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Barton v. State

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 2, 2018

THERESA BARTON, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          PAMELA K. CHEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Theresa Barton, detained at Rikers Island at the time of filing the complaint, filed her initial complaint on September 8, 2017 against the State of New York. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the State of New York imposed an excessive bail amount during her prosecution in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Kings County. (Dkt. 1.) By order dated October 18, 2017, Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) was denied without prejudice and she was given leave to amend her complaint. (Dkt. 7.) On November 27, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a timely long form IFP application (Dkt. 9) and an amended complaint seeking “money damages of whatever this Court may deem fair, just and proper” (Dkt. 10 at 4). Plaintiff's amended request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The amended complaint is dismissed for the reasons set forth below.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff's complaint is subject to review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, a district court shall dismiss a case if it determines that the action “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). At the same time, pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys, and the Court is required to read the plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally and interpret it as raising the strongest arguments it suggests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, the complaint must plead sufficient facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         BACKGROUND

         The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's amended complaint, and liberally construed its contents. This case appears to stem primarily from alleged constitutional violations during Plaintiff's criminal state court prosecution in Kings County Supreme Court in 2017 for multiple counts of criminal contempt, the use of obscene language, and the making of unreasonable noise. (See Dkt. 7 at 3 nn. 4-5; Dkt. 10 at 2.)

         First, Plaintiff states that on May 9, 2017, she was “held on excessive bail” of $501, 000 after her arrest. (Dkt. 10 at 1.)[1] Second, Plaintiff alleges that she was excluded from the grand jury proceedings on May 9, 2017. Third, Plaintiff states that, on August 27, 2017, she waited fruitlessly “all day” in the “pens” of the New York County Criminal Court for her psychiatric evaluation pursuant to CPLR 730, and that the psychiatrist “never showed up.” (Id. at 2.)[2] Fourth, with respect to criminal charges she incurred in 2016, Plaintiff states that her attorneys “said nothing in [her] defense until almost the end when [she] pled guilty with the intent to harass people.” (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         Plaintiff names the State of New York as the sole defendant in this civil rights complaint seeking damages. See Will v. Mich. Dep't State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Thus, Eleventh Amendment immunity bars Plaintiff's claim for damages against the State of New York.

         B. Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for seeking redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. That is, in order to maintain a Section 1983 action, a plaintiff must allege both that the conduct complained of was “committed by a person acting under color of state law” and “deprived a person of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d Cir. 1994). Section 1983 “is not itself a source of substantive rights, but a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred by those ...


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