Karris v. Varulo et al
MEMORANDUM & ORDER granting 2 Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. SO ORDERED that plaintiff's applications to proceed in forma pauperis are granted, but the amended complaint is sua sponte dismissed in its entirety with prejudice p ursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and 1915A(b)(2) on that basis that it seeks monetary relief against defts who are immune from such relief. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case and, pursuant to Rule 77(d)(l) of th e Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to serve notice of entry of this Order upon all parties in accordance with Rule 5(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 any appeal. CM to pro se plaintiff. Ordered by Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein on 4/10/2014. (Florio, Lisa)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
BRIAN JOHN KARRIS, #12A5656,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
-againstRAY VARULO, Assistant District Attorney,
GARY J. WEBER, Honorable Judge, and
THOMAS J. SPOTA, III, District Attorney,
FEUERSTEIN, District Judge:
IN CLERK'S OFFICE
US DISTRICT COURT E D N y
LONG ISLAND OFFICE
On February 18,2014, incarcerated prose plaintiff Brian J. Karris ("plaintiff') filed a
complaint in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") against Suffolk County
Assistant District Attorney Ray Varulo ("ADA Varulo"); the Honorable Gary J. Weber ("Judge
Weber"), former acting Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk;
and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota, III ("D.A. Spota") (collectively,
"defendants"), accompanied by an application to proceed in forma pauperis. On February 26,
2014, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the same defendants, accompanied by another
application to proceed in forma pauperis.
Since plaintiffs financial status, as set forth in his declarations in support of his applications
to proceed in forma pauperis, qualifies him to commence this action without prepayment of the
filing fees, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(l), his applications to proceed in forma pauperis are granted.
However, for the reasons set forth below, the amended complaint is sua sponte dismissed in its
entirety with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and 1915A(b)(2) on the basis
that it seeks monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief.
In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was falsely arrested on June 28, 201 O;
wrongfully indicted for assault in the first degree and attempted robbery in the first degree; and
incarcerated for over two (2) years on a four hundred thousand dollar ($400,000.00) bond until he
was acquitted, following a bench trial before Judge Weber, on January 14,2012. (Am. Compl. at
6, 7). According to plaintiff, defendants "maliciously prosecuted th[e] bench trial even though
'on record' [he] wanted [a] jury trial***." (Am. Compl.
Plaintiff claims to have suffered "mental health psychosis as well as physical injuries with a
very bad prognosis * * * ." (Am. Compl.
7.) According to plaintiff, the head psychiatrist at the
Riverhead County Jail ordered him to take the anti-psychotic drug, Abilify, 15 mg, "for severe
clinical depression" and he attended an "outside rehibilitation [sic] for [his] physical injuries."'
Plaintiff asserts claims for false arrest, malicious prosecution and unlawful imprisonment in
violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and seeks
to recover damages in the amount of fifty-five million dollars ($55,000,000.00). (!4, at~ 9 .)
Standard of Review
Under both the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, and the in forma
pauperis statute, 29 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), a district court must dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous
Plaintiff does not identify the nature of his physical injuries in the amended complaint.
However, in his original complaint, plaintiff claimed that he sustained broken fingers "from C.O.
staff which took part in assaulting [him] on numerous occasions because of the nature of his
alleged crime." (Compl. at 'If IV .A).
or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against
a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b) and I915(e)(2)(B). See
Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636,639 (2d Cir. 2007) (finding both Section 1915 and Section 1915A
to be applicable to a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis).
"In determining immunity, [courts] accept the allegations of [the plaintiff's] complaint as
true." Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 122, 118 S. Ct. 502, 139 L. Ed. 2d 471 (1997); ~also
Shmueli v. Citv of New Yor~ 424 F.3d 231, 233 (2d Cir. 2005) ("In determining whether the
[prosecutors] are entitled to absolute immunity • • •, [courts] accept the allegations of [the
plaintiff's] amended complaint as true.")
Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides, in relevant part:
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to
be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured."
