Dudley v. Meekins et al
ORDER DISMISSING CASE: Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. His claims against Defendants are DISMISSED. Ordered by Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis on 4/16/2013. (c/m to pro se; fwd'd for jgm) (Lee, Tiffeny)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
13-CV-01851 (NGG) (VMS)
-againstVALERIE MEEKINS, CITY OF NEW YORK,
STATE OF NEW YORK, 1
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS, United States District Judge.
Prose Plaintiff Maurice Dudley brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985
seeking damages from alleged violations of his constitutional rights by Defendants Valerie
Meekins, City of New York (the "City"), and State of New York (the "State"). (See Campi.)
Plaintiff also moves to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U .S.C. § 1915. (Pl. Mot. (Dkt. 2).)
Plaintiffs request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. However, for the reasons
discussed below, his claims against Defendants are DISMISSED.
Plaintiff previously has filed several actions in this court against Valerie Meekins (a
correction officer with the New York City Department of Correction and the mother of his
children), the City, and various city agencies and officials, alleging false arrest and
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and excessive force arising from arrests by City police
officers. See Dudley v. Pendagrass, No. 06-CV-0216 (RJD), 2008 WL 4790489 (E.D.N.Y. Oct.
Plaintiff styles his Complaint as being against "Valerie Meekins, City of New York, State of New York, et,
Al.[sic]. (Comp!. (Dkt. I) at I (emphasis added).) Despite Plaintiffs use of"et. al.," however, the only defendants
listed or referred to in the Complaint are those three named Defendants in the case caption.
31, 2008) (granting summary judgment for defendants on plaintiffs § 1983 claims); Dudley v.
Torres, No. 05-CV-1729 (RJD), 2008 WL 2149603 (E.D.N.Y. May 21, 2008) (granting
summary judgment for defendant on plaintiffs§ 1983 claims); see also Dudley v. N.Y. State,
No. Ol-CV-8536 (RJD) (E.D.N.Y. 2001); Dudley v. Meekins, No. 98-CV-3237 (RJD) (E.D.N.Y.
1998); Dudley v. Safir, No. 98-CV-4178 (RR) (E.D.N.Y. 1998); Dudley v. N.Y. City Dep"t of
Corr., No. 98-CV-5215 (RJD) (E.D.N.Y. 1998).
As in Plaintiffs prior cases, this action arises from an ongoing domestic conflict between
Plaintiff and Meekins. Plaintiff alleges that Meekins has instigated his arrest on numerous
occasions. See Dudley, 2008 WL 4790489, at *1-3 (outlining history of disputes between
Plaintiff and Meekins). Plaintiff now alleges that Meekins, relying on false allegations, filed a
"family offense petition" against him in Family Court on December 22, 2011. (See Comp!. at 7.)
Although the specific details are not precisely clear from Plaintiffs Complaint, it appears that as
a result of Meekins"s petition, an Order of Protection subsequently was issued against Plaintiff.
(Id. at 7-9.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive relief.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a district court must dismiss an action filed by a
plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis where it ''(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."
The court notes that pro se filings are construed liberally and are interpreted to raise the
strongest arguments they suggest. See Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F .3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 201 O);
see also Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 475 (2d Cir. 2006) (courts must read
pro se complaints with "special solicitude" and interpret them to raise the "strongest arguments
that they suggest"). This is especially true when such pleadings allege civil rights violations.
Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant #1, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008). Nevertheless, a
complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). At the pleadings stage, a court assumes the
truth of "all well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegations" in a complaint. Kio be I v. Royal
Dutch Petroleum Co., 621F.3d111, 124 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Igbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009)). "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." Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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."' IQ_, (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. To state a claim
under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: ( 1) "the conduct complained of [was] committed by a
person acting under color of state law," and (2) "the conduct complained of ... deprived
[Plaintiff] of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States." Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 54 7 (2d Cir. 1994 ). Section 1983 does not create
independent substantive rights; rather, it is a vehicle to "redress ... the deprivation of [federal]
rights established elsewhere." Thomas v. Roach, 165 F.3d 137, 142 (2d Cir. 1999).
Plaintiff's Claims Against New York State
The Eleventh Amendment of the United State Constitution bars suits in federal court by
private parties against a State or one of its agencies, absent consent to such a suit or an express
statutory waiver of immunity. Lapides v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 618-19
(2002); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Fla., 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996); Leogrande v. N. Y.,
No. 08-CV-3088 (JFB), 2013 WL I283392, at *I I (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 20I3). New York "has
not waived its immunicty as to suits seeking either monetary or injunctive relief in federal court,"
Goonewardena v. N.Y., 475 F. Supp. 2d. 3IO, 322 (S.D.N.Y 2007) (citation omitted), nor has
Congress abrogated such immunity. Accordingly, New York State is entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity and Plaintiffs claims against it are barred and must be dismissed.
Plaintiff's Claim Against Meekins
It is well settled that "the under-color-of-state-law clement of§ 1983 excludes from its
reach merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful." Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins.
Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (quotations omitted); cf. Brentwood Acad. v. Tenn.
Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 53I U.S. 288, 295 (200I) ("state action may be found if, though
only if, there is such a 'close nexus between the State and the challenged action' that seemingly
private behavior 'may be fairly treated as that of the State itself'" (quoting Jackson v. Metro.
Edison Co., 4I 9 U.S. 345, 351 (1974))). As a result, for Plaintiff to advance a§ 1983 claim, he
must be able to establish that the conduct of individual Defendant Meekins is "fairly attributable
to the State." Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 50. "Generally, a public employee acts under color of state
law when he acts in his official capacity or exercises his responsibilities pursuant to state law."
