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Sampedro v. Schriro

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 28, 2019

CRISTHIAN COZAYATL SAMPEDRO Plaintiff,
v.
DORA B. SCHRIRO, [1] ALARIC FOX, JEFFREY DUBUC, and BENJAMIN KORES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO. 12]

          KARI A. DOOLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This action, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arises out of the arrest of Cristhian Sampedro (“Mr. Sampedro”) by defendant Trooper Benjamin Kores (“Trooper Kores”), a member of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (“DESPP”). Mr. Sampedro alleges that Trooper Kores violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as the Connecticut Constitution during his arrest. Mr. Sampedro also brings a claim against Trooper Kores, Commissioner Dora B. Schriro, Colonel Jeffrey Dubuc, and Sergeant Alaric Fox (collectively, the “Defendants”) seeking a declaratory judgment that Trooper Kores' conduct violated his constitutional rights as averred as well as permanent injunctive relief “as to all future conduct, training and policy administration, as relates to the detention of Connecticut residents without legal immigration status.” Trooper Kores is sued in both his individual and official capacities, while Schriro, Fox, and Dubuc are sued in their official capacities. Trooper Kores has moved to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity or, alternatively, that Mr. Sampedro has failed to plead a plausible constitutional violation for each of the claims against him. All of the Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Sampedro's request for declaratory and injunctive relief for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the foregoing reasons, the Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         Factual Allegations and Procedural History

          For purposes of this motion, the Court accepts the allegations in the Complaint as true and they are set forth as follows. On June 9, 2017, Mr. Sampedro was driving on Interstate 91 in Connecticut when he briefly fell asleep at the wheel and struck the trailer of another motorist. (Compl. at ¶¶ 9-14.) Shortly thereafter, Trooper Kores responded to the accident scene. (Id. at ¶ 20.) He asked Mr. Sampedro for his license, registration, and insurance. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.) When Mr. Sampedro admitted that he did not have a driver's license, Trooper Kores asked for another form of identification. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Mr. Sampedro offered his Mexican consular identification card.[2] (Id. at ¶ 24.) Trooper Kores then returned to his vehicle where he appeared to be speaking to someone on his radio. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         After approximately forty minutes, Trooper Kores went to speak to the other driver and permitted him to leave the accident scene. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Trooper Kores next approached Mr. Sampedro, placed him under arrest, and seated him in the back of his cruiser. (Id. at ¶ 28.) Approximately thirty minutes later, a tow truck and two unmarked vans arrived at the scene. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Two officers from ICE identified themselves, approached the cruiser, and took custody of Mr. Sampedro. (Id. at ¶ 33.) Thereafter, removal proceedings were initiated against Mr. Sampedro. (Id. at ¶ 43.)

         Construing the allegations in a light most favorable to Mr. Sampedro, the Court infers that Trooper Kores investigated Mr. Sampedro's identification and in doing so learned that he was not lawfully residing in the United States. The Court further infers that Trooper Kores directly or indirectly contacted United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and then waited for ICE officials to arrive on scene to take custody of Mr. Sampedro.

         On January 15, 2018, Mr. Sampedro filed a four-count civil rights action. In the first three counts, he alleges that Trooper Kores violated his Fourth Amendment right against unlawful seizure (Count I), his Fourteenth Amendment equal protections rights (Count II), and his rights against unlawful seizure and excessive force under the Connecticut Constitution (Count III). In Count IV, which is brought against all four defendants, Mr. Sampedro seeks a declaration that Trooper Kores' conduct violated his constitutional rights and permanent injunctive relief precluding DESPP from acting in a similar fashion in the future with respect to all Connecticut citizens without legal status in the United States.

         On April 13, 2018, the Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety. Trooper Kores argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity as to each claim against him. Trooper Kores further argues that Mr. Sampedro has failed to allege a plausible violation of the Fourth Amendment or the Connecticut Constitution because probable cause existed to arrest Mr. Sampedro. All of the Defendants have moved to dismiss Count IV pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. They further move to dismiss Mr. Sampedro's request for injunctive relief for lack of standing.

         Standard of Review

          As a threshold matter, the Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to only Rule 12(b)(6), but their motion also challenges this Court's subject matter jurisdiction with respect to Count IV. Subject matter jurisdiction is properly challenged pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); see Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 113 (2d Cir. 2000) (“A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.”). Because the Defendants raise only a facial challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, and Mr. Sampedro has had a full and fair opportunity to respond to that challenge, it is appropriate to convert the Defendants' motion, to the extent it challenges subject matter jurisdiction, to a motion under Rule 12(b)(1).

         To survive a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Legal conclusions and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Nevertheless, when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw “all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor.” Interworks Sys. Inc. v. Merch. Fin. Corp., 604 F.3d 692, 699 (2d Cir. 2010).

         The appropriate analysis for a facial challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, like the one raised by the Defendants, is similar to that required under Rule 12(b)(6). “When the Rule 12(b)(1) motion is facial, i.e., based solely on the allegations of the complaint or the complaint and exhibits attached to it . . ., the plaintiff has no evidentiary burden.” Carter v. HealthPort Techs., LLC, 822 F.3d 47, 56 (2d Cir. 2016). The task of the district court is to determine whether, after accepting as true all material factual allegations of the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff, the alleged facts affirmatively and plausibly suggest that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Id. at 56-57. “A plaintiff asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists.” Makarova, 201 F.3d at 113.

         Discussion

         Count I-§ 1983 Claim Under the Fourth Amendment

         The Court first considers whether Mr. Sampedro has a viable claim for unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Trooper Kores raises two defenses to this claim. Trooper Kores first argues that Mr. Sampedro cannot, as a matter of law, establish a violation of the Fourth Amendment because there was probable cause to arrest Mr. Sampedro for multiple traffic violations, including driving without a license. Trooper Kores alternatively argues that Mr. Sampedro cannot establish that he violated a clearly established right and, therefore, he is entitled to qualified immunity in any event.

         It is well established that the existence of probable cause is a complete defense to a claim of unlawful seizure under § 1983. Weyant v. Okst, 101 F.3d 845, 852 (2d Cir. 1996); see Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 177 (2008) (“we have equated a lawful arrest with an arrest based on probable cause”); Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 151 (2d Cir. 2006) (“[A] § 1983 claim for false arrest derives from [the] Fourth Amendment right ...


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