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Nelkenbaum v. New York

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Oct 25, 2019
19-CV-7953 (CM) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2019)

Opinion

19-CV-7953 (CM)

10-25-2019

YEHUDA NELKENBAUM, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF NEW YORK; TOWN OF FALLSBURG, NEW YORK; POLICE OFFICER JORDY; POLICE OFFICER CHAVALIER; SERGEANT SCHEVERING; JOHN DOE 1 - 10; JANE DOE 1 - 10, Defendants.


ORDER TO AMEND :

Plaintiff, appearing pro se, brings this action alleging that Defendants violated his civil rights. By order dated October 2, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's request to proceed without prepayment of fees, that is, in forma pauperis (IFP). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within sixty days of the date of this order.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court must dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). The court must also dismiss a complaint if the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

While the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, the court is obliged to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the "strongest [claims] that they suggest," Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in original). But the "special solicitude" in pro se cases, id. at 475 (citation omitted), has its limits - to state a claim, pro se pleadings still must comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a complaint to make a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

The Supreme Court has held that under Rule 8, a complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief "that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads enough factual detail to allow the court to draw the inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. In reviewing the complaint, the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). But it does not have to accept as true "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action," which are essentially just legal conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. After separating legal conclusions from well-pleaded factual allegations, the court must determine whether those facts make it plausible - not merely possible - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Yehuda Nelkenbaum alleges the following facts. On or about August 23, 2018, he was falsely arrested at his apartment located in Sheldrake, New York, and subsequently imprisoned for violating a court order. Defendants forcibly entered Plaintiff's apartment and forcibly removed him. Defendants allowed others into his apartment without his consent, and Plaintiff's property was "compromised." (ECF No. 2 at 5)

Page numbers refer to those generated by the Court's electronic filing system.

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in the amount of $1,000,000.00.

DISCUSSION

A. Eleventh Amendment

Plaintiff's claims against the State of New York must be dismissed. "[A]s a general rule, state governments may not be sued in federal court unless they have waived their Eleventh Amendment immunity, or unless Congress has abrogated the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity . . . ." Gollomp v. Spitzer, 568 F.3d 355, 366 (2d Cir. 2009). "The immunity recognized by the Eleventh Amendment extends beyond the states themselves to state agents and state instrumentalities that are, effectively, arms of a state." Id. New York has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity to suit in federal court, and Congress did not abrogate the states' immunity in enacting 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Trotman v. Palisades Interstate Park Comm'n, 557 F.2d 35, 40 (2d Cir. 1977). Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the State of New York are therefore barred by the Eleventh Amendment and are dismissed.

B. Municipal Liability

Plaintiff names the Town of Fallsburg, New York, as a Defendant, but he fails to allege facts suggesting that a policy, custom, or practice of the Town of Fallsburg caused a violation of his constitutional rights.

When a plaintiff sues a municipality under § 1983, it is not enough for the plaintiff to allege that one of the municipality's employees or agents engaged in some wrongdoing. The plaintiff must show that the municipality itself caused the violation of the plaintiff's rights. See Connick v. Thompson, 131 S. Ct. 1350, 1359 (2011) ("A municipality or other local government may be liable under this section [1983] if the governmental body itself 'subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or 'causes' a person 'to be subjected' to such deprivation.") (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978)); Cash v. Cnty. of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 333 (2d Cir. 2011). In other words, to state a § 1983 claim against a municipality, the plaintiff must allege facts showing (1) the existence of a municipal policy, custom, or practice, and (2) that the policy, custom, or practice caused the violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights. See Jones v. Town of East Haven, 691 F.3d 72, 80 (2d Cir. 2012); Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) (internal citations omitted).

Plaintiff's claims against the Town of Fallsburg, New York, are therefore dismissed without prejudice. If Plaintiff files an amended complaint and wishes to assert claims against this Defendant, he should name the Town of Fallsburg, New York, as a Defendant in the caption of the amended complaint, and allege facts showing that his claims arise from a municipal policy, custom, or practice. See Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60 (2011) ("A municipality or other local government may be liable under this section [1983] if the governmental body itself 'subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or 'causes' a person 'to be subjected' to such deprivation.") (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978)); Cash v. Cnty. of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 333 (2d Cir. 2011).

