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Hollins v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 3, 2014

KATRINA HOLLINS et al., Plaintiffs,
CITY OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.


LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff A.C. brings claims against officers Karanlall Brijubukhan, Jenny Ann Nelson, Doug Williams, George Wolfrom, Jorge Morel, Frank Chiodi, Edwin Galan, Kevin Canavan, Claudio Raminez, Donald Boller, Lieutenant Patrick Ryan, and Lori Pollock (the "Individual Defendants") and the City of New York pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1988. (Second Amend Complaint caption, hereinafter "SAC"). Plaintiffs S.W. and Katrina Hollins settled have settled their claims.

The § 1983 claims allege constitutional deprivations pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff alleges that she was subject to warrantless search and seizure, unreasonable detention, excessive force and false arrest, deprivation of liberty without due process, deprivation of the right to privacy, denial of equal protection based upon race, and deprivation of the substantive due process right to familial association. Plaintiff brings supervisory liability claims against Defendants Raminez, Boller, Ryan, and Pollock (the "Supervisory Defendants"). Plaintiff brings a Monell municipal liability claim against the City of New York for failure to properly recruit, train and discipline its officers in the execution of a search warrant in public housing projects. Plaintiff brings state common law claims for, inter alia, false arrest, false imprisonment, and negligence. Finally, Plaintiff brings New York State Constitutional claims against all Defendants. The Defendants move for summary judgment as to all claims. Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment includes a Rule 56(d) affidavit that Plaintiff is unable to present certain facts that justify her opposition. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion is denied as to Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims for unreasonable seizure and for municipal liability, and granted as to all other respects.

I. Facts

A. The Incident

On November 29, 2008, sometime between 5:55 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. members of the New York City Police Department executed a search warrant at apartment 1D of a building in East New York, Brooklyn, NY (the "Apartment"). The search warrant was issued on November 25, 2008, by Justice Raymond Guzman of the New York State Supreme Court, Kings County. The warrant was a "no-knock" warrant, which authorizes entry without prior notice. The warrant authorized the police to search for heroin, paraphernalia used to package and process heroin, documents relating to trafficking heroin, U.S. currency related to trafficking heroin, and any computers or cell phones and written records in the apartment. The same day, the NYPD executed a search warrant in apartment 5D of the same apartment complex, which was coordinated with the execution of the search warrant executed at the Apartment.

Plaintiff A.C. was twelve years old at the time of the search. A.C., her mother Katrina Hollins, and her two siblings S.W., who was seven years old, and I.M., who was two years old, were staying in the Apartment, which belonged to A.C.'s grandmother. A man named Alexander Felton, a friend of the family, and his girlfriend were in the Apartment when the police arrived. S.W. Sr., who is S.W.'s father, had arrived shortly before the police arrived, but was not staying at the Apartment for the weekend. In sum, there were four adults and three children in the Apartment.

The Apartment had three bedrooms. When the police arrived, Katrina Hollins was in one bedroom with S.W. Sr. Her three children were sleeping in a second bedroom. Mr. Felton and his girlfriend were in the third bedroom. The police forcibly entered the Apartment. Katrina Hollins and S.W. Sr. were placed in handcuffs first. Mr. Felton and his girlfriend were taken from their bedroom in handcuffs and placed on the sofa.

Some members of the police team entered the bedroom where A.C. and her siblings had been sleeping, put a gun to her face, told A.C. to get on her knees, searched her, and placed her in handcuffs with her arms behind her back. The police then took her into the living room and placed her on the sofa. At some time after A.C. was removed from the bedroom, I.M. and S.W. were taken from the bedroom to the sofa in the living room. They were not placed in handcuffs. After the sweep of the Apartment was complete, all seven occupants of the Apartment who were present before the police arrived were seated on the sofa in the living room.

The officers assigned with cuffing duties were Officers Nelson and Williams, but no witness recalled who actually handcuffed the Plaintiff. Officers Wolfrom, Brijbukhan, Morel, Chiodi, Canavan and Galan were members of the entry team who made the initial sweep of the Apartment. Sergeant Raminez was at the Apartment, and Sergeant Boller was also present at the scene. The Apartment was secured and deemed safe to begin searching within two minutes after the police entered.

A.C. was detained in handcuffs for more than three hours and potentially more than four hours. ( See Dkt. 81 at p. 2, ¶¶ 3-4). During the seizure, A.C.'s mother, Katrina Hollins, asked an officer to remove A.C.'s handcuffs. (Dkt. 81, p. 9 at 31). A.C. also complained about the tightness of the handcuffs, which left bruising, but did not result in any lasting injuries. The handcuffs were eventually loosened, but not removed. Defendant Raminez was the supervisor who decided when handcuffs would be removed, potentially in consultation with Defendant Boller.

Pills, but no heroin, were found in the Apartment. At around 8:40 a.m., Detectives Brijbukhan and Morel left the apartment and took the pills to the 75th Precinct. Detective Brijbukhan remained at the precinct until 11:30 a.m., when he went to the Narcotics Bureau Brooklyn North. No officer was able to testify what time the search of the Apartment was completed or how long the search lasted.

Katrina Hollins initially was arrested for possession of a controlled substance, but that arrest was voided. Three others were arrested, according to Officer Morel. No officer testified as to when all of the officers left the Apartment, or at what point the arrests were voided and the Plaintiff and her family were no longer detained.

