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Brooks v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 26, 2018

CALVIN B. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK and CORRECTIONAL OFFICER JOHNSON, Shield No. 18735, Defendants.,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          John G. Koeltl United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Calvin B. Brooks, proceeding .pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was deprived of property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiff alleges that Correctional Officer MacArthur Johnson and the City of New York (the "City") are liable for intentionally sending his driver's license and house keys to another person while the plaintiff was incarcerated at the Anna M. Kross Center (the "AMKC").

         The City now moves for judgment on the pleadings dismissing the Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The City argues that plaintiff's claims fail as a matter of law because the plaintiff was provided with an adequate post-deprivation remedy and there can be no municipal liability without an underlying constitutional deprivation. The City further argues that the plaintiff insufficiently pleaded his claim for municipal liability because the plaintiff has failed to plead an existing City policy or custom that caused the deprivation of his property.[1]. For the reasons explained below, the City's motion is granted, and the plaintiff s claims are dismissed.

         I.

         For a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), courts apply the same standards as those applied to a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6) . Cleveland v. Capiaw Enters., 448 F.3d 518, 521 (2d Cir. 2006). "Thus, [a court] will accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in [the] plaintiff [']s [ ] favor. To survive a Rule 12(c) motion, [the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Hayden v. Peterson, 594 F.3d 150, 160 (2d Cir. 2010); see also Romero v. DHL Express (U.S.A), Inc., No. 15-cv-4844, 2016 WL 6584484, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 7, 2016).

         The pleadings and allegations of a pro se plaintiff must be construed liberally for the purposes of deciding motions pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See McKithen v. Brown, 481 F.3d 89, 96 (2d Cir. 2007); Weixel v. Bd. of Educ. of City of New York, 287 F.3d 138, 145-46 (2d Cir. 2002). The submissions of a pro se litigant should be interpreted to "raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994)); see also Burke v. Metropolitian Transp. Auth., No. 09-cv-3291, 2009 WL 4279538, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 1, 2009).

         II.

         The following allegations, set forth in the Amended Complaint, are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion.[2]

         Between February and March 2016, the plaintiff was incarcerated at the AMKC. At some point between February and March 2016, Officer Johnson sent the plaintiff's keys and driver's license, presumably by mail, to another person. Compl. 2. On March 27, 2016, the plaintiff filed a Grievance concerning the loss of his property by the' property room of the AMKC. Compl. 3. On August 12, 2016, the Grievance Department forwarded the Grievance to the warden of the AMKC, but the warden refused to respond. Id. The plaintiff then appealed to the Board of the New York City Department of Correction (the "DOC"). Id. In September 2016, a representative from the DOC visited the plaintiff and told the plaintiff that the DOC was investigating the matter. Compl. 3. On or about September 20, 2016, a representative from the DOC again visited the plaintiff and told the plaintiff they were unable to recover his property. Compl. 4. On or about September 22, 2016, representatives from AMKC visited the plaintiff and told the plaintiff that his property had been sent to a sex offender. Id.

         On April 27, 2017, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the current action against the AMKC and the DOC. Dkt. No. 1. On July 31, 2017, the Court dismissed plaintiff's claims against the AMKC and the DOC and the City of New York was added as a defendant. Dkt. No. 8. On October 24, 2017, the City answered the complaint. Dkt. No. 16. On December 12, 2017, the plaintiff amended the Complaint to name Officer Johnson as a defendant in the action. Dkt. No. 30. On February 8, 2018, the City moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Dkt. No. 38.[3] On February 16, 2018, the plaintiff requested an extension of time to file his response to the City's motion for judgment on the pleadings, which was granted on February 22, 2018. Dkt. Nos. 45, 46. The Court extended the time for the plaintiff to file papers in opposition to the motion to May 22, 2018, noting that "if the plaintiff [did] not respond to the motion by May 22, 2018, the Court [would] consider the motion fully briefed and decide the motion on the papers already submitted." Dkt. No. 56. On May 15, 2018, the plaintiff filed a letter requesting to settle the case. Dkt. No. 57. By June 22, 2018, the plaintiff had not filed a response to the motion for judgement on the pleadings.

         III.

         A.

         The plaintiff alleges that his driver's license and keys were intentionally sent to another person in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, "[t]he Due Process Clause does not protect against all deprivations of constitutionally protected interests in life, liberty, or property, ''only against deprivations without due process of law.'" Rivera-Powell v. New York City Bd. of Elections, 470 F.3d 458, 464-65 (2d Cir. 2006} (quoting Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 537 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds by, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986)). "When reviewing alleged procedural due process violations, the Supreme Court has distinguished between (a) claims based on established state procedures and (b) claims based on random, unauthorized acts by state employees." Hellenic Am. Neighborhood Action Comm. v. City of New York, 101 F.3d 877, 880 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 532 (1984)). Where a claim is based on random, unauthorized acts by state employees, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not violated "so long as the state provides a meaningful post-deprivation remedy." Hellenic, 101 F.3d at 880 (citing Hudson, 468, U.S. at 531, 533) .

         The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has explained that "New York in fact affords an adequate post-deprivation remedy in the form of, inter alia, a Court of Claims action." Jackson v. Burke, 256 F.3d 93, 96 (2d Cir. 2001). Thus, federal courts routinely dismiss actions by New York State inmates alleging deprivation of property when, as in this case, the act complained of was random and unauthorized. Byrd v. City of New York, No. 17-cv-2166, 2018 WL 259316, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 2, 2018)(holding that because deprivation of property was "effected through random and unauthorized conduct of a state employee -- as opposed to ...


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