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Chris H. v. State

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 5, 2017

CHRIS H., Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          LORNA G. SCHOFIELD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff Christopher Henry brings this action against the State of New York (“State”), the City of New York (“City”), Police Officer Orlando Rios, the Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services (“Commissioner”), Justice Tandra L. Dawson, Support Magistrate Paul Ryneski and Support Magistrate Tionnei Clarke (collectively, “Defendants”), asserting claims under federal and state law arising from Plaintiffs arrest and unrelated state court proceedings. Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are based on the Complaint and court records from Plaintiffs state court proceedings, of which the Court is entitled to take judicial notice. See Apotex Inc. v. Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., 823 F.3d 51, 60 (2d Cir. 2016) (at motion to dismiss stage, court may take judicial notice of documents that are publicly available and whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned); In re WorldCom, Inc., 708 F.3d 327, 339 n.63 (2d Cir. 2013) (taking judicial notice of court records). These facts are accepted as true solely for the purpose of this motion. See Carter v. HealthPort Techs., LLC, 822 F.3d 47, 56-57 (2d Cir. 2016).

         A. Initiation of Matrimonial Proceedings

         Plaintiff Christopher Henry is a black male who resides in New York County. On January 2, 2009, Plaintiff's wife Marisa Henry filed a family offense petition against Plaintiff following an alleged incident of domestic violence. On March 12, 2009, Plaintiff initiated divorce proceedings against his wife in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County.

         On April 2, 2009, the Criminal Court of the City of New York entered a Temporary Order of Protection directing Plaintiff to stay away from his wife and her home -- the marital residence -- from April 2, 2009, to May 21, 2009.

         B. May 2009 Arrest and Imprisonment

         On May 10, 2009, Plaintiff was walking outside the marital residence when he was knocked to the ground by City police officers including Defendant Rios. Plaintiff was assaulted, handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, after which he was transported to the 30th Precinct. Plaintiff was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and violating an order of protection. If the police officers had looked into the address listed on the order of protection, they would have learned that Plaintiff was the owner of the marital residence. Supervisory police officers had the authority and ability to prevent Plaintiff's arrest. The Complaint alleges conclusorily that Plaintiff was arrested and assaulted pursuant to City policy and practice and that inadequate training and procedure led to his injuries.

         Plaintiff was held in a cell at the 30th Precinct for approximately 24 hours, after which he was transported by van to the New York Supreme Court. During the ride to the Supreme Court, Plaintiff was kept in handcuffs and slammed into the side of the van multiple times. Once at the Supreme Court, he was placed in a basement cell with approximately 45 other people. The cell was crowded, dirty, smelly and slimy. Plaintiff's clothes became soiled from sitting on the floor, and Plaintiff did not sleep well due to fear of assault from the other detainees. He was held in this cell for 24 hours before being arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court. At his arraignment, Plaintiff pleaded not guilty to all charges and was eventually released. The Complaint does not specify when Plaintiff was released, but alleges both that all charges were terminated in Plaintiff's favor on or about March 10, 2010, and that the criminal proceedings against Plaintiff continued until March 2012.

         C. Continuation of Matrimonial Proceedings

         Separate from Plaintiff's arrest, Plaintiff's divorce proceeding was transferred from the Supreme Court Matrimonial Term to the Supreme Court Integrated Domestic Violence Part on May 8, 2009, where it was assigned to Tandra L. Dawson, an Acting Justice of the New York Supreme Court and a Judge on the New York Family Court. On June 28, 2009, Justice Dawson issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest and issued an order of protection directing Plaintiff to stay away from the marital property.

         On July 16, 2010, Justice Dawson issued a Final Order of Protection requiring Plaintiff to stay away from his wife, and to stay away from the marital home except as per court order. From June 2009 until October 2010, Plaintiff kept away from the marital home. Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff states that he learned the protective order was void and had no legal effect. Plaintiff questioned Justice Dawson about the “void Order of Protection” on or about July 31, 2012, leading to an extremely contentious environment in the courtroom.

