Rodriguez v. Knapp et al
AMENDED MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER, granting Pltff's 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. All of the claims against the NYPD are dismissed pursuant to 28 USC sec. 1915A(b) and 28 USC sec. 1915(e)(2)(B). No summons shall issue a gainst the agency or the 83rd Pct. The Clerk of Court is directed to amend the caption to reflect the dismissal of this deft. For now, pltff's claims shall proceed against Sgt. Knapp, Officer Mcrann, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and the Ci ty of NY. The Clerk of Court is respectfully requested to serve the Complaint, this Order, and the summonses on them. The Clerk of Court shall mail a copy of this Order and the complaint to the NYC Law Dept.'s Federal Litigation Unit and to pltf f. The Court refers this matter to USMJ Vera Scanlon for pretrial supervision. The Court certifies pursuant to 28 USC sec. 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal. (Ordered by Chief Judge Carol Bagley Amon on 11/1/2012) c/m (Galeano, Sonia)
IN CLERK'S OFFICE
us o1srn1cT couRT Eo
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NOV 0 9 2012
JAIME LUIS RODRIGUEZ, Jr.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
12 CV 3253 (CBA)(CLP)
-againstSGT. KNAPP, 83RD PCT.OFFICER
MCRANN, 83 PCT.; NYC POLICE
DEPARTMENT, 83 PCT.; POLICE
COMMISSIONER RAYMOND KELLY; and
THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
AMON, Chief United States District Judge
Plaintiff Jaime Luis Rodriguez, Jr., detained at Rikers Island, brought this pro se civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 27, 2012. Rodriguez's application to proceed
in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. The 83'd Precinct of the New York
City Police Department ("N.Y.P.D.") is dismissed as a defendant.
Plaintiffs claims against
Sergeant Knapp, Officer Mcrann, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and the City of New
York may proceed.
Rodriguez alleges that he was walking home during the early morning hours of June 7,
2012 when he was stopped by two policemen in an unmarked police car.
Although it is not
entirely clear from the complaint, it appears that these police officers, whom Rodriguez describes
It is unclear whether plaintiff is still detained at Rikers Island. Regardless, because he was incarcerated at the time
he fi1ed his complaint, he is considered a "prisoner" under Section
19I5A. See Gibson v. Comm'r of Mental Health, No. 04-cv-4350 (SAS), 2006 WL 1234971, *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 8,
2006) ("[C]ourts have determined that the PLRA does apply to a prisoner who filed suit during his confinement and
thereafter was released from prison.").
as a "sergeant on the passenger side and a rookie officer who was driving," are the named
defendants Sergeant Knapp and Officer Mcrann. (Compl. at
Plaintiff alleges that he was
handcuffed and placed inside the unmarked cruiser. (Id. at 5.) According to plaintiff, while he
was in the car, the officers ignored his complaints that the handcuffs were too tight and that he
was in pain. (I d. at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that when he asked the officers why he was being
arrested, the "rookie officer" (presumably Officer Mcrann) replied that he stopped plaintiff
because he had been walking with a cane, and the officer did not believe that he needed a cane to
walk. (Id. ).
Once at the 83rd Precinct, plaintiff asked the desk sergeant why he was being arrested,
and the sergeant replied that plaintiff was being arrested for possession of crack-cocaine. (!d.).
Plaintiff began to scream that he was being set up. (ld.). At that point, other officers allegedly
"grabbed (plaintiff] and forced [him] to the cell area where they tightened the handcuffs more
and pushed [him] into a cell." (!d.) Some time later, he alleges, "two officers" entered the cell,
pulled him up by the handcuffs, tossed him onto his back (thereby exacerbating an existing back
injury), and repeatedly banged his head against the cell wall. (Id. at 6.) It is unclear whether the
"two officers" plaintiff references are Sergeant Knapp and Officer Mcrann or two different
individuals. Plaintiff states that this caused intense pain, and that he screamed and cried for
hours and asked for medical attention, which was denied. (!d.) Plaintiff claims that his head was
severely swollen and that his back hurt immediately after this encounter. (!d.)
Plaintiff alleges that he ultimately was charged (and apparently convicted) with
disorderly conduct, and that he received a sentence of one day community service and a $120.00
As the page numbers of the complaint are not consecutively paginated, the Court refers to the page numbers
assigned by the Electronic Case Filing System.
fine. (Id.). Plaintiff does not indicate the disposition of the drug possession charge. Moreover.
plaintiff alleges that the Assistant District Attorney's complaint cited a "bulge" in plaintiffs
pants as the reason for stopping him, not his use of the cane as allegedly stated by the "rookie
officer" at the time of plaintiffs arrest.
