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WILSON v. DE BRUYN

April 28, 1986

JAMES D. WILSON, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
H. CHRISTIAN DE BRUYN, Superintendent, Monroe County Jail; ANDREW P. EMONI, Sheriff, Monroe County; MR. WILLIAM MC MAHON, Chairman, New York State Commission of Correction; ROBERT ABRAMS, Attorney General, State of New York, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TELESCA

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, USDJ, WDNY

DECISION AND ORDER

In this civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, James D. Wilson seeks to represent a class of all pre-trial detainees at the Monroe County Jail who have been denied permission to appear at pre-trial hearings in their civilian clothing. He contends that this practice deprives him of numerous federal and state constitutional rights, including his rights to due process of law, equal protection, and freedom of expression. His principal contention is that his appearance in a jail-issued jumpsuit weakens his constitutional presumption of innocence and undermines the fairness of the fact finding process, because of its prejudicial influence on the judge, witnesses, complainants, the defendant himself, and the public at large. Plaintiff also seeks to represent a "subclass" of detainees who were unconstitutionally deprived of their liberty when they were forced to return to the Jail while still in their jumpsuits to pick up their civilian clothing after charges against them were dismissed. Wilson now moves this Court for a judgment declaring defendants' actions unconstitutional, and a preliminary injunction enjoining them from requiring pre-trial detainees to wear these jumpsuits to any further court appearances.

 BACKGROUND

 Following a jury trial in late 1982, James D. Wilson was found guilty of robbery in the first and second degree and grand larceny in the second degree, in connection with an armed robbery which occurred on September 12, 1981. On January 29, 1985, the judgment of conviction was reversed and a new trial ordered by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. People v. Wilson, 106 AD2d 146, 484 N.Y.S.2d 733 (4th Dept. 1985), leave to appeal denied, 65 N.Y.2d 702 (1985). Wilson was returned to the Monroe County Jail three weeks later, where he remains pending his upcoming retrial.

 Between February 22 and August 9, 1985, Wilson appeared 13 times in Rochester City Court. On each occasion, Wilson was required to appear in a standard jumpsuit issued by the Monroe County Jail, despite his repeated requests to jail officials for permission to wear his personal clothing. The Monroe County defendants concede that it is the policy of the Monroe County Jail to require inmates to attend many pre-trial proceedings in jail clothing, ostensibly to make them more easily identified and thereby reduce the risk of escape (Affidavit of Major Edward Blodgett).

 Although Wilson's requests to wear his own clothing to court appearances were denied by officials at the Monroe County Jail, he does not allege that he ever attempted to obtain an order granting him such permission from any Rochester City Court judge. Nevertheless, on September 19, 1985, five of the six judges of the City Court of Rochester signed a letter addressed to Sheriff Meloni, requesting that "all unsentenced prisoners, henceforth, be brought to our courts in their own clothing" (Plaintiff's Exhibit F). Wilson alleges that the Sheriff's Department has refused to honor this request, although it does not appear from the record that he has ever sought to obtain an order to that effect in his own case, nor that he personally has ever appeared in City Court at any time since that letter was signed.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standing

 Before turning to the question of whether this Court must abstain from exercising jurisdiction over Wilson's main claim, I am first obliged to inquire whether he has standing, as a matter of the case or controversy requirement associated with Article III of the Constitution, to seek the injunctive relief he requests from this Court. Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 331, 51 L. Ed. 2d 376, 97 S. Ct. 1211 (1977). Wilson maintains that pending pre-trial activity threatens his right to a fair trial, and also seeks to assert a collateral claim on behalf of another class of individuals to which he does not belong, just as he did in Wilson v. Uttaro, 623 F. Supp. 1158 (W.D.N.Y. 1985), appeal dismissed, Docket No. 86-2017 (2d Cir. March 27, 1986).

 According to his complaint (P 9), Wilson brings his central claims on behalf of the purported class of unconvicted defendants presently detained in the Monroe County Jail "who desire in the future to wear civilian clothing at all court appearances." He also seeks to represent a separate "subclass" of plaintiffs, which includes only those pre-trial detainees who have been released following the dismissal of all charges against them by a judge, but were required to return to the Jail to pick up their own clothing (P 10). It is self-evident that the latter group is not a "subclass" at all, but is rather a mutually exclusive class of individuals, which by definition cannot include any members of the main class. It is equally clear that Wilson himself is not even a member of the purported subclass, since the charges against him have not been dismissed, and so he has never been put to the inconvenience of returning to the Jail merely to pick up his civilian clothing.

 Moreover, Wilson does not allege that he is likely to be released before trial. In view of the reasons for his present incarceration, that likelihood would appear to be rather remote, since the evidence against him was already deemed sufficient to proceed to trial once, and the Appellate Division reversed his conviction and granted him a new trial. A plaintiff has no standing to request "injunctive relief directed at certain system-wide law enforcement practices" where, as here, there appears to be no "specific threat of being subject to the challenged practices." Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 3330, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1984), rehearing denied, 468 U.S. 1250, 105 S. Ct. 51, 82 L. Ed. 2d 942, 105 S. Ct. 52 (1984).

 Wilson submits in his complaint that the temporary deprivation of liberty to those who have been released and must return to the Jail is the result of the same underlying jumpsuit policy that threatens his right to a fair trial. Consequently, he reasons, he may adequately represent the class, in satisfaction of the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a)(4). I do not reach that question, since Wilson is not even a member of the putative subclass. Accordingly, all of his claims allegedly on behalf of those who were forced to return to the Jail after being released (Claims 6, 7, 8 and 9 of the complaint) are barred by ...


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