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SMYLIS v. CITY OF NEW YORK

November 7, 1997

JOHN SMYLIS, Plaintiff, against THE CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KAPLAN

 LEWIS A. KAPLAN, District Judge.

 The fundamental dispute between the parties is whether the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York acted inappropriately under state law in failing to afford plaintiff, a City employee who already has pleaded guilty to departmental charges in connection with the underlying incidents, with a defense against charges that he violated the civil rights of inmates under his supervision. This has not stopped plaintiff from invoking the very civil rights laws under which he has been sued by the inmates against the Corporation Counsel in an effort to make a federal case out of this straightforward issue of New York municipal law. The defendants move to dismiss the complaint.

 Facts

 The Underlying Events

 In June 1994, plaintiff was an assistant deputy warden employed by the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC") and assigned to the Bronx House of Detention for Men. On June 7 of that year, two incidents occurred at that facility involving the use of force against inmates. The incidents were investigated, and plaintiff was interrogated. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff pleaded guilty to departmental charges in connection with these events and was disciplined, although the complaint does not indicate the nature of the discipline.

 The two use of force incidents resulted in Section 1983 actions by the inmates, each of which named plaintiff as a defendant. In due course, the Corporation Counsel declined to represent plaintiff in the actions brought by the inmates. This action followed.

 As indicated, the gravamen of this action is the Corporation Counsel's refusal to provide a defense to the plaintiff in the inmate actions. Nevertheless, plaintiff has filed a ten count complaint which in significant measure is a pastiche of phrases gleaned from Section 1983 decisions without much regard for whether they pertain to the particular matters to which the complaint would apply them.

 The first three claims for relief allege that the defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 75 of the New York Civil Service Law "with deliberate indifference" by failing to provide adequate training and supervision to various persons involved in the investigation of the use of force incidents, thus improperly subjecting plaintiff to disciplinary action and denying him a defense and indemnification in the inmate actions.

 The fourth claim for relief alleges that the defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the First, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 75 of the New York Civil Service Law by failing to interview plaintiff before initiating disciplinary charges against him, as allegedly was required by a mayoral executive order. *fn1" It is difficult to know what to make of this allegation in view of plaintiff's other allegations that (1) he was interrogated for three days in the period June 14 through 17, 1994, and (2) entered into a negotiated plea agreement, albeit one which he claims was coerced. *fn2" In any case, plaintiff again contends that this alleged violation of his rights resulted in his being subjected improperly to disciplinary action and to the denial of a defense and indemnification in the inmate actions.

 The fifth claim for relief alleges that plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights were violated by the refusal of a defense and, allegedly, indemnification and by the Corporation Counsel's failure to advise plaintiff of the reasons for the refusal.

 The sixth claim for relief contends that the City of New York violated plaintiff's rights to due process and equal protection by promulgating and enforcing Section 50-k of the New York General Municipal Law, the state statute on the basis of which the Corporation Counsel acted, on the theory that the statute is unduly vague.

 The seventh through ninth claims for relief assert that the defendants violated plaintiff's rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and various provisions of state law and regulations by failing to enforce certain DOC directives. The consequence of these alleged failures supposedly was that the plaintiff was subjected to dangerous working conditions, disciplinary action and the denial of representation and indemnification in the inmate actions.

 Finally, the tenth claim for relief seeks recovery for allegedly negligent supervision from Hector Eugui, who was the ...


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