Maxwell v. City of New York, No. 676

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtWINTER; OAKES
Citation102 F.3d 664
Decision Date17 December 1996
Docket NumberD,No. 676
PartiesWinfred L. MAXWELL, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CITY OF NEW YORK; the New York City Police Department; Timothy Morley, Police Officer; Angel DeJesus, Police Officer; Monserrate Badillo, Police Officer; Davie Arroyo, Police Officer; Daniel Gonin, Police Sergeant; Richard Van Leuvan, Police Sergeant; and George Vasta, Police Detective, Defendants, William Bratton, as Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department; Thomas Kelly, Police Lieutenant; Philip Lee, Police Inspector; and Thomas Gallagher, Police Chief, Defendants-Appellants. ocket 95-7464.

Page 664

102 F.3d 664
65 USLW 2455
Winfred L. MAXWELL, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK; the New York City Police Department;
Timothy Morley, Police Officer; Angel DeJesus, Police
Officer; Monserrate Badillo, Police Officer; Davie Arroyo,
Police Officer; Daniel Gonin, Police Sergeant; Richard Van
Leuvan, Police Sergeant; and George Vasta, Police
Detective, Defendants,
William Bratton, as Police Commissioner of the New York City
Police Department; Thomas Kelly, Police Lieutenant; Philip
Lee, Police Inspector; and Thomas Gallagher, Police Chief,
Defendants-Appellants.
No. 676, Docket 95-7464.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued Dec. 11, 1995.
Decided Dec. 17, 1996.

Page 665

Elaine R. Rothenberg-Witcoff, Assistant Corporation Counsel, New York City (Paul A. Crotty, Corporation Counsel and Larry A. Sonnenshein, of counsel), for Defendants-Appellants.

Ted E. Trief, Trief & Olk, New York City (Nelson M. Farber, of counsel), for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: OAKES, WINTER, and WALKER, Circuit Judges.

WINTER, Circuit Judge:

This appeal involves the constitutionality of a vehicle checkpoint. Winfred Maxwell, a retired New York City police officer, brought this action against the city of New York and various police officials and officers for alleged violations of his constitutional and civil rights, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3), and 1986, and for corresponding violations of state law. Maxwell's twenty-eight count amended complaint alleges, inter alia, that in going to visit his daughter, he was stopped by police at a barricaded vehicle checkpoint. He claims that the existence of the checkpoint and resultant stop violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Maxwell further alleges that various police officers at the checkpoint used excessive force against him and illegally arrested, detained, and prosecuted him.

Appellants, Police Commissioner William Bratton, Lieutenant Thomas Kelly, Inspector Philip Lee, and Chief Thomas Gallagher, were responsible only for planning and ordering the establishment of the checkpoint. They were denied qualified immunity by Judge Mukasey on Maxwell's claim for monetary damages for alleged Fourth Amendment violations in ordering the checkpoint. We hold that establishing the particular vehicle checkpoint without more did not violate Maxwell's Fourth Amendment rights and reverse.

BACKGROUND

During the spring and summer of 1992, street crime, including four drive-by shootings,

Page 666

escalated in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx. In response, the 43rd precinct instituted the so-called Watson Avenue Special Operation. This involved a temporary vehicular checkpoint in an eight square-block narcotics-ridden area where most of the drive-by shootings had taken place. The checkpoint was to be active three days a week on a random basis and for approximately six hours a day, primarily in the evening hours. When the checkpoint was in operation, officers manning the barricade were to stop every vehicle seeking to enter the area in order to ascertain the driver's connection to the neighborhood. Drivers who approached the checkpoint were to be allowed to avoid questioning by driving around the area or by parking their cars and entering the area on foot. Area residents and commercial vehicles were to be allowed into the neighborhood. Officers manning the barricades were verbally instructed that they could also allow cars dropping off small children or visiting the local church to enter the area. Other than that, vehicles were not permitted beyond the barricades. The operation was in effect for six weeks, between August 26 and October 10, 1992.

In the early evening of September 19, 1992, Maxwell sought to drive to his daughter's house, which was in the barricaded area. 1 At the checkpoint Maxwell was directed by Officer Timothy Morley to stop the vehicle and to produce his driver's license and registration. Maxwell alleges that he informed Morley that he was a retired police officer and that the pouch in which he kept his license and registration also contained a registered handgun. He then reached for the pouch and opened it. Upon observing the firearm, Morley drew his service revolver and ordered Maxwell out of the vehicle. Maxwell alleges that he complied but that Morley nevertheless flipped him to the ground and made "unlawful physical contact" with him. A squad car of back-up officers soon arrived. Maxwell alleges that the officers unlawfully beat him, kicked him, punched him, and stepped on his neck. Thereafter, the officers handcuffed Maxwell and took him into custody. Maxwell claims that at this point he turned to one of the officers and said, "Sarge, look in the bag, I'm a retired police officer." To which the officer allegedly replied, "I don't care. As far as I'm concerned you're a Nigger Dirtbag." Maxwell was then taken by the officers to a station house where he was charged with Assault in the Second Degree, Resisting Arrest, Disorderly Conduct, and Harassment. He was detained until his arraignment the following day after which he was released. A jury acquitted Maxwell on all charges.

Maxwell filed the instant action alleging violations of his civil and constitutional rights as well as various state law claims. The district court granted the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment with respect to various claims but declined to dismiss Maxwell's Fourth Amendment claim for monetary damages for being stopped--apart from being arrested and beaten --at the checkpoint. Maxwell's excessive force, illegal detention, and certain other claims were not the subject of the summary judgment motion and remain pending.

