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Brown v. Dirga

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 11, 2016

FRANKLIN BROWN
v.
FREDRICK DIRGA

          MEMORANDUM OF CONFERENCE AND RULING ON MOTIONS

          HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On October 4, 2016, this Court held a telephonic Status Conference on the record. Plaintiff Franklin Brown (“plaintiff”), appearing pro se, and counsel for defendant, Attorney Christopher A. Clark, participated in the conference. The following summarizes the pertinent discussions held during the October 4, 2016, conference.

         I. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint and Motion for Joinder of Claims and Parties [Docs. ##94, 95]

         Pending before the Court are plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, and plaintiff's Motion for Joinder of Claims and Parties. [Docs. ##94, 95]. In both motions, plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to add claims of: assault and battery; false arrest; and section 1983 claims against proposed new defendants Captain Patrick Howard, Chief William McKenna, Captain Wallace, Lieutenant Davis, and the City of Middletown. See Docs. ##94, 95. In support of his motions, plaintiff contends that newly discovered evidence warrants the amendment and the addition of parties. See Doc. #94-1 at 1, 3-4; Doc. #95 at 1. Plaintiff attaches police investigatory records and an affidavit from witness Karen Rogala as exhibits in support of his motion, but his motion does not discuss how these materials constitute “new evidence, ” when the information was received, or how it supports his proposed new claims. See Docs. ##94, 95. Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion, arguing, inter alia, that plaintiff has failed to show good cause for filing his motion beyond the deadline to amend the pleadings; that the proposed amendments are futile; and that the amendments would be prejudicial to defendant. See Doc. #97.

         At the October 4, 2016, conference, plaintiff explained that the newly acquired evidence was produced by defendant during the course of discovery, and received by plaintiff on February 22, 2016. Plaintiff contended that the records attached to his “Motion for Joinder of Claims and Parties” [Doc. #94] provide the “new evidence” necessitating the filing of an amended complaint and supporting the proposed new claims. The Court requested that plaintiff point to a particular piece of “new evidence” and explain how it supports the new proposed claims.

         Plaintiff pointed to a record bearing Bates number BROWN 00089, and specifically to the paragraph in the middle of that page under the title “Confidential Interview.” See Doc. #94-2 at 12. This document is the report of an internal investigation into plaintiff's civilian complaint after his arrest; the claims raised in the civilian complaint are similar to those asserted in this federal case. The paragraph relied upon by plaintiff contains a statement from a witness who asserts that plaintiff sold crack to her, using Karen Rogala as an intermediary, shortly before the arrest plaintiff challenges. The witness also reports that a man attempted to get plaintiff to sell him crack that night but plaintiff refused because he believed the man to be a “snitch.” At the conference, plaintiff asserted that this paragraph supports plaintiff's assertion that defendant Dirga did not observe him making a hand-to-hand transaction immediately before his arrest, and thus that Dirga's stated basis for the arrest is false.

         Plaintiff acknowledged at the conference that the “new evidence” attached to his motion was produced by defendant seven months before he filed the motions, but stated that he had been unaware until recently that he could move to amend his complaint. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motions are DENIED.

         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend his pleading “only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Rule 21 governs the addition of parties: “On motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.

With respect to the interaction of Rules 15(a) and 21, it has been held that Rule 15(a) generally governs the amendment of complaints, but in the case of proposed amendments where new defendants are to be added, Rule 21 governs. The perceived supremacy of Rule 21 is, however, of no practical consequence, since it is generally held that the standards governing motions to amend under Rule 15 apply with equal force to motions to add parties under Rule 21.

Meyers v. Kishimoto, No. 3:14CV535(CSH), 2015 WL 4041438, at *3 (D. Conn. July 1, 2015) (quotation marks and internal citations omitted).

         In determining whether to grant leave to amend, the Supreme Court has held:

If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the absence of any apparent or declared reason - such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. - the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.'

Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Accordingly, where, as here, a plaintiff moves for leave to amend his complaint to add new claims and parties, a court will look to whether the opposing party is unduly prejudiced, whether plaintiff has unduly delayed in seeking the proposed amendment, and whether the proposed amendment would be futile. See, e.g., Jin v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 310 F.3d 84, 101 (2d Cir. 2002) (“Leave to amend should be freely granted, but the district court has the discretion to deny leave if there is a good reason for it, such as futility, bad faith, undue delay, or undue prejudice to the opposing party.” (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182)). With these factors in mind, the Court turns to plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint.

         B. False Arrest

         Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint asserts a new claim for false arrest. “Favorable termination is an element of a section 1983 claim sounding in false imprisonment or false arrest.” Miles v. City of Hartford, 445 F. App'x 379, 383 (2d Cir. 2011). Further, a claim for false arrest may not succeed where plaintiff has entered a guilty plea. See Maietta v. Artuz, 84 F.3d 100, 103 n.3 (2d Cir. 1996) (“We have also ruled that ... common law principles preclude a challenge to the validity of an arrest after a guilty plea, for purposes of a civil suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” (citing Cameron v. Fogarty, 806 F.2d 380, 386-89 (2d Cir. 1986)). Here, plaintiff pled guilty to the underlying crime and was convicted. See Doc. #97-9 at 3-4 (transcript of plaintiff's deposition, in which plaintiff admits to having pled guilty to the narcotics charge). The Court has reviewed the documents attached in support of plaintiff's motion. None of these records suggests that plaintiff's conviction has been invalidated or reversed. Thus, plaintiff cannot maintain a section 1983 action based on false arrest. See Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994); see also Simmons v. Simpson, No. 3:04CV2044(RNC), 2005 WL 2850078, at *1 (D. Conn. Oct. 29, 2005). Accordingly, the Court finds that amendment to permit the addition of a false arrest claim would be futile.

         C. Individual ...


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