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SIMPSON v. SAROFF

June 20, 1990

WALLIE COOPER SIMPSON AND THE LOWER EAST SIDE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SCHOOL, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEW YORK CITY POLICE SERGEANT STEVEN SAROFF, BADGE NO. 1155, TWO UNIDENTIFIED PLAINCLOTHES NEW YORK CITY POLICE OFFICERS, FOUR UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORK CITY UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICERS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, District Judge.

OPINION

Defendant Steven Saroff ("Saroff") has moved pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment or in the alternative, partial summary judgment to dismiss the claims of either plaintiff Wallie Cooper Simpson ("Simpson") or plaintiff Lower East Side International Community School, Inc. ("LESICS") separately. For the reasons set forth below the motion is denied.

Parties

Simpson is the principal and director of LESICS which, prior to its eviction, operated out of a building at 203 Rivington Street in the borough of Manhattan.

Saroff is a sergeant in the New York City Police Department and assigned to the 7th Precinct located at 19 1/2 Pitt Street in Manhattan. He is presently and was on November 6, 1987 a Patrol Supervisor, which involves supervising police officers and also responding to serious crimes.

Prior Proceedings

Simpson commenced this action on May 27, 1988 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Simpson was falsely arrested and imprisoned, assaulted and illegally searched and that Saroff violated LESICS' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable governmental intrusions. Saroff moved for summary judgment urging dismissal of all claims on the grounds that Saroff had probable cause to arrest Simpson for obstruction of governmental administration and that undisputed material facts indicate that the police in arresting Simpson did not use excessive force and that LESICS had no reasonable expectation of privacy because of its holdover tenant status. The motion was heard and submitted on February 16, 1990.

Facts

A.  The Events of November 6, 1987

The following facts are uncontroverted:

On November 6, 1987, Saroff responded to a radio call which required his presence at a public school located at 100 Attorney Street. Upon arrival, Saroff entered the school and was informed by a police officer who had preceded Saroff's arrival, that two of the public school students had been beaten and another child had been robbed, apparently by students from a nearby private school. Those three children, as well as the principal of the public school, an aide to the principal and the father of two of the children, Reverend Rodriquez ("Rodriguez"), were present in the kitchen area of the public school. After arrival, Rodriguez asked Saroff if he would accompany them to talk with the principal, Simpson, of the private school, LESICS. Saroff instructed two of the officers to attempt to locate the mother of the one child who was robbed and on the way to the school Saroff learned that the officers were unable to locate the mother.

Upon arrival at the door of LESICS, the police officers rang the school's bell and Simpson and another woman opened the door. At that time there were seven police officers, including two plainclothes officers,*fn1 standing in front of the school building, along with the group of civilians.

What follows is disputed. According to Saroff, Simpson asked what the problem was, and Saroff told Simpson that students from LESICS had been accused of assaulting and robbing students from the public school. Simpson then expressed annoyance at the civilians for involving the police and questioned the culpability of her students. She indicated to Saroff that she wanted to call her lawyers, and she instructed an assistant to do so. While a call was being placed to the lawyer, Simpson remained in the doorway, and Saroff remained on the steps in front of the door. Saroff maintains that he asked whether the police, the principal, and Rodriguez could enter to speak with Simpson. Simpson refused. Simpson and the Reverend allegedly engaged in a heated discussion about Rodriguez's children. While waiting in the doorway for the call to the attorney, Simpson, according to Saroff said, in effect, "Why don't you people come in and we'll talk." Saroff claims to have understood her to mean that everyone should come in, both the civilians and the officers. Rodriguez, his two children, the public school aide, the other child and the public school principal started to walk into LESICS. As the civilians entered LESICS, Saroff told the two plainclothes officers to accompany them. Saroff intended to wait outside on the steps until the attorney called back.

When the plainclothes officers attempted to follow the civilians in, Simpson allegedly blocked the doorway with her body and grasped each side of the door with her hands. At this point Saroff allegedly told Simpson that he had brought the civilians to LESICS and that he wanted the two plainclothes officers to be with the civilians while they were inside the building. Simpson said "No" and Saroff allegedly told her that he wanted the civilians out of the school to which Simpson again replied, "No." Although Saroff allegedly was unable to see the ...


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