Boda v. Commissioner of N.Y. Motor Vehicles
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER, Pltff's 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28 USC sec. 1915 solely for the purpose of this Order. Pltff's complaint is dismissed because it seeks monetary relief against a deft who is immune from such relief. 28 USC sec. 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). The Court certifies pursuant to 28 USC sec. 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken in good faith; therefore in forma pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal. (Ordered by Judge Brian M. Cogan on 8/24/2012) c/m by chambers. (Galeano, Sonia)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DECISION AND ORDER
12 Civ. 4098 (BMC)
COMMISSIONER OF N.Y. MOTOR
IN CLERK'S OFF•r;E
US DISTRICT COURT E,) N.Y.
AUG 27 2012
COGAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff, proceeding prose, files this action against the Commissioner of the New York
Department of Motor Vehicles, alleging that while plaintiff was in pretrial detention, his car was
impounded and never returned to him. Plaintiff seeks the return of his property or damages in the
amount of $175,000. Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis is granted pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915 solely for the purpose of this Order. For the reasons stated below, the Complaint is
Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on March 13, 2009. He claims that while detained for
over nineteen months pending trial, his "personal belongings, including his motor vehicle, were
left on the street and impounded by the Department of Motor Vehicles." He was later acquitted.
Plaintiff states that among the items lost were his "musical instruments, the collection of pop
music, jazz music, and musical instruction books, including guitars, keyboards and recorders." It
is unclear from the Complaint if these items were in the impounded car, or were otherwise "left on
the street." Plaintiff also claims to have lost his "birth certificates [and] Id's [sic], including
passports and Citizenship papers from his native country of Serbia."
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing plaintiffs complaint, the Court is mindful that the submissions of a prose
litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest." Triestrnan v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,474 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B), a district court shall
dismiss an in forma pauperis action where it is satisfied that the action is "(i) frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief." An action is "frivolous" when either: (1)
"the factual contentions are clearly baseless, such as when allegations are the product of delusion
or fantasy," or (2) "the claim is 'based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Livingston v.
Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434,437 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations and internal quotation
As a state official, the Commissioner of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles is
protected by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. The Eleventh Amendment provides that
"[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or
equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or
by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. amend. XI. "Stated as simply as
possible, the Eleventh Amendment means that, as a general rule, state governments may not be
sued in federal court unless they have waived their Eleventh Amendment immunity, or unless
Congress has "abrogate[d] the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity when acting pursuant to its
authority under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment." Gollomp v. Spitzer, 568 F. 3d 355, 366
(2d Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Although the Eleventh
Amendment, by its terms, does not bar federal courts from hearing suits brought against a State by
its own citizens, the Supreme Court "has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune
from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State."
Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 144, 113 S. Ct. 684,
687 (1993) (quoting Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 652-63,94 S. Ct. 1347, 1355 (1974))
(internal quotation mark omitted). This bar exists whether the relief sought is legal or equitable.
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S. Ct. 900,908 (1984).
"The sovereign immunity of the Eleventh Amendment extends to 'state officers who are
sued in [his or her1 official capacity since a suit brought against a state official in [his or her1
official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather a suit against the official's office."'
Mullin v. P & R Educational Services, Inc., 942 F. Supp. 110, 112 (E.D.N.Y. 1996) (quoting
Gonzales v. Wing, 167 F.R.D. 352, 355 (N.D.N.Y 1996)) (holding that the Commissioner of the
Department of Motor Vehicles is entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity).
Accordingly, plaintiffs action against the Commissioner in her official capacity is actually a suit
against the State of New York, and as such, must be dismissed as barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. Moreover, "[i1t is well settled in this Circuit that personal involvement of
defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under §
1983." Farrell v. Burke, 449 F.3d 470,484 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). Plaintiff has not alleged any conduct on the part of defendant to indicate her personal
involvement. Thus, plaintiff has failed to allege a cause of action against the Commissioner not
barred by New York State's sovereign immunity.
Finally, to the extent that plaintiff may be seeking to bring a claim against the Department
of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), that claim would also be barred by the Eleventh Amendment. In
Mullin, the court found that the "arm of the state" doctrine extended sovereign immunity to the
DMV because "the DMV is created by, funded by and essentially controlled by the State." 942 F.
Supp. at 112-114 (applying six Feeney v. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Com., 873 F.2d 628,
630-31 (1989) factors and finding that the DMV is an "arm of the state.").
Plaintiffs complaint is dismissed because it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who
is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). The Court certifies pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal would not be taken in good faith; therefore in forma
pauperis status is denied for purpose of an appeal.
438,444-45, 82 S. Ct. 917, 920-21
See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S.
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
August 24, 2012
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