Best v. Schecter et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER: Plaintiff's 3 request to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") is GRANTED. Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Schecter and Rooney are DISMISSED with prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii ). The United States Marshals Service is directed to serve the Amended Complaint and a copy of this Memorandum and Order on Defendants Myles Schneider, Ankur Saraiya, Michael Hogan, Ann Marie Barbarotta, Maria Lourdes Gonzales, Philip Ninan, and Y evgeniy Khaldoarov without the need for Plaintiff to prepay any fees-no summonses shall issue as to Judge Schecter or Rooney. The case is referred to Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go for pretrial supervision. The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C . § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this Memorandum and Order would not be taken in good faith and therefore IFP status is denied for purpose of an appeal. SO ORDERED by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, on 1/10/2013. C/mailed. (Parties: Jennifer Schecter and Kevin Rooney terminated.) (Latka-Mucha, Wieslawa)
IN CLERK'S OFFICE
U S DISTRICT COURT E.O.N.Y.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
JAN 1 0 2013
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
12-CV-6142 (NGG) (MDG)
-againstJENNIFER SCHECTER, KEVIN ROONEY,
MYLES SCHNEIDER, ANKUR SARAIYA,
MICHAEL HOGAN, ANN MARIE
BARBAROTTA, MARIA LOURDES
GONZALES, PHILIP NINAN,
and YEVGENIY KHALDOAROV,
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Hilary Best brings suit under 42 U.S.c. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against multiple
individual defendants contesting his involuntary commitment to Creedmoor Psychiatric Center
("Creedmoor"). Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") is GRANTED. For the
reasons set forth below, the claims against Defendants Judge Jennifer Schecter and Kevin
Rooney are DISMISSED with prejudice.
The following facts are taken from Plaintiffs Amended Complaint and are assumed true.
See Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 621 F.3d 111, 123 (2d Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff was committed to Creedmoor after he was determined unfit to stand trial on
criminal charges in New York Criminal Court. (See Am. CompI. (Dkt. 6) at 3-6.)
As relevant here, Plaintiff alleges that after he filed motions to dismiss the criminal
complaints, the Honorable Jennifer Schecter of the New York Criminal Court, and Rooney, an
Assistant District Attorney, brought the mental competency proceedings under New York
Criminal Procedure Law ("NYCPL") § 730 1 "as a means to keep [Plaintitl] detained despite
having to dismiss the criminal complaints." (ld. at 5.) These Defendants, allegedly "knowing
[Plaintiff is] not an incapacitated person pursuant to CPL § 730.10(1)," confirmed psychiatric
reports finding Plaintiff incompetent and ordered his commitment. (Id. at 5-6.) According to
Plaintiff, the mental competency proceedings violated the NYCPL and were based on false
medical opinions. (M!:.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A district court must dismiss an IFP action where it is satisfied that the action "(i) is
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." 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). 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) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In reviewing a complaint submitted pro se, the court reads the plaintiffs submissions
liberally and interprets them as raising the strongest arguments they suggest. See McEachin v.
McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197,200 (2d Cir. 2004); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d
Cir.1994). This is because "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
Under the NYCPL, if a criminal defendant "lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against
him or to assist in his own defense" "as a result of mental disease or defect," she is deemed unfit to stand
trial. NYCPL § 730.1 O( I) (defining "incapacitated person"). As part of this determination, the defendant
is held in a psychiatric hospital for examination by two' qualified psychiatrists for a period of up to thirty
days, which may be renewed for another thirty days. Id. § 730.20. If the court finds that a defendant is
incapacitated, it "must issue a final or temporary order of observation committing him or her to the
custody of the [C]ommissioner [of Mental Health] for care and treatment in an appropriate institution for
a period not to exceed ninety days from the date of the order." Id. § 730.40(1). Section 730 also provides
for dismissal of the accusatory instrument and subsequent orders of retention, if necessary. Id. § 730.50.
