Sagaria v. Orange Cnty. Jail, 20-CV-2287 (KMK)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
PartiesJOHN SAGARIA, Plaintiff, v. ORANGE COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.
Docket Number20-CV-2287 (KMK)
Decision Date24 September 2021

Michael David Meth, Esq. Meth Law Offices, PC Counsel for Plaintiff

Anthony Francisco Cardoso, Esq. Orange County Attorney's Office Counsel for Defendants



Plaintiff John Sagaria (Plaintiff) brings this Action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Orange County Jail (the Jail), the Orange County Sheriff's Department (the Sheriff's Department), and the County of Orange (the “County”; collectively Defendants) for wrongful incarceration in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 6 of the New York State Constitution. (Compl. (Dkt. No. 1).) Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (the “Motion”). (Not. of Mot (Dkt. No. 25).) For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. Background
A. Factual Background

The following facts, drawn from Plaintiff's Complaint, are taken as true for the purpose of resolving the instant Motion.

Plaintiff is a businessman who has lived in Orange County, New York for over 25 years. (Compl. ¶ 12.) His primary source of income is the two businesses he owns, both of which he must be present to operate. (Id.) Plaintiff also is the plaintiff in a contentious divorce proceeding in the Supreme Court of Orange County, New York (the “state court). (Id. ¶ 13.) On December 14, 2018, during a custody hearing related to this divorce proceeding, Plaintiff's ex-wife's counsel, Barbara Strauss, Esq. (“Strauss”), raised the issue of Plaintiff's unpaid spousal support. (Id. ¶ 14.) The state court denied Plaintiff's request for a hearing and offer of proof on the non-payment issue. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff was held in summary contempt of court for nonpayment of spousal support, and the state court ordered his immediate detention. (Id.) The state court remanded Plaintiff to the Jail pursuant to an order of commitment. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff alleges that the state court set $25, 000 as the payment required for Plaintiff to purge his contempt. (Id. ¶ 16.) The Court takes judicial notice of the order of commitment, which states that Plaintiff could purge his contempt by “paying the partial sum of $25, 889.64 to C[ynthia] S[agaria], ” and orders Plaintiff to be imprisoned for 30 days, “or until the purge sum of $25, 889.64 is paid.” (See Decl. of Anthony F. Cardoso in Supp. (“Cardoso Decl.”) Ex. B (“Order of Commitment”) (Dkt. No. 26-2).) See Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 774 (2d Cir. 1991) ([C]ourts routinely take judicial notice of documents filed in other courts, . . . not for the truth of the matters asserted in the other litigation, but rather to establish the fact of such litigation and related filings”).[1]

On December 17, 2018, Plaintiff paid $25, 000 to Strauss by credit card. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Strauss subsequently issued a Letter of Release to the state court and brought the letter and payment confirmation to the Sheriff's Department. (Id.) The Sheriff's Department refused to release Plaintiff because the release letter did not come from the state court. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20.) The state court refused to sign the release order. (Id. ¶ 21.)

On December 19, 2018, Plaintiff paid an additional $28, 090.26 by credit card to the Sheriff's Department GOVPAY EXP Payment Service to satisfy the purge amount. (Id. ¶ 22.) This sum included $3, 090.26 in fees. (Id. ¶ 23.) The Sheriff's Department charged Plaintiff's credit card. (Id.) Subsequently, the Sheriff's Department stated that it could accept only $10, 000 via credit card. (Id. ¶ 24.) The Sheriff's Department stated that Plaintiff had to pay $25, 000 in cash at the window of the Jail to be released. (Id. ¶ 26.) While Plaintiff's family and friends were gathering cash, he was advised by the state court that an additional $1, 639.644 paid directly to Strauss would be required for release. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.) Plaintiff paid Strauss $1, 639.44 in cash and was released on December 19, 2018 at 8:30 P.M. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) The following day, GOVPAY EXP credited Plaintiff's credit card the $28, 090.26 previously paid. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 33.)

Plaintiff seeks compensatory and special damages-including for emotional injury and loss of liberty, punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorneys' fees and costs. (Id. ¶ 34 & 10-11.)[2]

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 13, 2020. (Compl.) On September 28, 2020, Defendants submitted a letter requesting a pre-motion conference in anticipation of filing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 21.) On October 8, 2020, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendant's pre-motion letter by October 13, 2020, (Dkt. No. 22), which Plaintiff did, (Dkt. No. 23). On October 20, 2020, the Court adopted a briefing schedule. (Dkt. No. 24.) On November 20, 2020, Defendants filed their Motion To Dismiss. (Not. of Mot.; Cardoso Decl. (Dkt. No. 26); Not. of Mot. on Behalf of Defs. (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 27).) Plaintiff filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the Motion To Dismiss on December 18, 2020. (Mem. of Law in Opp'n (“Pl.'s Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 28).) Defendants filed their Reply on January 5, 2021. (Reply Mem. of Law in Further Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss on Behalf of the Defs. (“Defs.' Reply”) (Dkt. No. 29).)

II. Discussion
A. Standard of Review

When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014). The Court, however, is not required to credit “mere conclusory statements” or [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 678 (citation and quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Specifically, the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” id., and if the plaintiff has not “nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the question “is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Sikhs for Justice v. Nath, 893 F.Supp.2d 598, 615 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). Accordingly, the “purpose of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test, in a streamlined fashion, the formal sufficiency of the plaintiff's statement of a claim for relief without resolving a contest regarding its substantive merits.” Halebian v. Berv, 644 F.3d 122, 130 (2d Cir. 2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To decide the motion, the Court “may consider the facts as asserted within the four corners of the complaint together with the documents attached to the complaint as exhibits, and any documents incorporated in the complaint by reference.” Peter F. Gaito Architecture, LLC v. Simone Dev. Corp., 602 F.3d 57, 64 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

B. Analysis
1. Claims Against the Jail and the Sheriff's Department

The Jail and the Sheriff's Department argue that they are administrative arms of the County and cannot be sued independently under New York law. (Defs.' Mem. 12.) The Court agrees.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is a municipal department of the County of Orange, State of New York. Sheriff's Office, Sheriff's Office: Orange County, New York, (last visited September 24, 2021). The Sheriff's Department is subdivided into multiple divisions. Id. The Orange County Jail is a subdivision of the Sheriff's Department. Orange County, Corrections (Jail), (last visited September 24, 2021). The Jail is responsible for operating and maintaining the County's correctional system. Id.[3]

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17, federal courts must look to state law when deciding whether a government entity may be sued. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3) (providing that capacity to be sued is determined “for all . . . parties [except individuals or corporations] by the law of the state where the court is located”); see also Fanelli v. Town of Harrison, 46 F.Supp.2d 254, 257 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (“New York law governs the capacity of a police department to sue or be sued.”); Orraca v. City of New York, 897 F.Supp. 148, 152 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ([T]he capacity of a governmental entity to sue or be sued is a question of state law.”). “Under New York law, departments that are merely administrative arms of a municipality do not have a legal identity separate and apart from the municipality and, therefore, cannot sue or be sued.” McCloud v. Dzurenda, No. 20-CV-6393 2021 WL 1924181, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. May 13, 2021) (quoting Rose v. County of Nassau, 904 F.Supp.2d 244, 247 (E.D.N.Y. 2012)); see also Carr v. County of Sullivan, No. 16-CV-06850, 2018 WL 3733952, at *2 n.6 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2018) (noting that departments are “merely administrative arms of a municipality [that] do not have a legal identity separate and apart from the municipality and, therefore, cannot sue or be sued”); Polite v....

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