42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Despite the broad terms of§ 1983, [the Supreme] Court has long recognized
that the statute was not meant to effect a radical departure from ordinary tort law and the commonlaw immunities applicable in tort suits." Rehberg v. Paulk,- U.S.-, 132 S. Ct. 1497, 1502, 182
L. Ed. 2d 593 (2012); see also Filarsky v. Deli!!,- U.S.-, 132 S. Ct. 1657, 1665, 182 L. Ed. 2d
662 (2012) ("[Courts] read § 1983 in harmony with general principles of tort immunities and
defenses." (quotations and citation omitted)). Two (2) of the "functions that are absolutely
immune from liability for damages under§ 1983,"Rehberg,- U.S.-, 132 S. Ct. at 1503, are
"actions taken by judges within the legitimate scope of judicial authority*** [and] actions taken
by prosecutors in their role as advocates." Id.
Claims against Judge Weber
"[J]udges generally have absolute immunity from suits for money damages for their judicial
actions." Bliven v. Hunt, 579 F.3d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 2009). Under the doctrine of absolute
judicial immunity, judges are subject to suit seeking retroactive relief, including damages, only for:
(I) "non-judicial actions, i.e., actions not taken in the judge's judicial capacity;" or (2) "actions,
though judicial in nature, taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction." Mireles v. Waco, 502
U.S. 9, 11-12, 112 S. Ct. 286, 116 L. Ed. 2d 9 (1991) (internal citations omitted); see Stump v.
Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 356, 98 S. Ct. 1099, 55 L. Ed. 2d 331 (1978). "The Supreme Court has
generally concluded that acts arising out of, or related to, individual cases before the judge are
considered judicial in nature." Bliven, 579 F.3d at 210.
Absolute 'judicial immunity is not overcome by allegations of bad faith or malice," nor can
a judge "be deprived of immunity because the action he took was in error ... or was in excess of his
authority." Mireles, 502 U.S. at II, 112 S.Ct. 286 (quoting Stump, 435 U.S. at 356, 98 S. Ct.
1099); see also Bliven, 579 F.3d at 209 ("[E]ven allegations of bad faith or malice cannot
overcome judicial immunity.")
All of plaintiff's claims against Judge Weber seek damages relating to actions taken in his
judicial capacity during plaintiff's underlying criminal prosecution and the complaint is bereft of
any facts from which it may reasonably be inferred that Judge Weber acted outside of his role as a
judicial officer or that he was acting without jurisdiction with respect to the conduct of which
plaintiff complains, i.e., conducting a bench trial in lieu of a jury trial. Accordingly, the doctrine of
absolute judicial immunity precludes plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against Judge Weber in this
case and those claims are, thus, dismissed in their entirety with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and 1915A(b)(2) for seeking monetary relief against a defendant who is immune
from such relief.
Section 1983 Claims against D.A. Spota and ADA Varulo
D.A. Spota and ADA Varulo are also entitled to absolute immunity from all of plaintiff's
claims against them. With respect to absolute immunity, the Second Circuit has held that:
"Absolute immunity affords 'complete protection from suit,'Harlow v. Fitzgerald
457 U.S. 800, 807, 102 S. Ct. 2727,73 L. Ed. 2d 396 (1982), because it gives
'public officials entrusted with sensitive tasks a protected area of discretion within
which to carry out their responsibilities,' Barr v. Abrams, 810 F.2d 358,361 (2d
Cir.l987), so that they will not feel 'constrained in making every decision by the
consequences in terms of [their] own potential liability in a suit for damages, 'Imbler
v. Pachtm!!11424 U.S. 409,424-25, 96 S. Ct. 984,47 L. Ed. 2d 128 (1976). The
doctrine's nature 'is such that it "accords protection from ... any judicial scrutiny of
the motive for and reasonableness of official action,"' Shmueli v. City of New Yor~
424 F.3d 231,237 (2d Cir.2005) (quotingRobison v. Vi!!, 821 F.2d 913,918 (2d
Cir.l987)), even where the challenged conduct was motivated by a wrongful motive
or even malice, Bernard v. County ofSuffol~ 356 F.3d 495, 503 (2d Cir.2004)
(citing Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 199-200, 106 S. Ct. 496, 88 L. Ed. 2d
In re NYSE Specialists Securities Litigation 503 F.3d 89, 95-96 (2d Cir. 2007).