Plaintiff alleges that the incident caused his wrists to be badly swollen and deeply scarred
and caused loss of feeling in his hands. (ld. at 8.) He states that he had a cat scan for the
swelling in his head, that he suffers migraine headaches, and that his herniated disk was
"reinjured" and causes him a lot of pain. (ld.)
Moreover, he alleges that the incident has
resulted in a worsening of his existing conditions of "deep depression & ADHD, bipolar
[disorder], flashbacks, & nightmares." (ld.) He further alleges that "because of the set up now I
have a drug charge on my record for life." (ld.)
In addition to the two officers who arrested him, plaintiff names as defendants Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly, "because he is responsible for the training of the stop and frisk
program," and the City of New York, "under the Monell claim." (ld. at 7.) He alleges that the
N.Y.P.D. has a stop-and-frisk policy that violates citizens' constitutional rights and is "turning
the public against the N. Y.P .D." (ld. at 9.) Plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated his
constitutional rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments, and he seeks $4 million in
damages. (I d. at 8-9.)
A. Standard of Review
Title 28 of the United States Code, § 1915A requires this Court to review the complaint
in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or from officers or
employees thereof, and to "identifY cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion
of the complaint, if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636,639 (2d Cir.
2007). Moreover, pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, the court must dismiss a complaint
if it determines that the action is "(i) frivolous or malicious, (ii) fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or (iii) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
A complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim will be considered
"plausible on its face" "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Although a pro se complaint must contain sufficient factual
allegations to meet the plausibility standard, it is still held to less stringent standards than
pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus. 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); DiPetto v. U.S. Postal
Serv., 383 F. App'x 102, 103 (2d Cir. 2010). The court is obliged to construe plaintiffs
pleadings liberally and interpret them as raising the strongest arguments they suggest, Abbas,
480 F.3d at 639. If a liberal reading of the complaint "gives any indication that a valid claim
might be stated," the court should grant leave to amend. See Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99,
112 (2d Cir. 2000); Gomez v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank, 171 F.3d 794, 795 (2d Cir. 1999).
B. Claims against the N.Y.P.D.
The police department and police precincts or subdivisions are not suable entities. The
police department is an agency of New York City, and the New York City Charter provides that
suits "shall be brought in the name of the City of New York and not in that of any agency." N.Y.
City Charter§ 396; see also Jenkins v. City of New York, 478 F.3d 76, 93 n.l9 (2d Cir. 2007).
Therefore, Rodriguez's claims against the 83'd Precinct of the N.Y.P.D. are dismissed with
C. Claims against the City of New York
Municipalities such as the City of New York can be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only if
a plaintiff can show that a municipal policy or custom caused the deprivation of his or her
constitutional rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978); Walker
v. City of New York, No. 07-cv-1543 (JG), 2007 WL 1340252, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. May 4, 2007)
("A plaintiff is required to allege both the existence of a policy or custom and a causal
connection between that policy and the unconstitutional conduct"). Proof of a single incident of
unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability on a municipality unless proof of the
incident includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy that
can be attributed to a municipal policymaker. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808,
823 (1985); Hartnagel v. City of New York, No. 10-cv-5637 (TLM), 2012 WL 1514769, at *4
(E.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2012).
Here, plaintiff alleges that the N.Y.P.D. has a stop-and-frisk policy that violates citizens'
constitutional rights, and that defendant Commissioner Raymond Kelly is "responsible for the
training of the stop-and-frisk program." (Compl. at 7.)
The Court cannot now determine that
plaintiff's allegations against the City of New York fail to state a claim for relief; therefore, the
claims against the City of New York may proceed.
E. Claims Against Sergeant Knapp, Officer Mcrann, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
As a prerequisite to a damage award under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
defendant's direct or personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation. Farrell v.
Burke, 449 F.3d 470, 484 (2d Cir. 2006). Here, although the extent of Sergeant Knapp's and
Officer Mcrann's involvement is not entirely clear from the complaint, Rodriguez appears to
allege at least that these officers engaged in violations of his constitutional rights in connection
with the investigatory stop and arrest. (Compl. at 4-5.)
