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DOE v. MORGENTHAU

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


November 8, 1994

JOHN DOE, held as HAROLD ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT MORGENTHAU, et al., Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: VINCENT L. BRODERICK

MEMORANDUM ORDER

 VINCENT L. BRODERICK, U.S.D.J.

 I

 This case was brought by a prisoner alleging that thirty-two city and state officers, in their individual and official capacities, violated a variety of plaintiff's civil, statutory and constitutional rights in connection with his arrest on December 11, 1985 and subsequent detention. The complaint sought compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief.

 By orders which adopted the Reports and Recommendations of United States Magistrate Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dated June 27, 1990, January 9, 1991, May 5, 1992 and March 24, 1994, I dismissed all claims except those related to plaintiff's allegation that he was denied prompt medical treatment immediately after his arrest. *fn1"

 Plaintiff has moved for reconsideration of the dismissed claims. I adhere to the orders of dismissal: only the claim of denial of access to the courts of New York concerning plaintiff's extradition to Massachusetts merits further discussion. See Doe v. Morgenthau, 1994 WL 62140, 1994 US Dist LEXIS 1911 (SDNY Feb 15, 1994).

 As to the delayed medical treatment claim, I direct the parties to make further submissions as outlined below. *fn2"

 II

 Plaintiff was indicted on October 17, 1984 for grand larceny in the second degree and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree. On July 11, 1985 this indictment was succeeded by an indictment charging plaintiff and five other individuals with conspiracy in the fifth degree, grand larceny in the second degree, criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, and scheme to defraud in the first degree.

 Following the indictment of October 17, 1984, plaintiff, who had been released on bail, caused an imposter take his place at all scheduled court appearances. Upon discovering this fraud, the state moved to rearrest the plaintiff. On December 11, 1985, when detectives arrived at plaintiff's apartment, plaintiff kicked an air conditioning unit out of a window and, in an attempt to escape, suffered a fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot. There is no evidence that the officers inflicted plaintiff's injury. Following his arrest, plaintiff refused to identify himself to police by any name other than John Doe, a position continued as reflected in the caption of this lawsuit. Fingerprint records revealed his identity as Harold Jones, also known as Harold Adams.

 Medical treatment for the plaintiff was not provided until plaintiff's arraignment on December 12. Plaintiff was given medical treatment on December 12 at Rikers Island Health Services, and on December 13 at Bellevue Hospital, and was given further treatment on December 25, 1985; February 9, 1986; February 11, 1986; February 17, 1986; February 19, 1986; and February 21, 1986. From February 27, 1986 through March 6, 1987, plaintiff was seen at the Rikers Island Medical Clinic more than two hundred times, almost exclusively for the treatment of his foot.

 While the New York charges were pending against the plaintiff, the Manhattan District Attorney received information that plaintiff was a convicted murderer in Massachusetts wanted for escape. In February 1986 Massachusetts officials sought plaintiff's extradition. In May 1987 plaintiff was extradited to Massachusetts to serve the remainder of his life sentence. As a result of the extradition, New York charges against him were dismissed.

 III

 Plaintiff alleges he was denied a constitutional right to challenge the extradition in the courts of New York because he was sent to the receiving state and lost the opportunity to pursue the issues further in New York.

 Access to the courts is a vital safeguard against oppression, public or private. As such, it is protected by the Due Process Clauses of the Constitution of the United States. Bates v. Arizona, 433 US 350, 376 n 32, 53 L. Ed. 2d 810, 97 S. Ct. 2691 (1977); Bounds v. Smith, 430 US 817, 821, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72, 97 S. Ct. 1491 (1977); United States v. Local 6A, 832 F Supp 674 (SDNY 1993); see United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 US 144, 152-3 n 4, 82 L. Ed. 1234, 58 S. Ct. 778 (1938); Dowling, "The Methods of Mr. Justice Stone in Constitutional Cases," 41 Colum L Rev 1160 (1941); see also Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg, 114 SC 2331, 129 L Ed 336 (June 24, 1994) (denial of judicial review of amount of punitive damage awards violates the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause).

 While access to the courts, like other constitutionally guaranteed rights, cannot be defeated by resort to inadequate or insupportable procedural barriers, Staub v. City of Baxley, 355 US 313, 2 L. Ed. 2d 302, 78 S. Ct. 277 (1958); Felder v. Casey, 487 US 131, 101 L. Ed. 2d 123, 108 S. Ct. 2302 (1988); see Thomas v. Yonkers Police Dept, 147 FRD 77, 79-80 (SDNY 1993), procedural limitations are necessary to the functioning of any system of justice. They may serve to avoid repetitive arguments concerning the same claim in every available forum. A person may seek to stay extradition in various ways: by establishing some deficiency in the grounds for extradition; or by showing abuse of the procedure or the existence of special circumstances. Absent such a showing, stays are denied. See Matter of Extradition of Hamilton-Byrne, 831 F Supp 287 (SDNY 1993).

 Unless a stay is obtained, contentions available to an extraditee must be raised in the jurisdiction to which the person is sent. Inability to argue extradition issues in the extraditing jurisdiction does not deny access to the courts; access may then be had to the courts of the requesting state.

 Here, plaintiff had a right to access to the courts of New York to request whatever relief those courts under their procedures provided. This does not mean that New York was required to afford an opportunity to litigate the merits of an extradition request absent an application for and grant of a stay, provided that the plaintiff was able to contest the propriety of his imprisonment in the requesting jurisdiction.

