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Darnell v. Pineiro

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

February 21, 2017

Kevin Darnell, Germain Cano, Michael Glenn, Michael McGhee, Kerry Scott, Travis Gordan, Gregory Maugeri, Dmitriy Miloslavskiy, Steven Modes, Jacqueline Guarino, Michael Spalango, Wesley Jones, Raymond Tucker, Yvonne Ming, Nancy Viglione, Keith Jennings, Elli Vikki, individually and on behalf of a class of all others similarly situated, Eric Cephus, Phillip Singleton, Deborah Gonzalez, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
Rafael Pineiro, William Tobin, City of New York, Kenneth Kobetitsch, Defendants-Appellees, Nakaita Moore, Jahmel Lawyer, Peter Eppel, Plaintiffs, Deputy Commissioners John Does, 1-5, (representing the Deputy Commissioners who supervised the operation of Brooklyn Central Booking from June 12, 2010 to the present), Police Officers John Does, 1-5, (representing the commanding officers of Brooklyn Central Booking from June 12, 2010 to the present), Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Defendants.

          Argued: September 22, 2016

         Twenty state pretrial detainees brought individual § 1983 claims in the same complaint alleging that the City of New York and the supervisory officers of a pre-arraignment holding facility (collectively, "the defendants") were deliberately indifferent to allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the holding facility. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Kuntz, J.) granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, denied the detainees' motion to reconsider that judgment, and denied a subsequent motion to reconsider the denial of the motion for reconsideration. The detainees appealed.

         The detainees concede that certain claims were properly dismissed. As to those claims, we affirm the District Court's judgment. However, because there were genuine disputes as to material facts with respect to the challenged conditions of confinement, the individual defendants' knowledge of those conditions, and the failure to remedy those conditions, as well as to the liability of the City of New York, we vacate the judgment as to the remaining claims that were dismissed and remand for further proceedings.

          SCOTT A. KORENBAUM (Stephen Bergstein, on the brief), Bergstein & Ullrich, LLP, Chester, NY, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          ZACHARY W. CARTER, (Richard Dearing, Devin Slack, Kathy Chang Park, on the brief), Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Leval and Lohier, Circuit Judges, and Koeltl, District Judge.[*]

          John G. Koeltl, District Judge:

         This is a case about unconstitutional conditions of confinement for pretrial detainees. Twenty state pretrial detainees ("the plaintiffs")[1] arrested on separate dates between July 10, 2011, and July 23, 2013, brought individual § 1983 claims in the same complaint against the City of New York (the "City"), New York City Police Department ("NYPD") Captain Kenneth Kobetitsch, and NYPD Captain William Tobin (the "individual defendants") (collectively, "the defendants").[2] The plaintiffs alleged that they were each subjected to appalling conditions of confinement while held pre-arraignment at Brooklyn Central Booking ("BCB") with deliberate indifference to the deprivation of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Because BCB was only a pre-arraignment holding facility, no plaintiff was held at BCB for more than twenty-four hours.

         The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Kuntz, J.) granted summary judgment to the defendants, reasoning that the plaintiffs failed to meet both the objective and subjective requirements for a claim of unconstitutional conditions of confinement based on a theory of deliberate indifference. The District Court concluded that, with respect to the "objective prong, " no plaintiff could establish an objectively substantial deprivation of any constitutional rights because no plaintiff actually suffered a serious injury, or was "regularly denied his or her basic human needs or was exposed to conditions that posed an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his or her future health" for more than twenty-four hours; nor could any plaintiff establish the "subjective prong" of a deliberate indifference claim by proving that the individual defendants were actually aware of any dangerous conditions, or that the individual defendants acted unreasonably in responding to any such conditions; nor, for similar reasons, could the plaintiffs establish that the individual defendants acted with punitive intent. See Cano v. City of New York, 119 F.Supp.3d 65, 74, 82, 85-86 (E.D.N.Y. 2015). Because no plaintiff could prove a constitutional deprivation, the District Court also held that the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, and that the plaintiffs could not establish that the City was liable pursuant to Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). See Cano, 119 F.Supp.3d at 86-87.

         The District Court issued its opinion shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466 (2015), in which the Supreme Court held that, for excessive force claims brought under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, "a pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable." Id. at 2473. The Court rejected the requirement that, for such claims, a pretrial detainee establish a state of mind component to the effect that the official applied the force against the pretrial detainee "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Id. at 2475 (citation omitted). The District Court's opinion was also issued two weeks before this Court's decision in Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 66-68 (2d Cir. 2015), in which this Court held that while the proper inquiry for a conditions of confinement claim is by reference to the duration and severity of the conditions, the claim did not require a "minimum duration" or "minimum severity" to reach the level of a constitutional violation. This Court further made clear that a "serious injury is unequivocally not a necessary element of an Eighth Amendment [conditions of confinement] claim." Id. at 68.

