Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Barnes v. City of New York
Plaintiff brought an action against several police officers and the City of New York, asserting various claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and New York state law based on his allegation that police officers falsely claimed that they observed him selling drugs. After his criminal trial, Plaintiff was acquitted of a drug sale charge and convicted of a drug possession charge. Plaintiff subsequently filed this civil action, and the district court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s claims. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims and remanded. The court wrote that it agreed with the district court’s dismissal of all of the federal claims except for the dismissal of Plaintiff’s due process claim based on the use of fabricated evidence regarding the drug sale charge of which he was acquitted. Specifically, the district court erred in concluding that because Plaintiff was arrested, detained, prosecuted, and convicted for drug possession simultaneous to the drug sale proceedings, this precludes, as a matter of law, his ability to plead a deprivation of liberty caused by the drug sale prosecution. Because the prosecution of an individual based on fabricated evidence may itself constitute a deprivation of liberty, even in the absence of custody or a conviction, Plaintiff was not required to show that his drug sale prosecution resulted in additional custody or a conviction in order to sufficiently allege a claim at the pleading stage. View "Barnes v. City of New York" on Justia Law
Roberts v. Genting
On January 6, 2014, Defendant Genting New York LLC, d/b/a Resorts World Casino New York City ("Genting"), closed the Aqueduct Buffet (the "Buffet"), a restaurant located inside the Resorts World Casino (the "Casino") where Plaintiffs worked. Genting gave Plaintiffs no notice of the closure, which took effect the same day and resulted in 177 employees being laid off. The next week, Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against Genting, alleging that its failure to provide notice violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the "WARN Act"), and New York Labor Law Section 860 et seq. (the "New York WARN Act"). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion and granted Genting's. On appeal, Plaintiffs argue that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting because, they claim, a reasonable jury could only conclude that the Buffet was either an operating unit or a single site of employment under the WARN Acts. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court explained that Genting is not entitled to summary judgment because a reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the Buffet was an operating unit. Likewise, there is also evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the Buffet was not an operating unit. It will be for the finder of fact at trial to weigh the evidence comprising the "somewhat mixed" record in this case to answer the question. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for Genting and in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims under the WARN Acts. View "Roberts v. Genting" on Justia Law
Mendez v. Banks
Parents and guardians of students with disabilities brought an enforcement action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, alleging that the New York City Department of Education must immediately fund their children’s educational placements during the pendency of ongoing state administrative proceedings. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, which the district court denied. Plaintiffs appealed from that denial. The Second Circuit affirmed. As a threshold jurisdictional matter, the court held that although the Plaintiffs are not yet entitled to tuition payments for the portion of the school year that has yet to occur, their claims are nevertheless ripe because they also seek payments for past transportation costs. On the merits, the court held that the IDEA’s stay-put provision does not entitle parties to automatic injunctive relief when the injunctive relief concerns only educational funding, not placement. Applying the traditional preliminary injunction standard, the court concluded that Plaintiffs are not entitled to the relief they seek because they have not shown a likelihood of irreparable injury. View "Mendez v. Banks" on Justia Law
Buon v. Spindler, et al.
Plaintiff appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing all claims against Defendants-Newburgh Enlarged City School District, Superintendent, and Assistant Superintendent. Plaintiff, an African American woman of West Indian descent who served as principal of South Middle School, asserts claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Title VII claim to the extent the claim is based on alleged adverse employment actions in May 2019 and vacated the district court’s judgment to the extent it dismissed the Section 1983 claim and the remainder of the Title VII claim. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings, including a determination as to whether Plaintiff should be provided with an extension of time to effectuate proper service as to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent. The court explained that taking the allegations in the FAC as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff’s favor, the FAC meets that pleading standard with respect to the denial of the position for RISE administrator, the denial of her application to administer the summer-school program, and the termination of her position as SMS principal. Accordingly, the court explained that Plaintiff has stated plausible discrimination claims under Title VII and Section 1983, and the district court erred in dismissing them. Therefore, Plaintiff may proceed with her Section 1983 claim as to all three alleged adverse employment actions and with her Title VII claim against the School District. View "Buon v. Spindler, et al." on Justia Law
Michael Matzell v. Anthony J. Annucci et al.