B. Training and Policy

Several witnesses testified that NYPD officers received training on the execution of search warrants from the Organized Crime Control Bureau ("OCCB"). At their OCCB training each officer receives an OCCB manual. Defendant Wolfrom testified that handcuffing during the execution of a search warrant is situation specific. Defendant Brijbukhan testified that children and the elderly typically are not handcuffed. Defendants did not produce the OCCB manual, but the Rule 30(b)(6) witness for the City of New York, Captain Gerald Corrigan, testified regarding NYPD training and policies on the execution of search warrants. Captain Corrigan testified that decisions regarding detention in handcuffs pursuant to a search are made by the highest ranking officer on the scene. He testified that the City's policy is that the use of handcuffs should be reasonable under the circumstances of each situation, and that the City had no blanket policy regarding the use of handcuffs on minors.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent New York City agency that handles reports of police misconduct, received over 4, 000 complaints about the execution of search warrants and 422 complaints regarding excessive handcuff tightness in the five years preceding the incident in this case. In 2003 the NYPD executed a "no-knock" search warrant that led to the death of a Harlem woman. That death led to an investigation into the NYPD's execution of search warrants. C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President in 2003, also issued a Report and Recommendation to the Commissioner of the New York Police Department, which catalogued numerous complaints regarding the execution of "no-knock" search warrants. The Report stated, inter alia, that children were "routinely" handcuffed regardless of the threat level at the time the search warrants were executed.

II. Legal Standard

The standard for summary judgment is well established. Summary judgment is appropriate only when the record before the Court shows that there is no "genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. See id. at 255.

III. Discussion

A. Plaintiff's Rule 56(d) Affidavit

Counsel for Plaintiff filed an affidavit pursuant to Rule 56(d), which asserts that Plaintiff was unable to discover information relevant to her opposition to summary judgment. Where a plaintiff is able to make such a showing, a court may defer considering the motion, deny the motion, allow the plaintiff more time to take discovery, or issue any other appropriate order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). "This Circuit has established a four-part test for the sufficiency of an affidavit" pursuant to Rule 56(d). Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1138 (2d Cir. 1994). "The affidavit must include the nature of the uncompleted discovery; how the facts sought are reasonably expected to create a genuine issue of material fact; what efforts the affiant has made to obtain those facts; and why those efforts were unsuccessful." Id.

Counsel for Plaintiff stated in his affidavit that some Defendants and some non-party NYPD witnesses were not made available to him for depositions in a timely manner, preventing Plaintiff from opposing summary judgment on her individual liability claims. Plaintiff's counsel also states that certain documents relevant to his Monell claim and the issue of qualified immunity were not produced to him, even though their relevance and existence repeatedly were confirmed by a number of Defendants in their depositions. These documents include the OCCB manual, the NYPD Patrol Guide, and Interim Orders that speak to CCRB review of complaints regarding search warrant execution. Counsel for Plaintiff also states that the 30(b)(6) witness provided by the Defendant City of New York did was not prepared to testify on a number of issues in the 30(b)(6) deposition notice that directly impact his ability to oppose summary judgment on his Monell claim.

Discovery in this case was exceedingly contentious and the disputes between the parties are well-documented. During the last discovery conference on May 16th, 2013, before this motion was filed, the Court ordered defense counsel to make witnesses available for depositions and produce any relevant documents that so far had not been produced. Fact discovery closed on May 31, 2013 except the deposition of Defendant City of New York's Rule 30(b)(6) witness. The Court also noted during the deposition of Captain Gerald Corrigan that the discovery cutoff was firm and that fact discovery would not be extended. On June 21, 2013, the Court denied the Defendant's request to limit the scope of the Plaintiff's 30(b)(6) deposition, and reiterated that fact when the parties called the Court during the deposition of the Rule 30(b)(6) witness. In particular, the Court told counsel for all parties that Plaintiff's counsel would be permitted to ask Captain Corrigan about the existence of documents that Mr. Ashanti, counsel for the City of New York, had affirmed to the Court did not exist. Captain Corrigan was unprepared to speak as to some of those questions, and Mr. Ashanti repeatedly objected to Plaintiff's counsel's questioning on the matter.

The Plaintiff had ample time to conduct fact discovery, including depositions of party and nonparty witnesses. Therefore, the request in the Rule 56(d) affidavit as it pertains to individual liability is denied. However, the 30(b)(6) deposition and document production related to Monell discovery was inadequate. The deposition was particularly inadequate because the witness was not prepared to speak about documents that the Court had ordered he be prepared to address, if only to confirm Mr. Ashanti's representations to the Court. As discussed below, the record is sufficient to deny Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Monell claim. If it were not, the Plaintiff would be provided more time to develop a factual record to oppose Monell liability.

B. Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

In order to establish a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show "(1) that some person has deprived him of a federal right, and (2) that the person who has deprived him of that right acted under color" of state law. Velez v. Levy, 401 F.3d 75, 84 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Analysis of a § 1983 claim begins by identifying the particular rights of which a plaintiff has allegedly been deprived. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) ("The validity of the claim must then be judged by reference to the specific constitutional standard which governs that right...."). Plaintiff lists ten deprivations under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments against the Individual Defendants. The Court identifies three distinct rights that Plaintiff alleges were violated in the Second Amended Complaint. First, the Plaintiff alleges a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure and to be free from the use of excessive force in effectuating that seizure. Second, the Plaintiff alleges a violation Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to familial association. Third, the ...

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