430 F.3d 652 (2nd Cir. 2005), 04-3887, Nicholas v. Goord

Docket Nº:04-3887-PR.
Citation:430 F.3d 652
Party Name:Jason B. NICHOLAS, John Lewis, Philip Rabenbauer, Frank Solimine, Robert Pacini, Chester Flanders, Bennie Bates, Lymond Stephenson, Luis Mejia, Cecil Barrow, Dominic Deruggiero, Plaintiffs-Appellants, Alvaro Sanchez, Plaintiff, v. Glenn S. GOORD, New York State Department of Correctional Services; Katherine Lapp, New York State Division of Criminal
Case Date:November 28, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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430 F.3d 652 (2nd Cir. 2005)

Jason B. NICHOLAS, John Lewis, Philip Rabenbauer, Frank Solimine, Robert Pacini, Chester Flanders, Bennie Bates, Lymond Stephenson, Luis Mejia, Cecil Barrow, Dominic Deruggiero, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

Alvaro Sanchez, Plaintiff,

v.

Glenn S. GOORD, New York State Department of Correctional Services; Katherine Lapp, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services; Medilabs, Inc.; Jessica Walsh, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 04-3887-PR.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

November 28, 2005

Argued April 4, 2005

Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Kevin T. Duffy, Judge), dismissing pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) plaintiffs' complaint, which alleged that New York's DNA-database statute violated their Fourth Amendment rights. AFFIRMED.

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ALEXANDER A. REINERT, Koob & Magoolaghan, New York, New York, for Plaintiffs-Appellants .

GREGORY KLASS, Assistant Solicitor General (Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York, and Michael Belohlavek, Deputy Solicitor General, on the brief), New York, New York, for Defendants-Appellees Goord and Lapp.

ANN TERESA MCINTYRE, Zichello & MacIntyre, LLP, New York, New York, for Defendants-Appellees Medilabs, Inc. and Walsh.

Beth Haroules (Arthur N. Eisenberg, on the brief), New York, New York, on submission, for Amicus Curiae New York Civil Liberties Union, in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants .

Gregory L. Diskant (Erik S. Hanson, on the brief), Patterson Belknap, Webb & Tyler LLP, New York, New York, on submission, for Amicus Curiae The Council for Responsible Genetics, in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants .

Timothy P. O'Toole (Todd Cox and Alison Flaum, on the brief), Washington, DC, on submission, for Amicus Curiae Public

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Defender Service for the District of Columbia, in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants .

Laura R. Johnson (Lawrence T. Hausman, on the brief), New York, New York, on submission, for Amicus Curiae The Legal Aid Society, in support of Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Susan L. Valle (Kevin L. Wright, President, on the brief), Albany, New York, on submission, for Amicus Curiae The District Attorneys Association of New York State, Inc., in support of Defendants-Appellees.

Before: WALKER, Chief Judge, LEVAL, Circuit Judge, and LYNCH, District Judge. [*]

Judges Leval and Lynch join the opinion and concur in separate opinions.

JOHN M. WALKER, JR., Chief Judge:

Jason B. Nicholas, John Lewis, Philip Rabenbauer, Frank Solimine, Robert Pacini, Chester Flanders, Bennie Bates, Lymond Stephenson, Luis Mejia, Cecil Barrow, and Dominic DeRuggiero (collectively, "plaintiffs") appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Kevin T. Duffy, Judge) granting defendants' motion to dismiss. Nicholas v. Goord, No. 01 Civ. 7891, 2004 WL 1432533 (S.D.N.Y. June 24, 2004). . Plaintiffs, who filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenge the constitutionality under the Fourth Amendment of New York's DNA statute, which requires certain classes of convicted felons to provide DNA samples to be maintained in a state database.

We affirm the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint, but rely on different reasoning. We hold that the constitutionality of New York's DNA statute is properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's "special needs" test; under that test, we find the statute constitutional.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

Plaintiffs are felons convicted in New York who, at the time they brought this lawsuit, were incarcerated. They challenge the 1999 version of New York's DNA statute, which requires certain classes of convicted felons to provide DNA samples to be maintained in a state database. N.Y. Exec. Law § 995 et seq. (McKinney 1999).1 New York's law is similar to the numerous DNA-indexing statutes that have been established at both the state and federal levels; it (1) mandates the extraction of DNA samples from certain classes of convicted felons, id. § 995-c(3);2 (2) provides for DNA information obtained from those samples to be maintained in an index, or database, id.; (3) specifies that DNA samples will be analyzed only for markers "having value for law enforcement identification purposes,"

