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Siddiqui v. Rocheleau

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 10, 2018



          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff Faiz Siddiqui (“Siddiqui”), a citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, brings this action against Connecticut police officer Eric Rocheleau (“Rocheleau”) in his individual capacity. See generally Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 3). Siddiqui alleges that Rocheleau committed various constitutional and state law violations in connection with his ongoing criminal investigation of Siddiqui for harassment of Erum Majid Randhawa (“Randhawa”). Id. Rocheleau now moves to dismiss Siddiqui's Amended Complaint in its entirety. See generally Motion to Dismiss (“Mot. to Dismiss”) (Doc. No. 19).

         For the reasons set forth below, Rocheleau's Motion to Dismiss is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Siddiqui is a citizen of the United Kingdom and a resident of London. Am. Compl. at ¶ 3. Rocheleau is a Connecticut resident and is employed as a police officer by the West Hartford Police Department. Id. at ¶ 4. Randhawa, the complainant in the underlying criminal case against Siddiqui, is also a Connecticut resident. Id. at ¶ 6.

         In 2006, Siddiqui became acquainted with Randhawa while visiting his aunt in Connecticut. Id. at ¶ 7. After Siddiqui returned to London, he attempted to continue the relationship with Randhawa. Id. at ¶ 8. However, Randhawa lost interest in Siddiqui in 2007, and the two had no further contact until 2012. Id.

         Some time before 2012, Siddiqui started to suspect that Randhawa had been defaming him. Id. at ¶ 9. On the advice of counsel, he emailed Randhawa in August 2012, to express “his dismay at her conduct, ” but then had no further contact with her until early 2015. Id.

         On January 1, 2015, Siddiqui learned that Randhawa had been viewing his information on the internet. Id. at ¶ 10. In response, Siddiqui called Randhawa once, but did not connect with her and did not leave a message. Id. At that time, Siddiqui was enrolled in a graduate business school program at Northwestern University in Illinois. Id.

         In March 2015, Randhawa complained to Rocheleau that Siddiqui was harassing her. Id. at ¶ 11. In response, Rocheleau visited Siddiqui's aunt and uncle, both of whom lived in Connecticut. Id. at 12. Rocheleau threatened that, if they did not provide him with Siddiqui's phone number, “they would be treated as felons and arrested.” Id. In addition, Rocheleau called the Dean of Siddiqui's business school and falsely stated that Siddiqui was living and working in the United States in violation of his student visa. Id. While speaking with Siddiqui's father in May 2015, Rocheleau also represented that Siddiqui would be arrested and internationally extradited to the United States to face criminal charges on the next occasion that he attempted to travel outside of the United Kingdom. Id.

         On April 24, 2015, Rocheleau applied for a search warrant in Connecticut state court to obtain certain text messages and phone records from Siddiqui's cell phone. Id. at ¶ 18; see generally Exhibit 1, Am. Compl. (“Search Warrant Application”) (Doc. No. 3). Although the state court issued the search warrant, Rocheleau did not provide Siddiqui with a copy of the warrant, and Siddiqui did not discover that his phone records had been searched and seized until October 30, 2017. Id. at ¶¶ 20-23.

         On May 22, 2015, Rocheleau applied for a warrant for Siddiqui's arrest on a charge of Harassment in the Second Degree in violation of section 53a-183 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Id. at ¶ 30; see generally Exhibit 2, Am. Compl. (“Arrest Warrant Application”) (Doc. No. 3). The warrant was signed by a state court judge and then “lodged with the United States Department of Homeland Security.” Id. at ¶ 31. Due to this outstanding arrest warrant, Siddiqui has not traveled to the United States for the past three years and, as a result, has not completed his graduate business program at Northwestern University. Id. at ¶¶ 32, 33.

         On May 18, 2018, Siddiqui filed this action against Rocheleau. See generally Complaint (“Compl.”) (Doc. No. 1). In his Amended Complaint, Siddiqui asserts federal claims for violations of (1) his right of access to the courts under the First Amendment, Am. Compl. at ¶ 24; (2) his right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment, id. at ¶ 26; (3) his right to travel under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, id. at ¶ 32; (4) his right to be free of false arrest and imprisonment under the Fourth Amendment, id. at ¶ 35; (5) his right to substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, id. at ¶ 37; and (6) his right to engage in protected speech under the First Amendment, id. at ¶ 40. Siddiqui also asserts various state law claims, including for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at ¶ 44.

