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Ramos v. Culick

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 9, 2017

IVAN RAMOS, Plaintiff,
GREGORY J. CULICK, Chief of Amsterdam Police Department, SERGEANT CARL J. RUST, Amsterdam Police Department, Defendants.

          IVAN RAMOS 12-B-2475 Plaintiff, pro se Green Haven Correctional Facility


          THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, United States Magistrate Judge


         Pro se Plaintiff Ivan Ramos' initial complaint (Dkt. No. 1) in this civil rights action against Defendant Carl J. Rust (“Rust”), brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was dismissed for failure to state a claim on initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e). (Dkt. No. 12.) The dismissal was without prejudice, and the Hon. Frederick J. Scullin, Senior District Judge, has referred Plaintiff's amended complaint (Dkt. No. 11) to the Court for initial review. Plaintiff has added Gregory J. Culick (“Culick”) as a Defendant in his amended complaint. Id.


         Having found that Plaintiff meets the financial criteria for commencing this case in forma pauperis, and because Plaintiff seeks relief from an officer or employee of a governmental entity, the Court must consider the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the Complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. Section 1915(e) directs that when a plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).[1]

         Similarly, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review any “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity” and must “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint . . . is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief against a person who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         In reviewing a pro se complaint, the Court has the duty to show liberality towards pro se litigants, see Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990), and should exercise “extreme caution . . . in ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before the adverse party has been served and both parties (but particularly the plaintiff) have had an opportunity to respond.” Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37, 41 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted). Therefore, a court should not dismiss a complaint if the Plaintiff has stated “enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court should construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged but it has not “show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (quoting Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)). While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which sets forth the general rules of pleading, “does not require detailed factual allegations, . . . it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Thus, a pleading that only “tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” will not suffice. Id. (internal quotations marks and alterations omitted). Allegations that “are so vague as to fail to give the defendants adequate notice of the claims against them” are subject to dismissal. Sheehy v. Brown, 335 F. App'x 102, 104 (2d Cir. 2009).

         Where a pro se complaint fails to state a cause of action, the court generally “should not dismiss without granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated.” Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). An opportunity to amend is not required where “the problem with [the plaintiff's] causes of action is substantive” such that “better pleading will not cure it.” Id. (citation omitted).


         Plaintiff is presently imprisoned after being convicted by a jury of a double homicide. (Dkt. No. 11 at ¶ 4.[2]) Defendant Rust is a Sergeant in the Amsterdam Police Department in Amsterdam, New York. Id. at ¶ 3. On March 2, 2012, at approximately 5:50am, Rust arrived at the crime scene of the double homicide at 359 Locust Avenue, and upon entering the apartment saw one male victim and one female victim in close proximity. Id. at 5.[3] Rust took four photographs on his department phone and backed out of the crime scene. Id.

         Plaintiff, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole, has denied committing the crimes, and since his conviction has begun his own investigation and allegedly learned from a reliable source that the actual perpetrator of the double homicide had left his orange and blue parka at the crime scene and had been unsuccessful in retrieving it. Id. at ¶¶ 7-9. The Plaintiff has identified the alleged perpetrator and the alleged source of the information in his amended complaint. Id. at ¶ 10.

         Plaintiff contends he needs the four pictures in order to demonstrate that someone other than he committed the double homicide. Id. at ¶ 16. According to Plaintiff, if he had the pictures, he could show them to his source to ascertain if the orange and blue parka belonged to the person Plaintiff believes to have been the actual perpetrator of the crimes. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff alleges that the discovery will lead to DNA testing, and that without the four photos, his access to the courts will be curbed. Id. at ¶ at 18.

         On April 12, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) request under N.Y. Pub. Off. Law §§ 87-89, requesting:

1.) A complete list of all Departmental Equipment/Gear issued to Sgt. Carl Rust, Badge # 207, for the dates ...

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