Mendoza v. Cnty. of Nassau

Decision Date27 September 2012
Docket Number11 -CV-02487(SJF)(AKT)
PartiesJUAN MENDOZA, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF NASSAU, NASSAU COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, P.O. MARGARET JAEGER, P.O. KOHUT, P.O. GREGORY NICHOLAS and P.O. JOHN DOES # 1-5, said names being fictitious as the true names are presently unknown, Individually and in their Official Capacities, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

FEUERSTEIN, United States District Judge:

On May 23, 2011, plaintiff Juan Mendoza ("plaintiff") filed this action against defendants County of Nassau ("the County"), Nassau County Police Department ("NCPD"), police officers Margaret Jaeger ("Jaeger"), Kohut and Gregory Nicholas ("Nicholas"), and five (5) unidentified "John Doe" police officers (collectively, "defendants"), pursuant to, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants now move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the complaint and plaintiff cross-moves pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for leave to amend his complaint. For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion is granted and plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.

A. Factual Allegations1

Plaintiff alleges that on or about July 12, 2008, at approximately 2:30 p.m., he was "illegally apprehended" by unidentified police officers while he was walking to his vehicle, which was parked in Parking Field #4 at Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, New York. (Compl., ¶ 11). According to plaintiff, at the time that officers detained him for suspicion of driving while intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs, he was standing next to his vehicle, but did not have the keys in the ignition. (Compl., ¶ 14). Plaintiff alleges that he was thereafter transported to a NCPD Central Testing Unit ("C.T.U."), where he "willingly submitted himself to a series of tests, including an Intoxilyzer-Alcohol Analyzer test" administered by Jaeger and Nicholas. (Compl., ¶¶ 15-16). According to plaintiff, although the test results indicated that he had a 0.17% blood alcohol content, "well within the legal limits to operate a vehicle," (Compl., ¶ 16), he "was transported for arrest processing." (Compl., ¶ 17). Plaintiff further alleges that unidentified police officers "filled out false police reports and provided false and misleading information to the Prosecution which implicated [him] in the commission of a crime." (Compl., ¶18).

On or about July 13, 2008, plaintiff was arraigned on the charges of driving while impaired (N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.3), driving while impaired on drugs (N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.4) and driving while impaired on combined alcohol and drugs (N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192.4A), and was released on his own recognizance. (Compl.,¶ 19). In total, plaintiff spent approximately twenty-four (24) hours in custody. (Compl., ¶ 20).

During the Fall of 2010, the prosecutor dropped the criminal charges against plaintiff. (Compl., ¶21).

B. Procedural History

On May 23, 2011, plaintiff filed this action against defendants, asserting claims pursuant to (a) 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for violations of his constitutional rights and (b) state law for false arrest (third claim for relief) and malicious abuse of process (fourth claim for relief). Specifically, plaintiff alleges: (a) that defendants violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, i.e., his rights not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, to be free from seizure and arrest without probable cause, to be free from unlawful imprisonment, to be free from unwarranted and malicious criminal prosecution, to be free from infliction of emotional distress, not to have cruel and unusual punishment imposed upon him, and to receive equal protection under the law (first claim for relief); (b) that defendants conspired to violate his civil rights "by agreeing among themselves to use excessive force in dealing with the Plaintiff and to falsely charge Plaintiff with crimes and testify falsely * * * in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985," (Compl., ¶ 30), (second claim for relief); and (c) that the acts of the named and unidentified police officers were carried out pursuant to municipal policies of "initiating and continuing criminal proceedings without evidence of criminal activity," (Compl., ¶ 44), and of "deliberate indifference to the rights of persons in their domain who suffer violation of their right to freedom from the use of excessive and unreasonable force and freedom from deprivation of liberty without due process of law * **," (Compl, ¶ 50) (fifth claim for relief). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00), punitive damages in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000.00), costs and attorney's fees.

Defendants now move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the complaint and plaintiff cross-moves pursuant to Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for leave to amend the complaint.

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard of Review

The standard of review on a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is that a plaintiff plead sufficient facts "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974,167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The pleading of specific facts is not required; rather a complaint need only give the defendant "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557,127 S.Ct. 1955). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,127 S.Ct. at 1959. The plausibility standardrequires "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

In deciding a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must liberally construe the claims, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See McGarry v. Pallito, 687 F.3d 505, 510 (2d Cir. 2012); Rescuecom Corp. v. Google Inc., 562 F.3d 123, 127 (2d Cir. 2009). However, this tenet "is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 1950; see also Ruston v. Town Board for Town of Skaneateles, 610 F.3d 55, 59 (2d Cir. 2010) ("A court can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." (quotations and citations omitted)). Nonetheless, a plaintiff is not required to plead "specific evidence or extra facts beyond what is needed to make the claim plausible." Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120-1 (2d Cir. 2010); see also Matson v. Board of Education of City School District of New York, 631 F.3d 57, 63 (2d Cir. 2011) ("While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it requires more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." (internal quotations and citation omitted)).

The Court must limit itself to the facts alleged in the complaint, which are accepted as true; to any documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference therein; to matters of which judicial notice may be taken; or to documents upon the terms and effect of which the complaint "relies heavily" and which are, thus, rendered "integral" to the complaint.Chambers v. Time Warner. Inc., 282 F.3d 147,152-53 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing International Audiotext Network. Inc. v. American Tel. and Tel. Co., 62 F.3d 69, 72 (2d Cir. 1995)).

B. Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides, in relevant part, that:

"[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured . . . ."

To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the challenged conduct was "committed by a person acting under color of state law," and (2) that such conduct "deprived [the plaintiff] of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Cornejo v. Bell, 592 F.3d 121, 127 (2d Cir. 20101. cert. denied sub nom Cornejo v. Monn, 131 S. Ct. 158, 178 L. Ed. 2d 243 (2010) (quoting Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d Cir. 1994)1; see also Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S. Ct. 1497, 1501-02, 182 L. Ed. 2d 593 (2012). Section 1983 does not create any independent substantive right; but rather is a vehicle to "redress...the deprivation of [federal] rights established elsewhere." Thomas v. Roach, 165 F.3d 137, 142 (2d Cir. 1999).

1. Claims against Individual Defendants in their Individual Capacity

"[P]ersonal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under Section 1983."...

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