Suffolk County Speedy Trial Violation Reinstated by Second Department - Plaintiff States Failure to

The Plaintiff, a former criminal defendant, states that the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office violated his constitutional rights to, inter alia, a speedy trial. When a state actor violates someone's constitutional rights, 42 U.S.C. 1983 is the vehicle of which those claims can be brought in state or federal court. Here, the Plaintiff elected to bring his claims in state court, Suffolk County Supreme Court. The claims were brought and the defendant (Suffolk County) moved to dismiss. The dismissal was granted. The Plaintiff "appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Suffolk County (Asher, J.), dated September 10, 2014, which granted the motion of the defendant County of Suffolk, in effect, pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss the complaint insofar as asserted against it."

The procedural posture is not one where discovery (the process of obtaining information, documents, records, etc.) has not been started. We find ourselves taking the Plaintiff's complaint alleging malicious prosecution and violation(s) of Plaintiff's speedy trial rights at face value:

However, the allegations of the complaint, which must be deemed true on this motion to dismiss (see Johnson v Kings County Dist. Attorney's Off., 308 AD2d 278, 284), are sufficient to state a cause of action to recover damages against the County pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 for violation of the plaintiff's constitutional right to a speedy trial. We reject the County's argument that it cannot be held liable pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 for the alleged misconduct of the office of the [*2]District Attorney. Where, as here, a complaint alleges a failure to train and supervise employees regarding legal obligations, "liability for the District Attorney's actions in his role as a manager of the District Attorney's office rests with the county" (Johnson v Kings County Dist. Attorney's Off., 308 AD2d at 295), and a claim pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 may therefore be maintained against the County for the conduct of the District Attorney's office insofar as the District Attorney acted as a County policymaker (see Ramos v City of New York, 285 AD2d 284, 303-304). Moreover, here, the complaint sufficiently alleges that the District Attorney's office failed to train and supervise its assistant district attorneys with respect to the constitutional speedy trial rights of the accused persons with whom they interacted, to the extent that they manifested deliberate indifference to those rights (see Canton v Harris, 489 US 378, 388; Johnson v Kings County Dist. Attorney's Off., 308 AD2d at 295-296; Ramos v City of New York, 285 AD2d at 304). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should not have granted that branch of the County's motion which was, in effect, pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(7) to dismiss the cause of action to recover damages pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 for violation of the plaintiff's constitutional right to a speedy trial insofar as asserted against it.

The Second Department says the claim survives. Although this might seem trivial, the impact of this decision is of great importance for criminal defendants in Suffolk County, New York, who routinely appear in Court on the basis of sworn allegations although the People simply are not ready for trial. Often times this happens in the domestic violence parts where, once arraigned, the People announce their readiness for trial yet the complaining witness never shows and eventually the criminal case is simply dismissed. It appears that there may be (yet to be determined) some recourse for these individuals.

The complaint sets forth enough facts that, taken as true, provides that the Plaintiff stated a claim against Suffolk County, New York, for failing to, inter alia, supervise or train its assistant district attorneys to respect the statutory (CPL 30.30) or constitutional civil rights of the accused. The case is Victor v. County of Suffolk, 2017 NY Slip Op 03796 (2d Dep't. May 10, 2017).

Should you find yourself accused of a crime or suffering a speedy trial violation, call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris (631-450-2515 | 954-998-2918).

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