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Brown v. City of New York

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

July 5, 2017

IMANI BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, a municipal entity, JUSTIN NAIMOLI, New York City Police Officer, Shield 26063, in his individual capacity, THEODORE PLEVRITIS, in his individual capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued: March 10, 2017

         Appeal of judgment for defendants entered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Forrest, Judge) in an action claiming false arrest, unnecessary use of force, and First Amendment retaliation. Because the District Court did not err in granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity, the judgment is AFFIRMED.

          Joshua S. Moskovitz, Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, New York, NY, for Plaintiff- Appellant.

          Devin Slack (Richard Dearing and Julie Steiner, on the brief), Zachary W. Carter for Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Jacobs and Droney, Circuit Judges, and Stanceu, Judge. [*]

          STANCEU, JUDGE

         Plaintiff-appellant Imani Brown appeals an April 21, 2016 judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("District Court") (Forrest, Judge) in favor of defendants Justin Naimoli and Theodore Plevritis, New York City police officers, on her federal and state law claims of excessive force stemming from her arrest on November 15, 2011. The District Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the federal claims on the ground of qualified immunity and dismissed the state law claims. We affirm the judgment of the District Court.

         BACKGROUND

         Brown brought this action on February 13, 2013 in the District Court against the City of New York, and against defendants Naimoli and Plevritis in their individual capacities, following her arrest near Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. She asserted Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest and excessive use of force, and a First Amendment retaliation claim, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and also brought parallel claims under New York state law. In its first dispositive decision, the District Court granted summary judgment for defendants on all of Brown's § 1983 claims and dismissed the state law claims on jurisdictional grounds. Brown v. City of New York, No. 13-cv-1018, 2014 WL 2767232 (S.D.N.Y. June 18, 2014) ("Brown I"). On Brown's first appeal, this Court vacated the judgment entered by the District Court as to the excessive force claims and affirmed the judgment as to all other claims before it. Brown v. City of New York, 798 F.3d 94 (2d Cir. 2015) ("Brown II"). Brown did not appeal the District Court's judgment with respect to any of her claims against the City of New York. Id. at 95. On remand, the District Court awarded summary judgment to defendants Naimoli and Plevritis on the § 1983 excessive force claims, holding that qualified immunity insulated these officers from liability, and dismissed the remaining state law claims. Brown v. City of New York, 13-cv-1018, 2016 WL 1611502 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2016) ("Brown III").

         DISCUSSION

         Because this Court affirmed the District Court's disposition of all of Brown's claims except the excessive force claims, as to which the judgment of the District Court was vacated, see Brown II, 798 F.3d at 95, the only claims remaining in this litigation are the excessive force claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and under state law. Further, because Brown did not appeal the District Court's final decision on any of her claims against the City of New York, id., the only claims remaining are the excessive force claims brought against Officers Naimoli and Plevritis in their individual capacities.

         Brown raises three arguments on appeal. Pointing to language in this Court's opinion in Brown II remanding the case "for trial, " she argues, first, that under this Court's mandate the District Court was required to hold a trial and, therefore, lacked discretion on remand to grant summary judgment. Second, she argues that the two defendant police officers waived any defense of qualified immunity. Finally, she argues that the District Court erred on the merits in holding that qualified immunity shielded the officers from liability.

         We determine de novo the meaning of a previous mandate of this Court. Carroll v. Blinken, 42 F.3d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1994). In doing so, we reject Brown's first argument, i.e., that the mandate required the District Court to preside over a trial rather than resolve the excessive force claims on a second summary judgment motion.

         Plaintiff-appellant's argument relies on language in the opinion in Brown II stating that Brown's claim against the officers "for use of excessive force must be remanded for trial, " Brown II, 798 F.3d at 95, that "[t]he assessment of a jury is needed in this case, " and that "a jury will have to decide whether Fourth Amendment reasonableness was exceeded . . ., " id. at 103. Brown interprets this language as a directive to the District Court to conduct an actual trial, but this interpretation fails to construe the references to a "trial" and a "jury" in the context of the issue this Court was deciding. That issue was whether the District Court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants on the ground that the force used in arresting Brown was not excessive. In considering the issue of whether excessive force was used, this Court applied the "objective reasonableness" standard as explicated in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 392 (1989). The references to "trial" and "a jury" in the opinion are properly understood in the context of the requirements a movant must meet to obtain summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) (requiring movant to show absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law). On the record before ...


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