657 F.3d 39 (1st Cir. 2011), 10-2064, Haley v. City of Boston

Docket Nº:10-2064.
Citation:657 F.3d 39
Opinion Judge:SELYA, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:James HALEY (pending transfer to the Estate of James Haley), Plaintiff, Appellant, v. CITY OF BOSTON, et al., Defendants, Appellees.
Attorney:Gayle Horn, with whom Arthur Loevy, Jon Loevy, Loevy & Loevy, James Sultan, and Rankin & Sultan were on brief, for appellant. Hugh R. Curran, with whom Bletzer & Bletzer, P.C. was on brief, for appellees.
Judge Panel:Before THOMPSON, SELYA and DYK,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 19, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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657 F.3d 39 (1st Cir. 2011)

James HALEY (pending transfer to the Estate of James Haley), Plaintiff, Appellant,


CITY OF BOSTON, et al., Defendants, Appellees.

No. 10-2064.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

September 19, 2011

Heard July 27, 2011.

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Gayle Horn, with whom Arthur Loevy, Jon Loevy, Loevy & Loevy, James Sultan, and Rankin & Sultan were on brief, for appellant.

Hugh R. Curran, with whom Bletzer & Bletzer, P.C. was on brief, for appellees.

Before THOMPSON, SELYA and DYK,[*] Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

After the discovery of previously undisclosed evidence resulted in the vacation of his murder conviction and his release from more than three decades of incarceration, James Haley brought suit to recover damages from those he deemed responsible for his plight. The defendants— the City of Boston (the City) and the two detectives who had spearheaded the investigation of the crime— moved to dismiss.1 The district

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court granted their motion piecemeal. See Haley v. City of Boston ( Haley I ), 677 F.Supp.2d 379, 393 (D.Mass.2009); Haley v. City of Boston ( Haley II ), Civ. No. 09-10197, 2010 WL 3198900, at *4 (D.Mass. Aug. 12, 2010). Upon careful consideration of a tangled record, we affirm in part and reverse in part.


Because this appeal tests the mettle of a dismissal for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), we glean the facts primarily from the complaint. See Nisselson v. Lernout, 469 F.3d 143, 150 (1st Cir.2006). We embellish that account with facts contained in documents incorporated within the complaint and facts susceptible to judicial notice. See id.

David Myers and Gloria Custis lived together in a Boston neighborhood. In the early morning hours of July 11, 1971, Myers was shot, stabbed, and killed in the apartment that they shared. Gloria, who was present at the time, fled to her brother's home and notified the police. When she returned to the apartment, she met a Boston police officer, Sergeant Detective Joseph Kelley, who had responded to her call. Kelley and fellow detective John Harrington took statements from both Gloria and her sister Brenda (Haley's estranged wife).

Myers, Gloria said, told her that Haley had stabbed him. She also said that she had seen Haley in the apartment that morning, brandishing a knife and a gun. She speculated that Haley had come there in search of Brenda (who had left him). Both Gloria and Brenda vouchsafed that they had not seen Haley for nearly a month prior to the murder. Brenda, who had been out of state for much of that time, said that she had last spoken to Haley over the telephone a few days before the murder and discussed her desire for a divorce.

The detectives quickly came to regard Haley as the prime suspect in the slaying. They arrested him the next day. The district attorney's office, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, obtained an indictment for first-degree murder.

Prior to the commencement of trial, Haley's counsel filed a blanket motion for production of evidence favorable to the defense (including impeachment evidence). A justice of the state superior court granted this motion. In its response, the prosecution did not furnish the statements given by the sisters on the day of the murder.

The case went to trial in February of 1972. The prosecution introduced no physical evidence tying Haley to the events of July 11, 1971, relying instead on the sisters' testimony, which for the most part tracked what they had said when first interviewed. But contrary to those initial statements, both women testified that, while walking back to the apartment that Gloria shared with Myers on the day before the murder, they had seen Haley shopping in the neighborhood. The prosecution built upon this testimony to construct a theory that Haley's sighting of the women on July 10 had alerted him to Brenda's return to Boston, and her presence in the neighborhood led him to suspect that she was staying with her sister. Distressed by her decision to divorce him, he broke into the apartment looking for Brenda and, when Myers confronted him, responded by using deadly force.

