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JOHNSON v. CITY OF NEW YORK

September 24, 1996

STEVEN M. JOHNSON and REBECCA GUZMAN JOHNSON, Plaintiffs, against THE CITY OF NEW YORK, RAYMOND W. KELLY, Individually and as POLICE COMMISSIONER, CITY OF NEW YORK, POLICE OFFICER WORKMEIZTER, Individually and as a Police Officer 109th Precinct; POLICE OFFICER POLIS, Individually and as a Police Officer 109th Precinct, Queens, New York; and SERGEANT ORDONEZ, Shield No. 3307, Individually and as a Police Officer, 109th Precinct, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

 Sweet, D.J.

 In this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") and New York State law, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed. R. Civ. P. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 Parties

 Plaintiff Steven M. Johnson ("Johnson") is a United States citizen residing in North Kansas City, Missouri. Plaintiff Rebecca Guzman Johnson is Johnson's wife; she is also a United States citizen residing in North Kansas City, Missouri.

 Defendant City of New York (the "City") is a municipal corporation that operates the New York City Police Department. Defendant former Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly ("Kelly"), was at all relevant times acting Police Commissioner of the City of New York.

 Defendants Dorothy Werkmeister ("Werkmeister") and John Polis ("Polis") (collectively, the "Officers") are New York City Police Officers. Defendant Sergeant Julio Ordonez ("Ordonez") is a sergeant in the New York City Police Department, and was acting Sergeant of the 109th Precinct, Flushing, New York, at all relevant times.

 Johnson filed the Complaint in this action on October 21, 1993. The Complaint alleges that, in violation of Section 1983 and New York State tort law, Polis and Werkmeister arrested and detained Johnson without probable cause, Polis used excessive force against Johnson while he was in custody, and Ordonez improperly allowed Johnson to be detained after he was brought to the 109th Precinct. The Complaint includes a Section 1983 claim against the City and Kelly, alleging that a municipal policy caused the deprivation of Johnson's constitutional rights. Finally, the Complaint includes a Section 1983 claim by Rebecca Guzman Johnson for deprivation of her constitutional rights.

 On May 21, 1996, Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that: (1) Johnson's false arrest and malicious prosecution claims, brought pursuant to Section 1983 and state tort law, should be dismissed because there was probable cause to arrest him, and there was no post-arraignment deprivation of liberty; (2) Johnson's excessive force claim, also brought pursuant to Section 1983 and state tort law, should be dismissed because the minimal force used against plaintiff in handcuffing him was reasonable; (3) the Officers are entitled to qualified immunity because it was objectively reasonable for Werkmeister, Polis and Ordonez to believe that there was probable cause for the arrest of the Plaintiff, and it was objectively reasonable for Polis to believe that the force used in handcuffing Plaintiff was reasonable and did not violate Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights; (4) Rebecca Guzman Johnson's claims should be dismissed because she had no involvement in the incident; and (5) the claims against the City and Kelly should be dismissed because there is no evidence that a municipal policy caused the alleged constitutional deprivation of Johnson's rights.

 Plaintiffs have since conceded that there is no evidence that a municipal policy caused the alleged constitutional deprivation of Johnson's rights, and that the claims against the City and the Police Commissioner should therefore be dismissed. Oral argument on Defendants' motion was heard on June 5, 1996, at which time the motion was considered fully submitted.

 Facts

 On July 24, 1992, Johnson was driving alone northbound along 123rd Street in Queens, New York. At approximately 7:30 p.m., he was stopped by Officers Polis and Werkmeister for blaring his horn at the Officers. He was issued a summons for horn use other than danger. *fn1"

 After stopping Johnson, Werkmeister asked him for his license, registration and insurance cards. Werkmeister radioed the dispatcher and provided the dispatcher with Plaintiff's name, race and date of birth as listed on his license and other documents. The dispatcher informed Werkmeister that there was an outstanding bench warrant for a Steven Johnson, and told Werkmeister the height and weight of the subject of the warrant -- 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 170 pounds. The Plaintiff Johnson is a light-skinned black male who stands 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 145-150 pounds.

 The Officers determined that Johnson roughly fit the description of the suspect identified in the warrant, and radioed for a back-up unit. Werkmeister advised Johnson that he was under arrest. Officer Polis handcuffed Johnson with his hands behind his back. Johnson was then driven to the 109th Precinct by Werkmeister and Polis.

 The warrant pursuant to which Plaintiff was arrested identified "Steven Johnson," with no middle initial, a black male, 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, with dark eyes and dark hair, who resides at 1035 Clarkson Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The Plaintiff Johnson is a light-skinned black male with light brown hair and hazel eyes, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, 145-150 pounds who resides at 1451 NE Wooded Path, Apt. 101, N. Kansas City, Missouri.

 Upon arriving at the Precinct, Johnson was taken before the desk officer, Sergeant Ordonez. Werkmeister and Polis told Ordonez that Johnson was arrested pursuant to an outstanding warrant. Johnson protested to Ordonez that he was not the person identified in the warrant, but Ordonez was not provided with Johnson's license, registration and insurance card.

 Johnson was placed in a cell at the precinct and remained handcuffed while he was in the cell. Although Johnson informed Polis that the handcuffs were too tight and were causing him injury, the handcuffs were not removed or loosened. At some point, Johnson was front-cuffed.

 At approximately 10:10 p.m., Johnson was transported from 109th Precinct to Brooklyn Central Booking. Johnson remained front-cuffed after he was removed from the cell and transported to Brooklyn Central Booking. Johnson remained ...


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