         The District Court did not analyze the implications of Kingsley in its opinion. Moreover, the District Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration based on Willey, as well as the plaintiffs' later motion for reconsideration of the order denying the first motion for reconsideration, because the District Court found that the plaintiffs' appeal of the summary judgment order divested it of jurisdiction over the case.

         Among other issues, this case requires us to consider whether, consistent with Willey, and the precedents on which it is based, appalling conditions of confinement cannot rise to an objective violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause so long as the detainee is subjected to those conditions for no more than twenty-four hours, and the detainee does not suffer an actual, serious injury during that time. This case also requires us to consider whether Kingsley altered the standard for conditions of confinement claims under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.[3]

         For the reasons explained below, we affirm in part, and vacate in part, the District Court's judgment, and remand the case to the District Court for further proceedings.


         In reviewing the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, "we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, drawing all reasonable inferences and resolving all ambiguities in their favor." CILP Assocs., L.P. v. PriceWaterhouse Coopers LLP, 735 F.3d 114, 118 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). We affirm the grant of summary judgment only where "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). Our review is de novo. Ruggiero v. County of Orange, 467 F.3d 170, 173 (2d Cir. 2006).


         This is a lawsuit on behalf of twenty individual plaintiffs rather than a class action. As such, this is a review of a judgment dismissing the separate claims of twenty plaintiffs that were filed in a single complaint.

         In its analysis, the District Court did not perform individualized assessments of each plaintiff's claims, reasoning instead that, because no plaintiff's confinement at BCB exceeded twenty-four hours, and no plaintiff suffered an actual, serious physical injury, no plaintiff could establish a violation. As discussed below, the District Courted erred in its analysis. Although the evidence differed with respect to the conditions that each plaintiff was subjected to, we summarize the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs as a group to explain the error in the District Court's grant of summary judgment dismissing the Second Amended Complaint. On remand, however, it will be necessary for the District Court to analyze each plaintiff's claims, both with respect to the conditions of confinement experienced by each plaintiff, and the personal involvement of the individual defendants with respect to the claims of each plaintiff.



         During the relevant period, BCB was a temporary holding facility located at 275 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, that held recently arrested pretrial detainees awaiting arraignment. BCB has since been relocated to a different facility in Brooklyn. The facility at issue in this dispute is no longer used to hold pretrial detainees.[4]

         Individual defendant Captain Kenneth Kobetitsch was the commanding officer at BCB through July 2011, and his tenure only overlapped with the detention of plaintiff Glenn.[5] Thereafter, beginning on August 29, 2011, individual defendant Captain William Tobin became BCB's commanding officer, a position he still holds, and his tenure overlapped with the detention of the other plaintiffs. During their respective tenures, Captain Kobetitsch and Captain Tobin supervised the officers and the staff at BCB. Captain Kobetitsch and Captain Tobin toured and inspected BCB daily, including its holding cells. Captain Tobin testified that he monitored BCB for "cleanliness."

         BCB had eight holding cells, six designated for use by men and two by women. Subordinate officers guarded detainees and also purportedly received "training and instructions with respect to, among other things, transferring detainees between cells, ensuring that there [was] an appropriate number of detainees in individual cells, so as to avoid overcrowding, handling and providing food and beverages to detainees, proper sanitation procedures, and the proper method for handling and disposing of human excrement."


         On separate dates between July 10, 2011, and July 23, 2013, each plaintiff was arrested and detained in holding cells at BCB.[6] Because BCB is a temporary holding facility, each plaintiff was held in custody at BCB from between ten to twenty-four hours. While detained at BCB during the two-year period, each plaintiff was allegedly subjected to one or more degrading conditions of confinement that purportedly constitute nine types of constitutional deprivations: (1) Overcrowding; (2) Unusable Toilets; (3) Garbage and Inadequate Sanitation; (4) Infestation; (5) Lack of Toiletries and Other Hygienic Items; (6) Inadequate Nutrition; (7) Extreme Temperatures and Poor Ventilation; (8) Deprivation of Sleep; and (9) Crime and Intimidation. The evidence adduced related to each condition, construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, is discussed in turn.

         1. Overcrowding.

         The plaintiffs consistently testified that, for the majority of their respective confinements at BCB, they and other detainees were packed into overcrowded cells designed for, at best, one-half to one-third the actual capacity. For example, one plaintiff testified that his holding cell was so crowded that he could not determine if it had a toilet. Another plaintiff described his cell as "having no room to even stand" because it was "stuffed . . . like a can of sardines."

         The plaintiffs testified that, because the cells were so full, there was often only space to stand for hours at a time, and that being forced to stand for hours continuously was painful and degrading. Even when there was space in the cells, the plaintiffs were reluctant to sit or lie down because the floors were filthy. As one plaintiff testified, he only sat down "out of extreme necessity" because he was "exhausted" and "dehydrated." While cells contained hard benches, there were not nearly enough benches in any given cell to accommodate its numerous occupants.

