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Medina v. Seiling

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 29, 2018



          Leonardo Medina Coxsackie, New York Plaintiff Pro Se

          Richard Bahrenburg New York City Law Department New York, New York Counsel for Defendant

          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Leonardo Medina (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pro se against Defendant Michael Seiling (“Defendant”) alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that his probation was revoked based on arrest for and prosecution of attempted robbery charges against him that were ultimately dismissed. Because I find that Plaintiff's false arrest claim is time-barred, but his malicious prosecution claim is subject to equitable tolling such that I consider it timely filed, Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings, (Doc. 35), is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. Furthermore, because I find that § 306-b of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”) does not apply to cases before federal courts and because Defendant did not move to dismiss under that provision, Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time for service of process is DENIED.

         L Background[1]

         At approximately 11:00 a.m. on October 7, 2010, New York City Police Department officers took Plaintiff to the 34th precinct, where Defendant told Plaintiff that he was a suspect in an attempted robbery.[2] (Sec. Am. Compl. 2.)[3] After Defendant read Plaintiff his Miranda rights, Plaintiff refused to answer questions without the presence of a lawyer, Defendant arrested Plaintiff, and Plaintiff was arraigned for attempted robbery in the second degree. (Id. at 2-3.) Defendant did not have an arrest warrant. (Id. at 3.) After his arraignment, Plaintiff “was held on $75, 000 bail, ” and was not produced in court again on the case. (Id.) However, in a letter, Plaintiff also states that after his arraignment, he was given dates to appear before the Court at least once a month, which conflicted with dates he was given to appear before his Probation Judge on an unrelated matter. (Pl.'s IPTC Letter 2.)[4]

         On December 15, 2010, Plaintiff “was violated on his probation and sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison, based on his open Attempted Robbery [in the Second Degree] case.” (Sec. Am. Compl. 3.) The grand jury decided not to indict Plaintiff, and on August 19, 2011, the attempted robbery charge was dismissed and sealed. (Id.) However, Plaintiff did not become aware of the dismissal until he was released from prison on May 25, 2012, despite his attempts during the period that he was incarcerated to contact his attorney to ask if the case was still pending and why he was not being produced for a hearing. (Id.; Pl.'s IPTC Letter 2.) Plaintiff further claims that he was unable to obtain a copy of his “criminal repository” until July 7, 2014.[5] (Pl.'s IPTC Letter 2.) The case was terminated in Plaintiff's favor.[6] (Sec. Am. Compl. 3.) Plaintiff served at least fifteen months and twenty-two days, or at most twenty months, in prison. (Id. (stating he was “wrongfully imprisoned for 12 months also violated on probation served additional 8 months in Max A prison”); Pl.'s IPTC Letter 1 (stating he “served 15 months and 22 days in Prison”).)

         As a result of the alleged events giving rise to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff appears to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution under the Eighth Amendment, and violations of his due process and equal protection rights under the Fifth[7] and Fourteenth Amendments.[8] (Sec. Am. Compl. 5; see also Pl.'s IPTC Letter 1 (noting he is bringing this action for malicious prosecution as well as his due process rights, right to be free from unreasonable seizure, right to be free from malicious prosecution, and right to equal protection of the laws).)

         IL Procedural History

         On July 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed the original complaint in this case against the State of New York and a John Doe police officer. (Doc. 1.) On September 26, 2014, Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska, to whom this case was originally assigned, granted Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 8.) On November 13, 2014, Chief Judge Preska granted Plaintiff leave to amend within sixty days to remove the State of New York as a defendant and allege facts supporting his false arrest and malicious prosecution claims. (Doc. 9.) Chief Judge Preska informed Plaintiff that while he could name John Doe defendants, that “does not toll the three-year statute of limitations period governing this action and Plaintiff shall be responsible for ascertaining the true identity of any ‘John Doe' defendants and amending his complaint to include the identity of any ‘John Doe' defendants before the statute of limitations period expires.” (Id. at 7.)