It is unclear from the complaint whether plaintiff brings suit against Commissioner Kelly
in his individual or official capacity. To the extent Rodriguez brings suit against Commissioner
Kelly only in his official capacity, i.e., in his capacity as Police Commissioner, this claim is
dismissed as duplicative of plaintiffs claims against the City, because a suit for monetary
damages against a municipal official in his official capacity is "no different" from a suit against
the municipality itself. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); see
also Goldberg v. Town of Rocky Hill, 973 F.2d 70, 73 (2d Cir. 1992). However, to the extent
Rodriguez sues Commissioner Kelly in his individual capacity, those claims may proceed. In his
complaint, Rodriguez does not rely merely upon a theory of supervisory liability, but rather
specifically alleges that the Commissioner is "responsible" for training under the allegedly
unconstitutional stop-and-frisk policy. (!d. at 7). The Court cannot say at this juncture that this
claim lacks merit. See Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir. 1995) ("The personal
involvement of a supervisory defendant may be shown by evidence that ... the defendant created
a policy or custom under which unconstitutional practices occurred, or allowed the continuance
of such a policy or custom").
As Rodriguez has alleged that Sergeant Knapp, Officer Mcrann, and Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly personally engaged in violations of his civil rights, his Section
1983 claims against each defendant in their individual capacities may proceed.
D. Claims That May Proceed
Rodriguez alleges that he suffered "abuse of power, brutality, malicious prosecution,
racial profiling, ... [and] [d]eliberate indifference to [his] serious medical needs." (Compl. at 8).
Rodriguez also appears to allege that the defendant officers lacked probable cause for his arrest.
(Id. at 5-6). The Court liberally construes these allegations as causes of action brought pursuant
to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for illegal search and seizure, false arrest, false
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
and for denial of equal protection of the law, deliberate indifference to medical needs, and
excessive force under the Fourteenth Amendment. Each of these claims may proceed as so
construed by the Court.
Rodriguez also alleges that he suffered violations of his rights under the Eighth
Amendment. The Eighth Amendment, however, does not apply until "after conviction and
sentence." United States v. Walsh, 194 F.3d 37,47 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 392 n. 6 (1989)). Because the incidents alleged in Rodriguez's complaint occurred
in connection with his arrest and post-arrest detention, not after conviction and sentence, the
Eighth Amendment does not apply. To the extent Rodriguez intends to proceed with a claim that
the defendant officers used excessive force in the course of the investigative stop and arrest, that
claim is properly brought pursuant to the Fourth Amendment's "reasonableness" standard. See
Graham, 490 U.S. at 394 ("Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an
arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the
protections of the Fourth Amendment"). Any claim that Rodriguez was subjected to
mistreatment while detained at the precinct--including claims for excessive force and deliberate
indifference to plaintiffs medical needs--may be brought pursuant to the Fourteenth
Amendment's due process clause. See Caiozzo v. Koreman, 581 F.3d 63, 69 (2d Cir. 2009)
("Instead [of the Eighth Amendment], a person detained prior to conviction receives protection
against mistreatment at the hands of prison officials under ... the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment if [the pretrial detainee is] held in state custody .... [A] claim for
indifference to the medical needs of [plaintiff], as a pretrial detainee in state custody, was
properly brought under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." (internal
citations omitted)); Walsh, 194 F. 3d at 47-48 ("[T]he right of pretrial detainees to be free from
excessive force amounting to punishment is protected by the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment" (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979)); Brown v. Doe, 2 F.3d
1236 (2d Cir. 1993) (excessive force claim arising from beating by guards while defendant was
detained at county jail following his arrest was properly brought pursuant to the due process
clause); Coleman v. City of New York, 07-cv-1051 (CM), 2010 WL 571986, at *4 (S.D.N.Y.
Feb. 2, 20 I 0) (claim of excessive force at police precinct following arrest was governed by the
Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause).
Therefore, the Court dismisses Rodriguez's claims under the Eighth Amendment.
Nevertheless, giving Rodriguez's complaint the liberal construction afforded to prose litigants, if
Rodriguez wishes to proceed on claims of excessive force and deliberate indifference to his
medical needs, he may do so by asserting claims arising under the Fourth or Fourteenth
Amendments, as set forth above.
All of the claims against the N.Y.P.D. are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)
and 28 U .S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). No summons shall issue against the agency or the 83rd Precinct.
The Clerk of Court is directed to amend the caption to reflect the dismissal of this defendant.
For now, plaintiff's claims shall proceed against Sergeant Knapp, Officer Mcrann, Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and the City of New York. The Clerk of Court is respectfully
requested to issue summonses to these defendants, and the United States Marshals Service is
directed to serve the Complaint, this Order, and the summonses on them. The Clerk of Court
shall mail a copy of this Order and the Complaint to the New York City Law Department's
Federal Litigation Unit and to plaintiff.
The Court refers this matter to Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon for pretrial supervision.
The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken
in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal. See
Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).
Dated: Brooklyn, N.Y.
November 8, 2012
Carol Bag!_¢ ¥tnJ
ChiefUnifed ~s District Judge
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