United States District Court, N.D. New York
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Lawrenee E. Kahn U.S. District Judge
Nancy Rodriguez Walker commenced this civil rights action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims for
deprivation of due process in connection with restrictions on
her employment as a Spanish-language court interpreter. Dkt.
No. 1 (“Complaint”). Presently before the Court
are defendant William J. Fitzpatrick's motion for
judgment on the pleadings, Dkt. Nos. 66
(“Motion”), 66-1 (“Memorandum”),
Walker's cross motion to amend the Complaint, Dkt. Nos.
91 (“Cross Motion”), 91-2 (“PAC”),
and Walker's motion for sanctions, Dkt. Nos. 80
(“Sanctions Motion”); 80-1 (“Sanctions
Memorandum”). For the reasons that follow,
Fitzpatrick's Motion and Walker's Sanctions Motion
are denied, and Walker's Cross Motion is granted.
facts underlying this action were detailed in the Court's
March 31, 2016 Memorandum-Decision and Order, Dkt. No. 46
(“2016 Order”), and will be repeated here only to
the extent necessary to resolve the motions currently before
the Court.Because Fitzpatrick moves to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, the allegations of the PAC are
accepted as true and form the basis of this section.
E.g., Boyd v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 208
F.3d 406, 408 (2d Cir. 2000).
is a Spanish-language court interpreter and for over
twenty-one years has translated for the Fifth Judicial
District of the State of New York Court System, the Onondaga
County District Attorney's Office, as well as state and
federal agencies. PAC ¶¶ 8, 17. In order to
interpret for the Court System, individuals are required to
be listed on the Per Diem Court Interpreter Registry.
Id. ¶ 18. In order to be listed on the
Registry, an individual must be certified by the Office of
Court Administration (“OCA”). Id. ¶
21. Certification requires fingerprinting, a criminal
background check, and written and oral language proficiency
exams. Id. Plaintiff received her court interpreter
certification in 1993. Id. ¶ 22. Prior to the
events alleged in the Complaint, Plaintiff translated four to
five days per week in Fifth Judicial District courts.
Id. ¶ 32. Plaintiff consistently received
positive evaluations for her work as an interpreter.
Id. ¶¶ 24, 28.
around October 25, 2012, Plaintiff was summoned to the
District Attorney's office, where she translated a letter
containing allegations of illegal activity by a local
Spanish-speaking attorney. Id. ¶¶ 36-37.
On November 2, 2012, Plaintiff returned to the District
Attorney's office to assist in an investigation on the
letter she translated. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiff was
then interrogated for approximately six hours regarding her
relationship with the Spanish-speaking attorney, with whom
Walker had dealt frequently in her work. Id.
¶¶ 40-41. The investigators questioned whether
Walker had divulged information to the attorney concerning
his indictment. Id. ¶ 42-43. Fitzpatrick, the
Onondaga County District Attorney, then entered and
interrogated Plaintiff for approximately thirty minutes.
Id. ¶¶ 48-49. Fitzpatrick stated that
Walker had “endangered a person's life.”
Id. ¶50. He further stated that “if I
walk out of this room everything in your life is done.
You're going to be a felon and I'm going to do the
very best I can to see that you go to prison.”
Id. ¶ 51.
the interrogation, Walker was arrested. Id. ¶
53. She was arraigned the next day on charges of unlawful
grand jury disclosure. Id. ¶ 54. On November 5,
2012, Senior Assistant District Attorney Melinda
McGunnigle wrote a letter to the Honorable James C.
Tormey, District Administrative Judge of the Fifth Judicial
District, regarding Walker. Id. ¶ 56.
McGunnigle's letter included the following statements:
“Ms. Walker's conduct not only divulged
confidential information, but may have put the lives of these
witnesses in jeopardy, ” “Our office can no
longer trust that Ms. Walker will keep . . . information
confidential, ” and “we do not believe that it is
appropriate for Ms. Walker to continue providing translation
services to any court at this time.” Id. As a
result of these statements, Walker was removed from the
Registry in November 2012. Id. ¶¶ 58-59.
She also stopped receiving any assignments from federal and
state agencies. Id. ¶ 61.
August 19, 2013, Walker was tried for the two felony counts
of unlawful grand jury disclosure. Id. ¶ 65.
She was acquitted of all charges on August 29. Id.
was not automatically reinstated to the Registry following
her acquittal. On August 30, 2013, Sandra Bryan, the
Coordinator of Court Interpreting Services, informed the New
York State Inspector General's Office of Walker's
acquittal. Id. ¶ 68. On September 18, Walker
emailed court staff informing them that she was available to
work as an interpreter and requesting to resume her duties.
Id. ¶ 70. The next day, September 19, Bryan
sent an email to court employees informing them that because
“the requisite investigation regarding” Walker
was “still open, ” she was “not eligible
for any court interpreting assignments within the NYS Unified
Court System at this time.” Id. ¶ 71. The
same day, the Inspector General's Office contacted Walker
to schedule an interview concerning her 2012 arrest.
Id. ¶ 72. On the advice of counsel, Walker
declined the interview request. Id. ¶ 73.
October 17, 2013, the Inspector General issued a memorandum
to Eugene Myers, the Chief of Staff of the Administrative
Judge, recommending that Walker “be permanently removed
from the eligibility list of Court Interpreters.”
Id. ¶¶ 74, 77. In its memorandum, the
Inspector General noted McGunnigle's request that Walker
not be assigned to any cases involving Fitzpatrick's
office. Id. ¶ 75. On October 25, Myers informed
the Inspector General that “consistent with the
recommendation of your office, we will arrange to have Ms.
Rodriguez Walker permanently removed from the list.”
Id. ¶ 78. On November 4, Walker requested
reinstatement in light of her August 29 acquittal.
Id. ¶ 79.
April 3, 2014, the Inspector General's Office interviewed
Walker regarding her relationship with the indicted attorney
and whether she had disclosed that relationship. Id.
¶ 81. On April 28, the Inspector General notified Myers
that it had concluded its investigation of Walker's case
and provided its report and recommendations. Id.
¶ 83. Walker was notified that the investigation had
been completed, but was not provided with the Inspector
General's report. Id. ¶ 87.
24, 2014, nearly ten months after her acquittal in August
2013, Walker received a letter informing her that she would
be added to the Registry “effective immediately.”
Id. ¶ 91. However, she was not added to the
Registry at that time. Id. ¶¶ 98-101.
Several weeks later, OCA informed Walker's attorney that
she “was to be reinstated” to the Registry
“without any restriction as to the category of cases
that might require the services of a Spanish language
interpreter.” Id. ¶ 106. In late July
2014, Walker learned that she was restricted from criminal
assignments in the Fifth Judicial District. Id.
August 8, 2014, Walker received a letter from Michael Klein,
District Executive of the Fifth Judicial District, regarding
the restriction on her assignments. Id. ¶ 123.
The letter cited Walker's “fail[ure] to adhere to
professional standards, ” “history of adverseness
with the District Attorney, ” and the “continuing
lack of confidence in her” to justify the restriction.
Id. ¶ 127. The letter further advised Walker
that “review of the foregoing determination by Deputy
Chief Administrative Judge Michael Coccoma is available
through written submissions should she elect to request such
a review.” Id. ¶ 128. However, the letter
also indicated that the “additional review is not
required and does not modify the complete discretion
possessed by Court Administration to regulate and assign Per
Diem foreign language court interpreters.” Id.
Walker did not seek administrative review because she
believed it would be futile. Id. ¶ 129.