-court criminal proceedings). Koltun's allegation that the OCDA Defendants allowed the police to question him on the Sabbath is insufficient to plead a "bad faith" exception. Judicial Defendants 1. The claims should be dismissed sua sponte under the doctrine of judicial immunity because the defendants acted in their judicial capacity and within their jurisdiction. Law Enforcement 1. The claims should be ...


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