In February 2022, Brian Sokoloff argued before the New York Court of Appeals in one of the most important municipal liability cases in years. Representing the City of Binghamton, he secured amicus participation from the New York Association of Towns, the New York Conference of Mayors, and the City of New York. The case stemmed from a SWAT team’s execution of a no-knock search warrant during which an unexpected house guest was shot by police. At issue was plaintiff’s argument that, because a police officer inflicted the injury, he need not prove the city owed him a “special duty.” The case came to New York’s highest court on a certified question from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which found New York law unclear. The question was: “Does the ‘special duty’ requirement — that, to sustain liability in negligence against a municipality, the plaintiff must show that the duty breached is greater than that owed to the public generally — apply to claims of injury inflicted through municipal negligence, or does it apply only when the municipality’s negligence lies in its failure to protect the plaintiff from an injury inflicted other than by a municipal employee?”
The New York Court of Appeals followed the argument with a 5-2 decision that articulated the rule urged by Binghamton and its amici: ““[T]he special duty requirement applies to all negligence actions against a governmental defendant…” One well-connected observer told Brian, “You secured a vitally important decision for all NYS governmental entities that will save their collective budgets tens of millions of dollars. You also secured a clear articulation of the analytical principles to be applied – something that eluded the NYS Court of Appeals for 50 years or so. A significant achievement and a crowning professional accomplishment!”
In Cruz v. City of New Rochelle, several New Rochelle police officers attempted to remove an emotionally disturbed person from his apartment to bring him to a hospital. When they entered, Mr. Cruz charged at them with a knife; when efforts to Taser him failed, one of the officers shot him and killed him. After protracted discovery, United States Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith issued a 74-page decision granting Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing all federal civil rights and state law claims.
Steven C. Stern and David Gold defended the litigation and drafted the successful motion.
In Elias v. Spring Valley, the plaintiff was shot and killed by a police officer while resisting arrest. The plaintiff’s estate sued, claiming that defendants used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and asserted claims for wrongful death, negligence, and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment. Dismissing all claims, Judge Scheindlin held that the officer’s decision to use his firearm did not violate the Fourth Amendment and that that he was entitled to qualified immunity.
Brian S. Sokoloff, Susan H. Odessky, and Kevin Levine handled the case and drafted the successful motion.
In Thomas v. Town of Mamakating, plaintiff challenged the Building Inspector’s determination that she was engaged in unauthorized mining on her property, the Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision to uphold that determination, and the Planning Board’s determination dismissing her request to reinstate an expired site plan approval. U.S. District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the complaint on ripeness grounds, finding none of these actions constituted a “final decision” for ripeness purposes. The court also ruled plaintiff failed to plausibly invoke the futility exception to the final decision requirement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.
Leo Dorfman and Alexander J. Eleftherakis drafted the successful motion and appellate brief.
In Adamou v. Doyle, Sokoloff Stern defended the County of Spotsylvania, Virginia, its Sheriff’s office, and a retired detective from the Virginia Attorney General’s office. Following a joint investigation by state and federal law enforcement agencies, the plaintiff was arrested and indicted for participating in an interstate tobacco smuggling conspiracy. After the Commonwealth dropped the charges, plaintiff sued, inter alia, for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process claiming the detective had testified falsely before the grand jury. After the District Court dismissed all claims against the County but denied the detective’s motion to dismiss, the Second Circuit granted the detective absolutely immune for his testimony before the grand jury and dismissed the remainder of the case.
Mark Radi successfully briefed and argued the motions and appeal.
In Heller v. Town of Pound Ridge, plaintiff sued the Town’s police department and its chief alleging he was coerced to consent to be transported to a mental health facility, where he was ultimately committed. He claimed this “mental health arrest,” occasioned by his online instant messages and recent firearms purchases, punished him for engaging in First Amendment activity, violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizures, violated his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights, and resulted in the loss of his right to own a firearm under the Second Amendment. In a thorough 48-page decision, Southern District Judge Katherine B. Forrest dismissed all claims against the Town of and its chief, holding that plaintiff failed to state any plausible constitutional claims, there was probable cause for the seizure, and the Chief of Police is entitled to qualified immunity for what was “well within the boundaries of what is considered objectively reasonable.”
Steven C. Stern drafted the successful motion.
In Livulpi v. Town of Kent, the plaintiff was Tasered and arrested after a fight at a local bar. He sued the Town of Kent and several police officers, claiming excessive force and false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. District Judge Cathy Seibel granted Sokoloff Stern’s summary judgment motion, holding plaintiff failed to show that a Town officer Tasered him, and that statements by witnesses created sufficient probable cause for a lawful arrest.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Leo Dorfman successfully defended the case.
In Amid v. Lamb, the plaintiff alleged Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest, unlawful search of her home, and excessive force against three Village of Old Brookville police officers who brought her to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation after she called a Mortgage Crisis Hotline threatening suicide and then wielded a kitchen knife in the officers’ presence. Mark Radi and Steven Stern tried the case before Judge Leonard D. Wexler in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The jury returned a swift verdict in favor of the defendants on all claims.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision.
In O’Neal v. Town of East Hampton, et al., plaintiff sued for false arrest claim in federal court after he was arrested by the Town police department and later indicted by grand jury on four counts of second-degree assault. United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco dismissed the claims against the Town of East Hampton and its police department, finding plaintiff’s guilty plea established probable cause for his arrest and barred his claims under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heck v. Humphrey doctrine. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.
Steven C. Stern and Alexander J. Eleftherakis drafted the successful motion and appellate briefing.