The district court also denied appellants' motion that the complaint be dismissed as to Bratton, Kelly, Lee, and Gallagher on the ground of qualified immunity. They were of course involved only in planning and ordering the checkpoint and not in the arrest and alleged beating of Maxwell. In denying the motion, Judge Mukasey stated that "Because [Maxwell's claim for monetary damages based on alleged Fourth Amendment violations] must proceed to trial, it cannot be determined at this stage whether plaintiff suffered any violation of his constitutional rights. Further, if plaintiff's version of the facts proves true, and the officers did not provide adequate instructions on how to operate the checkpoints, qualified immunity will not protect them." Therefore, the court held that summary judgment was inappropriate and that the issue of qualified immunity must

Page 667

proceed to trial. This interlocutory appeal followed.
DISCUSSION

Only the district court's denial of the qualified immunity defense as to the four appellants is before us. We review a district court's denial of summary judgment de novo. Aslanidis v. United States Lines, Inc., 7 F.3d 1067, 1072 (2d Cir.1993).

The district court denied qualified immunity in the belief that genuine questions of material fact exist as to whether the vehicle checkpoint itself--in contrast to the alleged misconduct of the officers manning the checkpoint--violated Maxwell's constitutional rights. Appellants are entitled to qualified immunity if either the checkpoint in question did not violate clearly established federal rights, see Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2736, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982), or it was objectively reasonable for defendants to believe their conduct was lawful, see Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 3039-40, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987). The threshold inquiry is, of course, whether the plaintiff has alleged a constitutional violation at all. See Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 232, 111 S.Ct. 1789, 1793, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991); Blue v. Koren, 72 F.3d 1075 (2d Cir.1995).

In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the Supreme Court held that a Fourth Amendment " 'seizure' occurs when a vehicle is stopped at a checkpoint." 496 U.S. 444, 450, 110 S.Ct. 2481, 2485, 110 L.Ed.2d 412 (1990); see also People v. Scott, 63 N.Y.2d 518, 524, 473 N.E.2d 1, 483 N.Y.S.2d 649 (1984) ("There is ... no question that a roadblock or checkpoint is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.") The reasonableness of a seizure at a vehicle checkpoint depends upon a balancing of (i) the gravity of the public concerns served by the checkpoint; (ii) the degree to which the checkpoint effectively addresses those concerns; and (iii) the severity of the intrusion upon individual liberty. Sitz, 496 U.S. at 448-49, 110 S.Ct. at 2484-85 (citing Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 50-51, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 2640-41, 61 L.Ed.2d 357 (1979)). We conclude that, as planned, the Special Operation passed...

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22 practice notes
  • Cassidy v. Chertoff, Docket No. 05-1835-cv.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • November 29, 2006
    ...prohibited conduct;' the test does not require that the [search] be `the most effective measure.'") (quoting Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664, 667 (2d Cir.1996)). In this case, the government determined that the ASP devised by the Passenger Vessel Association and adopted by LCT was......
  • McLennon v. City of N.Y., 14–CV–6320 (MKB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 18, 2016
    ...checkpoint. The question thus becomes whether such seizures are 'reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment.”); Maxwell v. City of New York , 102 F.3d 664, 667 (2d Cir.1996) (“The reasonableness of a seizure at a vehicle checkpoint depends upon a balancing of [interests].”); Wagner v. Swarts , ......
  • Bible v. JesÚs, No. 09–2273.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2011
    ...because a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave the information station); Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664, 668 n. 2 (2d Cir.1996), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 813, 118 S.Ct. 57, 139 L.Ed.2d 21 (1997) (in sustaining a neighborhood-safety checkpoint, observi......
  • Edmond & Palmer v. Goldsmith, No. 98-4124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1999
    ...would amount to stopping thousands of drivers without suspecting any one of them of criminal activity. See Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664 (2d Cir. 1996); Norwood v. Bain, 143 F.3d 843, 845-50 (4th Cir. 1998), aff'd (so far as pertinent), 166 F.3d 243, 245 (4th Cir. 1999) (en banc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Cassidy v. Chertoff, Docket No. 05-1835-cv.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • November 29, 2006
    ...prohibited conduct;' the test does not require that the [search] be `the most effective measure.'") (quoting Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664, 667 (2d Cir.1996)). In this case, the government determined that the ASP devised by the Passenger Vessel Association and adopted by LCT was......
  • McLennon v. City of N.Y., 14–CV–6320 (MKB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 18, 2016
    ...checkpoint. The question thus becomes whether such seizures are 'reasonable' under the Fourth Amendment.”); Maxwell v. City of New York , 102 F.3d 664, 667 (2d Cir.1996) (“The reasonableness of a seizure at a vehicle checkpoint depends upon a balancing of [interests].”); Wagner v. Swarts , ......
  • Bible v. JesÚs, No. 09–2273.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2011
    ...because a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave the information station); Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664, 668 n. 2 (2d Cir.1996), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 813, 118 S.Ct. 57, 139 L.Ed.2d 21 (1997) (in sustaining a neighborhood-safety checkpoint, observi......
  • Edmond & Palmer v. Goldsmith, No. 98-4124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1999
    ...would amount to stopping thousands of drivers without suspecting any one of them of criminal activity. See Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664 (2d Cir. 1996); Norwood v. Bain, 143 F.3d 843, 845-50 (4th Cir. 1998), aff'd (so far as pertinent), 166 F.3d 243, 245 (4th Cir. 1999) (en banc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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