C. False Arrest and False Imprisonment Claims

Plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to state plausible false arrest and false imprisonment claims. Plaintiff's false arrest and false imprisonment claims are addressed together as they are, for purposes of Plaintiff's allegations, the same. See Posr v. Doherty, 944 F.2d 91, 96 (2d Cir. 1991). A claim for false arrest under § 1983 looks to state law as a starting point to determine the elements of a claim for false arrest. See Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S. Ct. 911, 925 (2017) ("[T]o flesh out the elements of this constitutional tort, we must look for 'tort analogies.'"); see also Lanning v. City of Glens Falls, 908 F.3d 19, 25 (2d Cir. 2018) (holding that common law principles are meant simply to guide rather than to control the definition of § 1983 claims and courts should not "mechanically apply" the law of New York State); Boyd v. City of New York, 336 F.3d 72, 75 (2d Cir. 2003).

"False arrest is simply an unlawful detention or confinement brought about by means of an arrest rather than in some other way and is in all other respects synonymous with false imprisonment." Evans v. City of New York, 308 F. Supp. 2d 316, 329 n.8 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (quoting Covington v. City of New York, 171 F.3d 117, 125 (2d Cir. 1999) (Glasser, J., dissenting)).

To state a false arrest claim under New York law, a plaintiff must allege that: "(1) the defendant intended to confine [the plaintiff], (2) the plaintiff was conscious of the confinement, (3) the plaintiff did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged." Liranzo v. United States, 690 F.3d 78, 95 (2d Cir. 2012). An arrest is privileged if it is based on probable cause. Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 84 (2d Cir. 2007) ("The existence of probable cause to arrest constitutes justification and is a complete defense to an action for false arrest.") (quoting Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

If "the facts known by the arresting officer at the time of the arrest objectively provided probable cause to arrest," the arrest is privileged, and the plaintiff cannot state a claim for false arrest. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 152 (2004). Officers have probable cause to arrest when they have "knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that the person to be arrested has committed . . . a crime." Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 152 (2d Cir. 2006). "Probable cause can exist even where it is based on mistaken information, so long as the arresting officer acted reasonably and in good faith in relying on that information." Bernard v. United States, 25 F.3d 98, 102 (1994); Curley v. Vill. of Suffern, 268 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 2001) (holding that a police officer is "not required to explore and eliminate every theoretically plausible claim of innocence before making an arrest."). Put another way, police officers may have had probable cause to arrest if they have acted reasonably, even if they were mistaken.

Plaintiff does not describe the circumstances leading to his arrest, and he does not state what charges were brought against him as a result of the arrest. Plaintiff also does not state what the status is of any criminal proceedings initiated against him. It is not enough to declare, "Defendants falsely arrested me." Plaintiff should provide facts, in the event that he chooses to amend the complaint, suggesting that Defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him.

D. Personal Involvement

Plaintiff names Police Officer Jordy, Police Officer Chavalier, Sergeant Schevering, John Doe 1-10, and Jane Doe 1-10, but he does not allege how these Defendants were involved in the alleged deprivation of his rights.

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege facts showing the defendants' direct and personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Spavone v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr. Serv., 719 F.3d 127, 135 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir. 1995)). A defendant may not be held liable under § 1983 solely because that defendant employs or supervises a person who violated the plaintiff's rights. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) ("Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior."). An individual defendant can be personally involved in a § 1983 violation if:

(1) the defendant participated directly in the alleged constitutional violation, (2) the defendant, after being informed of the violation through a report or appeal, failed to remedy the wrong, (3) the defendant created a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred, or allowed the continuance of such a policy or custom, (4) the defendant was grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who committed the wrongful acts, or (5) the defendant exhibited deliberate indifference to the rights of [the plaintiff] by failing to act on information indicating that unconstitutional acts were occurring.
Colon, 58 F.3d at 873.

"Although the Supreme Court's decision in [Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)] may have heightened the requirements for showing a supervisor's personal involvement with respect to certain constitutional violations," the Second Circuit has not yet examined that issue. Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 139 (2d Cir. 2013).