         From March 2009 to October 2012, Justice Dawson permitted Donnie Williams, a convicted felon, to live and work in the marital property. While Williams lived there, Plaintiff paid housing expenses of approximately $40, 000 on the property.

         On October 21, 2010, Plaintiff sold the marital residence. On March 1, 2012, Plaintiff's wife filed an action for fraudulent conveyance relating to the sale. Justice Dawson referred the action to a special referee, who recommended that the sale of the marital residence be deemed a fraudulent conveyance. Justice Dawson confirmed the special referee's report in orders dated March 29, 2016, and May 13, 2016.

         In handling the matrimonial proceedings, Justice Dawson made a number of additional rulings that were adverse to Plaintiff. For instance, on October 8, 2015, Justice Dawson denied Plaintiff's motion for access to court documents. In addition, the Complaint alleges that Justice Dawson falsely stated in a February 27, 2015, Decision and Order that Plaintiff had violated a direct order of the Supreme Court and that she wanted to charge Plaintiff with a criminal offense. Though the February 27, 2015, Decision and Order states that Plaintiff had brought “an exorbitant number” of unnecessary motions, it does not reference wanting to charge Plaintiff with a criminal offense.

         D. Child Support Proceedings

         On January 26, 2009, Plaintiff appeared before Support Magistrate Matthew Troy in Family Court. At that hearing, Plaintiff submitted a receipt showing a mortgage payment of approximately $2, 000.

         Sometime later, Plaintiff appeared before Support Magistrate Paul Ryneski. On November 26, 2010, Plaintiff sought a downward modification of a support order entered on October 15, 2009. On April 27, 2011, his wife sought increased child support from Plaintiff. On October 5, 2012, Support Magistrate Ryneski modified the October 15, 2009, support order and ordered Plaintiff to pay approximately $150 more in basic child support and $250 less in child care costs per cycle than the 2009 order. Plaintiff objected to the modification, and on January 16, 2013, Justice Dawson found that two of Plaintiff's seven objections required remand. However, Justice Dawson rejected Plaintiff's claim that he was entitled to a credit for his housing payments.

         On April 11, 2013, Support Magistrate Ryneski issued a revised order of support. Plaintiff objected to that order, and Justice Dawson denied the objection in its entirety on June 7, 2013.

         According to the Complaint, Support Magistrate Ryneski took affirmative steps to falsify evidence and eliminate the receipt that Plaintiff submitted to Support Magistrate Troy in order to ensure that Plaintiff paid the maximum amount of child support permitted by law. The Complaint further alleges that Support Magistrate Ryneski lives within a fifteen-minute drive of the marital property, and could not believe that a black man owned property in his neighborhood.

         Between February 2009 and the date the Complaint was filed, Support Magistrate Ryneski authorized the Child Support Enforcement Unit (“CSEU”) to take over $100, 000 in wages from Plaintiff. As a result of these garnishments, Plaintiff did not have enough money to pay his mortgage, and was forced into foreclosure in October 2012. He was homeless for several months.

         At some point, Justice Dawson and Support Magistrate Ryneski “conspire[ed]” to “fabricate [Plaintiff]'s total income . . . to ensure that the maximum amount of child support payments was sent” to CSEU and the State Treasury. On or about July 19, 2011, Support Magistrate Ryneski “ordered that Plaintiff should spend six months in jail.” On or about January 30, 2015, Justice Dawson affirmed Support Magistrate Ryneski's Findings of Fact despite the findings containing “false information.”

         On or about September 15, 2015, the Commissioner served Plaintiff with a notice to appear in Family Court. On or about February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Special Appearance stating that he would not accept the jurisdiction of the Family Court. Nonetheless, on March 8, 2016, Support Magistrate Tionnei Clarke issued an Order of Money Judgment against Plaintiff and in favor of the Commissioner in the amount of $26, 000. ...


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