Schoolcraft v. The City Of New York et al
MEMORANDUM OF LAW in Opposition re: 438 MOTION to Bifurcate for Trial Plaintiff's Monell Claim Against the City of New York. MOTION for Reconsideration of the Court's May 5 2015 Order Concerning Summary Judgment. . Document filed by The City Of New York. (Smith, Nathaniel)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
-againstTHE CITY OF NEW YORK, et al.,
PLAINTIFF’S MEMORANDUM OF LAW
IN OPPOSITON TO CITY DEFENDANTS’ BIFURCATION MOTION
Plaintiff submits this memorandum of law in opposition to the motion by the
City Defendants1 to bifurcate this action into two separate trials. The Medical
Defendants and Defendant Mauriello have not joined the City Defendants in this
motion. Plaintiff opposes the motion because two trials will needlessly lengthen and
complicate this case. Evidence about the NYPD’s practices and policies is relevant to
the individual NYPD defendant’s liability as well as the City’s liability under Monell.
Thus, the City Defendants’ arguments about how two trials will avoid confusion or
save time should be rejected.
Plaintiff uses the same designations of the parties as the parties have used in the
recent round of summary judgment motions.
In their bifurcation motion, the City Defendants do not address the standard for
granting this type of motion. For obvious reasons relating to efficiency, it is wellsettled that “the presumption is that all claims in a case will be resolved in a single
trial, and it is only in exceptional circumstances where there are special and
persuasive reasons for departing from this practice that distinct causes of action
asserted in the same case may be made the subject of separate trials.”2 The City
Defendants do not satisfy this standard. Their motion fails to establish that bifurcation
is needed to avoid or minimize prejudice, or to produce economies in the trial of the
matter, or to lessen or eliminate the likelihood of juror confusion.3
In support of their motion, the City Defendants make the conclusory argument
that a separate trial on the Monell claim is necessary to avoid diversions with “minitrials,” to avoid undue prejudice to individual defendants, and to avoid jury confusion.
The argument does not withstand analysis. Indeed, bifurcation would have the
Jeanty v. County of Orange, 379 F. Supp. 2d 533, 549 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (emphasis
added) (citing Martinez v. Robinson, 2002 WL 424680, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19,
2002) (quoting Lewis v. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Auth., 2000 WL 423517 at *2
(S.D.N.Y. April 19, 2000).
Lewis v. City of New York, 689 F.Supp. 2d 417 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing Lewis v.
Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Auth., 2000 WL 423517, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 19,
opposite effect of creating jury confusion and adding unnecessary time, expense and
burden to the resolution of this action, which has been pending for nearly five years.
Courts in this Circuit have bifurcated Section 1983 trials where the evidence of
a specific act of alleged misconduct by an individual defendant was readily
distinguishable from the evidence of a municipality’s policies and customs.4 Indeed,
the cases cited by City Defendants all involve distinct-incident complaints, such as a
pedestrian being struck by a bus5 or a police officer using excessive force or falsely
arresting someone.6 This is not such a case.
Here, plaintiff intends to prove that the NYPD customs, policies, practices and
procedures are directly responsible for the retaliatory and punitive actions taken by
NYPD officials against plaintiff over the course of an extended period of time from
mid-2008 through March of 2010. For example, in the last half of 2008 the plaintiff
received “below-standards” quarterly evaluation, and in early 2009 plaintiff received a
failing performance evaluation for failing to achieve his quota numbers.7 That quota
Santiago v. New York, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6731 (S.D.N.Y. May 15, 1992).
Williams v. Blvd. Lines, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149707 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30,
Daniels v. Loizzo,178 F.R.D. 46 (S.D.N.Y. 1998); Ricciuti v. New York City Transit
Auth., 796 F. Supp. 84 (S.D.N.Y. 1992); Ismail v. Cohen, 706 F. Supp. 243 (S.D.N.Y.
1989), rev’d on other grounds and aff’d in part, 899 F.2d 183 (2d Cir. 1990); Carson
v. City of Syracuse, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9508 (N.D.N.Y. 1993); Mineo v. City of
New York, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46953, 2013 WL 1334322 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 29,
2013); Santiago, supra.
See Schoolcraft v. City, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 58831 at *10 (S.D.N.Y. May 5, 2015)
(the Court’s “Summary Judgment Decision”).
system was created and enforced by the top managers at the NYPD under the
COMPSTAT management system, which was based on numbers and quotas for all
types of performance goals set for all members of the service, from the top of the
chain of command down to the patrol officer on the street. And when the plaintiff
began obtaining evidence of, speak out against, and reporting misconduct about
quotas and the downgrading and suppression of crime reporting (another police
practice driven by COMPSTAT), he was exposed, labeled a rat and punished for
violating the blue wall of silence. Thus, as set forth in the Third Amended Complaint,
plaintiff will seek to prove at trial “a coordinated and concentrated effort by high
ranking officials within the NYPD to silence, intimidate, threaten and retaliate against
plaintiff … for his documentation and disclosure of corruption with the NYPD.”8
The evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claims against the individual NYPD
defendants, which we marshaled in our summary judgment papers and the Court
reviewed in its Summary Judgment Decision,9 necessarily includes the same evidence
to be proffered against the municipal defendant. Plaintiff’s claims against individual
City defendants for First Amendment violations and the related claims for false arrest,
excessive force, failure to intercede, unlawful search and seizure, involuntary
confinement and due process claims will require evidence of the individual NYPD
defendants’ intent and motives as well as background facts necessary to understand
Third Amended Complaint ¶ 2.
