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Brown v. State

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 26, 2018

DONNESIA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE STATE OF NEW YORK; THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION; and MATTHEW CORNELL, Corrections Officer, Individually and in his Official Capacity, Defendants.

          RUBENSTEIN & RYNECKI ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF

          OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANTS

          OF COUNSEL SCOTT E. RYNECKI, ESQ. AIMEE M. COWAN, AAG

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff Donnesia Brown, a former inmate at the Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn CF"), filed a complaint in the Northern District of New York, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Corrections Officer Matthew Cornell, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), and the State of New York (collectively, "Defendants"). See Dkt. No. 1. Currently before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against the State of New York and DOCCS (collectively, the "State Defendants"), see Dkt. No. 11, and Defendants' motion to dismiss all state law claims against Defendant Cornell, see Dkt. No. 17, both pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss all claims against the State Defendants is granted and Defendants' motion to dismiss all state law claims against Defendant Cornell is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On January 21, 2016, Defendant Cornell singled out Plaintiff for a "random" pat frisk. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 10-12. Defendant Cornell claimed that he felt an unknown object around Plaintiff's posterior. See Id. at ¶ 12. Defendant Cornell then received permission to conduct a "strip frisk" in a separate and isolated room. See Id. at ¶ 13. Defendant Cornell claimed that Plaintiff voluntarilly surrendered an eight inch long sharpened weapon that he had stored in his posterior. See Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that he did not have a weapon stashed as Defendant Cornell alleged. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Cornell lied about the incident and planted the weapon on him. See Id. at ¶ 10.

         DOCCS held a thirty-minute disciplinary hearing on January 28, 2016. See Id. at ¶ 15. Although Plaintiff maintained his innocence throughout the hearing, he was found guilty on the basis of Defendant Cornell's allegations. See Id. As a result of this finding, Plaintiff was sentenced to solitary confinement for six months. See Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.

         Although Plaintiff was initially scheduled to be released from prison on August 26, 2016, for his underlying conviction, he was indicted over the incident with the weapon. See Id. at ¶¶ 17- 18. On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff pleaded guilty in order to avoid a lengthier sentence and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two-to-four years. See Id. at ¶¶ 19-21. On October 13, 2016, Plaintiff appealed his conviction. See Id. at ¶ 22.

         In December 2016, the Inspector General for DOCCS raided Auburn CF and uncovered multiple items of contraband in the possession of prison guards. See Id. at ¶ 24. Defendant Cornell allegedly admitted to the Cayuga County District Attorney that he had planted at least one weapon on an inmate. See Id. at ¶ 25. The District Attorney provided this information to Plaintiff's counsel and the judge presiding over Plaintiff's appeal, stating that he had "recently learned of an infirmity regarding the credibility" of Defendant Cornell and that "his office would not oppose any motion . . . to vacate the previously entered plea and sentence." Id. at ¶¶ 26-27.

         After receiving this letter, Plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss his conviction and indictment. See Id. at ¶ 28. On January 18, 2017, Justice Mark A. Fandrich vacated Plaintiff's conviction. See Id. at ¶ 29. Plaintiff was released from DOCCS's custody on January 19, 2017. See Id. at ¶ 30.

         On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed this complaint asserting seven causes of action for violations of state law and constitutional rights: (1) false arrest and false imprisonment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Cornell, see Id. at ¶¶ 32-46; (2) false arrest and false imprisonment under New York State law against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 47-53; (3) denial of the right to a fair trial pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Cornell, see Id. at ¶¶ 54-59; (4) common law assault against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 60-63; (5) common law battery against all Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 64-68; (6) municipal liability against the State Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 69-73; and (7) negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision against the State Defendants, see Id. at ¶¶ 74-78. On November 6, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss all claims against the State Defendants for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (the "State Defendants' Motion"). See Dkt. No. 11. On December 11, 2017, Defendant Cornell filed a separate motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 17. Defendant Cornell's motion argues that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims against him. See Dkt. No. 17-2 at 2. On January 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed a response agreeing that the State Defendants must be dismissed, but arguing that the state law claims against Defendant Cornell should be permitted to proceed in part. See Dkt. No. 19 at 1.[1]

         III. ...


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