Brightman v. Clement et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: 29 FIRST MOTION to Dismiss . filed by City Of New York, Zuel Clement. For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED. Any motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint shall be filed no later than May 3, 2017, shall append a copy of the proposed amended pleading and shall be governed by the Courts individual rules pertaining to motions, except that no pre-motion letter or conference is necessary. The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to close the motion at Docket No. 29. (Signed by Judge Lorna G. Schofield on 4/20/2017) (kgo) Modified on 4/20/2017 (kgo).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NYC POLICE OFFICER ZUEL
CLEMENT, et al.,
16 Civ. 2507 (LGS)
OPINION AND ORDER
LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge:
Plaintiff Ezra Brightman brings this action against Police Officer Zuel Clement, Police
Officer John Doe and the City of New York, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false
imprisonment, malicious prosecution, reckless investigation, prolonged detention and inadequate
training and supervision of police officers. Defendants Clement and the City of New York
(“Defendants”) move to dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(c). For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion is granted.
Except as otherwise noted, the following facts are based on Brightman’s Amended
Complaint, and are accepted as true solely for the purpose of evaluating this motion. See
Mantena v. Johnson, 809 F.3d 721, 727–28 (2d Cir. 2015).
On July 2, 2011, Brightman was arrested by Clement for a robbery that allegedly
occurred at approximately 8:30 that evening. The perpetrators of the robbery had their faces
completely covered, and witnesses initially stated that no robbery had occurred at all. At the
time she arrested Brightman, Clement and another New York City police officer were aware that
no one had identified Brightman as a perpetrator of the crime. In fact, Brightman had committed
no crime at all.
According to the Criminal Court Complaint against Brightman, of which the Court is
entitled to take judicial notice, Brightman was arraigned on July 3, 2011, on charges of Robbery
in the First Degree, Robbery in the Second Degree, Burglary in the Second Degree and Criminal
Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree. See Apotex Inc. v. Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., 823
F.3d 51, 60 (2d Cir. 2016) (at motion to dismiss stage, court may take judicial notice of
documents that are publicly available and whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned); In
re WorldCom, Inc., 708 F.3d 327, 339 n.63 (2d Cir. 2013) (taking judicial notice of court
records). Following his arraignment, on or about July 4, 2011, Brightman was remitted to the
custody of the New York City Department of Corrections as a detainee. While he was detained
in relation to his July 2, 2011, arrest, Brightman was injured after being attacked by other
According to the grand jury indictment against Brightman, of which the Court takes
judicial notice, on July 8, 2011, the grand jury returned a true bill indicting Brightman on
charges of Burglary in the First Degree and Robbery in the Second Degree. On April 5, 2013,
the criminal prosecution against Brightman was dismissed on the merits.
Rule 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings “[a]fter the pleadings
are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). Motions brought under
Rule 12(c) are evaluated using the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
See Mantena, 809 F.3d at 727–28. “[T]he only facts to be considered are those alleged in the
complaint, and the court must accept them, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s
favor, in deciding whether the complaint alleges sufficient facts to survive.” Doe v. Columbia
Univ., 831 F.3d 46, 48 (2d Cir. 2016). To withstand dismissal, a pleading “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citation omitted).
The Amended Complaint first alleges that Plaintiff was falsely imprisoned by virtue of
his July 2, 2011, arrest. In New York, a claim for false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
must be brought within three years of the date on which a plaintiff was arraigned. See Hogan v.
Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 517 (2d Cir. 2013) (Section 1983 claims filed in New York are subject to
three-year statute of limitations); Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389 (2007) (statute of
limitations on false imprisonment claim begins to run once alleged victim is arraigned or
otherwise held pursuant to legal process). As Plaintiff was arraigned on July 3, 2011, the statute
of limitations for his false imprisonment claim expired in July 2014. Plaintiff did not bring this
action until April 2016, and did not assert the false imprisonment claim until September 2016.
Even if the claim relates back to the filing of the original complaint under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(c)(1)(B) (relation back for “a claim . . . that arose out of the conduct, transaction,
or occurrence set out -- or attempted to be set out -- in the original pleading”), the claim is
untimely and therefore dismissed.
The Amended Complaint next alleges that Defendants maliciously prosecuted Plaintiff in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. To succeed on a malicious prosecution claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate (1) “the commencement or continuation of a
criminal proceeding against [him],” (2) “the termination of the proceeding in [his] favor,” (3)
“that there was no probable cause for the proceeding,” (4) “that the proceeding was instituted
with malice,” and (5) “a seizure or other perversion of proper legal procedures implicating the
claimant’s personal liberty and privacy interests under the Fourth Amendment.” Mitchell v. City
of New York, 841 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). “The existence of probable
cause is a complete defense to a claim of malicious prosecution in New York.” Manganiello v.
City of New York, 612 F.3d 149, 161–62 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). A grand jury
indictment creates a presumption of probable cause that can be rebutted only by evidence that the
indictment was procured by “fraud, perjury, the suppression of evidence or other police conduct
undertaken in bad faith. Id. at 162 (internal quotation marks omitted).
