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Ramos v. Silva

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 13, 2016

THOMAS RAMOS, Plaintiff,


F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

This is a civil rights action arising out of an arrest for trespassing. The complaint was filed by plaintiff Thomas Ramos on October 6, 2015. The named defendants are officers of the Dartmouth Police Department and are all sued in their individual and official capacities. Among other things, the complaint alleges that defendants violated Ramos’s civil rights when they arrested him for trespassing following his attempt to occupy a home at 40 Lynnwood Street in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

The complaint was originally filed in Bristol Superior Court. On January 19, 2016, defendants removed the action to this Court on the ground that the complaint stated federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On January 27, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff has not filed an opposition to that motion, choosing instead to file a motion to remand the case to state court on February 3, 2016, followed by a motion to amend the complaint on February 11, 2016. For the following reasons, plaintiff’s motions for remand and leave to file an amended complaint will be denied, and defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

The original complaint is relatively light on factual allegations. On July 20, 2015, Thomas Ramos entered a vacant property at 40 Lynnwood Street in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. (Compl. ¶ 5). According to the complaint, Ramos “did declare the property to be his possession and did so adversely to the owner.” (Id.). Approximately one month later, on August 17, 2015, the Dartmouth Police Department received a report of suspicious activity at the property and dispatched officers Jorge Silva, Victor Morency, and Scott Stanton to investigate. (Id. ¶ 6).

Upon arrival at the property, the three officers spoke with Ramos, who told them that he lived at and owned the property, which he said he had acquired from the Federal National Mortgage Association (“FNMA”). (Id. ¶¶ 7-8). The complaint alleges that the defendants then arrested Ramos. (Id. ¶ 9).

The proposed amended complaint asserts additional factual allegations. According to the amended complaint, after Ramos informed the officers that he had acquired the property in question, defendant Morency made a telephone call to Charles Roberts, using a speakerphone feature so that Ramos could hear the conversation. (Am. Compl. ¶ 12).[1] Roberts told Morency that he was familiar with Ramos from past dealings, and that Ramos had filed fraudulent “adverse possession” forms with the registry of deeds. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). The proposed amended complaint further alleges that Roberts instructed the officers to arrest Ramos and remove him from the property, which they did. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15). Following Ramos’s arrest, the officers entered the property without a warrant and seized some of his property there. (Id. at ¶ 17).

Ramos was charged with breaking and entering a building in the daytime with the intent to commit a felony in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 18B and destruction of property in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 127A. (Defs. Mem. Ex. A).[2] Ramos pleaded guilty to both counts at a pre-trial hearing on September 17, 2015. (Id.).

The original complaint appears to allege four causes of action in three counts against the three officers: Count One asserts a common-law claim for abuse of process; Count Two asserts a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress; and Count Three asserts claims for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I.

The proposed amended complaint would add two new defendants-the Charles Roberts Association, a Massachusetts corporation, and FNMA. The new defendants appear to be added to Ramos’s claims for abuse of process (Count One), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count Two), and the claim for civil rights violations under Massachusetts law (Count Three). In addition, the proposed amended complaint asserts two new causes of action. Count Four asserts a claim against new defendants Charles Roberts Association and FNMA only for “summary process violation[s]” under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 184, § 18. Count Five asserts a common-law claim for defamation against existing defendant Silva only.

II. Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand

A defendant may remove any civil action over which the federal district court has original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A district court's original jurisdiction extends, among other things, to claims that arise “under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Whether a claim “arises under” federal law generally depends on an evaluation of the “well-pleaded complaint.” Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). Here, Count Three of the complaint specifically asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 based on alleged violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. That claim, alone, is sufficient to establish a cause of action under federal law, and therefore to provide subject-matter jurisdiction. When an action includes both federal-law claims and state-law claims, the district court may exercise ...

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