United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
JASON T. BROWN,
CHELSEA POLICE DEPARTMENT
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jason T. Brown (Brown) filed the instant action against the
Chelsea Police Department (CPD) alleging that at his criminal
trial, Officer Walczak (Walczak) testified and made several
perjured statements against him.
19, 2016, Magistrate Judge Dein issued a Memorandum and Order
(Dkt. # 4) directing Brown to demonstrate good cause why this
action should not be dismissed in its entirety because Brown
failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
based on violations of federal criminal statutes, and failed
to state cognizable civil rights claims because the CPD was
not a suable entity and because there was no respondeat
superior liability of the CPD under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for alleged wrongful actions of its employees. Further,
the Memorandum and Order noted that Walczak was entitled to
absolute immunity for statements made in the course of
Brown's criminal trial.
August 23, 2016, Brown filed a Show Cause Response (Dkt. #
7). Brown contends that the CPD should be held liable under
§ 1983 because it is responsible for its municipal
employees, and because municipalities may be held responsible
for a single decision made by a policymaker or enforcer,
citing, inter alia, Monell v. New York City
Dep't of Social Services , 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978).
He further claims that the CPD established a special
relationship with him by virtue of its charging and booking,
its failure to release camera footage of his booking, and its
awareness of the potential harm to him by being found guilty
of a crime he did not commit. Moreover, Brown argues that the
CPD, as a policymaker, is responsible for the actions of
Walczak because he wears a CPD uniform and represents the
CPD. Brown maintains that the CPD can be sued, but requests
that if the court determines the CPD is not a suable entity,
then he seeks leave to amend the Complaint and substitute the
City of Chelsea instead.
with respect to claims against Walczak, Brown contends that
absolute immunity for his statements at trial does not apply
because immunity only applies to officers action in the scope
of his or her duties, citing to Bivens v. Six Unknown
Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).
August 31, 2016, this action was reassigned to this court for
Court does not find Brown's Show Cause Response to have
demonstrated sufficiently a basis for claims against the CPD
or Walczak. First, with respect to Walczak, Brown's
reliance on Bivens is misplaced. As discussed in
detail in the prior Memorandum and Order, Walczak is entitled
to absolute immunity for his testimony in Brown's
criminal trial. It is beyond peradventure that a police
officer's testimony in connection with criminal charges
is within the scope of employment. Moreover, as noted,
Supreme Court case law makes clear that this immunity applies
even where the police officer is alleged to have committed
perjury. Accordingly, all claims against Walczak are
DISMISSED with prejudice.
with respect to the claims against the CPD, Brown's
allegations that respondeat superior liability
applies to § 1983 claims belies established law.
Moreover, Brown has not demonstrated that the CPD is a suable
entity. Therefore, all of Brown's claims against the CPD
are DISMISSED with prejudice.
even assuming this court permitted Brown to amend his
Complaint to substitute the City of Chelsea for the CPD, his
assertion of municipal liability does not, in this form,
state a plausible claim upon which relief may be granted.
Brown has not set forth any underlying factual basis that the
City of Chelsea's “policy or custom, whether made
by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly
be said to represent official policy” inflicted an
injury for which the City is liable under § 1983.
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. This “official
policy” requirement “was intended to distinguish
acts of the municipality from acts of
employees of the municipality, and thereby make
clear that municipal liability is limited to actions for
which the municipality is actually responsible.”
Id. (italics in original).
order to state a claim for municipal liability of the City of
Chelsea, Brown must set forth facts that describe the
government policy and show that the execution of the
governmental policy caused the constitutional injury. This
can be done by showing that there was an” explicit
setting of a policy by the government” or by an
“action of a policymaker within the government, ”
or by “the adoption by a knowing failure to act by a
policymaker of actions by his subordinates that are so
consistent that they have become ‘custom, '”
or by “the failure of the government to respond to a
need (for example, the training of employees) in such a
manner as to show ‘deliberate indifference' to the
risk that not addressing the need will result in
constitutional violations.” Baker v. District of
Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2003); see
Young v. City of Providence, 404 F.3d 4, 25-26 (1st Cir.
2005). With respect to a governmental practice that
constitutes custom or usage, “a plaintiff must show
that the duration and frequency of the custom or practice is
so well-settled and widespread so that the policymakers of
the municipality can be considered to have had actual or
constructive knowledge of the practice. Bordanaro v.
McLeod, 871 F.2d 1151, 1156 (1st Cir. 1989). A custom
cannot be proven by a single incident alone. See City of
Oklahoma v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-24 (1985).
since Brown has alleged only generalized and conclusory
allegations against the City of Chelsea, he will be afforded
an opportunity to set forth his claims in an Amended
this action will be DISMISSED unless Brown files an
Amended Complaint, within 35 days of the date of this
Memorandum and Order, setting forth plausible claim(s) upon
which relief may be granted against the City of Chelsea. Such
claim(s) shall comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of