Kearney v. Citv of Bridgeport Police Dep't, 573 F.Supp.2d 562, 572 (D. Conn. 2008) (citing
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 50 (1988)).
Here, the allegations against Meekins arise from Family Court proceedings and not from
Meekins's employment as a correction officer. Indeed, there is no allegation that Meekins was
acting in her official capacity or was exercising her responsibilities pursuant to state law as part
of the alleged conduct, and her conduct as a private individual cannot be fairly attributed to the
State. See id.; Patterson v. Cnty. of Oneida, N.Y., 375 F.3d 206, 230 (2d Cir. 2004) ("mere
employment by the state does not mean that the employee's every act can properly be
characterized as state action"); Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 548 (2d Cir. 1994) ("'acts of
officers in the ambit of their personal pursuits are plainly excluded'") (citation omitted). As a
result, Plaintiffs Complaint lacks factual allegations that could plausibly support a conclusion
that Meekins's actions could fairly be attributed to the State.
An individual whose conduct is not "fairly attributable to the State" nonetheless may be
liable under § I 983 if he or she has conspired or engaged in joint activity with state actors. See
Abdullahi v. Pfizer, Inc., 562 F.3d 163, 188 (2d Cir. 2009) ('"Under § 1983, state action may be
found when there is such a close nexus between the State and the challenged action that
seemingly private behavior may be fairly treated as that of the State itself." (quotation marks and
citations omitted)). To state such a conspiracy claim, a plaintiff "must allege facts demonstrating
that the private entity acted in concert with the state actor to commit an unconstitutional act.''
Spear v. Town of W. Hartford, 954 F.2d 63, 68 (2d Cir. 1992). Such a claim, however, requires
factual allegations of such a conspiracy. See Ciambriello v. Cntv. of Nassau, 292 F.3d 307, 324
(2d Cir. 2002) ("A merely conclusory allegation that a private entity acted in concert with a state
actor does not suffice to state a § 1983 claim against the private entity.''); cf. Hughes v.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Ass'n of the City ofN.Y., Inc., 850 F.2d 876, 880-81 (2d Cir. 1988)
(holding that complaint alleged sufficient facts to support an inference of private action under
color of state law, where complaint alleged, among other things, that the private actor had hired
private investigators and placed plaintiff under surveillance with knowledge and consent of stateactor New York City Police Department).
Here, Plaintiffs Complaint contains nothing more than vague and general allegations that
Meekins conspired with unidentified public officials to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional
rights. (See Comp!. at 13, 14, 31.) These merely conclusory allegations cannot sustain
Plaintiffs claims under§ 1983.
Similarly, Plaintiffs claim against Meekins also fails under§ 1985, which allows for
redress of conspiracies to interfere with civil rights. To properly allege such an action, Plaintiff
"must claim" and ultimately prove four elements: "( 1) a conspiracy; (2) for the purpose of
depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons of the equal protection of
the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws; and (3) an act in furtherance of
the conspiracy; (4) whereby a person is either injured in his person or property or deprived of
any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States." Emmons v. City Univ. ofN.Y., 715
F. Supp. 2d 394, 416 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing United Bhd. of Carpenters v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825,
828-29 (1983)). As discussed above regarding§ 1983, Plaintiff here fails to allege any
conspiracy beyond unsupported conclusory statements. (See Comp!. at 13, 14, 31.) Based on
Plaintiffs lengthy but substantively sparse allegations, there can be no basis for finding that
there existed a conspiracy of any kind.
Plaintiff's Claims Against the City
Plaintiff also brings claims against the City of New York. In order to sustain a claim
under§ 1983 against a municipal defendant such as the City, a plaintiff must show the existence
of an officially-adopted policy or custom that caused injury and a direct causal connection
between that policy or custom and the deprivation of a constitutional right. Bd. of Cnty.
Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty., Oki. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) (citing Monell v. New York
City Dep 't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional
activity is not sufficient to impose liability on a municipality unless there exists proof that the
incident was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy that can be attributed to a
municipal policymaker. City of Oki. City v. Tuttle, 4 71 U.S. 808, 823-24 ( 1985).
Here, Plaintiff fails to even allege-and nothing in his Complaint suggests-that any of
the allegedly wrongful acts were attributable to a municipal policy or custom. Plaintiff asserts
generalized and unsubstantiated conspiracy or facilitation by the City-that it "has continued to
allow ... Meekins and the Brooklyn Family court to file false and fabricated information [about
PlaintiffJ' (Com pl. at 18) and "failed to take corrective action to properly train, supervise and/or
discipline their employees and/or representatives" (id.)-but these conclusory claims are devoid
of specific factual allegations and therefore cannot sustain Plaintiffs claims against the City.
Plaintiffs Complaint cannot reasonably be interpreted to allege facts sufficient to show that any
alleged injury was caused by any policy or custom of the City. Accordingly, there does not
appear to be any basis in Plaintiffs allegations for suing the City of New York-and even if any
such basis existed, Plaintiff has failed to plead it.
Plaintiff similarly fails to state a claim against the City upon which relief can be granted
pursuant to § 1985. As discussed above, Plaintiff fails to make factual allegations sufficient to
demonstrate---0r even suggest-a conspiracy involving the City or any other Defendant.
For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs Complaint is DISMISSED. 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 the purpose of any appeal. Coppedge v. United
States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962).
s/Nicholas G. Garaufis
NICHOLAS G. GARAUFIS'l
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
April Lk_, 2013
United States District Judge
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