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Nevertheless, a complaint must plead sufficient facts to "state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Ad. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has
facial plausibility 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). While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "[a] pleading
that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.''' Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Judges are immune from suits for damages arising out of judicial acts performed in their
judicial capacities. Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11 (1991); Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219,
225 (1988). The absolute judicial immunity of the court and its members "is not overcome by
allegations of bad faith or malice," nor can a judicial officer be deprived of immunity "because
the action he took was in error or was in excess of his authority." Mireles, 502 U.S. at 11, 13
(quotations and citations omitted). This immunity may be overcome only if the court is alleged
to have taken nonjudicial actions or if the judicial· actions taken were "in the complete absence of
all jurisdiction." Id. at 11-12.
Prosecutors are also entitled to absolute immunity for their prosecutorial acts. "It is well
established that a state prosecuting attorney who acted within the scope of his duties in initiating
and pursuing a criminal prosecution is immune from a civil suit for damages under § 1983."
Shmueli v. Citv of New York, 424 F.3d 231, 236 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks
omitted). "Prosecutorial immunity from § 1983 liability is broadly defined, covering virtually all
acts, regardless of motivation, associated with [the prosecutor's] function as an advocate." Hill
v. City of New York, 45 F.3d 653,661 (2d Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). Absolute immunity for prosecutorial acts can be defeated only if the prosecutor is
alleged to have acted in the complete absence of jurisdiction. Shmueli, 424 F.3d at 237.
Here, even construing Plaintiff's allegations liberally, the claims against Schecter and
Rooney must be dismissed because they seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from suit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). These Defendants' challenged conduct-referring
Plaintiff for a psychiatric examination of his capacity to stand trial and, in the case of Judge
Schecter, issuing a final order finding Plaintiff incapacitated -are well within the discretionary
judicial and prosecutorial functions of their offices. See Hill, 45 F.3d at 661 ("[A] district
attorney is absolutely immune from civil liability for initiating a prosecution and presenting the
case at trial."); Baker v. N.Y. State Execs. and Officers, No. 12-CV-1090 (BMC) (LB), 2012 WL
2358162, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. June 20, 2012) (dismissing claim alleging improper mental incapacity
proceedings brought under NYCPL § 730 on the basis of absolute judicial immunity). Plaintiff's
conclusory allegations to the contrary (see Am. Compl. at 5 (describing these Defendants'
actions as "extraneous to their judicial and quasi judicial functions"), 9 (alleging that these
Defendants acted "without jurisdiction and lawful authority"», do not suffice. To the contrary,
Plaintiff recognizes that their conduct was taken pursuant to NYCPL § 730. (See Am. Compl. at
5 (alleging that Schecter and Rooney "commenced ... CPL Article 730 proceedings").)
Whether these Defendants properly followed the law is of no moment; because these Defendants
clearly acted within their jurisdiction, absol~te iminunity bars all § 1983 claims against them,
and because Plaintiff is proceeding IFP, these claims must be dismissed. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii); cf. Millsv. Fischer, 645 F.3d 176, 177 (2d Cir. 2011) ("Any claim
dismissed on the ground of absolute judicial immunity is 'frivolous' for purposes of 28 U.S.C.
Moreover, because of absolute immunity, any attempt to amend would be futile. As
such, these claims are dismissed with prejudice. See Mosley v. McIntosh, No. 08-CV-9635
(PKC), 2009 WL 1542546, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. May 29, 2009) (report and recommendation),
adopted by id. at * 1 (dismissing IFP claims with prejudice on the basis of absolute immunity
because any amendment would be futile).
Plaintiffs motion to proceed IFP is GRANTED. For the reasons set forth above,
Plaintiffs claims against Defendants Schecter and Rooney are DISMISSED with prejudice
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).
The United States Marshals Service is directed to serve the Amended Complaint and a
copy of this Memorandum and Order on Defendants Myles Schneider, Ankur Saraiya, Michael
Hogan, Ann Marie Barbarotta, Maria Lourdes Gonzales, Philip Ninan, and Yevgeniy
Khaldoarov without the need for Plaintiff to prepay any fees-no summonses shall issue as to
Judge Schecter or Rooney.
The case is referred to Magistrate Judge Marilyn D. Go for pretrial supervision.
The court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal from this
Memorandum and Order would not be taken in good faith and therefore IFP status is denied for
purpose of an appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438,444-45 (1962).
/S/ Judge Garaufis
NICHOLAS O. GARAUFIS)
United States District Judge
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
January ~, 2013
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