If Plaintiff files an amended complaint and wishes to assert claims against these Defendants, he should name them as Defendants in the caption of the amended complaint and allege facts how each Defendant was personally involved in the events underlying his claims.

LEAVE TO AMEND

Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complaint to detail his false arrest and false imprisonment claims. First, Plaintiff must name as the defendant(s) in the caption and in the statement of claim those individuals who were allegedly involved in the deprivation of his federal rights. If Plaintiff does not know the name of a defendant, he may refer to that individual as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" in both the caption and the body of the amended complaint. The naming of John Doe defendants, however, does not toll the three-year statute of limitations period governing this action and Plaintiff shall be responsible for ascertaining the true identity of any "John Doe" defendants and amending his complaint to include the identity of any "John Doe" defendants before the statute of limitations period expires. Should Plaintiff seek to add a new claim or party after the statute of limitations period has expired, he must meet the requirements of Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The caption is located on the front page of the complaint. Each individual defendant must be named in the caption. Plaintiff may attach additional pages if there is not enough space to list all of the defendants in the caption. If Plaintiff needs to attach an additional page to list all defendants, he should write "see attached list" on the first page of the Amended Complaint. Any defendants named in the caption must also be discussed in Plaintiff's statement of claim.

For example, a defendant may be identified as: "Correction Officer John Doe #1 on duty August 31, 2010, at Sullivan Correctional Facility, during the 7-3 p.m. shift." --------

In the statement of claim, Plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement of the relevant facts supporting each claim against each Defendant named in the amended complaint. Plaintiff is also directed to provide the addresses for any named defendants. To the greatest extent possible, Plaintiff's amended complaint must:

a) give the names and titles of all relevant persons;

b) describe all relevant events, stating the facts that support Plaintiff's case including what each defendant did or failed to do;

c) give the dates and times of each relevant event or, if not known, the approximate date and time of each relevant event;

d) give the location where each relevant event occurred;

e) describe how each defendant's acts or omissions violated Plaintiff's rights and describe the injuries Plaintiff suffered; and

f) state what relief Plaintiff seeks from the Court, such as money damages, injunctive relief, or declaratory relief.

Essentially, the body of Plaintiff's amended complaint must tell the Court: who violated his federally protected rights; what facts show that his federally protected rights were violated; when such violation occurred; where such violation occurred; and why Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Because Plaintiff's amended complaint will completely replace, not supplement, the original complaint, any facts or claims that Plaintiff wishes to maintain must be included in the amended complaint.

CONCLUSION

The Clerk of Court is directed to assign this matter to my docket, mail a copy of this order to Plaintiff, and note service on the docket.

Plaintiff's claims against the Town of Fallsburg, New York, are dismissed without prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint that complies with the standards set forth above. Plaintiff must submit the amended complaint to this Court's Pro Se Intake Unit within sixty days of the date of this order, caption the document as an "Amended Complaint," and label the document with docket number 19-CV-7953 (CM). An Amended Civil Rights Complaint form is attached to this order. No summons will issue at this time. If Plaintiff fails to comply within the time allowed, and he cannot show good cause to excuse such failure, the complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

The Clerk of Court is directed to docket this as a "written opinion" within the meaning of Section 205(a)(5) of the E-Government Act of 2002.

The Court certifies under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this order would not be taken in good faith, and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for the purpose of an appeal. Cf. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962) (holding that an appellant demonstrates good faith when he seeks review of a nonfrivolous issue). SO ORDERED. Dated: October 25, 2019

New York, New York

/s/_________

COLLEEN McMAHON

Chief United States District Judge __________ Write the full name of each plaintiff. -against- __________ Write the full name of each defendant. If you need more space, please write "see attached" in the space above and attach an additional sheet of paper with the full list of names. The names listed above must be identical to those contained in Section II. ___CV__________
(Include case number if one has been assigned)

AMENDED COMPLAINT

Do you want a jury trial?
[ ] Yes [ ] No

NOTICE

The public can access electronic court files. For privacy and security reasons, papers filed with the court should therefore not contain: an individual's full social security number or full birth date; the full name of a person known to be a minor; or a complete financial account number. A filing may include only: the last four digits of a social security number; the year of an individual's birth; a minor's initials; and the last four digits of a financial account number. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2.

