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Butler v. Brito

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 15, 2017

GLENN P. BUTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
POLICE OFFICER JOAQUIM BRITO and COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER, Defendants.

          Antoinette L. Williams Antoinette L. Williams, P.C. Pelham, New York Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Sean T. Carey Robert F. Meehan, Westchester County Attorney White Plains, New York Counsel for Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          CATHY SEIBEL, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Glenn P. Butler asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of his arrest by Defendant Police Officer Joaquim Brito. Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Brito and the County of Westchester (the “County”). (Doc. 28.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         I accept as true the facts, but not the conclusions, set forth in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (“AC”). (Doc. 10.)

         On December 13, 2014, Plaintiff had pulled his car over on a grassy area near the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Cross County Parkway in Mount Vernon, New York. (AC ¶ 9.)[1] He had not been in an accident. (Id. ¶ 17.) While Plaintiff and his passenger were outside of the car, Defendant Brito approached them. (See Id. ¶ 10.) Defendant ordered Plaintiff and the passenger back into Plaintiff's car, and ordered Plaintiff to drive following Defendant in his car. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff followed Defendant to another area where there was a DWI check point, of which Plaintiff was not aware because it was not visible from the shoulder where he had pulled over. (Id. ¶ 12.) Defendant accused Plaintiff of trying to avoid the checkpoint, which Plaintiff disputed, and Defendant then accused Plaintiff of “busting his balls.” (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Defendant arrested Plaintiff and charged him with a violation of New York Vehicle & Traffic Law (“VTL”) 1194(1)(b), [2] which Plaintiff contends is not a “legally cognizant [sic] offense” standing alone. (Id. ¶ 14.) At the scene, Plaintiff was handcuffed and subjected to a pat down. (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiff was never charged with a crime related to driving while intoxicated. (See Id. ¶ 17.)

         After being taken into custody, Plaintiff submitted to a breathalyzer test. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant claimed at some unspecified time that Plaintiff refused a breathalyzer test, even though Defendant stated in a supporting deposition that Plaintiff did submit to such test. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that, while in custody, he was subjected to a search that was “much more intrusive” than the pat down on the side of the road. (Id. ¶ 33.) Defendant allegedly told Plaintiff that the ticket would be dismissed, and that he arrested Plaintiff because Plaintiff was “busting his balls” and giving Defendant a hard time about submitting to a breathalyzer test. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         On June 2, 2015, a Mount Vernon City Judge dismissed Plaintiff's traffic ticket, concluding that “the refusal to submit to a breath test pursuant to [VTL] § 1194(1)(b) is not a cognizable offense.” (Id. ¶ 20.)

         On the date of the traffic stop, Plaintiff was working for Con Edison. (Id. ¶ 24.) His job required as a condition of employment that he report any arrests or traffic infractions, and after doing so he was suspended and ultimately terminated. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant knew about Plaintiff's suspension and termination. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a complaint on December 11, 2015. (Doc. 1.) On April 28, 2016, Defendants submitted a pre-motion letter arguing that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed: (1) for failure to timely serve Defendants; (2) for failure to file a notice of claim; (3) because probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff, rendering his arrest and search valid; and (4) because he failed to state a claim for municipal liability against the County. (Doc. 3.) Plaintiff responded on May 16, 2016, arguing that his failure to serve the complaint should be excused, and disputing that probable cause existed based on the complaint's allegations. (Doc. 7.)

         On May 19, 2016, the parties appeared for a conference to discuss Defendants' arguments. I explained to Plaintiff that boilerplate allegations regarding the County would not survive a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff clarified that he was not alleging any state-law claims and was separately challenging his arrest and the search pursuant to his arrest.

         On July 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed the AC, which asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful search and false arrest, and a claim under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), asserting municipal liability against the County. (AC ¶¶ 28-55.)

         II. ...


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