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Johnson v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 18, 2014



JAMES C. FRANCIS, IV, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Brian Johnson, proceeding pro se, filed this action against the City of New York and Officers Michael Gabriel and Ronald Carlos Juan (erroneously sued as Officer Ronaldcar Juan) of the New York City Police Department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when he was subject to "false arrest, illegal profiling, malicious prosecution, and defamation of character" in connection with his August 1, 2009 arrest on charges stemming from an incident on or near the grounds of the Gouverneur Morris I Houses (also known as the Morris Houses and the Claremont Houses) in the Bronx. (Second Amended Complaint ("2nd Am. Compl."), §§ II, V). The defendants have moved for summary judgment. I recommend granting the motion.


The following facts are taken largely from the defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts.[1] (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 ("Def. 56.1 Statement").

On the morning of August 1, 2009, Mr. Johnson was on Washington Avenue in the vicinity of the Morris Houses, when he saw Anthony Dunstan, who, like the plaintiff, lived in the neighborhood. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 3-6). Also on that morning, NYPD Detective Jeffrey McAvoy witnessed an assault while he was monitoring security videos from cameras on the grounds of the Morris Houses. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 7-8). He reportedly saw Mr. Johnson and Mr. Dunston engage in a fight, during which Mr. Johnson cut Mr. Dunston's face with a weapon. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 9). The detective called for assistance. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 8). When Officers Gabriel and Juan responded, he described the men involved in the fight and noted the direction the perpetrator had gone on Washington Avenue. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶¶ 8-9; Declaration of Michael Gabriel dated Jan 22, 2014 ("Gabriel Decl."), attached as Exh. M to Declaration of Aimee K. Lulich dated Jan. 22, 2014 ("Lulich Decl."), ¶ 3). Following this lead, Officers Gabriel and Juan located and arrested the plaintiff, who matched Detective McAvoy's description of the person seen cutting Mr. Dunstan on the surveillance video. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 10). They recovered a bag of marijuana from Mr. Johnson's pocket. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 11). Before taking Mr. Johnson to the precinct, the officers brought him before Detective McAvoy, who identified him as the person he saw cutting Mr. Dunstan. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 13).

The next day, Mr. Johnson was arraigned on charges of assault in the second and third degrees, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, unlawful possession of marijuana, and harassment in the second degree. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 16). Less than two weeks after his arraignment, Mr. Johnson was indicted on two counts of attempted assault in the first degree, three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, three counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and one count each of assault in the second degree and assault in the third degree. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 18; Indictment dated Aug. 14, 2009, attached as Exh. J to Lulich Decl.). He was released on bail on December 4, 2009. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 19). The charges against him were dismissed on speedy trial grounds in September 2010. (Def. 56.1 Statement, ¶ 20).


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Doninger v. Niehoff , 642 F.3d 334, 344 (2d Cir. 2011). A dispute regarding a material fact is "genuine" where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); accord SCR Joint Venture LP v. Warshawsky , 559 F.3d 133, 137 (2d Cir. 2009), and a material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, '" Roe v. City of Waterbury , 542 F.3d 31, 35 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248). "In deciding whether a genuine dispute exists, a court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'" Seeman v. Local 32B-32J, Service Employees Union , 769 F.Supp.2d 615, 620 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (quoting Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp. , 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003)).

The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate "the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, " Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986), following which the opposing party must "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, '" Wrobel v. County of Erie , 692 F.3d 22, 30 (2d Cir. 2012) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986)), and "cannot rest on the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings, " Almonte, 2011 WL 3902997, at *2 (internal quotation marks omitted). The parties can support their claims with discovery materials, stipulations, affidavits, or other evidence, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); however, "only admissible evidence need be considered by the trial court in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, " Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, Inc. , 582 F.3d 244, 264 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the parties cannot rely on "conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation'" to support or defeat a motion for summary judgment. Jeffreys v. City of New York , 426 F.3d 549, 554 (2d Cir. 2005) (quoting Fujitsu Ltd. v. Federal Express Corp. , 247 F.3d 423, 428 (2d Cir. 2001)).

A pro se litigant's submissions should be read liberally and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Fulton v. Goord , 591 F.3d 37, 43 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Green v. United States , 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001)). Nevertheless, proceeding pro se does not relieve a litigant from the usual requirements of summary judgment. See Wolfson v. Bruno , 844 F.Supp.2d 348, 354 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). As noted above, where a pro se plaintiff fails to oppose a motion for summary judgment after having been warned of the consequences of such a failure, "summary judgment may be granted as long as the Court is satisfied that the undisputed facts show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Almonte, 2011 WL 3902997, at *2 (quoting Champion v. Artuz , 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir. 1996)).

B. Section 1983

Section 1983 does not, itself, provide substantive rights. Rather, it merely "authorizes a cause of action based on the deprivation of civil rights guaranteed by other Acts of Congress" and the Constitution. Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization , 441 U.S. 600, 618 (1979); see Sykes v. James , 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993) ("Section 1983 itself creates no substantive rights; it provides only a procedure for redress for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere."). In order to show a violation of the statute, a plaintiff must establish that he has been deprived of his civil rights by a state actor. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see also Torraco v. Port Authority of New York & New Jersey , 615 F.3d 129, 136 (2d Cir. 2010) ("[Section 1983] allows parties to seek damages against state actors for alleged violations of federal rights."); Fisk v. Letterman , 401 F.Supp.2d 362, 376 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) ("[A] claim under § 1983 is aimed at state action and state actors." (internal quotation marks and citation ...

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