Santagata v. City of New York et al
ORDER denying 11 Motion to Amend: For the reasons stated in the attached Memorandum and Order, Plaintiff's letter-motion seeking to amend the complaint to include Steven Wasserman is denied pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Cou rt 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 Pamela K. Chen on 10/6/2017. (Lee, Helen)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
THOMAS ANTHONY SANTAGATA, JR.,
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
17-CV-3053 (PKC) (CLP)
- against OFFICERS EDGARDO DIAZ and
PAMELA K. CHEN, United States District Judge:
On April 12, 2017, Plaintiff Thomas Anthony Santagata, Jr., currently incarcerated at
Gouverneur Correctional Facility, filed this pro se action against Defendants. By Memorandum
and Order dated July 11, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff’s request to proceed in forma
pauperis, dismissed the Complaint as to the City of New York, the New York City Police
Department, and the Legal Aid Society, and permitted the Complaint to proceed against Police
Officers Edgardo Diaz and Ryan McAvoy. On July 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a letter-motion
seeking to amend the Complaint to name the individual Legal Aid Society attorney, Steven
Wasserman. (Pl. Motion, Dkt. 11). Plaintiff’s motion is denied as set forth below.
Plaintiff alleges that he was falsely arrested on November 6, 2014, by Police Officer
Edgardo Diaz, and that he was again falsely arrested on July 22, 2015, by Police Officer Ryan
McAvoy. (See Complaint (“Compl.”), Dkt. 2, at 4-5.) Plaintiff further alleges that the Legal Aid
Society committed “legal malpractice” in failing to challenge the civil forfeiture of his vehicle, a
2000 Ford Mustang. Id. at 5.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a district court shall dismiss an in forma pauperis
action where the court 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). To state a claim on which relief can be
granted, 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 pleadings 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). Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys,
and the Court is required to read the Plaintiff’s pro se complaint liberally and interpret it as
raising the strongest arguments it suggests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant #1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-93 (2d
The Court has liberally construed Plaintiff’s Complaint to assert violations of his
constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”). (See Mem. and Ord at 3,
Dkt. 9 at 3.) To state a claim under Section 1983, “a plaintiff must allege that (1) the challenged
conduct was attributable at least in part to a person who was acting under color of state law and
(2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right guaranteed under the Constitution of the United
States.” Snider v. Dylag, 188 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1999); see Velez v. Levy, 401 F.3d 75, 84 (2d
It is well-settled law that the Legal Aid Society and its attorneys do not act under color of
state law by representing clients. See Caroselli v. Curci, 371 F. App’x 199, 201 (2d Cir. 2010)
(summary order); Licari v. Voog, 374 F. App’x 230, 231 (2d Cir. 2010) (“It is well established
that private attorneys–even if the attorney was court-appointed–are not state actors for purposes
of § 1983 claims.”); Schnabel v. Abramson, 232 F.3d 83, 87 (2d Cir. 2000) (“[A] legal aid
society ordinarily is not a state actor amenable to suit under § 1983.”); Szabo v Legal Aid Soc’y.,
No. 17-MC-219 (PKC), 2017 WL 1401296, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 19, 2017) (citing cases);
Daniel v. Safir, 135 F. Supp. 2d 367, 374 (E.D.N.Y. 2001) (“[I]t is well-established that the
Legal Aid Society and its attorneys do not act under color of state law when performing a
lawyer’s traditional functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal proceeding.” (citation and
quotation marks omitted)). For this reason, Plaintiff’s letter-motion to amend the Complaint to
include Steven Wasserman, an attorney for the Legal Aid Society, is denied as this defendant
would be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s letter-motion seeking to amend the complaint to include Steven
Wasserman is denied pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). 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/ Pamela K. Chen
Pamela K. Chen
United States District Judge
Dated: October 6, 2017
Brooklyn, New York
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