Santiago v. Keyes

Decision Date08 March 2012
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 11–30248–KPN.
PartiesJerry Luis SANTIAGO, Plaintiff v. Christopher KEYES, John Doe, Richard Roe, Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of State Police, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Joseph G. Donnellan, Rogal & Donnellan, P.C., Norwood, MA, Kerry David Strayer, Office of the Attorney General, Springfield, MA, for Defendants.

S. Thomas Martinelli, Bernard T. O'Connor, Jr., O'Connor, Martinelli, Cohn & Pikula, Springfield, MA, for Plaintiff.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER WITH REGARD TO PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (Document Nos. 6 and 8)

KENNETH P. NEIMAN, United States Magistrate Judge.

This action arises from an alleged case of mistaken identity. Jerry Luis Santiago (Plaintiff) claims that he was arrested and detained because he was wrongfully, and without justification, believed to be the subject of a New York arrest warrant. Asserting violations of both federal and state law, Plaintiff originally filed this action in state court against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of State Police (Department of State Police) and Christopher Keyes (Keyes), the arresting state trooper (together Defendants). Plaintiff also named two unidentified defendants, John Doe, a state trooper who allegedly interrogated him following his arrest, and Richard Roe, an assistant district attorney who allegedly made misrepresentations regarding his identity in state court.

Keyes removed the action to this court because it raised, among other claims, a federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiff, in response, now urges remand of the entire matter in the interest of judicial economy so as to avoid duplication of trials in two different courts on the same set of facts. Plaintiff argues, albeit inartfully, that remand is necessary because the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution bars his claims against the Department of State Police under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (“MCRA”) and the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). Plaintiff's motion is opposed by Defendants, on grounds further explained below. In addition, the Department of State Police has filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that it is entitled to immunity from suit pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The parties have consented to have the undersigned decide all matters in this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny Plaintiff's motion to remand and allow, in part, the Department of State Police's motion to dismiss.

I. Background

The following facts come directly from Plaintiff's complaint. On or about August 20, 2008, Plaintiff, a Massachusetts resident who hails from Puerto Rico, was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by a friend. (Complaint ¶¶ 8–9.) The vehicle was stopped by officers of the Department of State Police and Plaintiff was asked for identification. Plaintiff provided the officers with his Massachusetts driver's license,which contained his photograph and correct birth date. ( Id. ¶ 9.) Ostensibly believing Plaintiff was the subject of an outstanding New York arrest warrant, the officers instructed Plaintiff to exit the vehicle, searched him, and then handcuffed him. ( Id.)

Upon being arrested, Plaintiff informed an officer that he is deaf and does not speak English; as a result, he was interrogated by a Spanish-speaking State Trooper, one of the unidentified defendants. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff explained that his wallet containing identification and motor vehicle license had been stolen from him while he was in Puerto Rico some time before and indicated that he was the victim of identity theft and not the subject of the arrest warrant. ( Id.)

Following his arrest, Plaintiff was arraigned in Chicopee District Court. ( Id. ¶ 13.) At Plaintiff's arraignment, the judge allegedly questioned the Assistant District Attorney (“ADA”), another of the unidentified defendants, as to whether Plaintiff was correctly identified as the subject of the arrest warrant. It is not clear if the ADA provided an answer at the arraignment, but the ADA appears to have asked the Department of State Police if Plaintiff's fingerprints matched those that it had received from New York and was misinformed that they did. ( Id.)

Plaintiff was placed in custody until August 28, 2008, when he was brought back to the Chicopee District Court. Plaintiff asserts that, at that time, the ADA, based on information she had received from the Department of State Police, misrepresented to the court that Plaintiff's fingerprints matched those of the subject of the New York arrest warrant and that Plaintiff had been correctly identified as the subject of that warrant. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was thereafter extradited to New York State. ( Id. ¶ 15.) On September 19, 2008, a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York determined that Plaintiff was not the proper subject of the arrest warrant. ( Id.) In total, Plaintiff alleges that he spent thirty-two days in custody. ( Id. ¶ 11.)