          2. Unusable Toilets.

         Each cell at BCB contained, at best, one exposed toilet that lacked a seat, lid, toilet paper, or sufficient privacy partitions to conceal a toilet user from his or her fellow holding mates. One plaintiff, who was too tired to remain standing, testified that he curled up in a fetal position next to the toilet, the only place he could find room to do so in the cell. Some plaintiffs testified that they were kept for stretches in cells that did not have any toilet at all.

         Captain Tobin testified that, as a general practice, toilets were cleaned and maintained regularly. Captain Tobin also swore that "[d]etainees are never placed in a cell with a non-functioning toilet" and that "[t]here is always at least one roll of toilet paper provided in each cell."

         But the plaintiffs consistently testified that, for any cell that did have a toilet, the toilet rim and bowl, along with the surrounding floor and walls, were covered with some combination of feces, maggots, urine, vomit, and rotten milk. The toilets were frequently clogged and would overflow, spilling their contents. The smell was horrific, with one plaintiff describing the odor in the cells as "overbearing." The plaintiffs testified that roaches, mice, and other insects and vermin were commonplace in the area around the toilets.

         Under these circumstances, the plaintiffs testified that, to varying degrees and for varying reasons, they found the toilets unusable. Some testified that they had the tolerance to urinate in the toilets, while others could not bring themselves to use the toilets even for urination. Some plaintiffs testified that they did not use the toilet for the eminently practical reason that it was clogged or overflowing, leading those plaintiffs to fear that any overflow would spill into the cell and even land on other detainees standing, sitting, or lying next to the toilet; while others found the toilet and surrounding area simply too sickening and unsanitary to use. As one plaintiff testified, "you would have to be really out of your mind to use" the toilet.

         One plaintiff testified that he defecated in his pants because he could no longer control his bowels. Another plaintiff testified that he used a toilet to defecate without any toilet paper. That plaintiff was later given an almost depleted roll of toilet paper, which did not have enough paper for him to clean himself.

         Some of the plaintiffs testified that they asked officers to take them to other cells with less filthy toilets, requests the officers almost invariably denied.

         3. Garbage and Inadequate Sanitation.

         Given that many of the toilets were clogged and overflowing, the plaintiffs unsurprisingly testified that the holding cells themselves were filthy. The cells had feces and dried urine caked to the floors. The stench from the toilets drifted through the holding cells, and caused one plaintiff to "dry heav[e] . . . yellow bile." The plaintiffs consistently testified that the floors were sticky and covered with garbage and other unsanitary items, such as vomit, dead roaches, decaying apple cores, old milk cartons, and rotting sandwiches. One plaintiff testified that he could not "recall a time [the cells were] sanitary for a human being."

         Pursuant to prison policy, the cells did not contain trash cans and detainees were expected to throw their trash on the floor. Captain Tobin swore that BCB's cells were cleaned by BCB custodial staff three times a day. However, the plaintiffs did not testify to witnessing any BCB staff cleaning or maintaining the cells.

         4. Infestation.

         The plaintiffs consistently testified that the holding cells were infested with rats, mice, cockroaches, flies, and other insects and vermin. One plaintiff testified that he saw mice and roaches coming out of a radiator; another testified that he saw water bugs emerging from the toilet and nearby exposed pipes; while another described seeing roaches in the area where the food was stored, and under a sink. Yet another plaintiff testified that he observed roaches climbing on his sneaker. Finally, some plaintiffs testified that they watched as rats and insects crawled into, out-of, and around the boxes where food was stored.

          5. Lack of Toiletries and Other Hygienic Items.

         The plaintiffs generally testified that they were not provided with basic toiletries, such as soap, tissues, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and toilet paper, and that the officers generally refused to provide these items even when explicitly requested. One plaintiff, who was menstruating at the time of her detention, began "bleeding all over [her]self." She testified that the officers were dismissive of her repeated requests for sanitary napkins, and that she stopped asking for sanitary napkins only when she heard an officer reprimand another detainee for making similar requests. Likewise, another plaintiff testified that he and his fellow detainees took turns asking the officers for toilet paper. The officers responded by threatening to delay arraignment if the detainees kept "harassing [them]."

         6. Inadequate Nutrition.

         The plaintiffs generally found the food and water provisions nutritionally inadequate. The plaintiffs testified that the sandwiches, and much of the other food, were moldy, rotten, stale, or otherwise inedible. Some plaintiffs described seeing vermin and insects crawling in and around the food boxes, which caused those plaintiffs to avoid the food. One plaintiff testified that he saw another detainee receive a sandwich that had rat bite marks in it. Another plaintiff, a practicing Jewish Rabbi, refused to eat any food because it was not Kosher. When the plaintiff complained to an officer, the officer replied, "[b]eggars can't be choosy." Under these circumstances, some of the plaintiffs refused to eat any food at BCB.

         Many plaintiffs also testified that they did not trust that the "drinking water" at BCB was potable because it was only accessible from a grimy cooler on the floor, a filthy fountain, or a dirty sink adjacent to the toilet. Some plaintiffs testified ...

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