 Moreover, where, as here, an extraditee has not shown that his extradition was improper, any denial of a particular forum would be harmless and hence no grounds for subsequent relief. United States v. Olano, 113 S Ct 1770, 123 L Ed 2d 508 (1993); Brecht v. Abrahamson, 113 S Ct 1710, 123 L Ed 2d 353 (1993); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 61; 28 USC § 2111.

 Petitioner has provided no evidence that he applied for a stay of his extradition or that he was prevented from making such an application. His claim that he was denied his right to challenge extradition in the courts of New York is accordingly without merit.

 IV

 The only claim which has survived summary judgment is plaintiff's allegation that prior to arrest he had suffered a fracture of the fourth metatarsal bone in his right foot, but that he did not receive medical attention until 28 hours after arrest. (Report and Recommendation of March 24, 1994, p.18). The proper disposition of that claim remains open for further examination.

 I direct plaintiff to provide sufficient evidence to establish that there is a genuine material issue with respect to the existence of facts suggesting that claim. I direct defendants to furnish any information relevant to that issue, including the material which Magistrate Judge Buchwald has indicated was lacking in the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Report and Recommendation of March 24, 1994, p.18). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 US 317, 326, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Jacobson v. Cohen, 151 FRD 526 (SDNY 1993).

 In providing this information, the parties should take into consideration that prisoners have a constitutional right to appropriate medical attention, and that deliberate or reckless disregard of such a right constitutes a violation of 42 USC 1983. See generally Farmer v. Brennan, 114 S Ct 1970, 128 L Ed 2d 811 (1994); Dwares v. City of New York, 985 F.2d 94, 98 (2d Cir. 1993).

 As pointed out by the Magistrate Judge, numerous problems existed at the time plaintiff was arrested affecting the facilities at which plaintiff was held. Depending on the circumstances, the existence of these problems may or may not support inferences that any of the defendants did or did not disregard constitutional rights of the plaintiff.

 Defendants' actions may or may not have been reasonable under the circumstances. There is no automatic violation of the plaintiff's constitutional rights merely because plaintiff was not given medical attention immediately after the injury. For example, defendants may have lacked information necessary to act; they may have done the best they could under difficult circumstances; they may have confronted an emergency situation making it impossible to do everything that could and should have been done in other circumstances. They may have believed (correctly or otherwise) that the particular injury involved required attention but not on an emergency basis. New York v. Quarles, 467 US 649, 657-58, 81 L. Ed. 2d 550, 104 S. Ct. 2626 (1984); Howard v. Garvin, 844 F Supp 173 (SDNY 1994).

 Depending on the circumstances surrounding the defendants' actions, there may or may not be a genuine issue of material fact as tested under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. *fn3" The presence, absence, or extent of harm caused to plaintiff by the delay at issue may or may not be relevant to these questions.

 V

 Victims of crimes constituting intentional torts are entitled to sue for damages. Restatement Second of Torts § 870 (1989). Plaintiff's recovery, if any, in this federal civil rights suit might be subject to claims by the victims of plaintiff's crimes.

 Based on the plaintiff's lack of obvious assets, it is unlikely that in normal course the victims of the plaintiff's crimes would have incurred the cost of bringing an action against him only to have the judgment go unsatisfied. Such victims could, or course, obtain a judgment against him and continuously renew it until the plaintiff has money to satisfy it. It is unlikely, however, that the victims would take such action unless they knew of plaintiff's potential to improve his financial condition.

 It would be incongruous to permit a person who perpetrated a crime to obtain money as a result of events connected with that person's arrest, without having to pay for any harm caused to those injured by reason of the crime or other tortious acts committed by the perpetrator. Such a one-sided result would run counter to the "sober second thought of the community, which is the firm base on which all law must ultimately rest," Stone, "The Common Law in the United States", 50 Harv.L.Rev. 4, 25 (Nov. 1936). In such a situation "the law itself is on trial, quite as much as the case to be decided," Id. at 10.

 Defendants here, acting as representatives of the People, as they do in New York as indicated by the caption of state criminal cases, are directed to notify any locatable victims of crimes allegedly committed by plaintiff (in any jurisdiction) of this lawsuit, so as to allow them to bring a civil action to recover any losses incurred as a result of plaintiff's criminal conduct.

 Should such victims be unidentifiable or impossible to locate, the defendants here may wish to consider asserting a claim on behalf of these victims. *fn4" Claims by those defendants who represent the People, including crime victims, on behalf of such victims may properly be regarded as in the nature of counterclaims. Any claim by defendants on behalf of plaintiff's victims would be an offset to plaintiff's claims against the People and could be asserted as of right. *fn5" See United States v. Shaw, 309 US 495, 84 L. Ed. 888, 60 S. Ct. 659 (1940); United States v. Medlin, 767 F.2d 1104, 1107 (5th Cir 1985); United States v. Longo, 464 F.2d 913 (8th Cir 1972); FLSIC v. Quinn, 419 F.2d 1014 (7th Cir 1969); Fed.R.Civ.P. 13.

 SO ORDERED.

 Dated: White Plains, New York

 November 8, 1994

 /s/

 VINCENT L. BRODERICK, U.S.D.J.


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