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Willis v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 9, 2015

PATRICK WILLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
TILE CITY OF NEW YORK, P.O. MARIA ARRUZA, and P.O. JOHN DOES #1-10, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

RONNIE ABRAMS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Patrick Willis brings this case against the City of New York, Police Officer Maria Arruza, and other unknown New York City Police Department ("NYPD") officers for alleged constitutional violations stemming from his June 22, 2011 arrest. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that there is no genuine issue of material fact remaining for trial and grants summary judgment to Defendants.

BACKGROUND[1]

On June 22, 2011 at approximately 7:45 p.m., Officers Arruza and Constantin Flesaru, each on separate foot patrols, responded to loud music coming from Plaintiff's vehicle, located near the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, New York. (Defendant's Rule 56.1 Statement ("Def. 56.1") ¶¶ 5-7.) The officers approached Plaintiff's car and told him to turn the music down. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff lowered the music, but once the officers began to leave the scene, the music's volume increased. (Id. ¶¶ 8-11.) Officer Arruza then returned to the vehicle and asked Plaintiff for his driver's license. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Officer Arruza called either the NYPD's Administrative Impact Office or Central Dispatch to run Plaintiff's license through the "NYPD Finest System" ("NYPD FS"), a database containing warrant and summons information. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16.) After she was informed that Plaintiff had an open bench warrant with docket number 2011SX041939 from a disorderly conduct case in Bronx County Criminal Court, she placed Plaintiff under arrest. (Id. ¶ 2, 14-16, 18.) The entire encounter lasted approximately fifteen minutes. (Id. ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff does not dispute that on April 16, 2011, he received summons number 2011SX041939 for disorderly conduct, which required him to appear in Bronx County Criminal Court. Rather, he asserts that he appeared in Bronx County Criminal Court on the date required by the summons-June 21, 2011, the same date the warrant was issued. (Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Statement ("Pl. 56.1") ¶¶ 1-4, 14; Def. 56.1 ¶ 1.) Defendants concede that the bench warrant had in fact been vacated on the day of the arrest. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 3.) They assert, however, that at the time of the arrest, that information had not yet been updated on the NYPD FS, which receives a daily "overnight extract file" containing summons and warrant information from the court. (Id. ¶ 16-17.)

After the arrest, Plaintiff was arraigned and released on his own recognizance. (Id. ¶ 20.) On September 15, 2011, Plaintiff's case was dismissed during a court appearance. (Id. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiff filed this action on July 6, 2012, seeking damages for civil rights violations under the state and federal constitutions, and for state law claims of negligence, invasion of privacy, battery, and prima facie tort. (Compl. ¶¶ 17-50.) Following discovery, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment on all counts. (Dkt. 27.)

Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def. Br.") at 1.)[2] Defendants argue, inter alia, that (1) there was probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest, detention, and prosecution, (2) Officer Arruza is protected by qualified immunity for the arrest, (3) Plaintiff's excessive force claim fails as a matter of law, (4) Plaintiff's single post-arraignment court appearance does not provide a basis for a malicious prosecution claim, (5) there is no basis for municipal liability because Plaintiff failed to establish a constitutional violation, and (6) Plaintiff's state law claims must be dismissed because he failed to file a notice of claim. (Id. at 4-23.) In his opposition to the motion, Plaintiff concedes that there is no legal basis for an excessive force claim. (Plaintiff's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl. Opp.") at 15.) He maintains, however, that Defendants did not have probable cause for his arrest and that Officer Arruza is not entitled to qualified immunity: he further argues that summary judgment should be denied on his malicious prosecution and municipal liability claims. (Id. at 7, 13, 16, 18.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is only appropriate where the Court concludes "after construing the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor, that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Costello v. City of Burlington, 632 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). Federal Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Hayut v. State Univ. of New York, 352 F.3d 733, 743 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiff's Federal Claims[3]

A. False Arrest

"The existence of probable cause to arrest... is a complete defense to an action for false arrest, ' whether that action is brought under state law or under § 1983." Gonzalez v. City of Schenectady, 728 F.3d 149, 155 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996)). "[P]robable cause to arrest exists when the officers have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a crime." Weyant, 101 F.3d at 852. In conducting a probable cause analysis, a court "must consider [only] those facts available to the officer at the time of the arrest and immediately before it." Panetta v. Crowley, 460 F.3d 388, 395 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted).

Defendants argue that summary judgment is appropriate on Plaintiff's false arrest claim because there was probable cause for the arrest based on both Plaintiff's disorderly conduct and the existence of a bench warrant, and that in the alternative, that Officer Arruza is entitled to qualified immunity. (Def. Br. at 5-6, 9.) Plaintiff disputes that there was probable cause for the arrest, arguing that both the initial stop and the ensuing arrest were unlawful. (Pl. Opp. at 10-11.) For the reasons discussed ...


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