Plaintiff, a former New York State prisoner, sued defendants-appellants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for purportedly violating his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when they denied his judicially ordered enrollment in New York's Shock Incarceration Program, thereby potentially extending his period of confinement. The district court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity because they violated clearly established law. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the Fourteenth Amendment claim, reversed the district court's denial of Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the Eighth Amendment claim, and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim fails at the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis: it was not clearly established at the time of Defendants' conduct that denying a prisoner the opportunity to obtain early release from his sentence of confinement by denying judicially ordered entry into the Shock program would violate the Eighth Amendment. Moreover, the court held that given the liberty interest at stake and the clarity of the statutory law, Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Defendants' actions were egregious, shocking to the conscience, and unreasonable. View "Michael Matzell v. Anthony J. Annucci et al." on Justia Law
Vincent v. Annucci
Plaintiff brought a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, seeking compensatory damages for the 686 days that he was unlawfully incarcerated after the Second Circuit clearly established in Earley v. Murray that only a court could lawfully impose post-release supervision (PRS). Plaintiff served this time for violating the terms of his PRS that the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS)—not his sentencing judge—had imposed. He sued various New York state officials, including Defendant, then-Deputy Commissioner and legal counsel for DOCS, for the unlawful deprivation of his liberty under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. On appeal, Defendant challenged the district court’s award of compensatory damages to Plaintiff and revives his claim of qualified immunity, which was previously unsuccessful. The Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s decision. The court explained that it previously held in Vincent v. Yelich, 718 F.3d 157 (2d Cir. 2013) that the unconstitutionality of administratively imposed terms of PRS was clearly established by Earley I. And the court later held in Betances v. Fischer, 837 F.3d 162 (2d Cir. 2016) that because Defendant failed to make objectively reasonable efforts to comply with federal law that was clearly established by Earley I, he was not entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant offers no compelling argument for the court to reconsider these prior holdings. The court thus concluded that the district court did not err in applying the court’s prior precedents to deny him qualified immunity. View "Vincent v. Annucci" on Justia Law
Peoples v. Leon, et al.
Plaintiff sued Defendants for violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by recommending and imposing certain special conditions of post-release supervision that he contends is unconstitutional. The district court declined to grant Defendants summary judgment. At issue in this appeal is whether a corrections professional who recommended that the Parole Board issue certain special conditions of release is absolutely or qualifiedly immune from claims challenging the constitutionality of those conditions and seeking monetary or injunctive relief. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court concluded that the Commissioner’s is absolutely immune from Plaintiff’s claims for damages because her challenged acts were quasi-judicial. The court did not address the Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator’s claim of absolute immunity but concluded that she is qualifiedly immune from Plaintiff’s damage claims because the challenged conditions were not clearly unlawful at the time she recommended them. The court reasoned that to the extent Plaintiff is challenging the delegation of broad authority to the parole officer, the court noted that parole officers are statutorily authorized to impose special conditions. Plaintiff has not cited any law narrowing this authority. In sum, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the parole officer’s recommendation of these case-specific conditions violated his clearly established rights. View "Peoples v. Leon, et al." on Justia Law
Chinniah v. Fed. Energy Regul. Comm’n
Pro se Plaintiff filed a whistleblower claim against his former employer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and his former supervisors in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. But before doing so, Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (WPA) and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The district court thus dismissed the claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s whistleblower claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff did not file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel or the Merit Systems Protection Board, as required by the CSRA. Instead, he went straight to federal court. The district court thus lacked “jurisdiction to entertain a whistleblower cause of action . . . in the first instance” because Plaintiff failed to follow the proper administrative process. Second, the court wrote that Plaintiff’s argument that his failure to exhaust should be excused on equitable grounds is meritless. The court noted that it has “no authority to create equitable exceptions to jurisdictional requirements.” And, in any event, Plaintiff offers no reason why he should be granted such an equitable exception. View "Chinniah v. Fed. Energy Regul. Comm'n" on Justia Law
Bennett v. County of Rockland
Plaintiffs (Rockland County Probation Department employees and their union) brought a First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendants (the County of Rockland and its Director of Probation). Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants retaliated against them for writing a letter to the Rockland County Legislature by holding department-wide emergency meetings and issuing a “Memorandum of Warning.” The district court granted judgment as a matter of law for the Plaintiffs on two liability issues: (1) whether the Plaintiffs’ letter had spoken on a matter of public concern and (2) whether the Plaintiffs had spoken as private citizens. A jury trial was held on liability issue (3): whether the Defendants had engaged in an adverse employment action. After the jury entered a verdict for the Defendants, the district court granted the Plaintiffs’ renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. It later granted Plaintiffs’ motion for a permanent injunction prohibiting the Defendants from retaining the Memorandum of Warning or using it against any Plaintiff. Defendants appealed the district court’s decision to grant judgment as a matter of law on Issues (2) and (3). They also challenged the permanent injunction. The Second Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remand the case with directions to enter judgment for the Defendants. The court explained that the trial record contains evidence that could lead a reasonable jury to conclude that the test for adverse action was not met. Indeed, the evidence below could support a conclusion that the Memorandum and the meetings were no more than a “‘petty slight,’ ‘minor annoyance,’ or ‘trivial’ punishment.” View "Bennett v. County of Rockland" on Justia Law
Community Housing Improvement Program v. City of New York
Plaintiffs, individuals who own apartment buildings in New York City subject to the relevant Rent Stabilization Law (RSL), appealed from a district court judgment. The court dismissed the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs alleged that the RSL, as amended in 2019, effected, facially, an unconstitutional physical and regulatory taking. The District Court held that Plaintiffs-Appellants failed to state claims for violations of the Takings Clause. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court reasoned that Here, the RSL is part of a comprehensive regulatory regime that governs nearly one million units. Like the broad public interests at issue in Penn Central, here, the legislature has determined that the RSL is necessary to prevent “serious threats to the public health, safety and general welfare.” Further, the Landlords urged the Court to consider two additional, less commonly cited Penn Central factors that, they argued, tend to show that the RSL results in a regulatory taking: noxious use and a lack of a reciprocal advantage. Even assuming for the sake of argument that these factors apply, the claims fail. View "Community Housing Improvement Program v. City of New York" on Justia Law