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McNaughton v. Blasio

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 4, 2015

NEIL McNAUGHTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BILL de BLASIO, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Neil McNaughton presents a riveting tale of intra-family machinations, egregious sexual misconduct (actual or alleged), coopting of two different law enforcement bodies, near-daily attempts at entrapment, and countless invasions of Plaintiff's home and computer. To the moving defendants, the City of New York (the "City") and several of its officers (collectively, the "Municipal Defendants"), as well as Plaintiff's sister Laura McNaughton (together with the Municipal Defendants, the "Moving Defendants"), these allegations are just that - a tale that cannot withstand scrutiny under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth in the remainder of this Opinion, Defendants' motions are granted.

BACKGROUND[1]

A. Factual Background

According to Plaintiff, the problems culminating in the instant litigation began at least as early as the spring of 2007, when Plaintiff learned that his sister Laura was accusing him - falsely, he claims - of being a pedophile. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11).[2] Plaintiff avers that these statements adversely affected his relationships with members of his family ( id. ); in his opposition papers, for example, he suggests that the statements caused a female cousin to prohibit Plaintiff from spending time with her young children (Pl. Opp. 5-6).

Were that the totality of Plaintiff's claims, the plausibility inquiry that inheres in Rule 12(b)(6) would not be implicated. In the remainder of the Amended Complaint, however, Plaintiff attempts to posit a Grand Unified Theory - involving his sister and two wholly unrelated police departments - to link together a multitude of seemingly unrelated "anomalous occurrences." (Am. Compl. ¶ 35). It is here that Plaintiff's allegations lose their tethers to logic and common sense. First, Plaintiff claims that his sister advised the Montclair (NJ) Police Department (the "MPD"), in or about 2009, that Plaintiff was a pedophile. (Id. at ¶ 12). According to Plaintiff, she did so because Plaintiff visited Montclair weekly to check in on his ailing mother. (Id. ). These allegations, irrespective of their truth, are plausible; what is next alleged is much less so.

As a result of Laura McNaughton's slanderous statements, Plaintiff alleges, the MPD engaged in a "baiting" campaign, in the course of which the police repeatedly "paraded [underage girls] before him while he [wa]s under surveillance in an attempt to elicit behavior that could subject him to arrest." (Am. Compl. ¶ 12).[3] However, after persisting with this baiting activity for some 18 months without success, the MPD stopped the campaign. (Id. ). At or about this time, which Plaintiff believes to be the summer of 2011, his sister again falsely accused him of being a pedophile; this time, however, she reported these allegations to the New York City Police Department (the "NYPD") or the New York Department of Parks. (Id. at ¶ 14).

Here, too, Plaintiff veers sharply from the plausible in his allegations. According to Plaintiff, the information provided by his sister to the NYPD resulted in an entirely new campaign of baiting activity, "this time in plaintiff's own neighborhood, and nearly every time plaintiff left his apartment there was some under[age] girl smiling at him, usually with a concerned parent nearby." (Am. Compl. ¶ 14). And, in contrast to the MPD campaign, the NYPD baiting campaign has continued for more than three years: Plaintiff recites in his opposition to the instant motion that the NYPD baiting campaign "has involved hundreds of incidents and lasted from the summer of 2011 until the present day." (Pl. Opp. 19). Plaintiff further explained in a separate complaint that "[f]or some reason the police apparently think I have a preference for Asian children, and they have informed the Asian community. Almost every time I leave my apartment now, there is some underage Asian girl walking nearby me with a concerned middle aged parent or grandparent lurking nearby." (Dkt. #33-2 at 4).

In addition, Plaintiff avers that the NYPD implemented a "stalking" campaign, by which "there would be a police car or patrolman around nearly every time plaintiff left his apartment." (Am. Compl. ¶ 15; see also Pl. Opp. 19 (noting that the "police stalking behavior... has involved dozens if not hundreds of police officers and lasted from the fall of 2012 until the present day")). Plaintiff does not allege that any of these officers approached him, spoke to him, or visited his apartment building[4]; nonetheless, he maintains that instances in which he observed "numerous patrol cars" (Am. Compl. ¶ 19) on his return home from New Jersey, or while visiting the New York Public Library ( id. at ¶¶ 26-27), were evidence of a concerted investigation by the NYPD into his conduct.

In or about October 2012, Plaintiff sought the assistance of computer forensic specialists, so that he could demonstrate to the NYPD that his computer contained no evidence "that he had [an] interest in children." (Am. Compl. ¶ 16). At that time, however, Plaintiff noticed that certain emails and documents were missing from his computer. He concluded that "they were deleted by the NYPD." (Id. at ¶ 17).

In January 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (the "CCRB") concerning his interactions with the NYPD; he avers that he received no response. (Am. Compl. ¶ 19).[5] Efforts to seek assistance from the NYPD's Computer Crimes Squad were met with derision. (Id. at ¶ 20). Instead, Plaintiff was subject to additional surveillance of his home and his computer; documents were modified in or deleted from his computer, presumably by or at the behest of the NYPD. ( See, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 21-25). Plaintiff summarily concluded that either the NYPD or others acting at its direction must have "illegally entered plaintiff's apartment and tampered with evidence in plaintiff's possession." (Id. at ¶ 29).

