Sulehria v. City of New York et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: In line with the foregoing, Sulehria's § 1983 claims against Fedcap and the City are dismissed without prejudice. The balance of plaintiff's complaint is also dismissed with prejudice, except as to his (1) § 1983 claims against Hoyte, Worrel, and Fedcap; his (2) Title VI claims against Fedcap and the City; and (3) his state law claims against Hoyte, Worrel, Fedcap, and the City, all of which shall stand. Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complain t to allege facts sufficient to support those claims dismissed without prejudice, provided he is able to do so in good faith. Pursuant to this grant of leave, Sulehria may file an amended complaint, but must do so within 30 days of the entry on the d ocket of this Memorandum and Order. Should plaintiff decide to file an amended complaint, it shall be captioned "Amended Complaint," and bear the same docket number as this Order. Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint will complet ely replace the original complaint. 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). Ordered by Judge Eric N. Vitaliano on 8/8/2014. c/m to pro se pltf (Fernandez, Erica)
UNITED ST ATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
IQBAL N. SULEHRIA,
AUG 18 2014
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
-against13-cv-6557 (ENV) (VVP)
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, JAMES
MCINTOSH (individually and in his official
capacity), VALRIE HOYTE (individually and in :
her official capacity), HILTON WORREL
(individually and in his official capacity), and
JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-20,
VIT ALIANO, D.J.,
On November 22, 2013, plaintiff Iqbal N. Sulehria, appearing prose, filed this
action against defendants the City of New York ("the City"), James Mcintosh,
Valerie Hoyte, and Hilton Worrel, in their individual and official capacities, as
employees of Fedcap 1 allegedly responsible for administering programs for the
Fedcap, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting in-need individuals with
obtaining employment opportunities and economic independence, administers the
New York City Human Resources Administration's Wellness, Comprehensive
Assessment, Rehabilitation and Employment program. While plaintiff has not
explicitly named Fedcap as a defendant in this action, his allegations clearly take
aim at the employer of Hoyte and Worrel, which is not the City, as plaintiff avers,
but Fedcap. Affording plaintiff the solicitude he is due as a pro se litigant, the Court
liberally and constructively construes his complaint as raising claims against
Fedcap, as well. See Gonzalvo v. State of New York, No. 9:11-cv-0909, 2013 WL
4008881 (N.D.N.Y. 2013) (district court's authority substitute defendants in prose
complaint sua sponte is "well supported," collecting cases); Dockery v. Tucker, No.
97-cv-3584, 2006 WL 5893295, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. 2006). The Clerk of Court is directed
to amend the caption accordingly.
City's Department of Social Services, as well as twenty unnamed John and Jane Doe
employees of the City. Sulehria's application to proceed informapauperis is
granted. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice as to Sulehria's § 1983
claims against Fedcap and the City, while it sufficiently states § 1983 claims against
Hoyte, Worrel, and Fedcap, Title VI claims against Fedcap and the City, and state
law claims against Hoyte, Worrel, Fedcap, and the City. The balance of the
complaint is dismissed with prejudice, including those claims against Mcintosh,
which are dismissed in their entirety.
Sulehria's complaint begins by providing a meandering account of his
travails in seeking various forms of public assistance from the City. At points in
2012, Sulehria claims to have applied for-and been denied-Medicaid benefits, to
have been asked to keep certain appointments in connection with other unspecified
forms of public assistance, to have been erroneously charged for some service, and
to have attended various fair hearings, which appear to have been decided in his
favor. (Comp!. -,i-,i 11, 19-22). Later, in 2013, Sulehria appears to have, on multiple
occasions, applied for emergency financial assistance to cover moving costs, but, to
date, no such relief has been granted. (Com pl. -,i-,it2-18). On one of these occasions,
Sulehria filed a complaint with Mcintosh, who is apparently the director of a job
center operated by the Department of Social Services in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
(Comp!. -,i 17). That complaint appears to have been rejected.
Sulehria's seemingly milquetoast struggles took a more egregious turn on
June 12, 2013. On that day, he claims, he appeared at the Fedcap office on
Montague Street in Brooklyn, where he was subjected to "humiliation, mental
torture,  illegal discrimination, and retaliation" at the hands of Worrel and Hoyte,
a case manager and a supervisor, respectively, at the Fedcap location. (Compl. ~ 2324). Allegedly, the encounter began with Worrel refusing to see Sulehria at his
appointed time, opting instead to assist a young woman who arrived later, while
taunting "I will see this young black beauty first." (Compl. ~ 23). Later, after his
interview with Worrel began, Sulehria claims that he told Worrel that he was
unable to stay for his full appointment, because of a conflicting doctor's
appointment, at which point Worrel told him he would lose his benefits for failing to
comply. It was then that Hoyte apparently joined Worrel and demanded to know
why "a Muslim shit" like Sulehria would not "follow  instructions," while Worrel
called plaintiff a "Pakistani bitch" and threatened that he must "comply with
[Worrel's] orders." Sulehria further alleges that Hoyte and Worrel then spat on him
repeatedly, and "detained and harassed" him for four hours.
