Winfrey v. The City of New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. As set forth in the Court's October 11, 2017 Memorandum and Order, the complaint is dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See attached Memorandum and Order for details. The Clerk of the Court is respectfully requested to serve a copy of this Memorandum and Order on the pro se Plaintiff and to close the case. Ordered by Judge LaShann DeArcy Hall on 10/11/2017. (Zdanys, Joanna)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
17-CV-3028 (LDH) (JO)
-againstTHE CITY OF NEW YORK,
17-CV-3031 (LDH) (JO)
SAMARITAN DAYTOP VILLAGE,
SAMARITAN VILLAGE INC.,
LASHANN DEARCY HALL, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff Eugene Winfrey, appearing pro se, filed these two complaints against Defendants
in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. By Orders dated May
12, 2017, the cases were transferred to this Court. The Court consolidates these two actions for
the purpose of this Memorandum and Order. The Court grants Plaintiff’s requests to proceed in
forma pauperis and dismisses the complaints as set forth below.
The two complaints allege that on January 1, 2017, and thereafter, unidentified staff
members at a homeless shelter located at 247 49th Street, Brooklyn, New York, stole Plaintiff’s
property, including mail. Plaintiff further alleges that he missed two court dates because of the
stolen mail. Plaintiff seeks $200 million in damages and to have criminal charges filed against the
unidentified staff members. These complaints are duplicates of two other complaints filed by
Plaintiff in this Court. See Winfrey v. Samaritan Daytop Village, No. 17-CV-2704 (LDH)(JO)
(filed April 28, 2017); Winfrey v. City of New York, No. 17-CV-2835 (LDH) (JO) (filed May 5,
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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), and “allow 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). At the pleading stage of the proceeding, the Court must assume the
truth of “all well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegations” in the complaint. Kiobel v. Royal
Dutch Petroleum Co., 621 F.3d 111, 123 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Although
all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is “inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In addition, pro se complaints are “to be liberally construed,”
Ahlers v. Rabinowitz, 684 F.3d 53, 60 (2d Cir. 2012), and interpreted “to raise the strongest
arguments that they suggest,” Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996).
Furthermore, pursuant to the in forma pauperis statute, a court must dismiss a complaint if
it determines 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 from a defendant who is immune from such relief.”
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Additionally, if a court “determines at any time that it lacks subjectmatter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may not preside over cases if they lack
subject matter jurisdiction. Lyndonville Sav. Bank & Trust Co. v. Lussier, 211 F.3d 697, 700-01
(2d Cir. 2000). The basic statutory grants of federal court subject matter jurisdiction are contained
in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1332. A plaintiff properly invokes the court’s jurisdiction under § 1331
by raising a “federal question”—that is, by pleading a colorable claim “arising under” the
Constitution or laws of the United States. 1 Id. § 1331. He invokes the court’s jurisdiction under
§ 1332 when he presents a claim between parties of diverse citizenship that exceeds the required
jurisdictional amount, currently $75,000. Id. § 1332(a); accord Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S.
500, 513 (2006) (citing Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 681-685 (1946)). Federal courts have an
independent obligation to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists, even in the absence
of a challenge from any party. Henderson ex rel. Henderson v. Shinseki, 562 U.S. 428, 434-35
(2011); United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction
bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists.” Conyers v. Rossides, 558 F.3d 137, 143
(2d Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Here, Plaintiff premises jurisdiction on a purported “federal question.” (See Compls. at 4,
¶ II.) However, even under the most liberal construction, Plaintiff has not met his burden to show
that the Court has jurisdiction over his claims. Plaintiff’s allegations that his property was stolen
A claim invoking jurisdiction under § 1331 may be dismissed for want of subject-matter jurisdiction if it is not
colorable, that is, if it is “immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction” or is “wholly
insubstantial and frivolous.” Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682-83 (1946); S. New England Tel. Co. v. Global NAPs
Inc., 624 F.3d 123, 132 (2d Cir. 2010) (“[T]he district court has subject matter jurisdiction unless the purported
federal claim is clearly immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or is wholly
insubstantial and frivolous.” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
at a shelter run by Defendant Samaritan Daytop Village, Inc. does not implicate a federal question.2
Rather, Plaintiff’s claims arise under state law.
Furthermore, Plaintiff’s request that this Court file criminal charges against unidentified
staff members at the shelter is misguided. “Criminal prosecutions are within the exclusive
province of the public prosecutor who has complete discretion over the decision to initiate,
continue or cease prosecution.” Yashaahla v. M.H.A.N.Y., No. 05-CV-4963, 2006 WL 845586, at
*1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 29, 2006) (citations omitted). A private citizen does not have a constitutional
right to initiate or to compel the initiation of criminal proceedings against another individual. See
Leeke v. Timmerman, 454 U.S. 83, 86-87 (1981) (citing Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614,
619 (1973)); Ostrowski v. Mehltretter, 20 F. App’x. 87, 91 (2d Cir. 2001).
Finally, the instant case is duplicative of other cases filed in this Court. Of particular
relevance here, “[a]s part of its general power to administer its docket, a district court may stay or
dismiss a suit that is duplicative of another federal court suit.” Curtis v. Citibank, N.A., 226 F.3d
133, 138 (2d Cir. 2000) (noting that in exercising this discretion, federal courts are required to
“consider the equities of the situation”). This policy protects judicial resources against the abuse
of vexatious litigation and fosters the “comprehensive disposition” of disputes. Colo. River Water
Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817 (1976). Therefore, the Second Circuit has
held that “plaintiffs have no right to maintain two actions on the same subject in the same court,
against the same defendant at the same time.” Curtis, 226 F.3d at 139.
In any event, Plaintiff’s claims against the Defendants named in the two actions could not proceed even if there
was federal question jurisdiction. For example, Defendant Samaritan Daytop Village is a private entity and cannot
be sued under the United States Constitution, see Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999), and
Plaintiff has failed to allege a custom or policy to hold Defendant City of New York liable for any constitutional
violations, see Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978).
Accordingly, these two above-captioned complaints are dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). Plaintiff may pursue his state law claims in the
appropriate state court. Plaintiff may also contact his local police precinct for information on how
to file a criminal complaint. The Court certifies pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3) that any appeal
from this order would not be taken in good faith and therefore in forma pauperis status is denied
for the purpose of an appeal. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45 (1962). The Clerk
of Court is directed to enter judgment and close both cases.
LASHANN DEARCY HALL
United States District Judge
Dated: Brooklyn, New York
October 11, 2017
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