The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, District Judge.
OPINION GRANTING DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
Following oral argument on January 7, 2000 this court granted
plaintiffs' motion for declaratory judgment that the City
defendants failed to provide adequate educational services to
members of the plaintiff class at all Rikers Island facilities.
The court ordered City defendants to file a plan for providing
full and complete educational facilities and services to all
eligible inmates on Rikers Island. The following outlines the
court's reasoning in granting this motion for declaratory
judgment pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act,
28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 2202.
This case involves a class action brought by inmates in the
custody of the New York City Department of Correction ("DOC")
claiming violation of federal and state laws in the failure to
provide them with adequate general and special educational
services. Plaintiffs are a class of individuals aged 16 through
21 years who are in the custody of DOC and are entitled to
educational services. Defendants are the New York City Board of
Education, DOC, and certain City officials sued in their
official capacities (collectively referred to as the "City
defendants") and Richard Mills, the Commissioner of the New York
State Education Department.
The plaintiff class is comprised of school age inmates
(inmates between the ages of 16 and 21 years) who are held in 16
DOC jails, including 10 facilities on Rikers Island. The
majority of class members are pre-trial detainees and the
minority are post-conviction inmates serving sentences of up to
one year's duration. Plaintiffs estimate that approximately
2,800 incarcerated youngsters were eligible for educational
services at the time this case was filed in 1996. See Pls.'
Mem. of Law at 3.
Plaintiffs bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
United States Constitution, the Individuals with Disabilities in
Education Act (the "IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,
and the New York State Constitution, statutory law and
Plaintiffs' claims involve both general and special education.
Plaintiffs claim that numerous class members received no or
extremely limited educational instruction for significant
periods of time in violation of the general education laws.
Plaintiffs also estimate that approximately 40% of the class
members require special education services due to various
disabilities. See Pls.' Mem. of Law at 2. Plaintiffs claim
defendants violated the IDEA as well as state law by failing to
provide appropriate special education services to this
substantial portion of the incarcerated population.
STANDARD FOR DECLARATORY OR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This court granted plaintiffs' motion for declaratory judgment
that the City defendants have failed to provide adequate
educational services to class members in the facilities on
Rikers Island. This order is equivalent to the granting of
summary judgment establishing liability. This circuit recognizes
the value of summary judgment to expedite the process of
litigation. See Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp.,
613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir. 1980). The mechanism of summary
judgment promotes judicial economy by preventing further
litigation on an issue with an unalterably predetermined
outcome. The standard for summary judgment ensures that issues
are efficiently resolved without compromising the rights of the
Summary judgment may be granted only if the moving
party can show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The court
must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all
ambiguities in favor of the non-moving party.
Ametex Fabrics, Inc. v. Just In Materials, Inc., 140 F.3d 101,
107 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the mere
existence of a factual dispute between parties does not preclude
summary judgment when the dispute is not genuine or when the
disputed facts are immaterial. A disputed fact is immaterial
when the outcome of the case remains the same regardless of the
disputed issue. Factual questions which prove immaterial fail to
preclude summary judgment. See Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance
Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir. 1986) (noting that the existence
of unresolved immaterial issues does not suffice to defeat a
motion for summary judgment).
A party may not rely on "mere speculation or conjecture as to
the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary
judgment". Knight v. U.S. Fire Insurance Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11
(2d Cir. 1986).
Nor are judges any longer required to submit a
question to a jury merely because some evidence has
been introduced by the party having the burden of
proof, unless the evidence be of such a character
that it would warrant the jury in finding a verdict
in favor of that party. Formerly it was held that if
there was what is called a scintilla of evidence in
support of a case the judge was bound to leave it to
the jury, but recent decisions of high authority have
established a more reasonable rule, that in every
case, before the evidence is left to the jury, there
is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether
there is literally no ...