Standard of Review
A civil action complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This rule
does not require a plaintiff to provide "detailed factual allegations" in support of his
or her claims in order to survive a motion to dismiss, Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007), but it does demand "more than an unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009).
Indeed, mere conclusory allegations or "naked assertions" will not survive a motion
to dismiss. At least some "further factual enhancement" providing substance to the
claims alleged is required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.
When a plaintiff proceeds without legal representation, the court must regard
that plaintiff's complaint in a more liberal light, affording the pleadings of a pro se
litigant the strongest interpretation possible. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Triestman v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 471 (2d Cir. 2006) (per
curiam). Even so, a court must dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint if 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." 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Sulehria avers, in conclusory fashion, that his allegations give rise to various
claims under sections of the Civil Rights Act, 2 makes constitutional claims under the
First, Fourth, Fifth, 3 and Fourteenth Amendments, and a host of state common law
theories. 4 Many of these putative claims are plainly and entirely without merit. For
instance, no contractual obligation exists in this context that may support a claim of
discrimination under§ 1981. Domino's Pizza, Inc. v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470, 476
Sulehria styles his § 1983 claim as a "Monell claim," though the Court liberally
construes it to be a civil rights claim alleged against all defendants, not just the City.
While he does not name the Fifth Amendment as a ground for relief as he does
with the other listed constitutional amendments, Sulehria asserts procedural and
substantive due process as grounds for his 11th and 12th enumerated claims,
The litany of claims references the Declaratory Judgment Act, which does not
create a cause for relief but a remedy. Sulehria makes no specific request for a
declaration (beyond defendants' liability), nor is declaratory relief appropriate
given the nature of his grievances.
(2006). Also, only vague, conclusory allegations of conspiracy are advanced in
support of a§ 1985 claim. See Gallop v. Cheney, 642 F.3d 364, 369 (2d Cir. 2011)
(allegations of conspiracy were "baseless," lacking any evidence of a "meeting of the
minds" among alleged conspirators); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680-81. Likewise,
Sulehria 's evocative, yet empty, invocations of constitutional amendments do no
state claims upon which relief can be granted. Sulehria's claims on these grounds
are, therefore, dismissed with prejudice as against all defendants, and without leave
to amend since any attempted amendment would be futile.
There are other square-peg-in-round-hole claims. Title VI and Title IX claims
are properly brought against programs receiving federal assistance, and not against
persons in their individual or official capacities. See T.C. v. Valley Cent. School Dist.,
777 F. Supp. 2d 577, 593-94 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). For this reason, Sulehria's claims
under those statutes are dismissed with prejudice against all defendants, save the
City and Fedcap, which receive federal funding. His claim under Title IX, therefore,
must also be dismissed, because he does not plead any hint of facts against any
defendant to support a claim of gender discrimination, and Title IX is limited to
gender discrimination claims.
Similarly, while a municipality can be held liable under § 1983, see Monell v.
Dep't ofSocial Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), in order for a plaintiff to succeed on such
a claim, he must demonstrate "both a violation of his [) constitutional rights and
that the violation was caused by a municipal policy or custom," Bradley v. City of
New York, No. 08-cv-1106, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51532, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. 2009).
Sulehria has not done so here. Although he makes sweeping assertions that the City
was "grossly negligent" in failing to "psychologically test" its employees, as some
countermeasure against bias, and that the City did not provide documents he
requested in connection with his fair hearings, Sulehria fails to plead that a
cognizable policy or practice of the City has violated his constitutional rights. For
these reasons, plaintiff's§ 1983 claims against the City are dismissed without
prejudice, and with leave to replead, should plaintiff be able, in good faith, to allege
that an official City policy or practice led to his injuries at the hands of the
Finally, and relatedly, plaintiff fails to plead facts sufficient to support a§
1983 claim against Fedcap, a non-state entity. The Second Circuit has set out the
three situations in which "the actions of a nominally private entity are attributable
to the state": (1) when the entity is "controlled" by the state; (2) when the entity's
functions are "entwined" with state policies; or (3) when the entity "has been
delegated a public function by the [s)tate." Sybalski v. Indep. Grp. Home Living
Program, Inc., 546 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 2008) (citing Brentwood Acad. v. Tenn.
Secondary Sch. Athletic Ass'n, 531 U.S. 288, 296 (2001)). Without more, the lonely
Put another way, there must be a "direct causal link between a municipal policy or
custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation," City of Canton v. Harris, 489
U.S. 378, 385 (1989); see also Bradley, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51532, at *7 (detailing
standards for locating a link between policy and injury). Similarly, a municipal
. employer cannot be held liable under § 1983 simply on a theory of respondeat
superior, that is, vicarious liability. See Walker v. New York, 974 F.2d 293, 301 (2d
allegation that Fedcap administers a single program in cooperation with the City, or
is a contractor for the City, does not suggest that Fedcap's activities are attributable
to the state. See, e.g., Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 841 (1982) ("Acts of ...
private contractors do not become acts of the government by reason of their
significant or even total engagement in performing public contracts"). Coleman v.
