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Aponte v. Fischer

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 28, 2018

FELIX APONTE, Plaintiff,

          Felix Aponte Dannemora, New York Pro Se Plaintiff

          Michael J. Keane, Esq. Office of the New York Attorney General New York, NY Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Felix Aponte (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, is incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility and brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Brian Fischer (“Fischer”), former Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (“DOCS”); Anthony J. Annucci (“Annucci”), Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”) and former Deputy Commissioner and Counsel for DOCS; Lucien J. LeClaire, Jr. (“LeClaire”), former acting Commissioner of DOCS; Glenn S. Goord (“Goord”), former Commissioner of DOCS; Andrea W. Evans (“Evans”), Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Division of Parole (“DOP”); Mark Mantei (“Mantei”), Executive Director of DOP; Robert J. Dennison (“Dennison”), former Chair of DOP; Anthony G. Ellis II (“Ellis”), former Executive Director of DOP; and George B. Alexander (“Alexander”), former Chair and Chief Executive Officer of DOP (collectively, “Defendants”).[1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable, in their individual and official capacities, for the actions of their subordinates for violating his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and the New York State Constitution. Defendants move to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendants for unlawful confinement or false imprisonment, violations of the Double Jeopardy Clause, or violations of the Due Process Clause; (2) Plaintiff fails to allege that Defendants were personally involved in any conduct related to Plaintiff's post-release supervision; (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (4) Plaintiff's official capacity claims are barred by sovereign immunity; and (5) Plaintiff's state law claims are barred by N.Y. Correction Law § 24. (See Defs.' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss (“Defs.' Mem.”) 3-4 (Dkt. No. 85).)[2] For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion To Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are collected from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, and are assumed to be true for purposes of deciding the Motion To Dismiss. Plaintiff pled guilty to attempted robbery in the first degree on April 25, 2000 and was subsequently sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on May 5, 2000. (See Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) ¶¶ 10-11 (Dkt. No. 51).) However, “[n]o mention was made of post-release supervision [(“PRS”)] at [the] plea or sentence, nor was any such term recorded on the sentencing commitment order.” (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff completed his term of imprisonment on May 2, 2008. (See Id. ¶ 13.)

         At an unspecified time in May 2008, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Rikers Island for violating the terms of what he alleges was an “administratively imposed term of [PRS].” (Id. ¶ 15.) Shortly thereafter, on June 20, 2008, Plaintiffs case was referred back to initial the sentencing court to determine what should be done about the initial failure to impose a PRS term. (See Id. ¶ 14.) Upon this referral, Plaintiff was resentenced on June 20, 2008 to the same term of eight years of imprisonment as in May 2000, but was additionally resentenced to a judicially imposed term of “three years' [PRS], ” which was intended to be applicable to his May 2000 sentence. (See Id. Ex. A, at unnumbered 15; Ex. B, at unnumbered 19.)[3] Following his resentencing, Plaintiff was later moved over the course of several years to Downstate Correctional Facility, Livingston Correctional Facility, Edgecombe Residential Treatment Center, Gouverneur Correctional Facility, Ulster Correctional Facility, Queensboro Correctional Facility, Collins Correctional Facility, Five Points Correctional Facility, Upstate Correction Facility, and, finally, Clinton Correctional Facility. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff claims that he was still incarcerated when he drafted the Second Amended Complaint in November 2014-“[s]ix years and four months” after he had “completed his [original] sentence, ” (id. ¶ 25), though it is not alleged that he is being confined pursuant to the initial PRS violation.

         On November 20, 2012, the New York Appellate Division reversed an order issued in May 2010 denying Plaintiff's motion to set aside the sentence imposed on June 20, 2008 of “a term of eight year[s] with three years [PRS], ” and reinstated “the original sentence of eight years without [PRS].” (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff received the letter on September 5, 2013, “while incarcerated at Upstate Correctional Facility.” (Id. ¶ 25, Ex. C, at unnumbered 21.)

         Plaintiff asserts that “[t]his is a case of false imprisonment, illegal detainment, illegal negotiation of [PRS], and violation of [P]laintiff[']s United States [c]onstitutional [r]ights . . . .” (Id. ¶ 19.) Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendants “subject[ed] Plaintiff to unlawful custody by continuing to impose terms of [PRS] . . . that had been declared unlawful and arresting and re-incarcerating Plaintiff for technical violations of those terms.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Accordingly, each Defendant is responsible “for violation of Plaintiff['s] rights under the . . . Fifth Amendment [double jeopardy], Six[th] Amendment [Civil Rights, deprivation of rights], Eighth Amendment [cruel and unusual punishment], Fourteenth Amendment [procedural due process], [and] New York Constitution Art[.] I, §[ ]6 . . . .” (Id. ¶¶ 28-30 (descriptive alterations in original).) As a result, Plaintiff claims to have experienced “pain, suffering, [and] physical and emotional distress, ” (id.), and alleges that he “will continue to be irreparably injured by the conduct of the [D]efendants unless this court grants the compensatory damages relief which [P]laintiff seeks, ” (id. ¶ 31).

         Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiff requests relief in the form of “a declaration that the acts and omissions described herein violated [P]laintiff's rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of New York”; “compensatory damages in the amount of $3, 000, 000.00 plus interest, against each [D]efendant, jointly and severally”; “[p]unitive damages in the amount of $3, 000, 000.00 plus interest against each [D]efendant”; “a jury trial on all issues triable by jury”; and “recovery of the costs in this suit”; along with “[a]ny additional relief this court deems just, proper and equitable.” (Id. ¶¶ 32-37.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint along with a request to proceed in forma pauperis on May 29, 2014. (See Dkt. Nos. 1-2.) Then-Chief Judge Preska granted Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis on June 25, 2014. (See Dkt. No. 3.) Plaintiff requested and was granted the opportunity to amend his Complaint on October 29, 2014, (see Dkt. No. 7), and filed the Amended Complaint on December 1, 2014, (see Dkt. No. 10). On March 3, 2015, former-Defendant City of New York (the “City”) filed its Motion To Dismiss the Amended Complaint and accompanying papers. (See Dkt. Nos. 23-25.) By letter dated March 8, 2015, Plaintiff requested an additional 120 days to submit his Opposition; however, the Court granted Plaintiff a somewhat shorter extension to May 2, 2015. (See Dkt. No. 28.) By letter dated April 30, 2015, Plaintiff informed the Court that he was “close to mailing [his] opposition, ” but expressed his “hope that [the Court] [would] grant [Plaintiff] the time [he] need[ed] to file a second amend[ed] complaint.” (See Pl.'s Letter to Court (May 8, 2015) 1 (Dkt. No. 43).) Plaintiff also filed an Opposition to the City's Motion To Dismiss on May 14, 2015, (see Dkt. No. 46), and the City replied in support of its Motion To Dismiss on May 27, 2015, (see Dkt. No. 48). On June 18, 2015, the Court denied the City's Motion To Dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff had indicated that he wished to file a Second Amended Complaint. (See Order (Dkt. No. 49).)

         Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on August 10, 2015. (See SAC.) By memo endorsement on August 31, 2015, the Court granted the City leave to move for dismissal by September 24, 2015, and instructed Plaintiff to submit any opposition by October 26, 2015. (See Dkt. No. 56.) The City filed its Motion To Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint and accompanying papers on September 23, 2015, (see Dkt. Nos. 59-61); Plaintiff never responded. On September 26, 2016, the Court granted the City's Motion without prejudice, holding that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim for municipal liability against the City pursuant to § 1983 and state common law, and had also failed to comply with state notice-of-claim requirements. (See Opinion & Order (Sept. 26, 2016) 14, 16, 18 (Dkt. No. 72).) Plaintiff was given 30 days to file a Third Amended Complaint, but failed to do so. Therefore, on December 20, 2016, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against the City with prejudice. (See Order (Dkt. No. 78).)

         Meanwhile, by December 19, 2016, all individual Defendants except Mantei had been served in this Action. (See Dkt. Nos. 76-77.) Mantei has yet to be served. By memo endorsement on March 1, 2017, the Court granted the remaining Defendants leave to move for dismissal by April 1, 2017, and instructed Plaintiff to submit any opposition by May 1, 2017. (See Mot. Scheduling Order (Dkt. No. 81).) After receiving a brief extension from the Court, (See Dkt. No. 83), Defendants filed their Motion To Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint and accompanying papers on April 17, 2017. (See Dkt. Nos. 84-85.) Plaintiff has never responded. The Court will therefore consider the Motion fully briefed, but independently consider the merits of the Motion. See Goldberg v. Danaher, 599 F.3d 181, 183 (2d Cir. 2010) (explaining that district courts should consider the merits of a motion to dismiss rather than automatically grant the motion if a plaintiff fails to respond).

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations, internal quotation marks, and alterations omitted). Indeed, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). Instead, a complaint's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint, ” id. at 563, and a plaintiff must allege “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” id. at 570; however, if a plaintiff has not “nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, the[] complaint must be dismissed, ” id.; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” (citation omitted) (second alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2))); id. at 678-79 (“Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hypertechnical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.”).

         “[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014) (“In addressing the sufficiency of a complaint we accept as true all factual allegations . . . .” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Aegis Ins. Servs., Inc. v. 7 World Trade Co., 737 F.3d 166, 176 (2d Cir. 2013) (“In reviewing a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we . . . accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true . . . .” (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted)). Further, “[f]or the purpose of resolving [a] motion to dismiss, the Court . . . draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Daniel v. T & M Prot. Res., Inc., 992 F.Supp.2d 302, 304 n.1 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (citing Koch v. Christie's Int'l PLC, 699 F.3d 141, 145 (2d Cir. 2012)). Additionally, “[i]n ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion, . . . a court may consider the complaint[, ] . . . any written instrument attached to the complaint as an exhibit[, ] or any statements or documents incorporated in it by reference, ” as well as “matters of which judicial notice may be taken, and documents either in [the] plaintiff['s] possession or of which [the] plaintiff[] had knowledge and relied on in bringing suit.” Kalyanaram v. Am. Ass'n of Univ. Professors at N.Y. Inst. of Tech., Inc., 742 F.3d 42, 44 n.1 (2d Cir. 2014) (citation, internal quotation marks, and some alterations omitted); see also Leonard F. v. Isr. Disc. Bank of N.Y., 199 F.3d 99, 107 (2d Cir. 1999) (“In adjudicating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must confine its consideration to facts stated on the face of the complaint, in documents appended to the complaint or incorporated in the complaint by reference, and to matters of which judicial notice may be taken.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Hendrix v. City of New York, No. 12-CV-5011, 2013 WL 6835168, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2013) (same).

         Lastly, because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his pleadings liberally and “interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Maisonet v. Metro. Hosp. & Health Hosp. Corp., 640 F.Supp.2d 345, 347 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474-75 (2d Cir. 2006). However, the liberal treatment afforded to pro se litigants does not excuse a pro se party “from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law.” Maisonet, 640 F.Supp.2d at 348 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         B. Analysis

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff: (1) failed to state a claim; (2) failed to adequately plead personal involvement; (3) cannot overcome Defendants' entitlement to qualified immunity; (4) is barred from official capacity suits under the Eleventh ...

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