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Marshall v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 15, 2014


Kerry L. Marshall, pro se, Loretto, PA, for the Plaintiff:

James F. Horton, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of New York, New York, NY, for the Defendants.


DENISE COTE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kerry L. Marshall ("Marshall"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for compensatory and punitive relief against five defendants - the City of New York ("City"), Officer Sarah Vaughn-Sam ("Officer Vaughn-Sam"), Yvonne Roman ("Roman"), Lieutenant Gregory Lane ("Lieutenant Lane"), and Sergeant Patricia Mance ("Sergeant Mance") - for alleged constitutional violations arising out of his arrest in April 2011 and the related impoundment of his vehicle. Marshall alleges that the individual defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and he also seeks to hold the City responsible based on Monell liability. The defendants have moved to dismiss this action. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


The following facts are as alleged in the second amended complaint ("SAC") and are assumed to be true. On or about April 8, 2011, Officer Vaughn-Sam stopped Marshall as he was exiting his vehicle and questioned him regarding his parking location and the tinted glass over his vehicle's license plate. Marshall responded that he could remove the tinted glass if it were a problem. Officer Vaughn-Sam asked Marshall to produce his driver's license, registration, and proof of vehicle insurance. Marshall provided his license but was unable to produce the registration and proof of insurance. He was arrested and taken to New York Police Department's 28th Precinct where he was placed in confinement. His vehicle was impounded.

Shortly thereafter, Marshall advised Officer Vaughn-Sam where to locate the registration and proof of insurance in the impounded vehicle. Both were expired. Marshall remained in confinement for another five hours. He was then released with three citations for violating New York City traffic laws - Operating an Unregistered Vehicle, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law ("VTL") §§ 401(1)(a) & 401(18); Operating an Uninsured Vehicle, VTL § 319; and Obstruction of a License Plate, VTL § 402(1)(b) & § 402(8). The citations eventually concluded in Marshall's favor.

Marshall's vehicle was not released to him at the time of his release. Officer Vaughn-Sam told Marshall to return with valid registration, insurance, and title. Officer Vaughn-Sam provided Marshall with a property voucher with instructions for retrieving his vehicle. Marshall noticed "that the back side of the property voucher reinforced Officer Vaughn's instructions regarding (120) days to retrieve his car or be faced with civil forfeiture."

Although Marshall's complaint lays out many details regarding the process of retrieving his vehicle, only a few are relevant for purposes of the present motion. Marshall made his first attempt to retrieve his vehicle on June 19, 2011 - or 59 days after his release. Marshall eventually learned that his vehicle had been sold at auction ten days after his arrest. Marshall has since filed two claims for the proceeds from the sale of his vehicle with the Office of the New York City Comptroller. He has also filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which was forwarded to Internal Affairs. Marshall has not heard back from Internal Affairs.

On September 20, 2012, Marshall filed the present action.[1] The SAC includes six causes of action. The first is brought against Officer Vaughn-Sam under the Fourth Amendment, and it alleges that she lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate an investigative stop and that his arrest and the duration of his confinement were unreasonable. The second, third, and fourth causes of action are brought against Officer Vaughn-Sam, Lieutenant Lane, and Sergeant Mance under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and they allege that these individuals deprived Marshall of his property without procedural due process. The fifth is brought against Roman, who is a Case Manager with the Office of the New York City Comptroller, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and it alleges that she treated Marshall unequally in responding to his New York Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") request for a copy of his file. The sixth seeks to impose Monell liability upon the City for failure to train and failure to supervise the individual defendants.

On November 1, 2013, the defendants moved to dismiss the SAC. The motion was fully submitted as of December 20.


To survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). Applying this plausibility standard is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a trial court must "accept all allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the non-moving party's favor." LaFaro v. New York Cardiothoracic Group, PLLC , 570 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2009). Moreover, pleadings filed by pro se plaintiffs are to be construed liberally. Chavis v. Chappius , 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). "The rule favoring liberal construction of pro se submissions is especially applicable to civil rights claims." Ortiz v. McBride , 323 F.3d 191, 194 (2d Cir. 2003). A complaint must do more, however, than offer "naked ...

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