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Lath v. City of Manchester

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

May 15, 2018

Sanjeev Lath
v.
City of Manchester, et al.

          Sanjeev Lath, pro se.

          Samantha Dowd Elliott, Esq. Robert J. Meagher, Esq. Sabin R. Maxwell, Esq.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          JOSEPH N. LAPLANTE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Sanjeev Lath alleges that two Manchester Police Department officers illegally entered his property when responding to a 911 call. Lath brings a federal claim against the City of Manchester under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights (Count 1), and state-law claims against the City for common-law trespass (Count 2) and negligent failure to preserve recordings of the 911 call (Count 3).[1] Lath also has state-law claims pending against Cynthia and Michael Camp.[2]

         In light of Lath's § 1983 claim, the court has subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question) and 1367 (supplemental jurisdiction). The City moves for judgment on the pleadings on Counts 1 and 3. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c).

         As the pleadings are not closed, the court construes the City's motion as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The court grants the motion as to Count 1, concluding that Lath has failed to allege that the officers' conduct was the result of a City policy or custom. As Count 1 is the only federal claim pending in this action, the court declines supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims against the City, and accordingly dismisses them without prejudice.

         The court declines to dismiss Lath's state-law claims against Cynthia and Michael Camp. With the City no longer a party, Lath has alleged facts in his First Amended Complaint that, when taken at face value, confer diversity jurisdiction over those claims. However, as the court has an independent obligation to ensure that there is a substantive basis for subject-matter jurisdiction, the court directs Lath show cause, within 30 days of the date of this Memorandum Order, that the amount in controversy between he and the Camps actually exceeds $75, 000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).

         I. Applicable legal standard

         Under Rule 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings “after the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay trial . . . .” For Rule 12(c) purposes, pleadings are “closed” once the defendant has filed its answer. Rezende v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 869 F.3d 40, 42 n. 3 (1st Cir. 2017) . As the City filed its present motion in lieu of filing an answer to Lath's First Amended Complaint, the pleadings are not closed with respect to Lath's claims against the City. The court accordingly interprets the City's motion as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). See Laura v. Great Lakes Higher Education Guar. Corp., 2018 DNH 023, 7 n. 17. This does not significantly alter the court's analysis, however, as “the two motions are ordinarily accorded much the same treatment . . . .” Aponte-Torres v. Univ. of Puerto Rico, 445 F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 2006).

         “A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain, ” among other things, “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy this requirement, a plaintiff must include “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Martinez v. Petrenko, 792 F.3d 173, 179 (1st Cir. 2015). In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts set forth in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., Martino v. Forward Air, Inc., 609 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2010). In light of Lath's pro se status, the court liberally construes his pleadings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam).

         II. Background[3]

         On November 22, 2015, Lath was entering his residence with his friend, Barbara Belware, when Cynthia Camp called 911 and falsely reported that Lath had kicked a door.[4] Two Manchester Police Department officers responded to the call.[5] The officers knocked on the door of Lath's unit.[6] As Lath opened the door, one of the officers stepped inside Lath's unit.[7] Lath asked the officer to leave his unit several times, but each time the officer refused.[8]

         While inside Lath's unit, the officer demanded that Lath remove his shoe and provide it to the officer.[9] In response, Lath asserted his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.[10] The officer informed Lath that he would break down Lath's door if he had to return with a warrant to seize Lath's shoe.[11]

         III. ...


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