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Payne v. Sardi

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 14, 2017

ARNOLD PAYNE, SR., Plaintiff,
SHAUNA SARDI and MARILYS MILLMAN, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.



         Plaintiff Arnold Payne Sr., pro se, brings this action for injunctive relief and monetary damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, against Shauna Sardi and Marilys Millman, Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) employees, in their individual and official capacities. Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED and the Clerk is directed to close the case. The Plaintiff may move to reopen the case by motion filed within 35 days of the date of this order. The motion must be accompanied by an amended complaint in accordance with this order.

         I. Background

         The Complaint alleges that the Department of Children and Families erroneously substantiated claims that Plaintiff committed sexual abuse, and placed Plaintiff's name on a registry [Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3]. The Complaint asserts that DCF “must have realized they were wrong, ” because after the Plaintiff contacted DCF about the “unjust substantiation, ” DCF sent him a letter “admitting they've made numerous error[]s in their decision to substantiate.” Plaintiff faults DCF for failing to uncover their errors absent his intervention, and claims that this failure was a result of carelessness and a “reckless disregard[] for the truth.” [Dkt. No. 1-1 at 3]. Plaintiff does not allege facts establishing that the errors were material. He asserts that DCF violated its own policies by failing to conduct a fair investigation into the alleged abuse, and by denying him the opportunity to appeal his substantiation and placement on the registry.

         Plaintiff categorically alleges that his placement on the registry constitutes defamation as well as cruel and unusual punishment, and violates his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also alleges that by failing to offer him the hearing mandated by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 17a-101, Defendants deprived him of his procedural due process rights. He seeks injunctive relief in the form of a hearing to contest his substantiation, and damages for defamation and the violation of his constitutional rights. [Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2-3].

         In their briefing, Defendants identified the registry to which Plaintiff refers in his Complaint as the “DCF Connecticut Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry, ” which is governed by section 17a-101k of the Connecticut General Statutes. [Dkt. No. 13-1 at 1].

         Defendants also stated the Plaintiff was sent a first notice of substantiation findings on February 20, 2015, and that a corrected notice letter was sent to him on June 2, 2015. [Dkt. No. 13-1 at 1-2]. Defendants attached to their Motion to Dismiss a letter dated July 28, 2015 and referenced by the Plaintiff in his Complaint, which states:

“This will confirm that the enclosed Notification of Investigation Results, which was forwarded to you by the Department Paralegal on June 2, 2015, replaces the previous one, dated February 20, 2015, which contained numerous errors as you had pointed out in a previous correspondence. The Notification of Investigation Results dated June 1, 2015, replaces and supersedes the Notification of Investigation Results of February 20, 2015. You can disregard the February Notification as that document had numerous errors and is an inaccurate document. This should clear up any confusion that may have been caused by your receipt of the February results letter.
As you know, your hearing is scheduled for Monday, December 19, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. . . . as is set forth in the letter of June 2, 2015.”

[Dkt. No. 13-3]. Neither the February 20, 2015 letter nor the June 2, 2015 letter is in the record, nor are the salient portions the record quoted in the Complaint. Defendants claim that Plaintiff's administrative hearing had not been held prior to Plaintiff filing his Complaint because he could not attend the hearing while he was incarcerated. [Dkt. No. 13 -1 at 13].

         Plaintiff originally filed his Complaint in the Connecticut Superior Court, and Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446. Defendants claim that while both Sardi and Millman were served in their official capacities, only Sardi was served in her individual capacity. [Dkt. Nos. 1 ¶ 2, 3 ¶ 1]. No returns of service have been filed on the docket.

         Plaintiff did not file an opposition brief.

         II. Legal Standard

         The standards of review for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and under 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim are “substantively identical.” Lerner v. Fleet Bank, N.A.,318 F.3d 113, 128 (2d. Cir. 2003). However, on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the party invoking the Court's jurisdiction bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that subject ...

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