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Morris v. New York City

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 1, 2014

PEGGY MORRIS, Plaintiff,
NEW YORK CITY et al., Defendants.


JOHN GLEESON, District Judge.

On March 14, 2014, pro se plaintiff Peggy Morris filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1988, as well as additional sections of the United States Code and New York State law. Morris's application to proceed in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The § 1983 claims against the City of New York (the "City") and the named New York City Police Officers may proceed; the claims against all other defendants are dismissed for the reasons set forth below.


A. Factual Background

The following allegations are taken from the complaint and are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion. Morris "is a life-long community advocate who as of 2005 became a housing specialist focusing on foreclosure and eviction prevention." Compl. ¶ 33, ECF No. 1. Morris alleges that she "has been subjected to [a] campaign of police misconduct beginning in or about 2007 which include[d] five false arrests, including unlawful searches." Id. ¶ 34. One of these incidents, involving Morris's claim to occupancy of a Mitchell Lama cooperative unit at Rochdale Village, Inc. and subsequent arrest, was litigated in this court in Morris v. City of New York, et al., No. 12-CV-3959, 2013 WL 5781672 (E.D.N.Y. March 21, 2014) (dismissed with prejudice, appeal pending). Morris was involved in multiple additional landlord-tenant and foreclosure matters in her own right and on others' behalf between 2006 and 2011. Id. ¶ 37. Some of these incidents brought her into contact with officers at the 113th Precinct of the New York Police Department ("NYPD"). Id.

Morris alleges that her recent difficulties began when she became homeless after an "unlawful eviction on July 25, 2011." Id. ¶ 37(i). Morris "contacted Dawnett Simpson Clark... and asked her permission to layover in the attic apartment in the house she lost to foreclosure but continued to occupy, so that [Morris] would have a place to stay when [she] was required to be in New York for the purpose of attending court appearances...." Id. Morris moved in with Clark and "help[ed] protect her and her family from ongoing threats of post-foreclosure eviction." Id. ¶ 39. Morris also assisted the family with child-care and meal preparation. Id. ¶ 40. The relationship between Morris and Clark deteriorated in May 2013 and Clark's children "were prohibited from interacting with or speaking to [Morris]." Id. Morris believed that "the methods employed by the family" to keep their youngest child away from Morris were too extreme and could cause the child physical harm, so on June 5, 2013, Morris filed an abuse complaint with the New York City Administration for Children Services ("ACS"). Id. ¶ 41.

After Morris filed the complaint, defendants Dawnett Clark and her husband Jason Clark allegedly began a campaign to "illegally evict" Morris by means of "physical assaults, threats of physical assault, intimidation, and petit larceny." Id. ¶ 43. The Clarks and additional occupants of the residence - defendants Tybsy Palmer, Carlton Brown, and Frank Jordon - "began an illegal lockout campaign" against Morris that included denying her access to the first and second floor kitchens. Id. ¶ 122. Defendants Linda Pierre and "John Doe aka Ragon" aided and abetted the Clarks in intimidating Morris and made threats against her and her mother. Id. ¶¶ 29, 52.

On June 3, 2013, Dawnett Clark "chest bumped" Morris while Morris was holding hot food, which caused burns on Morris's wrists. Id. ¶ 48(a). On June 5, 2013, Morris's "studio apartment" door was kicked in, id. ¶ 48(b), and on August 2, 2013, her apartment was burglarized and vandalized. Id. ¶ 48(c). Morris filed a complaint regarding each of these incidents with the 113th Precinct. Id. ¶ 48. On August 4, 2013, Morris went in person to the 113th Precinct and overheard defendant Police Officer Kyle Bradley and Sergeant John McCormick describe them as "Bull S____t complaints." Id. ¶¶ 50-51. Morris learned around this time that Dawnett Clark had reported to the police that Morris had stolen checks and her identity. Id. ¶ 49.

On August 6, 2013, Pierre physically blocked Morris's exit from her apartment, while the Clarks threatened her. Id. ¶ 53. Morris called 911, and stayed on the line with operators until Pierre stepped aside. Id. When Morris returned to the apartment later that day Pierre again blocked her way and Morris again called 911 and spoke with the operator until Pierre let her pass. Id. ¶ 54. Morris sought an Order of Protection on August 14 or 15, 2013, but was denied by the Queens County Criminal Court. Id. ¶¶ 56-57.

Morris contacted defendants Deputy Inspector Miltiadis Marmara and Chief Phillip Banks, III, regarding her complaints on multiple occasions between August 14, 2013 and August 20, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 56-59. On or about August 20, 2013, Banks advised Morris that he had delegated someone to contact her, but no contact occurred until after Morris was arrested on August 22, 2013. Id. ¶ 59.

On August 20, 2013, at around 9:30 p.m., Morris awoke to the sound of her door being forced open, though it was kept from fully opening by a chain lock. Id. ¶ 60. She opened the door and saw Jason Clark on the landing next to a television set. Id. Morris closed the door and went back to sleep. Id. About 15 minutes later, Morris heard a person who sounded like Pierre at the door threatening her and trying to break the door down. Id. ¶ 61. When the door frame began to give way, Morris called 911. Id. When police officers arrived at Morris's apartment, they "had been advised, among other things that [Morris] was mentally disturbed." Id. ¶ 62. Jamaica Hospital Emergency Medical Service responders arrived, questioned Morris, and left. Id. The responding officers then spoke to the Clarks, who accused Morris of throwing a television down the stairs at them. Id. ¶¶ 63-64.

On August 21, 2013, Morris received an order to vacate her apartment because there was only one means of egress. Id. ¶ 67. Morris was advised that until "the condition was remedied" she was not allowed to "sleep at the premises." Id. On the same day, the police were again called to Morris's apartment. Id. ¶ 65. Officers Martinez threatened to arrest Morris and Morris left the apartment and started walking down the street. Id. ¶ 66. Martinez followed Morris and he and several other officers stopped her on the street, telling her that Sergeant Ostrowski wanted to speak with her. Id. Morris was afraid of Martinez and so she kept walking. Id. Ostrowski arrived, and took Morris back to her apartment. Id.

The next day, at about 6:00 p.m., Morris called 911 and requested a police escort to accompany her to the premises in order to retrieve some of her belongings. Id. ¶ 67. The police escorted her to her apartment, but then left the building. Id. After a couple of hours "the police were called to the residence again." Id. A discussion ensued between her and the officers about whether she was allowed to be at the premises. Id. ¶¶ 68-69. Defendant Police Officer Marcantonio asked Morris: "What happened to you at Rochdale?" Id. ¶ 69. Defendant Police Officers Skobla, Vallanueva, and Marcantonio then arrested her at the apartment. Id. ¶¶ 69-70. While Morris was talking with Marcantonio, Skobla and Villanueva searched the apartment. Id. ¶ 71. After being transported to the station, Morris was handcuffed to a wall in a cold cell for six hours. Id. ¶ 80.

On August 24, 2013, Morris learned that Dawnett Clark had filed a Holdover Petition with the Queens County Housing Court on August 6, 2013. Id. ¶81. Morris claims that defendant Serena A. May "falsely alleged that she personally served [Morris] with a Thirty Day Notice... on June 30, 2013." Id. ¶ 82(a). ...

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