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Bilal v. Westchester Community College

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 25, 2014

TARIQ K. BILAL, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTCHESTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE, WCC SINGLE STOP DEPARTMENT in the Gateway Building, CHRISTINA CARBONE, Single Stop Employee, ELLEN ZENDERMAN, Single Stop Supervisor, and DEBBIE SANTORA, Single Stop Employee and Mental Health Physician, Defendants.

Tariq K. Bilal, White Plains, New York, Plaintiff Pro Se.

Christie Lynne Magno D'Alessio, Westchester County Attorney's Office, White Plains, New York, Counsel for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

CATHY SEIBEL, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 21.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

For purposes of the instant Motion, I accept as true the facts, but not the conclusions, as set forth in the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"). (Doc. 17.) In addition, I "must interpret the factual allegations of a pro se complaint to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 139 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In 2013, Plaintiff was a student at Westchester Community College ("WCC"). (SAC at 4). In or around May of that year, Plaintiff went to the WCC "Single Stop Department" to obtain assistance in filling out a benefits application. ( Id. at 3, 5.) The SAC does not describe what the "Single Stop Department" is or what services it offers, except for indicating that it is located in the "Gateway Building." ( Id. at 1.) When Plaintiff tried to get help filling out the application, Defendant Christina Carbone, a Single Stop employee, refused to help him and instead continued a telephone conversation with her husband. ( Id. at 5.) At some later time, Plaintiff returned to the Single Stop Department, and began speaking with Tamika Hall, another Single Stop employee. ( Id. at 3, 5.) While Hall was with Plaintiff, Carbone came into the room and "verbally attacked" Plaintiff. ( Id. at 3, 5, 8.) Plaintiff informed Carbone that he had a disability and needed assistance filling out applications. ( Id. at 5.) Carbone continued to verbally attack Plaintiff, and Plaintiff eventually called the police. ( Id. at 5, 8.)

After this second incident with Carbone, Plaintiff sought out Defendant Ellen Zenderman, a Single Stop supervisor. ( Id. at 1, 5.) Instead of listening to his complaint about Carbone, however, Zenderman brought Plaintiff to see Defendant Debby Santora, a mental health professional at Single Stop. ( Id. at 5.) Santora and Plaintiff spoke, but Santora avoided discussing Plaintiff's complaints about Carbone and instead only wanted to talk about other matters. ( Id. ) At one point, Santora stepped out of the room to talk with Zenderman; Plaintiff believes Santora was sharing confidential information with Zenderman. ( Id. ) Zenderman and Santora then "made" Plaintiff sign a statement agreeing not to enter the Gateway Building again. ( Id. ) Following this episode, Santora placed repeated phone calls to Plaintiff in an attempt to get him to sign a mental health records release, which Plaintiff steadfastly refused to sign. ( Id. ) Plaintiff complained to his WCC counselor about Santora's repeated calls, but the calls continued, and Plaintiff eventually changed his phone number. ( Id. at 3, 5.)

At some later, unspecified time, Plaintiff was pulled out of class by three unnamed individuals and taken to a "back room" where he was questioned and intimidated. ( Id. at 6.) These individuals tried to get Plaintiff to sign various forms, threatening him with expulsion from WCC if he did not comply. ( Id. ) Because he did not want to sign any forms, Plaintiff "got up and left." ( Id. ) Plaintiff was then "chased down" by campus security, who told him that he was expelled from the campus. ( Id. ) Plaintiff went to the bus stop to leave the campus and go home, but state troopers arrived and "physically placed their hands on [Plaintiff], tried to handcuff [him], cursed [him] out, " and threatened him, and one officer almost ran Plaintiff over with his police vehicle. ( Id. ) Plaintiff claims that there was a crowd of other students watching, some of whom were recording what was happening, and one student directed a racial slur at Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff also tried - at some unspecified point in time - to obtain help from the WCC Dean, calling the Dean's office more than a hundred times, [1] emailing repeatedly, and showing up in person, but he never received any assistance. ( Id. at 3, 7.) Plaintiff alleges that he was a good student with a good reputation, and that all of this conduct constituted discrimination. ( Id. at 6, 8.)

* * *

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed the instant lawsuit on May 9, 2013. ( See Complaint, (Doc. 2).) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915, the Chief Judge screened the Complaint, found it facially insufficient, and directed Plaintiff to submit an Amended Complaint that more clearly and fully laid out his grievances. ( See Order to Amend dated June 13, 2013, (Doc. 5).) After Defendants submitted a pre-motion letter outlining perceived deficiencies with the Amended Complaint, a pre-motion conference was held at which I directed Plaintiff to submit a Second Amended Complaint that might address Defendants' concerns, at least some of which the Court shared, and that used numbered paragraphs and specified exactly what claims Plaintiff was asserting. ( See Doc. 11 (Defendants' pre-motion letter dated Oct. 17, 2013); Minute Entry dated Nov. 22, 2013 (pre-motion conference).) Plaintiff thereafter submitted the currently operative Second Amended Complaint, which does not use numbered paragraphs but lists five "claims": (1) emotional distress; (2) false imprisonment; (3) physical assault; (4) denial of help; and (5) discrimination. (SAC at 7-8.) The instant Motion followed.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss

"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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration, citations, and internal quotation marks omitted). While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 ...


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