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Wayne Ruiz v. County of Suffolk

April 3, 2012

WAYNE RUIZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dora L. Irizarry, United States District Judge:

MEMORANDUM & OPINION

In the instant action, plaintiff asserts various violations of his constitutional rights arising from an unlawful search of his jail cell while incarcerated pre-trial at the Suffolk County Correction Center. Plaintiff initially filed his complaint pro se, but subsequently the Court appointed pro bono counsel. Counsel moved for leave to file an amended complaint, which this Court granted to the extent that plaintiff sought to substitute Corrections Officer Timothy Hopkins for Corrections Officer J. Hickey as a defendant and to add Suffolk County as a defendant. This Court denied plaintiff's motion to the extent plaintiff sought to add Corrections Officers Robert Urban and Mark Hawthorne as additional defendants. (See Mem. & Order, Oct. 10, 2008, Doc. Entry No. 112.) Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint in accordance with this Court's October 10, 2008 Order. (See Compl., Doc. Entry No. 114.)

Suffolk County now moves for summary judgment and, to the extent this case survives summary judgment, for a bifurcated trial.*fn1 (Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def. Mem."), Doc. Entry No. 142.) Plaintiff opposes both motions. (Plaintiff's Opposition ("Pl. Opp."), Doc. Entry No. 147.) For the reasons set forth more fully below, Suffolk County's motion for summary judgment is granted and Suffolk County's motion for a bifurcated trial is denied as moot.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was incarcerated at Suffolk County Correctional Facility (the "jail") pending a trial in Suffolk County on an attempted burglary charge. (Plaintiff's Counterstatement of Fact ("Pl. 56.1 Stmt."), Doc. Entry No. 145, ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that, on April 29, 2003, corrections officers entered his wing of the jail to conduct searches of the inmates' cells for contraband. (Plaintiff's Deposition ("Pl. Depo."), attached as Exhibit 7 to Pl. 56.1 Stmt., at 15-17.)

It is the search of plaintiff's cell and the resulting physical altercation between him and the various corrections officer defendants that is the subject of this action. Plaintiff alleges that while the officers conducted the search of his cell, he was directed to stand outside his cell, with his hands on the bars of his cell. (Id. at 25-28.) Plaintiff alleges that the officers searching his cell began throwing around his clothing and that he and the officers guarding him began a heated discussion as to whether plaintiff's clothing violated the jail's revised dress code. (Id. at 29-32.) Plaintiff alleges that Corrections Officer Rollins Otten ordered plaintiff to turn around and that as soon as he did, Corrections Officer Richard Lorenz punched him in the face. (Id. at 31-32.) Plaintiff alleges that none of the other corrections officers directed Lorenz to punch plaintiff, and that plaintiff had no verbal or physical interaction with Lorenz prior to Lorenz punching him. (Id. at 32.) According to plaintiff, Corrections Officers Lorenz, Stephen McKeough, and Robert Urban*fn2 attacked plaintiff. (Id. at 32-46, 57-59.) Plaintiff was penalized for the incident with 75 days of solitary confinement. (Id. at 77.)

In addition to pursuing claims against the individual corrections officers for their involvement in this incident, plaintiff has filed a § 1983 claim against Suffolk County under Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The essence of plaintiff's Monell claim is that Suffolk County's appellate review procedures as to job applicants who fail the psychological examination portion of their pre-employment screenings are inadequate and result in the hiring of psychologically unfit corrections officers who use unjustifiable excessive force against inmates.

Among other tests, each applicant for employment as a corrections officer in Suffolk County was required to submit to a psychological examination. The examination consisted of a 500 question written test and an interview with a psychologist retained by the County. The examining psychologist then prepared a report on each applicant, which included a narrative assessment of the applicant's psychological suitability, as well as a letter grade reflecting the applicant's psychological suitability. The letter grades were assigned as follows:

A. WELL SUITED: The applicant's psychological traits are expected to contribute to above standard performance of essential job functions.

B. SUITABLE: The applicant's psychological traits are not expected to interfere with the performance of essential job functions.

C. CONDITIONALLY SUITABLE: Psychological traits could interfere with the performance of essential job functions. The Department should determine whether other data supports these concerns prior to making a final hiring decision.

C-. MARGINALLY SUITABLE: Psychological traits are expected to interfere with the performance of essential job functions.

D. POORLY SUITED: Psychological traits have been identified that are expected to significantly interfere with the performance of essential job functions.

F. NOT PSYCHOLOGICALLY SUITED for public safety employment.

(Forensic Psychological Services Report, attached as Exhs. 2 & 3 to Pl. 56.1 Stmt.)

Plaintiff deposed Dr. Louis Gallagher, who served on the appeals committee. (See February 4, 2010 Deposition of Dr. Louis Gallagher ("Gallagher Depo."), attached as Exh. 1 to Pl. 56.1 Stmt.) When job applicants failed the psychological examination of their pre-employment screening, they had the opportunity to appeal the result to the three-member appeals committee, of which Dr. Gallagher was the sole psychologist. (Id. at 31-33.) The applicant had the opportunity to submit the results from an independent ...


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