Nothing in the Amended Complaint alleges facts that, if true, would show that the
indictment against Plaintiff was procured by fraud, perjury, suppression of evidence or other
police misconduct that was undertaken in bad faith. The indictment creates an unrebutted
presumption of probable cause sufficient to defeat the malicious prosecution claim. The claim
accordingly is dismissed.
Third, the Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Clement conducted a reckless prearrest investigation that violated Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due
process. To establish a violation of substantive due process, a plaintiff must demonstrate that
“the state action was so egregious, so outrageous, that it may fairly be said to shock the
contemporary conscience.” Southerland v. City of New York, 680 F.3d 127, 151 (2d Cir. 2012)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The Amended Complaint fails to plead any facts that would
establish a violation of substantive due process. The claim for reckless investigation is
The Amended Complaint further alleges that Plaintiff suffered an unreasonably
prolonged detention in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff argues in opposition to
the motion that the Amended Complaint meets the standard for a prolonged detention claim
under the Fourth Amendment, rather than the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff then summarily
argues that he meets the standard for a Fourteenth Amendment prolonged detention claim set
forth in Russo v. City of Bridgeport, 479 F.3d 196 (2d Cir. 2007). In Russo, the Second Circuit
held that a plaintiff could sue individual defendants under the Fourth Amendment for allegedly
mishandling exculpatory evidence that resulted in plaintiff’s unreasonably prolonged detention if
he established (1) “that he has a right to be free from continued detention stemming from law
enforcement officials’ mishandling or suppression of exculpatory evidence,” (2) “that the actions
of the officers violated that right,” and (3) “that the officers’ conduct shocks the conscience.” Id.
at 205 (internal quotation omitted). As the plaintiff’s unreasonable detention claim is treated
under the Fourth Amendment, the “shock the conscience requirement” is “understood as a
crucial feature going to the unreasonableness of the seizure.” Id. at 210.
Plaintiff cannot meet the standard for a prolonged detention claim under the Fourth
Amendment. See id. at 208 (prolonged detention claim properly brought under Fourth
Amendment rather than Fourteenth Amendment). The Amended Complaint does not allege facts
that, if true, would show that law enforcement officials mishandled or suppressed exculpatory
evidence, or that they engaged in conduct that would shock the conscience. Plaintiff’s prolonged
detention claim is therefore dismissed.
Inadequate Training and Supervision of Police Officers
Lastly, the Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant City of New York provided
inadequate training and supervision to Defendant Clement, and that with proper training or
supervision, Defendant Clement would have understood that she needed to determine exactly
what eyewitnesses to a crime may have seen prior to making an arrest. In order to hold a
municipality liable for a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that “the deprivation of the plaintiff’s rights under federal law is caused by a
governmental custom, policy, or usage of the municipality” and that “the municipality was the
moving force behind the injury alleged” through the municipality’s own deliberate conduct.
Jones ex rel. Jones v. Town of East Haven, 691 F.3d 72, 80–81 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Monell v.
Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and quoting Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan
Cnty. Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997)); accord Mitchell v. City of New York, 841 F.3d
72, 80 (2d Cir. 2016). Where a plaintiff alleges a Monell violation due to inadequate training,
the plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that the failure to train led to an
independent constitutional violation. See Askins v. Doe No. 1, 727 F.3d 248, 253 (2d Cir. 2013).
As the Amended Complaint does not allege facts sufficient to support a finding of any
constitutional violation by Defendant Clement, Plaintiff cannot impute a violation to the training
or supervision policies of Defendant City of New York. The Amended Complaint also fails to
allege any facts sufficient to show that Defendant Clement acted under a deliberate policy
enacted by the City of New York. The Monell claim is thus also dismissed.
The claims against the Doe defendant are dismissed sua sponte as time barred because he
has never been named as a defendant in a pleading. All of Plaintiff’s claims arise under § 1983,
for which the statute of limitations is three years. See Hogan, 738 F.3d at 517. The last possible
accrual date for any of Plaintiff’s claims is April 5, 2013, when the criminal case against him
was dismissed. Even if Plaintiff were to amend the Amended Complaint now to name the Doe
defendant, the claims against him would be untimely by more than a year. “Rule 15(c) does not
allow an amended complaint adding new defendants to relate back if the newly-added defendants
were not named originally because the plaintiff did not know their identities.” Sewell v.
Bernardin, 795 F.3d 337, 342 (2d Cir. 2015) (citing Barrow v. Wethersfield Police Dep’t, 66
F.3d 466, 470 (2d Cir. 1995)).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings is
GRANTED. Any motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint shall be filed no later
than May 3, 2017, shall append a copy of the proposed amended pleading and shall be governed
by the Court’s individual rules pertaining to motions, except that no pre-motion letter or
conference is necessary.
The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to close the motion at Docket No. 29.
Dated: April 20, 2017
New York, NY
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