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Lewis v. Daine

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

December 18, 2019

Allan Lewis
Kyle Daine et al.

          Allan Lewis, pro se Charles P. Bauer, Esq. Christine Friedman, Esq.


          Landya McCafferty United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Allan Lewis, proceeding pro se, sues Rochester Police Officers Kyle Daine, Jacob Benjamin, and Dwayne Hatch, the City of Rochester (collectively “Rochester defendants”), the Strafford County Attorney's Office, and Strafford County Prosecutor Carol Chellman (collectively “Strafford County defendants”) for claims arising out of Lewis's arrest and criminal trial in state court. The Rochester defendants and the Strafford County defendants separately move to dismiss Lewis's respective claims against them. Doc. nos. 3, 10. Lewis objects only to the Strafford County defendants' motion. Doc. no. 5. For the following reasons, the court grants both motions to dismiss.[1]


         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. Foley v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 772 F.3d 63, 71, 75 (1st Cir. 2014). The court may also consider “documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, matters of public record, and other matters susceptible to judicial notice.” Giragosian v. Ryan, 547 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). Considering all these facts, the court must determine whether “plaintiff's complaint set[s] forth a plausible claim upon which relief may be granted.” Foley, 772 F.3d at 75 (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is facially plausible “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, 678 (2009).

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion, in addition to asserting that plaintiff fails to state a plausible claim, may be premised on the inevitable success of an affirmative defense, such as res judicata or a statute of limitations. See Blackstone Realty LLC v. F.D.I.C., 244 F.3d 193, 197 (1st Cir. 2001). “Dismissing a case under Rule 12(b)(6) on the basis of an affirmative defense requires that (i) the facts establishing the defense are definitively ascertainable from the complaint and the other allowable sources of information, and (ii) those facts suffice to establish the affirmative defense with certitude.” Nisselson v. Lernout, 469 F.3d 143, 150 (1st Cir. 2006).


         In March 2016, Officers Daine and Benjamin conducted a welfare check at Lewis's residence. The officers spoke with Lewis's live-in girlfriend, Lynn Labombard, who told them that she had had a verbal altercation with Lewis and that he had pushed her against a wall. Officer Hatch then arrested Lewis for domestic violence simple assault and a criminal complaint was filed against him. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § (“RSA”) 631:2-b, I. Subsequently, during a civil restraining order proceeding, Labombard testified under oath that Lewis did not hurt her during the March 2016 encounter and that she was not afraid of him.

         Lewis pleaded not guilty on the domestic violence simple assault charge and proceeded to trial in the 7th Circuit Court, District Division, in Rochester on May 25, 2016. Carol Chellman of the Strafford County Attorney's Office prosecuted the case. At trial, Labombard testified consistent with her statement during the restraining order proceeding: that Lewis did not hurt her and that she was not afraid of him. Officer Daine also testified and the court admitted his police report-containing Labombard's statement about Lewis pushing her-to contradict Labombard's in-court testimony. Officer Benjamin did not testify at trial. The Circuit Court found Lewis not guilty based on Labombard's testimony. Doc. no. 10-3.

         In April 2017, Lewis filed a civil suit in Strafford County Superior Court against the Rochester Police Department and the Strafford County Attorney's Office. Doc. no. 4-2 at 1-19. Lewis's 2017 suit alleged claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, libel, and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and failure of police to follow certain protocols regarding investigation of potential domestic violence. All these claims were based on the Rochester Police Department's and Strafford County Attorney's Office's conduct in arresting and prosecuting Lewis for the March 2016 domestic violence simple assault charge. Ultimately, the Superior Court granted the Strafford County Attorney's Office's motion to dismiss the claims against it and the Rochester Police Department's motion for summary judgment. Doc. nos. 4-2 at 21-23, 10-9. Lewis did not appeal either of those rulings.

         In 2018, Lewis filed another civil suit in Strafford County Superior Court, this time against the Rochester Police Commissioner, the Rochester Police Department, and Officers Daine and Hatch. Doc. no. 4-3 at 1-40. The claims in that suit also originated from the 2016 police investigation, Lewis's arrest, and the criminal trial. Lewis asserted claims of false arrest, libel, violation of his constitutional and civil rights, and failure of the police to follow certain protocols governing domestic violence investigations and requested that the court issue a declaratory judgment that Officer Daine's police report contained inadmissible hearsay. The Superior Court subsequently dismissed Lewis's 2018 action based on the doctrine of res judicata. The Superior Court reasoned that the 2017 suit barred the 2018 suit because it arose out of the same transaction or occurrence as the 2017 suit: Lewis's arrest for domestic violence simple assault, the resulting police reports, and the criminal trial resulting in his acquittal. Doc. no. 4-3 at 41-49. Lewis filed an appeal of this decision with the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which the Court dismissed as untimely filed. Id. at 50.

         Lewis filed this suit on June 6, 2019. He asserts claims arising out of the police investigation leading to his 2016 arrest for domestic violence simple assault, the police reports regarding that investigation, and the criminal trial of that charge resulting in his acquittal.


         Both sets of defendants move to dismiss all claims asserted against them, arguing, among other things, that the claims are barred by res judicata. To determine whether this action is precluded by the prior state court actions, this court must look to the law of res judicata in New Hampshire. See Dillon v. Select Portfolio Servs.,630 F.3d 75, 80 (1st Cir. 2011) (“Under federal law, a state court judgment receives the same preclusive effect as it would receive under the law of the state in which it was rendered.”). Under New Hampshire law, res judicata “precludes the litigation in a later case of matters actually decided, and matters that could have been litigated, in an earlier action between the same parties for the same cause of action.” Brooks v. Tr. of Dartmouth Coll., 161 N.H. 685, 690 (2011). Three elements must be met for res judicata to apply: “(1) the parties must be the same or in privity with one another; (2) the same cause of action must be ...

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