         On July 9, 2018, Rocheleau filed a Motion to Dismiss all claims alleged in the Amended Complaint. See generally Mot. to Dismiss. Rocheleau moves to dismiss Siddiqui's right to travel claim under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Defendant's Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) (Doc. No. 19-1) at 5. Rocheleau moves to dismiss Siddiqui's remaining claims under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. See id.


         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), “[a] case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . . . when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. In determining whether the plaintiff has met this burden, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Carter v. Healthport Techs., LLC, 882 F.3d 47, 57 (2d Cir. 2016); Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys., Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6) Failure to State a Claim

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to plead “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), that plain statement must allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While this plausibility standard does not require probability, it is not satisfied by “a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully” or by facts that are “merely consistent with a defendant's liability.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept all material factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Crawford v. Cuomo, 796 F.3d 252, 256 (2d Cir. 2015). However, the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted). In those instances, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. “[O]nly the facts alleged in the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the pleadings, and matters of which judicial notice may be taken” may be considered by the court. Samuels v. Air Transp. Local 504, 992 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1993).


         Rocheleau seeks to dismiss all of Siddiqui's claims. See Mot. to Dismiss at 1. To begin, Rocheleau argues that the court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the Amended Complaint under the Younger abstention doctrine. See Def.'s Mem. at 2. If the court determines that abstention is not warranted, Rocheleau argues that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Siddiqui's right to travel claim because it is unripe, and that Rocheleau's remaining causes of action fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See id. at 2-3. The court addresses each of these arguments in turn, starting with the issue of abstention.

         A. Abstention

         Rocheleau argues that, under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the court should abstain and dismiss Siddiqui's Amended Complaint because the suit interferes with an ongoing state criminal proceeding, namely, the execution of a pending, state court warrant for Siddiqui's arrest. See Def.'s Mem. at 7-10. Specifically, Rocheleau argues that Siddiqui is using federal court to mount an improper, collateral attack on the validity of his arrest and search warrants. See id. at 8-9. Rocheleau contends that, if Siddiqui wishes to challenge the lawfulness of these warrants, he should surrender himself to Connecticut authorities and raise these challenges during the ensuing state court criminal proceeding. See id. at 9.

         Under the Younger abstention doctrine, federal courts should generally refrain from exercising jurisdiction over federal claims that “involve or call into question ongoing state proceedings.” Diamond "D" Const. Corp. v. McGowan, 282 F.3d 191, 198 (2d Cir. 2002). This doctrine, which is rooted in the principles of comity and federalism, “serves the vital purpose of reaffirming the competence of the state courts, and acknowledging the dignity of states as co-equal sovereigns in our federal system.” Spargo v. New York State Comm'n on Judicial Conduct, 351 F.3d 65, 74-75 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         In this Circuit, application of Younger abstention depends on the nature of the remedy being sought. While Younger abstention may apply to suits for injunctive or declaratory relief, the Supreme Court has not decided whether it applies to claims for damages. See Kirschner v. Klemons, 225 F.3d 227, 238 (2d Cir. 2000). However, the Second Circuit has reasoned that, “[w]hen money damages, as opposed to equitable relief, are sought, it is less likely that unacceptable interference with the ongoing state proceeding, the evil against which Younger seeks to guard, would result from the federal court's exercise of jurisdiction.” Id. Accordingly, the Second Circuit has held that “abstention and dismissal are inappropriate when damages are sought, even when a pending state proceeding raises identical issues and [the court] would dismiss otherwise identical claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, but that a stay of the action pending resolution of the state proceeding may be appropriate.” Id.

         In this case, Siddiqui's Amended Complaint seeks “compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, costs, and such equitable relief as this court may deem to be fair and just.” Am. Compl. at ¶ 44. However, when arguing against the application of Younger abstention to his case, Siddiqui represents in his Opposition brief that he is “not seeking injunctive relief, ” but is instead “seek[ing] money damages for wrongdoing which already has taken place and to compensate him for injuries already suffered as a result of that wrongdoing.” Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss (“Pl.'s Mem.”) (Doc. No. 20) at 8. In light of these representations and the Amended Complaint's failure to specify the form of equitable relief being sought, the court treats Siddiqui's suit as an action for damages only. See Nwachukwu v. Connecticut Dep't of Labor, No. 3:13-CV-1539 JCH, 2014 WL 6633050, at *1 n.1 (D. Conn. Nov. 20, 2014) (treating plaintiff's suit as a damages suit when the plaintiff ...

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