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James v. Suffolk County Correctional Facility

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 17, 2014

TRAVIS JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
SUFFOLK COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, ET AL., Defendants.

Plaintiff proceeds pro se.

Defendants are represented by Eric T. Shniederman, Attorney General, of the State of New York, by Lori Pack, Assistant Attorney General, Hauppauge, NY.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Travis James ("plaintiff') brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against defendants Suffolk County Correctional Facility ("SCCF"), the Division of Parole, Parole Officer Bill Henderson ("Henderson"), Parole Officer Murphy ("Murphy"), Parole Officer T. Mangiaracina ("Mangiaracina"), Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco ("DeMarco"), and several John Doe Officers. As relevant at this juncture, plaintiff seeks damages against Henderson, Murphy, and Mangiaracina (collectively, "the parole officers") for issuing a warrant against plaintiff for violating the conditions of his parole.[1] ( See Amended Complaint ("AC"), p. 6.) The parole officers move to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the basis of qualified and sovereign immunity. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses any claims against the parole officers in their official capacities, because those claims are barred under the Eleventh Amendment. The Court denies the motion to dismiss the individual defendants, in their individual capacities, on qualified immunity grounds. In their motion papers, defendants argue that qualified immunity is warranted because, at a minimum, arguable probable cause existed for the arrest on the parole violation. However, defendants submitted no documents to support that assertion and, in any event, the Court could not consider evidence of that nature (outside the pleadings) on a motion to dismiss. The denial of the motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds as to the individual defendants in their individual capacities is without prejudice to a future summary judgment motion on that issue.

I. APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

As a threshold matter, plaintiff's application for appointment of counsel is denied.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), courts may appoint an attorney to represent someone unable to afford counsel. Courts possess broad discretion when determining whether appointment is appropriate, "subject to the requirement that it be guided by sound legal principle.' Cooper v. A. Sargenti Co., Inc., 877 F.2d 170, 171-72 (2d Cir. 1989) (quoting Jenkins v. Chem. Bank, 721 F.2d 876, 879 (2d Cir. 1983)). The Second Circuit set forth the principle as follows:

[T]he district judge should first determine whether the indigent's position seems likely to be of substance. If the claim meets this threshold requirement, the court should then consider the indigent's ability to investigate the crucial facts, whether conflicting evidence implicating the need for cross-examination will be the major proof presented to the fact finder, the indigent's ability to present the case, the complexity of the legal issues and any special reason in that case why appointment of counsel would be more likely to lead to a just determination.

Hendricks v. Coughlin, 114 F.3d 390, 392 (2d Cir. 1997) (quoting Hodge v. Police Officers, 802 F.2d 58, 61-62 (2d Cir. 1986)).

The Second Circuit also held that these factors are not restrictive and that "[e]ach case must be decided on its own facts." Hodge, 802 F.2d at 61. A developed record assists the court in this regard. See, e.g., Brooks v. New York, No. 92-CV-1508, 1992 WL 320402, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 29, 1992) (denying, without prejudice, appointment of counsel based on pleadings' failure to satisfy Hodge's required threshold showing of likely merit).

Plaintiff commenced this action for deprivation of his constitutional rights under the color of state law by defendants. The Court has reviewed plaintiff's application and finds that the appointment of counsel is not warranted at this stage of the litigation, because plaintiff has not satisfied the threshold requirement of Hodge, 802 F.2d at 61. Moreover, even apart from the threshold requirement, the Court is unable to conclude, after considering the above referenced Hodge factors in the context of the plaintiff's application and complaint, at this juncture in the litigation, that the appointment of counsel is warranted. Specifically, the appointment of counsel is unnecessary for the issues raised in the complaint and the motion to dismiss. Accordingly, plaintiff's application for appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice to plaintiff renewing the application at a later stage of these proceedings, if circumstances warrant such an application.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

The Court takes the following facts from the amended complaint. These are not findings of fact by the Court; instead, the Court assumes these facts to be true for purposes of deciding the pending motion and construes them in ...


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