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Gaetani v. Hadley

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 8, 2015

CRAIG GAETANI, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID J. HADLEY, SUSAN E. McMAHON, THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, and THE TRIAL COURT OF THE COMMONWEALTH Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT IN PART (Dkt. No. 12)

MARK G. MASTROIANNI, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

According to Craig Gaetani ("Plaintiff"), after a misunderstanding at the clerk-magistrate's office at the Berkshire District Court, he attempted to return to the active court session to clarify the judge's prior order. At this point, Massachusetts Trial Court Officers Susan McMahon ("McMahon") and David Hadley ("Hadley") (together "Defendants") physically seized him, resulting in a torn rotator cuff and tendons.

On March 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Trial Court of the Commonwealth, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First Amendment rights (Counts 1 and 2), his Fourth Amendment rights (Count 3), and his Fourteenth Amendment rights (Count 4); as well as a 42 U.S.C. § 1985 claim that Defendants conspired to deprive him of his civil rights (Count 5). He also alleged that Defendants violated his rights under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act ("MCRA") (Count 6), the Massachusetts Torts Claims Act (Count 7) and that Defendants committed an assault and battery against him (Count 8). Lastly, Plaintiff claims that he is entitled to "Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" against the Trial Court (Count 9).

On July 23, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, in part, for a failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] Plaintiff subsequently conceded all of his claims for monetary relief against the Commonwealth and the Trial Court (Dkt. No. 17, Pltf. Mem. 4-5), his Massachusetts Torts Claims Act claim on procedural grounds (Dkt. No. 16, Pltf. Opp. 2-3), and his 42 U.S.C. § 1985 conspiracy claim against Defendants. (Dkt. No. 16, Pltf. Opp. 2.) The hearing on the remaining portions of Defendants' motion took place on October 2, 2014.

The court grants Defendants' motion to dismiss in part, and denies it in part.

II. STANDARD

To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege facts that "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations in the complaint must "nudge[] [the] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Id. at 570. 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, 663 (2009). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief" is a context-specific task that requires "the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679.

Courts are not required to accept as true allegations in a complaint that are legal conclusions. Id. at 678. However, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Therefore, in assessing a claim's plausibility, the court must construe the complaint in the plaintiff's favor, accept all non-conclusory allegations as true, and draw any reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See San Gerónimo Caribe Project, Inc. v. Acevedo-Vilá, 687 F.3d 465, 471 (1st Cir. 2012).

III. PLAINTIFF'S FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff attended the civil session of the Berkshire District Court to pursue a claim against a party who was in jail at the time. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 10, 11.) When this party did not appear in court because he was incarcerated, the judge instructed Plaintiff to go to the clerk-magistrate's office to procure a "Writ of Habeas Corpus" in order to compel that party's appearance. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 11, 12.) A clerk-magistrate[2] informed Plaintiff that he had misunderstood the judge's order, and that the judge had actually wanted a "capias" to issue. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff "disagreed" with the Clerk-Magistrate. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff then attempted to go back into the courtroom so that he could ask the judge to "clarify his order." (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 16.)

As Plaintiff neared the courtroom, Defendants "violently detained" him. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 17.) Hadley twisted Plaintiff's right arm up behind his back, tearing his rotator cuff and tendons, while McMahon held Plaintiff by his left arm. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 18.) McMahon helped to restrain Plaintiff while Hadley twisted his arm, and she did nothing to discourage Hadley from doing so. (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 20.) As a result of Defendants' actions, Plaintiff suffered serious physical injury, was prevented from "transacting his business, " incurred the costs of medical care and treatment, and "suffered great emotional distress and suffered other divers [sic] injuries." (Dkt. No. 1, Comp. ¶ 24.)

IV. ANALYSIS OF DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Official/Individual Capacity

In their memorandum, "Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims for damages... must be dismissed... because Plaintiff brought Counts I-VI against Hadley and McMahon in their official capacities." (Dkt. No. 13, Deft. Mem. 11.) The court disagrees with Defendants' interpretation of Plaintiff's complaint.

"In many cases, the complaint will not clearly specify whether officials are sued personally, in their official capacity, or both." Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n.14 (1985). In these circumstances, courts "examine the substance of the pleadings and the course of proceedings in order to determine whether the suit is for individual or official liability." Powell v. Alexander, 391 F.3d 1, 22 (1st Cir. 2004) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "Throughout, the underlying inquiry remains whether the plaintiff's ...


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