Haley steadfastly denied that he had seen either sister on July 10. He maintained that he had no reason to suspect that Brenda might be at the apartment and, accordingly, had no reason to go there

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on July 11. Haley's sister, called as an alibi witness, testified that he was elsewhere when the murder took place.

On March 3, 1972, the jury found Haley guilty, and the trial justice subsequently sentenced him to life imprisonment. For the next thirty-four years, Haley was confined in the state correctional system. Notwithstanding the adverse verdict and the rejection of his direct appeal, see Commonwealth v. Haley, 363 Mass. 513, 296 N.E.2d 207 (1973), he continued to maintain his innocence.

In 2005, Haley learned of the Massachusetts Public Records Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 66, § 10. Through use of the statute, he formally requested all files relevant to his case from the district attorney's office and the Boston Police Department (BPD). The request to the district attorney's office came up dry, but the request to the BPD yielded sixty pages of documents. Included in this trove were typed statements that memorialized the interviews of Brenda and Gloria conducted on the morning of the murder. Haley realized that the substance of those statements did not match the sisters' trial testimony and, in part, supported his own version of events. He therefore filed a motion for a new trial. The Commonwealth responded by filing a motion to vacate the conviction and order a new trial. The superior court granted the latter motion.

At this juncture, the Commonwealth apparently intended to retry Haley, and he requested discovery. The district attorney's office replied that all files relating to his case had been lost. Haley then moved to dismiss the murder charge and, on August 26, 2008, the superior court obliged.

On February 11, 2009, Haley repaired to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and, invoking both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, sued the City and the two detectives. He alleged that the defendants deliberately failed to disclose the sisters' interview statements. With this as a centerpiece, the complaint asserted federal claims against the detectives (Kelley and Harrington) for violation of Haley's due process rights, together with state-law claims against them for malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy, and negligent investigation. The complaint asserted a separate set of claims against the City, under both federal and state law, including claims for municipal liability, negligent training and supervision, and respondeat superior liability.

The defendants moved to dismiss all of Haley's claims. As to the detectives, the district court granted this motion on qualified immunity grounds. Haley I, 677 F.Supp.2d at 386-91. As to the City, the court dismissed with prejudice Haley's state-law claims for failure to make timely presentment. See id. at 392-93 (citing Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, § 4).

Haley moved to alter or amend the judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). He argued that the district court's rescript identified no basis for dismissing his federal municipal liability claims and that the state-law claims against the City should have been dismissed without prejudice. The district court acknowledged that it had neglected to address the municipal liability claims but concluded that, because no actionable constitutional violation on the part of the detectives had occurred, those claims were impuissant. Haley II, 2010 WL 3198900, at *2-3. Relatedly, the court denied Haley's separate request for leave to file an amended complaint designed to flesh out his municipal liability claims. Id. at *3 n. 4. The court then reiterated that the state-law claims were properly dismissed with prejudice. Id. at *4. Next, with respect to the previously overlooked malicious prosecution claim, the court declared that a Massachusetts state court might find this

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claim timely and, therefore, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over it. Id. Accordingly, the court dismissed this claim without prejudice. Id. This timely appeal followed.


This appeal calls upon us to decide three sets of issues: (i) whether the district court erred in granting qualified immunity to the detectives on Haley's federal claims; (ii) whether the district court erred in dismissing Haley's federal municipal liability claims; and (iii) whether the district court erred in its disposition of a salmagundi of state-law claims. After pausing to confirm the standard of review, we grapple with these issues in sequence.

A. Standard of Review.

We review an order of dismissal for failure to state a claim de novo. SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 441 (1st Cir.2010) (en banc). In conducting this review, " we accept as true all well-pleaded facts set forth in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the pleader's favor." Artuso v. Vertex Pharm., Inc., 637 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.2011). We may augment these facts and inferences with data points gleaned from documents incorporated by reference into the complaint, matters of public record, and facts susceptible to judicial notice. In re Colonial Mortg. Bankers Corp., 324 F.3d 12, 15 (1st Cir.2003).

A complaint need contain only " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although "...

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