Best v. Village of Ellenville et al
DECISION and ORDER: ORDERED that 1. Magistrate Judge Baxter's October 23, 2014 10 Order and Report- Recommendation is ADOPTED in part and REJECTED in part as set forth above; 2. The Clerk shall issue a summons and forward it, along with a copy of the amended complaint, to the United States Marshal for service upon the Village of Ellenville; 3. A response to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim in plaintiff's amended complaint be filed by the Village of Ellenville or its counsel as provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; 4. The Clerk is directed to serve a copy of the October 23, 2014 Order and Report-Recommendation and a copy of this Decision and Order upon defendant Village of Ellenville and defendant Office r Donald Langlois; and 5. The Clerk is directed to serve a copy of this Decision and Order upon plaintiff in accordance with the Local Rules. IT IS SO ORDERED by Judge David N. Hurd on 11/14/2014. (ptm) (copy served on plaintiff by Certified Mail, Return Receipt requested)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
-------------------------------TIMOTHY DEAN BEST,
-vVILLAGE OF ELLENVILLE; OFFICER DONALD
LANGLOIS; and JOHN DOE OFFICERS, to be
named during discovery,
TIMOTHY DEAN BEST
Plaintiff pro se
98 Brookwood Drive
Greenville, NC 27858
DAVID N. HURD
United States District Judge
DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff pro se Timothy Dean Best commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 alleging that defendants violated his rights under the United States Constitution. On
October 20, 2014, plaintiff submitted a proposed amended complaint to the Honorable
Andrew T. Baxter, United States Magistrate Judge for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.
In an Order and Report-Recommendation dated October 23, 2014, Magistrate Judge
Baxter recommended that the amended complaint be dismissed in its entirety as against the
Village of Ellenville and that plaintiff's Fifth and Sixth Amendment claims be dismissed
without prejudice based on Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Currently pending for
consideration is Magistrate Judge Baxter's Order and Report-Recommendation and plaintiff's
After reviewing a magistrate judge's recommendations, the district court may accept,
reject or modify those recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews de
novo those portions of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which a party objects.
See Pizzaro v. Bartlett, 776 F. Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). "If no objections are made,
or if an objection is general, conclusory, perfunctory, or a mere reiteration of an argument
made to the magistrate judge, a district court need review that aspect of a
report-recommendation only for clear error." Layou v. Crews, 2013 WL 5494062, at *1
(N.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2013) (Kahn, J.) (citing Chylinski v. Bank of Am., N.A., 434 F. App'x 47,
48 (2d Cir. 2011)). Finally, even if the parties file no objections, the court must ensure that
the face of the record contains no clear error. See Wilds v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 262 F.
Supp. 2d 163, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 2003).
In his Order and Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter recommended
dismissing the amended complaint as against the Village of Ellenville for failure to satisfy the
pleading standard for municipal liability set forth by Monell v. Department of Social Services
of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 659 (1978). Plaintiff's objection to Magistrate Judge
Baxter's discussion of municipal liability does little to address the defect identified; i.e.,
plaintiff made the conclusory statement that "[t]he Village of Ellenville failed to properly train
their employee to protect and serve the public and private sect [sic]" and included no factual
support. See Am. Compl. at 3. However, Magistrate Judge Baxter's recommendation to
dismiss the amended complaint as against this defendant will be rejected nonetheless.
There is case law to the contrary and plaintiff, as a pro se litigant, must be afforded special
solitude particularly at this early juncture.
A claim against a municipality must allege that the constitutional violation was caused
by a custom or policy of the municipality. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. There will be liability
when a particular custom or practice was "so well settled and widespread that the
policymaking officials of the municipality can be said to have either actual or constructive
knowledge of it yet did nothing to end the practice." Id. Additionally, "failure to provide
proper training may fairly be said to represent a policy for which the [municipality] is
responsible, and for which the [municipality] may be held liable if it actually causes injury."
Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 390 (1989). To prevail on a claim based on a failure to train,
a plaintiff must demonstrate that the inadequate training amounted to deliberate indifference
to plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at 379. Finally, the parties are familiar with the standard
of review for sua sponte dismissal of claims brought by pro se plaintiffs who are proceeding
in forma pauperis, and the standard will not be repeated here. That standard is laid out in
detail in Magistrate Judge Baxter's August 6, 2014, Order and Report-Recommendation,
adopted by the undersigned in a Decision and Order dated September 3, 2014.
In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant Officer Donald Langlois
admitted using force and a chemical agent, while failing to mention that plaintiff was already
handcuffed at the time. He then asserts that "[t]he Village of Ellenville failed to properly train
their employee to protect and serve the public and private sect [sic]." Am. Compl. at 3. It is
true that plaintiff has identified neither a specific municipal policy or custom of violating
constitutional rights nor specific facts regarding the municipality's policymakers' failure to
properly train their subordinates to prevent such violations. In his objection, plaintiff states
In fact, the Village of Ellenville Police Department is so poorly trained, that the
County of Ulster Sheriff Department is taking over the entire Department. There
has been so many complaint [sic], the Ulster County Sheriff Department have
[sic] to step in every now and then. . . . Donald Langlois and the other two
Officers have since been fired, from the force, and if, they were properly
trained, such things will not happen.
However, these factual allegations are not asserted in plaintiff's amended complaint and the
undersigned declines to exercise discretion to construe the amended complaint as effectively
amended by these late allegations.
The Supreme Court has made clear that there is no heightened pleading standard for
Monell claims. Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507
U.S. 163, 164 (1993) (holding that no heightened pleading standard apart from the
requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 may be applied to Monell claims). However, a plaintiff must
still state a plausible claim of municipal liability under the standard set forth in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Given plaintiff's excessive force allegations against the
individual named defendant and the John Doe defendants, plaintiff has stated a facially
plausible Monell claim against the Village of Ellenville. As pointed out by other courts in this
District, "it is hard to fathom how a plaintiff could provide more detail at the pleading stage
regarding a Monell claim based on failure to train." Kimbrough v. Town of Dewitt Police
Dep't, No. 08–CV–03, 2010 WL 3724017, at *6 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 15, 2010) (Sharpe, J.)
(quotations omitted) (adopting in full Report-Recommendation of Treece, M.J.)
(recommending denial of motion to dismiss where plaintiff merely alleged a failure to train by
the municipality); see also Devarnne v. City of Schenectady, No. 10–CV–1037, 2011 WL
219722, at *3 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 21, 2011) (McAvoy, S.J.) (summarily denying motion to dismiss
Monell claims even though plaintiff alleged no facts relating to a municipal custom or policy,
holding that "[i]t [could] reasonably and plausibly be inferred from the nature of the alleged
constitutional violations that Plaintiff's injuries were caused by a municipal custom or policy
(including the failure to adequately train or deliberate indifference to constitutional rights)").
The lone allegation in the amended complaint regarding the Village of Ellenville's failure to
train is sufficient at this stage.
Having reviewed the remainder of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Order and ReportRecommendation, he properly recommended dismissal of plaintiff's Fifth and Sixth
Amendment claims pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Accordingly, the
Order and Report-Recommendation will be rejected in part and adopted in part. That portion
of the Order and Report-Recommendation recommending dismissal of plaintiff's amended
complaint against the Village of Ellenville will be rejected and that claim will be permitted to
go forward. In so ruling, no opinion is expressed as to whether this claim can withstand a
properly filed motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. The remainder of the ReportRecommendation will be adopted.
Therefore, it is
1. Magistrate Judge Baxter's October 23, 2014 Order and ReportRecommendation is ADOPTED in part and REJECTED in part as set forth above;
2. The Clerk shall issue a summons and forward it, along with a copy of the
amended complaint, to the United States Marshal for service upon the Village of Ellenville;
3. A response to the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim in plaintiff's amended complaint be
filed by the Village of Ellenville or its counsel as provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil
4. The Clerk is directed to serve a copy of the October 23, 2014 Order and ReportRecommendation and a copy of this Decision and Order upon defendant Village of
Ellenville and defendant Officer Donald Langlois; and
5. The Clerk is directed to serve a copy of this Decision and Order upon plaintiff in
accordance with the Local Rules.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 14, 2014
Utica, New York.
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