Under federal law, prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from liability in suits seeking
monetary damages for acts carried out in their prosecutorial capacities. See Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430,
96 S. Ct. 984; Giraldo v. Kessler, 694 F.3d 161, 165 (2d Cir. 2012) ("Absolute immunity bars a
civil suit against a prosecutor for advocatory conduct that is 'intimately associated with the judicial
phase of the criminal process."' (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430, 96 S. Ct. 984)). Absolute
prosecutorial immunity applies, inter alia, when a prosecutor prepares to initiate and pursues a
prosecution, see,~ Giraldo, 694 F.3d at 165;Peay v. Ajello, 470 F.3d 65,68 (2d Cir. 2006),
including when a prosecutor seeks an indictment, see,~ Robison, 821 F.2d at 918; or when a
prosecutor engages in administrative duties that are directly connected with the conduct of a trial.
Van de Kamp v. Goldstei!J, 555 U.S. 335, 129 S. Ct. 855, 861-2, 172 L. Ed. 2d 706 (2009);
Wamey v. Monroe County, 587 F.3d 113, 124 (2009) ("a prosecutor enjoys absolute immunity even
when doing an administrative act if the act is done in the performance of an advocacy function.")
Once absolute immunity attaches, it "attaches to [the prosecutor's] function, not the manner
in which he performed it.
* * *Accordingly, a prosecutor's motivation, and whether preferable
alternatives to the actions taken were available, are irrelevant." Parkinson v. Cozzolino, 238 F.3d
145, 150 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Shmueli, 424 F.3d at
237 (holding that once the court determines that the challenged prosecution was not clearly beyond
the prosecutor's jurisdiction, the prosecutor is shielded from liability for damages for commencing
and pursuing the prosecution, regardless of any allegations that his actions were undertaken with an
improper state of mind or improper motive).
Plaintiff does not allege that the challenged actions ofD.A. Spota and ADA Varulo were
undertaken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction or that they were personally involved with his
arrest in any way, and all of plaintiffs claims against those defendants seek damages based solely
upon their initiation and advocacy of the criminal charges against him. Accordingly, D.A. Spota
and ADA Varulo are entitled to absolute immunity from all of plaintiffs Section 1983 claims
against them and the amended complaint is, thus, dismissed in its entirety with prejudice as against
D.A. Spota and ADA Varulo pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and 1915A(b)(2) on the
basis that it seeks monetary relief against defendants who are immune from such relief.
Leave to Amend
Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a party shall be given
leave to amend "when justice so requires." Although, "when addressing a pro se complaint, a
district court should not dismiss without granting leave to amend at least once when a liberal
reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated," Thompson v.
Carter, 284 F.3d 411,416 (2d Cir. 2002) (quotations and citation omitted); see also Grullon v. City
ofNew Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 139-40 (2d Cir. 2013) (accord), leave to amend is not required, inter
alia, where a proposed amendment would be futile. See Grullon, 720 F .3d at 140; Anderson
News, L.L.C. v. American Media. Inc., 680 F.3d 162, 185 (2d Cir. 2012), cert. denied .Qy Curtis
Circulation Co. v. Anderson News. L.L.C., 133 S. Ct. 846, 184 L. Ed. 2d 655 (2013).
Any amendment to plaintiff's amended complaint would be futile because, inter alia, all
defendants are entitled to absolute immunity from plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against them.
Dilacio v. New York City District Council of the United Brotherhood ofCarnenters and
Joiners of America, 593 F. Supp. 2d 571, 578 (S.D.N.Y. 2008) (denying leave to amend as futile
because the defendant was absolutely immune from suit); Hom v. Brennan, 304 F. Supp. 2d 374,
380 (E.D.N.Y. 2004) (holding that an amendment to add a judge as a defendant would be futile
because he is protected by judicial immunity). Accordingly, the amended complaint is dismissed in
its entirety with prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's applications to proceed in forma pauperis are granted,
but the amended complaint is sua sponte dismissed in its entirety with prejudice pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii) and 1915A(b)(2) on that basis that it seeks monetary relief against
defendants who are immune from such relief. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case
and, pursuant to Rule 77(d)(l) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to serve notice of entry of
this Order upon all parties in accordance with Rule 5(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
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
any appeal. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 444-45, 82 S. Ct. 917, 8 L. Ed. 2d 21
s/ Sandra J. Feuerstein
Sandra J. Feuerstein
United States District Judge
Central Islip, New York
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