United States District Court, W.D. New York
FRANKLIN D. SCHAFER, Individually and as A Member of a Proposed Class, Plaintiff,
JOHN FRANCIS COYNE, ELIZABETH R. DONATELLO, JACQUELINE FAITH COLLARD, DEBORAH STEVENSON, and JOHN AND JANE DOE, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
JEREMIAH J. McCARTHY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
me is the motion of defendants John Francis Coyne and
Jacqueline Collard (collectively, the “medical
defendants”) to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. (“Rules”) 12(b)(6) and (b)(1) ,
[1" name="FN1" id="FN1">1] and
the motion of defendants Elizabeth Donatello and Deborah
Stevenson (collectively, the “County defendants”)
to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and
(b)(1), or in the alternative for summary judgment pursuant
to Rule 56 . The parties have consented to have me decide
these motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c)
.Oral argument was held on November 17');">7, 2016
. At that time, I converted those portions of the motions
seeking Rule 12(b)(6) relief to Rule 56 motions for summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d), and gave the parties the
opportunity to file additional submissions based upon the
conversion and letter briefs addressing additional authority
cited by the medical defendants at the oral argument.
November 17');">7, 2016 Text Order . A letter brief was
submitted by the medical defendants , but no other
materials were filed.
following reasons, the motions are granted to the extent they
seek dismissal based upon lack of subject matter
January 22, 2009 defendant was indicted on two counts of
predatory sexual assault against a child, sex abuse in the
first degree, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a
child. [12-7');">7], p. 23 of 29. As part of the criminal
investigation, the minor victims were interviewed by
defendant Donatello, an Assistant Niagara County District
Attorney, on January 16, 2009 at the Child Advocacy Center
(“CAC”). Donatello Affidavit [12-6],
¶¶8-20. Defendant Stevenson, a caseworker with
Niagara County Protective Services, and Richard Kline, a New
York State Police Investigator, observed the interviews,
which were not videotaped. Id., ¶¶7');">7, 10.
Defendant Donatello also conducted a second interview with
the minors that was videotaped for presentment to the grand
jury. Id., ¶27');">7.
alleges that following these interviews, defendant Collard, a
Sexual Abuse Nurse Evaluator with the CAC, examined the
minors and found “no physical evidence of sexual
abuse”. Complaint , ¶¶12, 64. That report
was then allegedly approved by defendant Coyne, the medical
director of the CAC. Id., ¶¶10, 64.
plaintiff's June 2009 criminal trial in Niagara County
Court, the reliability of the interviews conducted of the
minors was heavily contested. Both minors testified at trial,
and were subjected to cross-examination. Id.,
¶14; minors' testimony [12-8 - 12-10]. Defendant
Stevenson and Investigator Kline also testified at trial that
the initial interview of the minors was proper and not
leading. Id., ¶17');">7; defendant Stevenson's
trial testimony [12-5], pp. 25-27');">7 of 44; Kline's trial
testimony [12-11');">11], p. 8');">p. 8');">p. 8');">p. 8 of 53. As part of plaintiff's
defense at trial, he presented testimony from his expert,
Charles Ewing, Ph.D., who testified that the initial
interview deviated from accepted practice since it was by
neither videotaped nor conducted by a neutral party.
Ewing's trial testimony [12-13');">13');">13');">13], p. 3 of 35.
was convicted by the jury on June 18, 2009 of all charges
except one count of predatory sexual assault against a child
(verdict sheet [12-13');">13');">13');">13], p. 35 of 35), and was later sentenced
to an indeterminate term of 20 years to life in prison.
Sentencing transcript [12-15], pp. 2-12 of 20. His conviction
was later affirmed on appeal. See People v. Schafer,
1 A.D.3d 13');">13');">13');">1361');">81 A.D.3d 13');">13');">13');">1361, 13');">13');">13');">1362 (4th Dep't. 2011');">11), lv.
denied, 17');">7 N.Y.3d 861');">17');">7 N.Y.3d 861 (2011');">11).
also challenged his conviction by filing a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus in May 2012, arguing, inter
alia, that he was denied “his federal
constitutional right to confront witnesses by the use of
hearsay evidence against him”. See Schafer v.
LaVallee, 12-cv-00419(MAT), Petition , p. 8');">p. 8');">p. 8');">p. 8 of 14,
Ground Three. As support for that ground of his habeas
petition, plaintiff alleged - as he does in this action -
that the prosecutor “conducted two suggestive
questioning sessions with the accusers prior to a medical
exam in violation of professional norms, standards and
practices that interviews with children be conducted by
neutral, non-partisan, specially trained interviewers to
minimize the possibility of false results. The medical exam
produced no evidence supporting the accusations against
petitioner beyond serving as a mere rehash of the suggestive
questioning”. Id. Although plaintiff states in
his Complaint that he “expects to be exonerated”
as a result of his habeas petition, that petition has since
been denied. See Judge Telesca's September 17');">7,
2013');">13');">13');">13 Decision and Order, 12-cv-00418, .
commenced this action in January 2012 pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§1983, 1985(3), and 1986, alleging that his
“wrongful conviction was the result of misconduct by
the Defendants”. Complaint , ¶1. He seeks class
action certification under Rule 23 for a class of
“similarly aggrieved victims”. Id.,
¶5. His six causes of action center on the interviews of
the minors that occurred during the criminal investigation.
Specifically, he alleges 1) that defendant Donatello's
“constitutionally deficient interviews of the child
accusers” subjected him to an unlawful arrest without
probable cause and an unreasonable search and seizure, in
violation of the Fourth Amendment (Complaint , Count one),
and violated plaintiff's “right to procedural and
substantive due process . . . by causing Plaintiff's
deprivation of liberty and incarceration”, in violation
of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (id., Count
two); 2) that defendants Donatello, Coyne and Collard
conspired to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights,
in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1985(3) (id., Count
three); that the medical defendants were negligent and/or
grossly negligent “[b]y failing to determine to what
extent the accusations against Plaintiff emerged as the
result of improper questioning by Defendant Donatello on two
occasions prior to the medical exam” (id.,
Count four); and 4) that defendant Stevenson violated 42
U.S.C. §1986, “[b]y not insisting that the
constitutionally deficient interviews conducted by Defendant
Donatello . . . be videotaped per CAC protocols”.
Id., Counts five and six.
of answering the Complaint, defendants have moved to dismiss
the Complaint by arguing, inter alia, that this
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's
claims pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine,
in the alternative that plaintiff's claims lack merit or
otherwise fail to state a cause of action. Medical
defendants' Memorandum of Law [10-4]; County
defendants' Memorandum of Law [12-17');">7]. While
plaintiff's counsel submitted an Affidavit with attached
exhibits [13');">13');">13');">13] in opposition to defendants' motions, it
does not mention any case law or legal authority whatsoever,
let alone discuss the specific arguments raised by defendants
in support of dismissal.
Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) Motions
Rule 12 ...