         On December 22, 2014, Plaintiff requested an extension to file the amended complaint because “it would not be possible for [him] to retrieve the necessary documents in such amount of time, ” and also requested a subpoena to help retrieve those documents. (Doc. 10.) Chief Judge Preska granted Plaintiffs request on January 6, 2015 in an order allowing Plaintiff to file the amended complaint thirty days from the date of the order, and denying Plaintiffs request for a document subpoena. (Doc. 11.) In denying the request for a subpoena, Chief Judge Preska noted that “the order to amend directs Plaintiff to include a short and plain statement of his claim but does not require Plaintiff to submit evidence or prove his allegations at this stage.” (Id. at 1.) “The Court directed Plaintiff to clarify, for example, any facts demonstrating that the police officer lacked probable cause to arrest him and to clarify the basis for revoking his probation -whether it was because of his arrest on the bench warrant, the robbery charges, or some other basis.” (Id.) Plaintiff, who apparently did not receive Chief Judge Preska's January 6, 2015 order in time, made another request for an extension of time on January 12, 2015. (Doc. 12.) In another letter that was filed on the docket on January 15, 2015, Plaintiff provided his change of address and again referenced the request for an extension, this time requesting sixty to ninety days. (Doc. 13.) He also noted that he “had limited access to the law library and now will have to wait till [he was] done with the orientation status in [his] new facility to attend” and further noted that his mother was “going to personally try to get these [desired] documents.” (Id.) Plaintiff stated that he was “not wasting the court[']s nor [his] time with false accusations and would like a chance to prove [his] case correctly.” (Id.)

         On January 15, 2015, the Court also received Plaintiff's request for a copy of Chief Judge Preska's January 6, 2015 order, and on January 16, 2015, the Court mailed another copy of that order to Plaintiff's new address. (See Doc. 14, at 1 n.1.) Chief Judge Preska further granted Plaintiff's request for an extension of time, and directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint by February 16, 2015. (Id.) Chief Judge Preska again noted:

[T]he amended complaint must include a short and plain statement of his claim, but Plaintiff need not submit evidence or prove his allegations at this stage. . . . To comply with Rule 8(a) . . . Plaintiff's amended complaint need only include factual allegations about what occurred, such as who was personally involved in the violation of his rights, what facts show that his rights were violated, when and where such violations occurred, and why he is entitled to relief.

(Id. at 1-2.) Chief Judge Preska also stated again that the “naming of John Doe Defendants does not toll the statute of limitations, ” and told Plaintiff that if the amended complaint supplied sufficient identifying information, the Court could assist the Plaintiff in identifying these defendants. (Id. at 2.)

         On February 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint, (Doc. 15), and on April 1, 2015, the case was reassigned to me. On that same day, I issued an order directing the New York City Law Department to help ascertain the identity of the John Doe defendant based on the allegations in the Amended Complaint, and directing that Plaintiff, within thirty days of receiving this information, file a Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 17.) On June 1, 2015, the New York City Law Department identified Sergeant Michael Seiling as the John Doe defendant, (Doc. 19), and on July 2, 2015, I received a request from Plaintiff to extend the time for him to file the Second Amended Complaint by “at least 30 days, ” (Doc. 20). Plaintiff explained that since receiving the full name of Defendant, he had been

requesting access to the Law library here at the facility to no avail. . . . I also have let staff here know that I have a deadline to meet. I have been told that I need to show documentation of an actual date/deadline to gain special access (everyday). After I show them proof of that then it will take them about a week to process my request.

(Id.) I granted Plaintiff's application on July 7, 2015, and gave him until August 7, 2015 to file the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22.) On August 14, 2015, I received Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, (Doc. 23), and, subsequent to my issuing an order of service on September 10, 2015, (Doc. 24), the U.S. Marshals Service executed service on Defendant on or about September 22, 2015, (Doc. 25). On November 23, 2015, Defendant filed his Answer. (Doc. 29.)

         On December 7, 2015, I issued an order setting an initial pretrial conference for January 21, 2016, (Doc. 30), and on January 14, 2016, Defendant and Plaintiff both filed letters responding to my order, (Docs. 32, 33). I held the conference on that date, and subsequently stayed discovery pending resolution of Defendant's anticipated motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 34.) In accordance with my order, Defendant filed his motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) on March 3, 2016. (Docs. 35-37.) Plaintiff requested an extension of time to file his opposition, the reason being that he had “recently made two F.O.I.L[.] requests for documents that [would] support [his] opposition, as well as a written deposition and emails that were sent to [his] lawyer at the time of the incident in question.” (Doc. 38.) Notwithstanding Chief Judge Preska's prior orders and the Pro Se Motion Instructions mailed to him, Plaintiff questioned whether these documents were required as attachments to his opposition. (Id.) On April 6, 2016, I granted Plaintiffs request for an extension and directed him to the Pro Se Motion Instructions for a description of what to include in his opposition. (Doc. 39.) Plaintiff filed his opposition on April 21, 2016, and within his opposition made a cross-motion for an extension of time to serve process. (Doc. 40.) After Defendant failed to file a reply, I issued another order indicating that if Defendant failed to file a reply on or before July 1, 2016, I would consider the motion fully briefed. (Doc. 41.) On July 1, Defendant filed a letter requesting that I deem the motion fully briefed, (Doc. 42), which I granted, (Doc. 43).

         III. Legal Standards

         A. Motion for ...

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