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Romeo v. Israel

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 3, 2017

MARCI ANNE ROMEO, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT J. ISRAEL, as Sheriff of Broward County, and JEFF POOLE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          KENNETH A. MARRA United States District Judge

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon the Motion to Substitute Party Plaintiff and Motion to Amend Complaint [DE 95]. The motion is ripe for the Court's consideration. The Court has reviewed all papers submitted, the entire file, and is otherwise duly advised in the premises.

         Background Facts[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that in June, 2009, she and her ex-husband, Douglas L. Bates, were in an ongoing dispute over custody of their children. Bates, an attorney, and Scott Rothstein were involved in a Ponzi scheme for which they were eventually convicted and incarcerated. Prior to that, Rothstein told Bates that he could have Romeo arrested. Rothstein contacted David Benjamin, who was Defendant Jeff Poole's supervisor.

         Plaintiff was dropping her son off at summer camp when Poole pulled her over and arrested her. She was placed in a holding cell where Poole and another officer ordered her to face a wall and remove her clothes. The officers made inappropriate comments to her, leading her to believe that she would be sexually assaulted. Plaintiff was then ordered to put her clothes back on and threatened that if she ever said a word about what happened, the officers knew where they could find her and her daughter.

         Plaintiff was charged with various felonies, including possession of drugs without a prescription. The drugs were her autistic son's medication. The prosecution, which lasted nearly five months, resulted in the dismissal of all charges.

         Out of fear of being hurt, Plaintiff did not immediately reveal what happened to her until such time as independent corroborating evidence was revealed to her. Her fear caused her to move out of state and seek psychological counseling.

         A Pre-Suit Letter was served on the Broward County Sheriff's Office on June 21, 2012, [DE 1-3 at 2-3] and the instant case was commenced in June, 2013.

         In the federal criminal case brought against him in 2014, Benjamin admitted that he accepted money from Scott Rothstein and solicited Poole to arrest Plaintiff. [DE 50-1]. In his federal criminal case, Poole admitted that he accepted Benjamin's solicitation to arrest Plaintiff whether or not there was a valid basis to do so. Poole admitted that he illegally placed Plaintiff under arrest. [DE 50-2].

         Plaintiff's Bankruptcy Case[2]

         On August 13, 2009, a month and a half after her arrest, Plaintiff and her husband filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. See In re: Lawrence M. Flaster and Marcy A. Flaster, United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Florida, Case No. 09-26848-BKC-EPK, Docket Entry No. 1. On November 16, 2009, the Bankruptcy Court discharged the debtors and the Trustee, Michael R. Bakst.

         It is undisputed that Plaintiff answered “None” to the question on her Bankruptcy Petition which asked if she had “[o]ther contingent and unliquidated claims of every nature, including tax refunds, counterclaims of the debtor, and rights to setoff claims.” [DE 102-2 at 6].

         Plaintiff sent her pre-suit notice letter over 2 ½ years after the bankruptcy discharge, and commenced her lawsuit a year later, in June, 2013. In fall, 2016, the attorneys for the Broward County Sheriff's office notified the former Trustee, Mr. Bakst, that Plaintiff had filed this lawsuit. Upon Mr. Bakst's motion, the bankruptcy case was reopened on November 2, 2016.

         Positions ...


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