Plaintiff's complaint contains five counts, of which three apply to all the defendants: (1) federal claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for violating his civil rights (Count I), (2) a state law negligence claim pursuant to the MTCA (Count IV), and (3) a state law civil rights claim pursuant to the MCRA (Count V). Plaintiff also alleges, pursuant to sections 1983 and 1985 as well as the MTCA and MCRA, that the Department of State Police was grossly negligent for its maintenance of an unconstitutional policy or custom (Count III). Finally, Plaintiff asserts a state law claim against Keyes and the two unidentified defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count II).

II. Discussion

Although, as Plaintiff points out, the Department of State Police did not sign the notice of removal, Keyes was not required to obtain its consent before removing the action to federal court. See Rey v. Classic Cars, 762 F.Supp. 421, 423 (D.Mass.1991) ([T]he failure of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to consent to removal does not require that the case be remanded given that the eleventh amendment prohibits a suit against the Commonwealth in a federal court absent the Commonwealth's consent.”). Further, under this circuit's precedent, the Department of State Police's opposition to Plaintiff's motion to remand is sufficient to constitute consent to the removal. See Esposito v. Home Depot U.S.A., 590 F.3d 72, 77 (1st Cir.2009) (concluding that any defect in removal caused by defendant's failure to sign the notice of removal “was subsequently cured when [the defendant] opposed[the plaintiff's] remand motion, thereby clearly communicating its desire to be in federal court.”).

A. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), [a] motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect other than lack of subject matter jurisdiction must be made within 30 days after the filing of the notice of removal.” There is no dispute that Plaintiff filed his motion to remand after the 30–day deadline; the notice of removal was filed on November 8, 2011, and Plaintiff did not file his motion until December 16, 2011, more than one week late. With that in mind, Defendants, asserting that Plaintiff's motion to remand is not based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, argue that the motion should be denied as untimely.

The resolution of this particular dispute is not as straightforward as Defendants might wish. [A]lthough the Supreme Court ‘has declined to state definitively whether the Eleventh Amendment is a doctrine of subject matter jurisdiction,’ it has indicated that the Amendment is jurisdictional in the sense that it is a limitation on the federal court's judicial power.’ Brait Builders Corp. v. Massachusetts, Div. of Capital Asset Mgmt., 644 F.3d 5, 10 (1st Cir.2011) (quoting Hudson Sav. Bank v. Austin, 479 F.3d 102, 109 (1st Cir.2007) and Calderon v. Ashmus, 523 U.S. 740, 745 n. 2, 118 S.Ct. 1694, 140 L.Ed.2d 970 (1998)). On the other hand, “the Supreme Court has also ‘recognized that [the Eleventh Amendment] is not coextensive with the limitations on judicial power in Article III.’ Id. (quoting Calderon, 523 U.S. at 745 n. 2, 118 S.Ct. 1694). It is therefore not clear whether Plaintiff's arguments regarding the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity are within the ambit of section 1447(c)'s “subject matter jurisdiction” exception to the filing deadline. In any event, the court need not decide this question for present purposes. Even assuming the timeliness of Plaintiff's motion, the court is not persuaded by his arguments for remand.

Plaintiff has proffered two arguments in favor of remand. First, as mentioned, Plaintiff asserts that this court's removal jurisdiction is destroyed by the mere presence of certain claims against the Department of State Police, which claims, Plaintiff maintains, are barred in federal court by the Eleventh Amendment. This argument, however, has little merit. Indeed, this exact contention was explicitly considered and rejected by a unanimous Supreme Court in Wis. Dep't of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 118 S.Ct. 2047, 141 L.Ed.2d 364 (1998). The Court held that the Eleventh Amendment does not automatically destroy original jurisdiction, but rather, simply “grants the State a legal power to assert a sovereign immunity defense should it choose to do so.” Id. at 389, 118 S.Ct. 2047;see also id. at 392–93, 118 S.Ct. 2047 (“A State's proper assertion of an Eleventh Amendment bar after removal means that the federal court cannot hear the barred claim. But that circumstance does not destroy removal jurisdiction over the remaining claims in the case before us. A federal court can proceed to hear those other claims, and the District Court did not err in doing so.”). In short, the specter of the Eleventh Amendment does not bar removal...

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