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Knight v. County of Orange

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 5, 2017


          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Russell Francis Knight proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action against Defendants County of Orange ("Orange County" or "Defendant"), [1] P.O. Reynolds and P.O. Shaw[2] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of his constitutional rights. Before the Court is a motion to dismiss the complaint by the sole remaining Defendant, Orange County. For the reasons stated below, Orange County's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.


         Unless otherwise noted, the facts are drawn from Plaintiffs Complaint ("PL CompL"). (See ECF No. 1.) The crux of Plaintiffs claims is that he was subjected to a strip search on November 20, 2014, while detained at the Village of Walden Police Department after having been arrested on a charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance. (Pl. Compl. at 2-3.) Plaintiff contends that two individuals were arrested along with him on the same charge, but were not similarly strip searched. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the search was conducted by P.O. Reynolds while P.O. Shaw watched. (See id. at 3.) Plaintiff does not allege that he sustained any injuries. (Id.)


         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the inquiry is whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); accord Hayden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010). “While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. at 679. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must supply “factual allegations sufficient ‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The Court must take all material factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences in the non-moving party's favor, but the Court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, '” or to credit “mere conclusory statements” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         In determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief, a district court must consider the context and “draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 662. A claim is facially plausible when the factual content pleaded allows a court “to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678.

         “Where, as here, a plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court must ‘construe [ ] [his] [complaint] liberally and interpret[ ] [it] to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggest[s].'” Askew v. Lindsey, 15-CV-7496 (KMK), 2016 WL 4992641, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 16, 2016) (citing Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013)). Yet, “‘the liberal treatment afforded to pro se litigants does not exempt a pro se party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.'” Id. (citing Bell v. Jendell, 980 F.Supp.2d 555, 559 (S.D.N.Y. 2013)).


         Orange County contends that Plaintiff's Complaint asserts allegations against Village of Walden police officers, as to an incident that occurred at the Village of Walden Police Station, and is devoid of any facts involving the County or County actors. (See Def. Mem in Support of Mot. to Dismiss (“Def. Mem.”), at 1, ECF No. 28.) As such, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the County, and that it should be dismissed from this action. (Id.)[3] Plaintiff submitted no opposition in response to this motion.

         Plaintiff brings his claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. at 1.) For a plaintiff to allege a Section 1983 claim against a municipal defendant, he must allege that an action pursuant to official municipal policy caused the alleged constitutional deprivation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); see Askew, 2016 WL 4992641, at *2 (“A municipal defendant ‘cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.'… Rather, for a plaintiff to prevail on a § 1983 claim against a municipal defendant, he must satisfy the requirements set forth in Monell and its progeny, which adhere to the well-settled principle that ‘Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable [under § 1983] unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort.'”) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 691). Thus, “to state a Monell claim, ‘[t]he plaintiff must first prove the existence of a municipal policy or custom in order to show that the municipality took some action that caused his injuries .... Second, the plaintiff must establish a casual connection - an ‘affirmative link' - between the policy and deprivation of his constitutional rights.'” Guerrero v. City of N.Y., 12-CV-2916, 2013 WL 673872, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 25, 2013) (citing Vippolis v. Village of Haverstraw, 768 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir.1985), cert. denied 480 U.S. 916 (1987)). Even at the pleading stage, the mere assertion that the municipality has such a custom is insufficient to assert a Section 1983 claim against a municipality without supporting factual allegations. Id. at *2 (citing Zahra v. Town of Southold, 48 F.2d 674, 685 (2d Cir.1995)). Furthermore, even a single incident of unconstitutional activity has been deemed insufficient to impose liability upon a municipality under Section 1983. See Brogdon v. City of New Rochelle, 200 F.Supp.2d 411, 427 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (“A single incident by itself is generally insufficient to establish the affirmative link between the municipal policy or custom and the alleged unconstitutional violation.”) Thus, at the motion to dismiss stage, “a plaintiff cannot merely allege the existence of municipal policy or custom but must instead ‘allege facts tending to support, at least circumstantially, an inference that such a municipal policy or custom exists.'” Askew, 2016 WL 4992641, at *3 (citing Johnson v. City of N.Y., 06-CV-9426, 2011 WL 666161, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 15, 2011).

         Plaintiff does not explicitly allege that the incident upon which his claims are based arose out of any County policy or practice, nor does he proffer any allegations that might allow the Court to draw such an inference. Even less than a bare, boiler plate allegation against Orange County, Plaintiff makes no mention of this Defendant in its allegations. As such, Plaintiff has not alleged any plausible allegations against Orange County, and its claims against this Defendant are dismissed.


         For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss the Complaint is GRANTED. Plaintiffs claims against Defendant County of Orange are dismissed. Given a Stipulation of Discontinuance was entered as to Defendants P.O. Shaw and P.O. Reynolds on December 30, 2016, (see ECF No. 25), there are no remaining defendants in this action. As such, the ...

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