According to Plaintiff, the NYPD has spread the defamatory statements to others, which has had the effect (if not the design) of complicating Plaintiff's ability to bring the instant case. For example, Plaintiff notes that a communication from the process server he used in this case referred to him as "Mr. Naughtiness"; that error, along with certain missteps in the service process, are alleged by Plaintiff to have been "caused by the republication of the slander that plaintiff was a pedophile by the NYPD to [the process server] and were done in concert with the NYPD." (Am. Compl. ¶ 34). Plaintiff similarly cites improper interference by the NYPD to explain why Plaintiff had difficulties retaining a forensic expert to analyze fingerprints from his apartment. (Id. at ¶ 35).

At the close of the factual allegations in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff issues a blanket allegation that his sister, Laura McNaughton, "aided the police in these violations of plaintiff's privacy and civil rights and personally engaged in an unauthorized search of plaintiff's documents and belongings." (Am. Compl. ¶ 36).

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his initial complaint (the "Complaint") on January 13, 2014, naming as defendants Mayor Bill de Blasio, then-NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the City, the NYPD, "Detective Jackson" (the individual at the NYPD Computer Crimes Squad with whom Plaintiff had spoken), various Jane and John Doe NYPD officers and detectives, and Laura McNaughton. (Dkt. #1). On May 20, 2014, Defendant Laura McNaughton filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. (Dkt. #6). Plaintiff responded by memorandum dated May 22, 2014, and filed the next day (Dkt. #12); and Laura McNaughton replied by memorandum dated May 30, 2014, and filed on June 2, 2014 (Dkt. #16).

By Order dated May 27, 2014, the Court convened a conference on June 26, 2014 (the "June 26 Conference"), to discuss the pending motion to dismiss and other issues related to the pretrial conduct of the litigation. (Dkt. #11). Thereafter, on May 30, 2014, counsel for the Municipal Defendants sought additional time to file a response to the Complaint, indicating their intention to file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. #14). On June 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint, which replaced Defendant Kelly with his successor at the NYPD, Commissioner William Bratton, and significantly expanded upon the allegations in the Complaint. (Dkt. #20).

At the June 26 Conference, the Court set a briefing schedule for the Municipal Defendants' motion to dismiss. ( See Transcript of Conference of June 26, 2014 ("June 26 Tr.") 15-16 (Dkt. #29)). Additionally, the Court informed Laura McNaughton, who was proceeding pro se, that - barring any supplemental filings received by August 1, 2014 - her previous submissions in support of dismissal of the Complaint ( see Dkt. #6, 16) would be deemed her moving papers in connection with her motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint ( see June 26 Tr. 15).[6]

After the June 26 Conference, Plaintiff indicated that he was consenting to the dismissal of the action as to Defendants Kelly and the NYPD, and the Court ordered the dismissal accordingly. (Dkt. #27, 28).[7] On August 1, 2014, the Municipal Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (Dkt. #31-34); Plaintiff responded on September 2, 2014 (Dkt. #35); and the Municipal Defendants replied on September 16, 2014 (Dkt. #37).

DISCUSSION

A. Applicable Law

1. Motions to Dismiss Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

Defendants have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When considering such a motion, a court should "draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor, assume all well-pleaded factual allegations to be true, and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Selevan v. N.Y. Thruway Auth., 584 F.3d 82, 88 (2d Cir. 2009)).

A plaintiff will survive a motion to dismiss if he alleges "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see also In re Elevator Antitrust Litig., 502 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2007) ("While Twombly does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, it does require enough facts to nudge [plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." (internal quotation marks omitted)). A court is not, however, bound to accept "conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions." Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

"In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint." DiFolco v. MSNBC Cable LLC, 622 F.3d 104, 111 (2d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). "Even where a document is not incorporated by reference, the court may nevertheless consider it where the complaint relies heavily upon its terms and effect, ' which renders the document integral' to the complaint." Chambers v. Time Warner, Inc., 282 F.3d 147, 153 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Int'l Audiotext Network, Inc. v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 72 (2d Cir. 1995) (per curiam)). "[A] plaintiff's reliance on the terms and effect of a document in drafting the complaint is a necessary prerequisite to the court's consideration of the document on a dismissal motion; mere notice or possession is not enough." Id. (emphasis in original). "If a document relied on in the complaint contradicts allegations in the complaint, the document, not the allegations, control, and the court need not accept the allegations in the complaint as true.'" TufAmerica, Inc. v. Diamond, 968 F.Supp.2d 588, 592 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Poindexter v. EMI Record Grp. Inc., No. 11 Civ. 559 (LTS), 2012 WL 1027639, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2012)).

Plaintiff is correct that courts generally construe pro se pleadings broadly, and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. (Pl. Opp. 7). See Cruz v. Gomez, 202 F.3d 593, 597 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996)). Here, however, Plaintiff is an attorney, and is thus not entitled to liberal construction of his pleadings. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010); Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 82 n.4 (2d Cir. 2001) (" pro se attorneys typically cannot claim [that] special consideration" (internal quotation marks omitted)); see generally ...


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