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McKay v. East Hartford Police Department

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 25, 2017

RASHEEN J. MCKAY, Plaintiff,
v.
EAST HARTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Defendants.

          RULING GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AND REMANDING ACTION TO CONNECTICUT SUPERIOR COURT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Rasheen J. McKay is in prison following his conviction in Connecticut state court on a charge of assault. His conviction stems from his arrest by police officers in East Hartford, Connecticut, after they responded to a report of a stabbing. Plaintiff has filed this civil rights lawsuit against the police on the ground that they violated his federal and state constitutional rights when they arrested and prosecuted him in connection with this stabbing incident. Defendants have now moved to dismiss the complaint.

         I conclude that most of plaintiff's claims are barred from my review at this time under the rule of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), which generally forecloses the use of a federal civil rights action to attack the validity of a state court conviction. Nor has plaintiff established the prosecution against him was terminated in his favor, which is required to allow him to proceed on his claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff's claim that the police used excessive force when they arrested him at gunpoint is otherwise defeated by qualified immunity.

         Accordingly, I will dismiss plaintiff's federal constitutional claims. As for plaintiff's remaining claim under the Connecticut Constitution, I will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction and will remand the action to the Connecticut Superior Court from whence it was once removed.

         Background

         Plaintiff has filed this lawsuit against the East Hartford Police Department as well as several of its police officers and supervisory officials.[1] The proposed amended complaint (Doc. #28-2) sets forth the following facts that I accept as true for the purposes of the motion to dismiss.

         Late in the afternoon of September 7, 2014, the police in East Hartford, Connecticut, received a report of a fight. They responded to the scene, encountered an alleged victim of a stabbing, and accompanied the victim to the hospital. The police then interviewed the victim as well as another witness, and the victim made an identification of the perpetrator from a photo array presented to the victim by the police.

         The police evidently decided that plaintiff was the perpetrator, and they tracked him down that night at an apartment where plaintiff was staying as an overnight guest of a woman who lived there. The police threatened and intimidated the woman to let them into her apartment without a warrant or her consent, and they then found plaintiff in the bathroom where they arrested him. The officer who found and arrested plaintiff pointed his gun at him, telling plaintiff in expletive-laced words to put his hands up or he would kill him.

         Plaintiff was taken to the police station and charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, and breach of peace. According to plaintiff, the police not only acted without any search or arrest warrants but allegedly forged and signed the witness statements that were the basis for his arrest.

         About a year and a half after his arrest, plaintiff entered a plea of guilty in Connecticut state court to second-degree assault and for which he is currently serving a five-year sentence of imprisonment. Plaintiff alleges that he pleaded guilty under duress, because his attorney was not going to conduct a proper pre-trial investigation and because he knew he would not receive a fair trial. Plaintiff has since filed numerous civilian complaints against the police, and he has also filed a state habeas corpus petition that apparently remains pending.

         In late 2016, plaintiff filed this civil rights lawsuit against the police defendants in the Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford. Defendants decided to remove the action to this Court on the ground that it presented in part a federal question of law under the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint alleges pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that one or more police officers violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to be free from false arrest, malicious prosecution, unlawful search and seizure, and the use of excessive force.[2] Plaintiff also alleges violation of his rights under Article First, § 7 of the Connecticut Constitution.

         Discussion

         Defendants have moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and the principles governing my review of such a motion to dismiss are well established. The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, and the allegations of a pro se plaintiff's complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010). Nevertheless, a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations-even if liberally construed-state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same).

         It is a basic rule of our constitutional structure that the federal courts do not have roving jurisdiction to review the judgments of state courts. See Teichmann v. New York, 769 F.3d 821, 826 (2d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). This is especially true when a federal court is invited to review the validity of a state court's judgment in a criminal case. Although the federal courts have long exercised authority pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to consider claims that state and local officials have violated constitutional rights, that authority is curbed when a plaintiff challenges the acts of police or prosecutors that led to his conviction. A civil rights claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § ...


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