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id. § 995-c(5);3 (4) allows for release of DNA records only in limited circumstances, id. § 995-c(6);4 (5) penalizes the unauthorized disclosure or use of DNA records, id. § 995-f; and (6) requires that an individual's DNA records be expunged if his conviction is reversed or if he is pardoned, id. § 995-c(9). All nine plaintiffs have provided blood samples for purposes of the DNA index.5

Suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs claim that New York's statute violates the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. See U.S. Const. amend. IV. They seek to have their DNA records expunged from New York's database as well as money damages.6In addition to defendants-appellees Goord and Lapp ("State defendants"), plaintiffs named as defendants Medilabs, Inc., and its employee Jessica Walsh, who conducted DNA sampling for the state.7

II. Proceedings Below

On February 6, 2003, Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein issued a report recommending that the case be dismissed. Nicholas v. Goord, No. 01 Civ. 7891, 2003 WL 256774 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2003) ("Report-Recommendation"). He first concluded that DNA sampling under the statute constituted a "search and seizure implicating the Fourth Amendment." Id. at *3. After extensively analyzing the relevant case law, the magistrate judge found that New York's DNA statute was subject to the "special needs" test first articulated by Justice Blackmun in his concurrence in New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 351, 105 S.Ct. 733, 83 L.Ed.2d 720 (1985) (Blackmun, J., concurring), and applied by this court in analyzing Connecticut's

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DNA statute, see Roe v. Marcotte, 193 F.3d 72, 79-82 (2d Cir. 1999). In Magistrate Judge Gorenstein's view, recent Supreme Court cases "require[d] that DNA indexing statutes ... be analyzed solely in accordance with the ‘special needs' doctrine." Report-Recommendation, 2003 WL 256774, at *11.

Following that doctrine, the magistrate judge conducted a two-part inquiry. He first asked whether New York's law served a "‘special need, beyond the normal need for law enforcement.'" Id. In doing so, however, he declined to rely on the special need that we had identified in Marcotte, in part because that case preceded two significant intervening Supreme Court decisions concerning the special-needs test, see id. at *14, and in part because he was unconvinced that New York's DNA statute was meant to deter recidivism, the special need relied upon in Marcotte, see id. at *12. Ultimately, the magistrate judge concluded that the primary purpose of New York's DNA statute was "to maintain information available to solve future crimes," and deemed that purpose a special need. Id. at *13. The magistrate judge then applied a balancing test and found that the interests of the state in maintaining a database to aid in crime investigation outweighed the minimal intrusion on plaintiffs' privacy interests. The magistrate judge emphasized plaintiffs' greatly reduced expectation of privacy as prisoners, id. at *16-*17, and the "blanket approach" of the statute, which reduced the possibility of arbitrary conduct by the state, id. at *18.

The district court reached the same conclusion by a different route. The district court first expressed skepticism as to whether the Fourth Amendment even applied, noting that it was "not necessarily convinced that the Magistrate Judge was correct to so quickly dismiss the question," but ultimately decided, in the absence of any argument from the state, to assume that the Fourth Amendment did apply. Nicholas, 2004 WL 1432533, at *2. Rather than conducting the special-needs inquiry, however, the district court found that under the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 S.Ct. 587, 151 L.Ed.2d 497 (2001), a general balancing test was more appropriate. See Nicholas, 2004 WL 1432533, at *3. The district court therefore explicitly declined to follow Marcotte or the magistrate judge's recommendation, id. at *3 n.7, and even suggested that the statute might not survive under the special-needs test, id. at *4 (arguing that "collecting DNA is part and parcel" of the state's general interest in law enforcement, which would not qualify as a special need).

Instead of engaging in a special-needs inquiry, therefore, the district court proceeded directly to consider the statute under the traditional Fourth Amendment balancing test. After concluding that, in light of the totality of the circumstances, the state's significant interest in "having information readily available to aid criminal investigations" outweighed plaintiffs' minimal interest in not having to submit their DNA to indexing, the district court dismissed the complaint. Id. at *5-*6.

This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

We review de novo a district court's grant of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) (6).8 See, e.g., W. Mohegan Tribe & Nation v. Orange County, 395 F.3d 18, 20 (2d Cir. 2004)

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(per curiam). We accept as true the allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor. Id.

I. The Applicability of the Fourth Amendment

As a preliminary matter, we reject the district court's sua sponte suggestion that the Fourth Amendment might not apply to New York's DNA statute because plaintiffs...

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