I. BASIS FOR JURISDICTION

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction (limited power). Generally, only two types of cases can be heard in federal court: cases involving a federal question and cases involving diversity of citizenship of the parties. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, a case arising under the United States Constitution or federal laws or treaties is a federal question case. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, a case in which a citizen of one State sues a citizen of another State or nation, and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000, is a diversity case. In a diversity case, no defendant may be a citizen of the same State as any plaintiff. What is the basis for federal-court jurisdiction in your case?

[ ] Federal Question

[ ] Diversity of Citizenship

A. If you checked Federal Question

Which of your federal constitutional or federal statutory rights have been violated? __________

B. If you checked Diversity of Citizenship

1. Citizenship of the parties Of what State is each party a citizen? The plaintiff , __________, (Plaintiff's name) is a citizen of the State of __________ (State in which the person resides and intends to remain.) or, if not lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, a citizen or subject of the foreign state of __________. If more than one plaintiff is named in the complaint, attach additional pages providing information for each additional plaintiff. If the defendant is an individual: The defendant, __________, (Defendant's name) is a citizen of the State of __________ or, if not lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, a citizen or subject of the foreign state of __________. If the defendant is a corporation: The defendant, __________, is incorporated under the laws of the State of __________ and has its principal place of business in the State of __________ or is incorporated under the laws of (foreign state) __________ and has its principal place of business in __________. If more than one defendant is named in the complaint, attach additional pages providing information for each additional defendant.

II. PARTIES

A. Plaintiff Information

Provide the following information for each plaintiff named in the complaint. Attach additional pages if needed. __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________
Street Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code __________
Telephone Number

__________

Email Address (if available)

B. Defendant Information

To the best of your ability, provide addresses where each defendant may be served. If the correct information is not provided, it could delay or prevent service of the complaint on the defendant. Make sure that the defendants listed below are the same as those listed in the caption. Attach additional pages if needed. Defendant 1:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address (or other address where defendant may be served)

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 2:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address (or other address where defendant may be served)

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 3:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address (or other address where defendant may be served)

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code Defendant 4:

__________

First Name

__________

Last Name

__________

Current Job Title (or other identifying information)

__________

Current Work Address (or other address where defendant may be served)

__________

County, City

__________

State

__________

Zip Code

III. STATEMENT OF CLAIM

Place(s) of occurrence: __________ Date(s) of occurrence: __________

FACTS:

State here briefly the FACTS that support your case. Describe what happened, how you were harmed, and what each defendant personally did or failed to do that harmed you. Attach additional pages if needed. __________

INJURIES:

If you were injured as a result of these actions, describe your injuries and what medical treatment, if any, you required and received. __________

IV. RELIEF

State briefly what money damages or other relief you want the court to order. __________

V. PLAINTIFF'S CERTIFICATION AND WARNINGS

By signing below, I certify to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief that: (1) the complaint is not being presented for an improper purpose (such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation); (2) the claims are supported by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument to change existing law; (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and (4) the complaint otherwise complies with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. I agree to notify the Clerk's Office in writing of any changes to my mailing address. I understand that my failure to keep a current address on file with the Clerk's Office may result in the dismissal of my case. Each Plaintiff must sign and date the complaint. Attach additional pages if necessary. If seeking to proceed without prepayment of fees, each plaintiff must also submit an IFP application. __________
Dated

__________

Plaintiff's Signature __________
First Name __________
Middle Initial __________
Last Name __________
Street Address __________
County, City __________
State __________
Zip Code __________
Telephone Number

__________

Email Address (if available) I have read the Pro Se (Nonprisoner) Consent to Receive Documents Electronically: [ ] Yes [ ] No

If you do consent to receive documents electronically, submit the completed form with your complaint. If you do not consent, please do not attach the form.


Summaries of

Nelkenbaum v. New York

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
Oct 25, 2019
19-CV-7953 (CM) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2019)
Case details for

Nelkenbaum v. New York

Case Details

Full title:YEHUDA NELKENBAUM, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF NEW YORK; TOWN OF FALLSBURG, NEW…

Court:UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Date published: Oct 25, 2019

Citations

19-CV-7953 (CM) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2019)