United States District Court, D. Connecticut
October 13, 2015
Paul Spak, Plaintiff: John R. Williams, LEAD ATTORNEY, New
Shane Phillips, Defendant: James Newhall Tallberg, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Karsten & Tallberg, LLC, West Hartford, CT; Dennis
M Durao, Karsten & Tallberg LLC, Rocky Hill, CT.
GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
law has long allowed a prosecutor to abandon the prosecution
of a criminal defendant by means of entering a nolle
prosequi. See, e.g., State v. Stanley, 2 Kirby
25 (Conn. Super. Ct. 1787). Although the entry of a nolle
prosequi terminates the prosecution of a defendant, it
does not prevent a prosecutor from timely re-filing the same
charges against the defendant. See Conn. Practice
Book § 39-31. But if the prosecutor does not resurrect
the charges, Connecticut law provides that any police,
prosecution, and court records shall be erased 13 months
after the charges have been nolled. See Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 54-142a(c)(1).
in this case has sued a police officer defendant pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution relating to
charges initiated by the defendant police officer that were
eventually nolled by a state prosecutor. The issue
now presented is whether the statute of limitations for
plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim runs from the
date that the charges were terminated by entry of a nolle
prosequi or from the date, some 13 months later, that
the records relating to the charges were required to be
erased. I conclude that the statute of limitations began to
run on the date that the charges were nolled, and
therefore that summary judgment should enter against
plaintiff on the ground that his lawsuit was not timely filed
within the limitation period for a malicious prosecution
13, 2010, defendant Shane Phillips--a police officer with the
Town of Plainville, Connecticut--applied to a Connecticut
state court judge for a warrant to arrest plaintiff Paul Spak
on charges of alleged tampering with evidence and interfering
with a police officer. The basis for or validity of the
charges is not relevant to this ruling. After the warrant was
approved, Phillips arrested Spak on June 24, 2010, and Spak
was promptly released on a bond. Nearly three months later,
on September 10, 2010, a state prosecutor entered a nolle
prosequi of the charges.
October 29, 2013, Spak filed the instant lawsuit against
Phillips. Spak alleges a federal constitutional claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution
in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Phillips now moves for
summary judgment on the ground that Spak failed to sue within
the three-year statute of limitations that governs
constitutional causes of action under § 1983.
judgment may be granted only if " the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Here, there are no facts in dispute for
purposes of Phillips' claim that Spak's lawsuit was
not timely filed. The only dispute involves a pure question
of law: does the statute of limitations for a constitutional
claim of malicious prosecution begin running on the date that
the underlying charges have been terminated by means of a
nolle prossequi or does the statute of limitations
begin running only 13 months later on the date that
Connecticut law requires erasure of records relating to the
entry of a nolle prosequi ?
tort of malicious prosecution has venerable roots in the
common law. See, e.g., Goodspeed v. East Haddam
Bank, 22 Conn. 530 (1853). An action for malicious
prosecution allows " a man [to] recover damages against
another for maliciously and without probable cause
instituting a criminal, or, in some cases, a civil
prosecution again him upon a false charge." O.W. Holmes,
The Common Law 112 (Little, Brown & Co. orig. 1881).
Connecticut, a malicious prosecution claim requires a
plaintiff to prove " that: (1) the defendant initiated
or procured the institution of criminal proceedings against
the plaintiff; (2) the criminal proceedings have terminated
in favor of the plaintiff; (3) the defendant acted without
probable cause; and (4) the defendant acted with malice,
primarily for a purpose other than that of bringing an
offender to justice." Brooks v. Sweeney, 299
Conn. 196, 210-11, 9 A.3d 347 (2010). A state law claim for
malicious prosecution may in turn rise to the level of a
federal constitutional claim that is actionable under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 if the defendant is a state actor and if
the plaintiff who was subject to malicious prosecution was
also subject to an arrest or seizure within the meaning of
the Fourth Amendment. See, e.g., Manganiello v.
City of New York, 612 F.3d 149, 160-61 (2d Cir. 2010);
Roberts v. Babkiewicz, 582 F.3d 418, 420 (2d Cir.
2009) ( per curiam ).
has not prescribed a statute of limitations for
constitutional causes of actions under § 1983. In the
absence of guidance from Congress, the Second Circuit has
instructed that the statute of limitations must be borrowed
from analogous state law limitations periods and that the
analogous state law limitations period for a § 1983
action in Connecticut is three years. SeeWalker
v. Jastremski, 430 F.3d 560, 562 (2d Cir. 2005); see
alsoWallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387, 127
S.Ct. 1091, 166 L.Ed.2d 973 (2007) (" the length ...