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Perkins v. New York City

United States District Court, E.D. New York

June 20, 2017




         Plaintiff Michael Perkins, who is incarcerated on Rikers Island, commenced this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] Perkins' request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The claims against the City of New York and the Police Commissioner are dismissed sua sponte. The claims against the remaining police officers may proceed.


         The following facts are taken from the Amended Complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of this Order.[2] On August 9, 2015, Jordan Card was the alleged victim of a robbery. (Amend. Compl. at 3.) That same day, defendant Police Officer Valenzuela[3] showed Card a single photograph of Perkins, and Card positively identified him as the individual who robbed him. (Id.) Thereafter, defendant Police Officer LaFemina showed Card a photo array containing Perkins' photograph in the fourth slot. (Id.) On August 23, 2015, LaFemina asked Perkins to participate in a lineup, and he refused. (Id. at 4.) At that point, “police officer LaFemina #11439 and several other police officer[]s assaulted the Plaintiff and forced the Plaintiff to partake in said lineup by handcuffing the Plaintiff to the wall and placing leg irons on the Plaintiff's ankles . . . and forced the Plaintiff to sit in position number four just as he place[d] the single photograph of the Plaintiff in slot number four of the photo array.” (Id.)

         The Complaint further alleges that Defendant Sergeant Jackson failed to properly supervise his subordinates and that the “Commander and Chief or Commissioner is named as defendant[]s due to their failure to properly train the officer[]s.” (Id.) Perkins alleges that the defendants' conduct violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and seeks $16, 500, 000 in damages. (Id. at 4-5.)


         In a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a government entity or its officers, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A requires the district court to “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 may be granted or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Where a complaint is brought in forma pauperis, a district court must dismiss the case if it “is frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). If a liberal reading of the complaint “gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated, ” the district court must grant leave to amend the complaint. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000).


         A. Section 1983

         The complaint alleges the jurisdiction of this Court pursuant to the Civil Rights Acts, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”). In order to maintain a § 1983 action, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements. First, “the conduct complained of must have been committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d Cir. 1994). Second, “the conduct complained of must have deprived a person of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Id. A § 1983 plaintiff seeking to recover money damages must establish that the named defendants were personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing. Farrell v. Burke, 449 F.3d 470, 484 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994). “Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009).

         Perkins' only allegation against the Police Commissioner is the vague assertion of a “failure to properly train the officer[]s.” However, “[t]o state a claim under § 1983 for failure to train, a complaint must allege that the supervisor's failure to train his employees amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the employees came into contact.” Schnitter v. City of Rochester, 931 F.Supp.2d 469, 475 (W.D.N.Y. 2013), aff'd, 556 F. App'x 5 (2d Cir. 2014), (quoting Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) (alterations, quotation marks, and additional citations omitted). Perkins' conclusory assertion, unsupported by any factual allegations that the Commissioner failed to properly train police officers, is insufficient to establish personal involvement in the alleged violation of Perkins' constitutional rights. See Cox v. Fischer, No. 13-CV-743M, 2014 WL 843897, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2014) (collecting cases). Accordingly, the Police Commissioner is dismissed as a defendant.

         A municipality, such as the City of New York, can be liable under § 1983 only if a plaintiff can show that a municipal policy or custom caused the deprivation of his or her constitutional rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); Cash v. County of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 333 (2d Cir. 2011) (“[T]o establish municipal liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that action pursuant to official municipal policy caused the alleged constitutional injury.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1741 (2012). Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability on a municipality unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy that can be attributed to a municipal policymaker. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823 (1985). In this case, Perkins has not alleged any unconstitutional policy or custom. Accordingly, the City of New York is dismissed as a defendant.

         B. John ...

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