Summary Judgment Decision, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 58831 at *10-22.
the content for the evidence. For example, at trial, plaintiff will show that his
supervisors at the 81st Precinct (e.g., Defendants Mauriello, Lauterborn, Caughey, and
Broschart) acted pursuant to NYPD policy and custom when they imposed quotas for
arrests and summons activity, providing incentives to police officers to meet the
quotas, punishing those who fail to meet quotas, and intimidating officers who
challenge the policy and custom. Similarly, plaintiff will also show at trial that
downgrading and suppression of crime reporting was also a wide-spread practice
brought on by COMPSTAT’s obsession with numbers and that the plaintiff’s conduct
in reporting downgrading and suppression at the 81st Precinct to IAB and QAD
threatened this system. This evidence -- through plaintiff’s testimony, labor
arbitration findings of a summons quota imposed by Defendant Marino, findings by
the Mollen Commission, expert testimony of Dr. John Eterno, and testimony of other
police officers regarding the NYPD’s customs and practices regarding quotas,
downgrading, and retaliation – is crucial for the jury understand the purpose, motive
and intent of the individual defendants in their actions against plaintiff.
This evidence will be introduced during the course of the trial scheduled for
October 19th against all the defendants and if the Court were to grant bifurcation this
same evidence will be unnecessarily repeated at a separate Monell trial against the
Accordingly, the Court should deny the motion and through its instructions to
the jury explain the nature and purposes for which the evidence is being offered.
As Judge Connor noted, any possible prejudice to individual defendants
resulting from evidence supporting a Monell claim can be cured by carefully crafted
limiting instructions.10 In addition, the mere fact that a jury may return a verdict on
the plaintiff’s claims in favor of the individual defendants does not compel bifurcation
of the Monell claim.11 There are less burdensome ways to deal with that situation,
including use of a special verdict form, a well-adapted jury charge, and carefully
crafted limiting instructions. Contrary to defendants' assertions, separate trials would
not be efficient and would inconvenience the Court, the jury, the plaintiff and the
The City Defendants erroneously assert that the plaintiff must establish the
officers’ individual liability in order to succeed on the Monell claim. Not only does
this completely misunderstand the central issues in this case, but it is an utterly
incorrect statement of the law. In fact, the liability of a municipal defendant can most
certainly be established where there is no individual liability on behalf of the
officers,12 a point that this Court already made in its summary judgment decision. See
Jeanty v. County of Orange, supra at 549.
See Barrett v. Orange County Human Rights Com'n, 194 F.3d 341, 343 (2d Cir.
1999) (“[T]he district court erred as a matter of law when it determined that the
municipal defendants' liability was contingent upon the liability of the individual
defendants…the jury [could have found] the municipal defendants were liable
irrespective of the liability of the individual defendants.”)(emphasis added); Golodner
v. City of New London, 2011 WL 5083503, *3 (2d Cir. 2011) (“We acknowledge, as
did the Barrett Court, that “‘municipal liability for constitutional injuries may be
2015 U.S. Lexis 58831 at *114 ("Monell claims can be brought against a municipality
notwithstanding the fact that the same claims were barred by the doctrine of qualified
immunity as asserted against individual officers.") (citations omitted).13 As such, it is
entirely possible that a plaintiff may succeed on liability against a municipality even
where he has failed against the individual defendants.14
Finally, courts have rejected bifurcation of Monell issues in situations that are
analogous to the present case. For example, in McCoy v. City of New York, 2008 WL
3884388, *1 (E.D.N.Y. 2008), the court held:
In cases involving claims against both individual defendants and
municipal entities, the argument routinely advanced for bifurcation
is that separate trials ‘could lead to an earlier and less costly
disposition.’ The basis for that argument is that finding that the
plaintiff failed to establish liability on the part of any municipal
employee would normally preclude a finding of liability against the
municipality itself under Monell; as a result, a bifurcated trial of the
claims against the individual defendants might, depending on the
outcome, dispose of the entire case. This argument in favor of
bifurcation glosses over an important fact: ‘under Monell municipal
liability for constitutional injuries may be found to exist even in the
found to exist even in the absence of individual liability, at least so long as the injuries
complained of are not solely attributable to the actions of the named individual
See also Bonilla v. Jaronczyk, 354 Fed.Appx. 579 at *1 (2d Cir. 2009) (recognizing
that municipal liability can still be found even “where a jury concludes that the
individual defendants violated plaintiff's rights but nonetheless enjoy qualified
See Wu v. City of New York, 934 F.Supp. 581, 591 (S.D.N.Y. 1996)(“Given the
facts of the case at bar…Officers Ziegler, Monahan, and Santoro are shielded from
liability in their personal capacity by the doctrine of qualified immunity…[however]
[t]his is a paradigmatic Monell case…and the City is therefore liable for any damage
done to Wu…”).
absence of individual liability’….Therefore it is simply not an
inevitability that a bifurcated trial will promote judicial economy or
convenience, even if the individual defendants escape liability…
The City Defendants’ request for bifurcation should be denied. This Court has
reviewed the Monell issues here and held that evidence at trial will be limited to the
custom and policy category of evidence.15 The Monell evidence to be offered at trial
is not voluminous, complex nor inflammatory. It is also directly relevant the jury’s
understanding of the individual NYPD defendants’ conduct and actions against the
plaintiff. Any possible prejudice to individual defendants as a result of a single trial
can be cured by jury instructions and special verdict forms concerning the purpose of
Dated: June 29, 2015
Nathaniel B. Smith
The training and supervision prong of Monell liability was dismissed by the Court
in its Summary Judgment Decision. 2015 U.S. Lexis 58831 at *121-123.
Ingles v. City of New York, 205 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11100 at * 4 (S.D.N.Y. June 7,
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