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Rivera v. Demiller

United States District Court, N.D. New York

November 19, 2014

ANTHONY RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
SARA DEMILLER et al., Defendants.

Anthony Rivera, Pro Se, Little Falls, NY, For the Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Anthony Rivera commenced this action against defendants Sara Demiller and Oneida County pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging malicious prosecution. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Rivera appears to seek money damages. ( Id. at 3.) He also submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), which triggered initial review of his complaint by Magistrate Judge Therèse Wiley Dancks pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). (Dkt. No. 2.)

In an Order and Report-Recommendation (R&R) dated April 29, 2014, Judge Dancks granted Rivera's application to proceed IFP, but recommended that his complaint be dismissed without leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 4.) Rivera has filed objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 5.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in part and rejected in part.

II. Background

The only substantive allegation set forth in Rivera's complaint is that he was arrested, after which Demiller "ignore[d]" the facts and prosecuted him even after learning that the charges against him were false, and that "[a]fter [he] would not take a plea[ ] she was forced to drop[ ] trial on trial date." (Compl. at 2.) Rivera thus seeks "[t]o be compe[n]sated" for the mental anguish "caused by... Demiller, " and to have the federal government more closely look at alleged malicious prosecutions in Oneida County. ( Id. at 3.)

III. Standard of Review

Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.

IV. Discussion

In her R&R, Judge Dancks recommended dismissing Rivera's complaint in its entirety, without leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 4 at 6.) Specifically, she recommended that his claim against Demiller be dismissed because of absolute prosecutorial immunity from liability under § 1983, and Rivera's failure to state a claim for malicious prosecution. ( Id. at 3-5.) Judge Dancks indicated that "the complaint states that [Rivera] pleaded guilty to the charges against him, " and "[t]hus, the prosecution was not terminated in [his] favor, " so he was therefore unable to maintain a malicious prosecution claim. ( Id. at 4.) She recommended that Rivera not be given leave to amend because Demiller is shielded by absolute immunity "and because [Rivera] has admitted that he pleaded guilty to the charges against him." ( Id. )

With respect to Rivera's claim against Oneida County, Judge Dancks also recommended dismissal because Rivera had not pleaded the existence of an official policy or custom as would be required to subject a municipality to liability under § 1983. ( Id. at 5); see Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). Further, as mentioned above with respect to Demiller, Rivera had not stated an underlying cause of action for malicious prosecution "because [he] admits that he pleaded guilty to the charges against him." (Dkt. No. 4 at 5-6.) For those reasons, Judge Dancks recommended dismissal without leave to amend.

In his objections, Rivera notes that the recommendation to dismiss his complaint "is wrong" because he "did not plea[d] guilty" to the charges against him, but instead, "Demiller was force[d] to dismiss the case." (Dkt. No. 5.) This contention is indeed consistent with his allegation in the complaint that "[a]fter [he] would not take a plea[ ] she was forced to drop[ the charges] on [the] trial date." (Compl. at 2.) As Rivera has objected to a specific factual finding in the R&R, he is entitled to a de novo review of the R&R. See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5.

The elements of malicious prosecution under § 1983 and New York law are the same. See Cook v. Sheldon, 41 F.3d 73, 79 (2d Cir. 1994). To prevail on a malicious prosecution claim, a plaintiff must establish that: "(1) the defendant commenced a criminal proceeding against him; (2) the proceeding ended in the plaintiff's favor; (3) the defendant did not have probable cause to believe the plaintiff was guilty of the crime charged; and (4) the defendant ...


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