195 F.3d 111 (2nd Cir. 1999), 98-9375, Brown, et al v City of Oneonta

Docket Nº:Docket No. 98-9375
Citation:195 F.3d 111
Party Name:RICKY BROWN, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; JAMEL CHAMPEN, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; SHERYL CHAMPEN, on behalf of herself and all other persons similarly situated; HOPETON GORDON, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; JEAN CANTAVE, on behalf of himself and
Case Date:October 26, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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195 F.3d 111 (2nd Cir. 1999)

RICKY BROWN, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; JAMEL CHAMPEN, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; SHERYL CHAMPEN, on behalf of herself and all other persons similarly situated; HOPETON GORDON, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; JEAN CANTAVE, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; RAISHAWN MORRIS, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; TIM RICHARDSON, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; DARRYL TAYLOR, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; ROBERT WALKER, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; CLEMENT MALLORY, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; RONALD SANCHEZ, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; DARNELL LEMONS, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; JOHN BUTLER, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; JASON CHILDS, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; PAUL HEYWARD, JR., on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; RONALD JENNINGS, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; PAUL HOWE, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; BUBU DEMASIO, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; WILSON ACOSTA, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; CHRIS HOLLAND, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; JERMAINE ADAMS, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; FELIX FRANCIS, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; DANIEL SONTAG, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; RONALD LYNCH, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; KENNETH McCLAIN, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; HERVEY PIERRE, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; VINCENT QUINONES, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; LAURENCE PLASKETT, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; LAMONT WYCHE, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; STEVEN YORK, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; TYRONE LOHR, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; KING GONZALEZ, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

RAISHAWN MORRIS, Appellant,

CHARLES BATTISTE, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; WAYNE LEWIS, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated; MICHAEL CHRISTIAN, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated; MAJOR BARNETT, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,

v.

CITY OF ONEONTA, NEW YORK; POLICE DEPARTMENT OF THE CITY OF ONEONTA, NEW YORK; JOHN J. DONADIO, Chief of Police of the City of Oneonta, in his individual and official capacities; JOSEPH REDMOND, Oneonta Police Officer, in his individual and official capacities; WILLIAM M. DAVIS, Oneonta Police Officer, in his individual and official capacities; X. OLSEN, Oneonta Police Officer, in his individual and official capacities; ANONYMOUS OFFICERS AND INVESTIGATORS OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF THE CITY OF ONEONTA, in their individual and official capacities; THE STATE OF NEW YORK; STATE

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UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK; STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, COLLEGE AT ONEONTA ("SUCO"); NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF STATE POLICE; H. KARL CHANDLER, New York State Police Investigator, in his individual and official capacities; ROBERT FARRAND, New York State Police Troop C Commander, in his individual and official capacities; GEORGE CLUM, New York State Police Investigator, in his individual and official capacities; KEVIN MORE, New York State Police Investigator, in his individual and official capacities; JOHN WAY, New York State Police Investigator, in his official capacities; MARK KIMBALL, New York State Trooper, in his individual and official capacities; KENNETH GRANT, New York State Trooper, in his individual and official capacities; NEW YORK STATE TROOPER FARRAGO, in his individual and official capacities; ANONYMOUS STATE POLICE OFFICIALS AND INVESTIGATORS, in their individual and official capacities; SUCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY; MERRITT HUNT, SUCO Department of Public Safety Officer, in his individual and official capacities; TIM JACKSON, SUCO Department of Public Safety Officer, in his individual and official capacities; JOHN EDMONDSON, SUCO Department of Public Safety Officer, in his individual and official capacities; HARTMARK LEIF, in his individual and official capacities; ERIC WILSON, in his individual and official capacities; CARL SHEDLOCK, Oneonta Police Officer, in his individual and official capacities; ANONYMOUS PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS, in their individual and official capacities; ANONYMOUS SUCO COMPUTER EMPLOYEES, in their individual and official capacities; SEAN RALPH, Otsego County Sheriff's Deputy; CHRIS LEHENBAUER, Otsego County Sheriff's Deputy; ANONYMOUS OTSEGO CITY; ANONYMOUS OTSEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES, INVESTIGATORS AND/OR OFFICERS, Defendants-Appellees.

Docket No. 98-9375

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

October 26, 1999

Argued June 4, 1999

Appeal from a judgment in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (McAvoy, Chief Judge), dismissing some claims and granting summary judgment for defendants on other claims arising from plaintiffs' interactions with police authorities during an investigation conducted by the New York State and Oneonta Police Departments based on a victim's description of a suspect that consisted primarily of the suspect's race.

AFFIRMED in part, VACATED in part, and REMANDED.

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D. SCOTT BASSINSON, Esq., Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, Albany, N.Y., for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

DENISE A. HARTMAN, Assistant Attorney General (Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York, Peter H. Schiff, Acting Solicitor General, Nancy A. Spiegel, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel), Albany, N.Y., for State Defendants-Appellees.

DANIEL J. STEWART, Esq., Dreyer Boyajian LLP, Albany, N.Y., for City Defendants-Appellees.

Charles Stephen Ralston, Esq., NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (Elaine R. Jones, Director-Counsel, Norman J. Chachkin, David T. Goldberg, Paul K. Sonn, on the brief), New York, N.Y., Arthur N. Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, N.Y., and William Goodman, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, N.Y., as Amici Curiae in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants.

James B. Tuttle, Esq., Bohl, Della Rocca & Dorfman, P.C., for the Police Conference of New York, Inc., Amicus Curiae in support of City Defendants-Appellees.

Before: OAKES and WALKER, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,[*] Judge.

JOHN M. WALKER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs-appellants, black residents of Oneonta, New York, appeal from the September 9, 1998 judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Thomas J. McAvoy, Chief Judge). Plaintiffs' claims arise from their interactions with police authorities during an investigation conducted by the New York State and Oneonta Police Departments based on a victim's description of a suspect that consisted primarily of the suspect's race. Plaintiffs asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause and the Fourth Amendment, claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1985(3) and 1986, and other related federal and state causes of action. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants on some of plaintiffs' claims and dismissed others on the pleadings, and the parties stipulated to the discontinuance and dismissal of the remaining claims.

This case bears on the question of the extent to which law enforcement officials may utilize race in their investigation of a crime. We hold that under the circumstances of this case, where law enforcement officials possessed a description of a criminal suspect, even though that description consisted primarily of the suspect's race and gender, absent other evidence of discriminatory racial animus, they could act on the basis of that description without violating the Equal Protection Clause. Accordingly, we affirm the dismissal of

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plaintiffs' §1983 claims under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as their claims under 42 U.S.C. §§1981, 1985(3) and 1986.

Police action is still subject to the constraints of the Fourth Amendment, however, and a description of race and gender alone will rarely provide reasonable suspicion justifying a police search or seizure. In this case, certain individual plaintiffs were subjected to seizures by defendant law enforcement officials, and those individuals may proceed with their claims under the Fourth Amendment.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

Oneonta, a small town in upstate New York about sixty miles west of...

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