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Kristiansen v. Town of Kittery

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 26, 2019

TOWN OF KITTERY, et al., Defendants


          John H. Rich III, United States Magistrate Judge

         Arguing that the plaintiff's claims pursuant to Sections 1983 and 1985 of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, are barred by the relevant statute of limitations or, in the alternative, fail to state a claim, defendants Town of Kittery and Kittery Police Department (together, the “Kittery defendants”) move to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. See Defendants Town of Kittery and Kittery Police Department's Motion To Dismiss (“Motion”) (ECF No. 8).[1] On the showing made, I conclude that the Kittery defendants have demonstrated neither that the plaintiff's claims are time-barred, nor that her allegations are insufficient. However, I conclude that the Kittery Police Department is not a proper defendant. Consequently, I recommend the court grant the motion as to the Kittery Police Department and otherwise deny it.

         I. Applicable Legal Standards

         Regarding motions to dismiss the Supreme Court has stated:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal punctuation omitted). This standard requires the pleading of “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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, 678 (2009).

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court assumes the truth of all of the well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Román-Oliveras v. P.R. Elec. Power Auth., 655 F.3d 43, 45 (1st Cir. 2011). Ordinarily, in weighing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein, unless the motion is converted into one for summary judgment.” Alt. Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir. 2001). “There is, however, a narrow exception for documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         While a pro se plaintiff's complaint may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal standard[, ]” Young v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013), it is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). But see Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (explaining that the liberal standard applied to the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “is not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim”).

         II. Factual Background

         The complaint sets forth the following relevant factual allegations.[2] On April 25, 1977, when she was 13 years old, the plaintiff was raped by a 31-year-old man who was a resident of Kittery, Maine. Complaint for a Civil Suit (“Complaint”) (ECF No. 1) at 5. Following the rape, the assailant continued to stalk and harass the plaintiff. Id. The defendant Ronald Avery, Youth Services Officer, Kittery Police Department, interviewed the assailant on March 24, 1978. Id. at 5-6. During that interview, the assailant admitted to engaging in a sexual relationship with the plaintiff. Id. Later that day, defendant Gary D. Finley, Lieutenant, Kittery Police Department, took a written confession from the assailant, which was also witnessed by defendant Edward F. Strong, then Sergeant and later Chief, Kittery Police Department. Id. at 6. The assailant's confession was not forwarded to the York County District Attorney. Id. The defendant Kittery Police Department, along with its employees, defendants Avery, Finley, and Strong, withheld the assailant's confession from the plaintiff until 2011. Id. The defendants failed to collect any testimonial evidence from her. Id. at 7.

         Four days after securing the assailant's confession, the defendants orchestrated a “youth meeting, ” held by defendant Avery, during which the plaintiff had to confront her alleged rapist even though the defendants knew that he had confessed to having a criminal sexual relationship with her, and that he had a “temper, ” “behavioral problems, ” and a “criminal record.” Id.

         Following his release by the defendants, the alleged assailant continued to stalk the plaintiff. Id. at 8. In 2002, the plaintiff contacted the defendants, this time defendant Steve Hamel, Detective, Kittery Police Department, to report the 1977 rape again. Id. at 7. Defendant Hamel told the plaintiff that he would “look into the matter, ” but he did not respond to any of her attempts to contact him after that, until 2011. Id. at 7, 8. In the intervening years, the plaintiff was able to secure a state-court order of protection against the assailant. Id. at 8. In 2011, the plaintiff again contacted the Kittery Police Department, and defendant Hamel requested that she produce a written statement and make of video recording of her testimony. Id. Despite this additional evidence, defendant Hamel ignored it and sent only the previously-collected evidence from defendant Avery's 1978 investigation to the York County District Attorney. Id. The plaintiff alleges that defendant Hamel “put [her] through all the emotional turmoil of reliving the rape . . . and assured [her] it was a good case” only to withhold her testimony from the prosecutor. Id. at 8-9.

         III. Discussion

         A. Statute ...

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