Town of Hempstead, 30 F. Supp. 2d 356, 362 (E.D.N.Y 1999) (collecting cases). As
such, plaintiff's § 1983 claims against Fedcap are also dismissed without prejudice,
and with leave to replead. Again, leave to replead is granted to the extent plaintiff
can offer the missing factual allegations in good faith.
With that preface, some of Sulehria's claims still warrant highlighted
attention. First up is plaintiff's Title VI claim against Fedcap and the City. Title VI
provides that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be
subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal
financial assistance." 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. In order to support a claim under Title VI,
Sulehria must establish that he was intentionally discriminated against on the basis
of his national origin or race, and that discriminatory intent was a substantial or
motivating factor in the conduct that injured him. Tolbert v. Queens Coll., 242 F.3d
58, 69 (2d Cir. 2001). In this case, Sulehria alleges discriminatory conduct by Hoyte
and Worrel, acting in the shoes of the City's Department of Social Services, that was
blatantly discriminatory. The pleading of a cognizable injury causally connected to
such conduct could support a claim under Title VI.
As a compliment to that claim, moreover, plaintiff purports to advance state
law claims against the City, which are more properly raised against Hoyte and
Worrel's employer, Fedcap. These claims rely either on the theory of respondeat
superior, or of negligent hiring, training, and supervision, depending on whether
those employees acted within the scope of their official duties during the events of
June 12, 2013. The Court is satisfied that Sulehria has pleaded sufficient facts to
pursue these claims. See also Hill v. City of New York, No. 05-civ.-9473, 2006 WL
2347739 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) ("'[w]hether an employee was acting within that scope [of
employment] at a particular time requires a fact-intensive inquiry' and cannot be
resolved on this motion to dismiss." (quoting Cromer Fin. Ltd. v. Berger, 245 F.
Supp. 2d 552, 561 (S.D.N.Y. 2003))). For this reason, his state law claims against
Fedcap must remain, but are dismissed with prejudice against the City.
Moving on to the claims against Mcintosh, plaintiff alleges only that he
submitted a complaint and an application for benefits to him. The grievance seems
to be that the filings went unresolved. Accepted as true, these omissions do not
entitle Sulehria to relief against Mcintosh under § 1983. His failure to grant
plaintiff's requests, as Sulehria describes them, cannot constitute a constitutional
deprivation. Moreover, Mcintosh is in no way implicated by the misconduct
attributed to Hoyte and Worrel, and he is therefore not liable for it. See Farid v.
Ellen, 593 F.3d 233, 249 (2d Cir. 2010) ("personal involvement of defendants in
alleged constitutional violations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under§
1983"). The§ 1983 claim against Mcintosh, the only federal claim alleged against
him, is dismissed with prejudice, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over any state law claim that Sulehria might have arguably attempted
to allege against him. Any state claim is dismissed without prejudice.
It is a different story, finally, when it comes to the other individually named
defendants, Hoyte and Worrel. Section 1983 provides a cause of action against "any
person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of a right, privilege, or
immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Sykes v. James,
13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993). As noted above, the Court accepting the truth of the
facts alleged in the complaint, for the purposes of this decision, it appears that
Sulehria has adequately stated a claim, for purposes of28 U.S.C. § 1915, that Hoyte
and Worrel, acting under color of state law, physically attacked and intentionally
discriminated against him on the basis of his ethnicity, national origin, and religion
in contravention of his constitutional rights. See Hayut v. State Univ. of New York,
352 F.3d 733, 744 (2d Cir. 2003) ("For purposes of a section 1983 action, a defendant
necessarily 'acts under color of state law when he abuses the position given to him
by the State."' (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 50 (1988))). He has also
properly pleaded constitutional injury. See Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 253 (2d
Cir. 2006). Sulehria's § 1983 claims against Hotye and Worrel survive this round.
In line with the foregoing, Sulehria's § 1983 claims against Fedcap and the
City are dismissed without prejudice. The balance of plaintiff's complaint is also
dismissed with prejudice, except as to his (1) § 1983 claims against Hoyte, Worrel,
and Fedcap; his (2) Title VI claims against Fedcap and the City; and (3) his state
law claims against Hoyte, Worrel, Fedcap, and the City, all of which shall stand.
Plaintiff is granted leave to amend his complaint to allege facts sufficient to
support those claims dismissed without prejudice, provided he is able to do so in
good faith. Pursuant to this grant of leave, Sulehria may file an amended complaint,
but must do so within 30 days of the entry on the docket of this Memorandum and
Order. Should plaintiff decide to file an amended complaint, it shall be captioned
"Amended Complaint," and bear the same docket number as this Order. Plaintiff is
advised that the amended complaint will completely replace the original complaint.
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).
Brooklyn, New York
August 8, 2014
s/Eric N. Vitaliano
United States District Judge
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