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Topolski v. Wrobleski

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 29, 2014

SUSAN WROBLESKI; et al., Defendants.


LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.


In this civil rights action, Plaintiff Paul Topolski ("Plaintiff") alleges that Defendants deprived him of his parental and other constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See generally Dkt No. 1 ("Complaint"). Presently before the Court are Motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Susan Wrobleski ("Ms. Wrobleski") and Michael Wrobleski ("Mr. Wrobleski") (collectively, the "Wrobleskis"); Salvatore Pavone ("Pavone") and Sheree Jackson ("Jackson") (collectively, the "Family Court Defendants"); Onondaga County and Onondaga County Department of Emergency Communications ("Emergency Communications") (collectively, the "County Defendants"); and Zachary L. Karmen ("Karmen"). Dkt. Nos. 22 ("Karmen Motion"); 30 ("Wrobleski Motion"); 36 ("County Motion"); 47 ("Pavone and Jackson Motion"). Plaintiff has filed a Motion for a default judgment as to Defendant Aliza Steemrod ("Steemrod"). Dkt. No. 63 ("Motion for Default Judgment"). For the following reasons, the Motions to dismiss are granted, the Motion for Default Judgment is denied, Plaintiff's claim against Steemrod is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), and the Complaint is dismissed in its entirety.


Plaintiff alleges that the Wrobleskis, his former in-laws, have engaged in a "continuous conspiracy for the purpose of depriving [P]laintiff of his parental rights and his right to life and liberty." Compl. at 3. According to Plaintiff, the Wrobleskis began plotting in 2000 to have his children taken from his custody. Id. at 4. The Wrobleskis proceeded to lodge a number of putatively baseless complaints with Onondaga County Child Protective Services ("CPS") regarding Plaintiff's treatment of his children. Id . In 2000, Mr. Wrobleski allegedly followed Plaintiff around "in disguise" and made false reports to the Cicero Police Department that led to Plaintiff's arrest for driving while intoxicated ("DWI") and endangering his children's welfare, although the charges were later dismissed for "legal insufficiency." Id.

In 2003, Plaintiff's children were placed in the Wrobleskis' care after the Wrobleskis reported that Plaintiff had left the children alone; Plaintiff claims that his babysitter was late and his girlfriend's daughter watched the children until the babysitter arrived. Id . In 2008, following Plaintiff's release from prison on DWI charges, the Onondaga Family Court issued an order giving Plaintiff joint custody of, and certain visitation rights with, his children. Id. at 4-5.

In August 2009, Ms. Wrobleski, even though she knew that Plaintiff had been in regular contact with his children, reported otherwise to the Orchard Park Police Department ("Orchard Park") and requested that Orchard Park perform multiple "welfare checks" on Plaintiff. Id. at 5. The following month, Plaintiff was arrested for DWI, which he claims was the result of four calls from the Wrobleskis to Emergency Communications operators: one by Mr. Wrobleski, who "stalked" Plaintiff in disguise on the highway, and three by Ms. Wrobleski from her home phone. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff alleges that he was then assaulted by the Cicero police officers dispatched by Emergency Communications. Id.

On September 13, 2012, a custody hearing regarding Plaintiff's daughter was held before Onondaga Family Court referee Pavone. Id. at 9. Plaintiff alleges that Karmen, the law guardian appointed to represent Plaintiff's daughter, failed to contact Plaintiff prior to the hearing and that Pavone excluded Plaintiff from the hearing. Id . Plaintiff further alleges that the Wrobleskis and Steemrod negotiated an illegal custody agreement at this hearing that "deprive[d] Plaintiff of his parental rights, " and that Pavone "authorized" this agreement. Id. at 9-10. Pursuant to this agreement, Steemrod was given custody of Plaintiff's daughter. Id . Steemrod subsequently forced Plaintiff's daughter and another of his children out of their "court ordered primary residence" and canceled Plaintiff's daughter's health insurance. Id. at 10. Plaintiff subsequently sent a request for records regarding the September 13, 2012 proceeding to Jackson, the Chief Clerk of the Onondaga Family Court. Id . Plaintiff received no response. Id.

On July 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed the Complaint and a Motion for a preliminary injunction preventing the Wrobleskis from dissipating assets needed to satisfy a judgment in this case and restraining the Wrobleskis and Steemrod from falsely reporting that Plaintiff was mistreating his children or driving while intoxicated. See Compl.; Dkt. No. 2 ("PI Motion"). The Court denied the PI Motion in light of Plaintiff's failure to demonstrate a likelihood that: (1) the Wrobleskis and Steemrod were acting under color of state law as required by § 1983; or (2) the Wrobleskis would render a judgment uncollectible in the absence of a preliminary injunction. See generally Dkt. No. 11 ("October Order") at 3-9. The October Order also approved and adopted a Report-Recommendation and Order by the Honorable David E. Peebles, U.S. Magistrate Judge, recommending that Plaintiff's claim against the State of New York be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) on sovereign immunity grounds but that his claims against other Defendants be accepted for filing. See id. at 9-11; Dkt. No. 5 ("Report-Recommendation"). The Motions to dismiss and Motion for default judgment followed. See generally Docket.


A. Legal Standard

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Plausibility requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the alleged misconduct]." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. "[U]nadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation[s]" do not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Thus, although a court must accept as true the factual allegations contained in a complaint and draw all inferences in favor of a plaintiff, see Allaire Corp. v. Okumus, 433 F.3d 248, 249-50 (2d Cir. 2006), an action is subject to dismissal where the court is unable to infer more than the "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

B. County Motion

The County Defendants correctly assert that Plaintiff has failed to allege a basis for liability under § 1983. Dkt. No. 36-2 ("County Memorandum") at 10. "Municipalities, including counties, can be liable under § 1983 if the municipality itself can be said to have been responsible for the constitutional violation." Sheriff's Silver Star Ass'n of Oswego Cnty., Inc. v. Cnty. of Oswego, 56 F.Supp.2d 263, 266 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). "Municipalities may be held liable for violations of constitutional rights under Section 1983 if the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officers.'" Drew v. Connolly, 536 F.Appx. 164, 165 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 690). "Additionally, a plaintiff may hold a municipality liable for a constitutional violation as a result of that municipality's failure to train its employees." Drew, 536 F.Appx. at 165 (citing City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 387 (1989)). "A plaintiff may establish a municipal policy or custom by showing that the municipality's failure to train its officers amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.'" Drew, 536 F.Appx. at 165 (quoting Anthony v. City of New York, 339 F.3d 129, 140 (2d Cir. 2003)).

Plaintiff alleges that dispatchers at Emergency Communications improperly credited the Topolskis' calls and sent officers to investigate Plaintiff. See Compl. at 5-6. But he has not argued, let alone alleged facts plausibly suggesting, that the dispatchers' actions were taken pursuant to any policy or custom of the County Defendants or resulted from a failure to train. See generally id.; Dkt. No. 46 ("Response to County Motion") at 8. As there is no basis for liability under § 1983, the County Motion is granted.

C. Pavone and ...

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