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Walker v. Tormey

United States District Court, N.D. New York

November 17, 2017

JAMES C. TOMEY, et al., Defendants.


          Lawrenee E. Kahn U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff 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.


         A. Factual Background

         The 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.[1]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).

         Plaintiff 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.

         On or 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.

         Following 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[2] 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.

         On 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. ¶ 66.

         Walker 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On June 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. ¶¶ 110-11.

         On 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.

         B. ...

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