In Parker v. Fantasia, the Rockland Drug Task Force investigated drug trafficking in Rockland County. Acquiring evidence through wiretaps, the Task Force suspected plaintiff of using his apartment to sell and store cocaine and heroin. The Task force applied for and received a search warrant for plaintiff’s premises. After the Task Force searched plaintiff’s apartment, it arrested him. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office successfully tried and convicted plaintiff. Thereafter, he sued various defendants, including the Spring Valley police officer who applied for the search warrant. Sokoloff Stern represented Spring Valley and its police officer. Plaintiff claimed the search warrant was invalid either because the officer lied on the warrant application of because the officer forged the judge’s signature on the warrant. Plaintiff also claimed police officers damaged his property during the search. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas dismissed some of plaintiff’s claims on a pre-answer motion, and he dismissed the remainder of plaintiff’s claims in a 28-page summary judgment decision. Judge Karas found a lack of evidence supporting plaintiff’s claim of warrant forgery, and he found no evidence to support plaintiff’s claim of property damage.
Brian S. Sokoloff drafted the successful motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.
In Castro v. County of Nassau, et al., plaintiff was a former school security guard who was arrested and then acquitted of calling in a false bomb threat to the school at which he worked. He sued several officials and employees of the Great Neck Union Free School District, claiming, inter alia, that they conspired to have him falsely arrested and retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. Judge Joseph F. Bianco granted the school district defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing all claims against them.
Steven C. Stern and Melissa Holtzer drafted the successful motion for summary judgment.
In Curanaj v. Cordone, the plaintiff brought a federal lawsuit against the Town of Yorktown and its police officers, alleging he was falsely arrested and prosecuted after a dispute with his neighbor. Judge Edgardo Ramos dismissed the case mid-discovery on Sokoloff Stern’s motion, finding that plaintiff’s allegations demonstrated the officers had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff who had waived an axe at his neighbor during the argument.
Brian Sokoloff and Mark Radi defended the case, and drafted the successful motion.
In Huger v. Village of Spring Valley, plaintiff alleged that the Village, its police department, and one of its detectives violated his constitutional rights when the detective detained and questioned him regarding his suspected involvement in an armed robbery. Judge Cathy Seibel granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the detention of plaintiff was “eminently reasonable.”
Steven C. Stern, Adam I. Kleinberg, and Melissa L. Holtzer drafted the successful motion.
In Jackson v. City of Middletown, an arrestee brought a federal lawsuit against the City of Middletown and its police department. According to plaintiff, the police officers falsely arrested him and utilized excessive force by hitting him with a flashlight during the course of the arrest.
Sokoloff Stern sought, and defendants were granted, summary judgment on all of plaintiff’s claims except for plaintiff’s state law claim for assault and battery. Following a four day trial before the Honorable Lisa Margaret Smith, the jury unanimously found in favor of defendants on the assault and battery claim.
Steven C. Stern and Anthony F. Cardoso successfully represented the City of Middletown at trial.
In Johnson v. City of New York, the plaintiff alleged he was falsely arrested and prosecuted for armed robbery based on a false identification by the victim. Sokoloff Stern defended the crime victim, whose summary judgment motion was denied by the trial court. Sokoloff Stern appealed to the Appellate Division, Second Department which reversed, finding there was no evidence to support plaintiff’s claims against the civilian witness.
Steven C. Stern and Mark Radi successfully defended the crime victim.
In Longinott v. Town of Newburgh, plaintiff alleged that a Town police officer harassed her in retaliation for filing a criminal complaint against the police officer’s wife. Judge Vincent L. Briccetti of the Southern District of New York granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the complaint, finding plaintiff’s allegations of illegal search and seizure and retaliation insufficient to state a claim.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Mark A. Radi drafted the successful motion.
In Magnotta v. Putnam County Sheriff, the plaintiff pro se, who had been convicted of a criminal sex act and a string of burglaries in Putnam and Dutchess counties, sued the Town of Kent police officers in federal court, claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution. Judge George B. Daniels granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss on the ground that the Heck v. Humphrey doctrine barred his claims.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Susan H. Odessky drafted the successful motion.
In Martinez v. DeMarco, the plaintiff brought various civil rights claims against individual police officers relating to his arrest for the attempted murder of his wife. United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco adopted Magistrate Judge Kathleen A. Tomlinson’s recommendation that the Court grant Sokoloff Stern’s motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety.
Steven C. Stern and Kaitlyn R. McKenna drafted the successful motion.
In McGuire v. Village of Tarrytown, a former New York City Police Officer brought a federal lawsuit against the Village of Tarrytown and various Village police officers. Several of the police officers had responded to a call of a dispute between plaintiff and his neighbor regarding the storage of trash in a common area. Later that same day, the neighbor provided a sworn statement attesting that plaintiff had brandished a weapon while threatening to harm him. Plaintiff alleged that he was falsely arrested and claimed violations of his rights under the First, Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
Judge Kevin T. Duffy granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint. In reviewing the record in connection with the motion, Judge Duffy found that plaintiff lacked a reasonable factual basis to have pursued the legal claims asserted. Accordingly, he determined that plaintiff should pay defendants’ attorneys’ fees and costs.
Adam I. Kleinberg and Anthony F. Cardoso drafted the successful motion.
In Meyers v. Village of Spring Valley, plaintiff sued a Village police officer and a Village police Sergeant in federal court, alleging excessive force and the denial of medical assistance. Following a five-day trial before United States District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti, the jury found in the officers’ favor on all claims.
Susan H. Odessky and Melissa L. Holtzer successfully defended the officers through trial.
In Moritz v. Town of Warwick, Town of Goshen police officer Matthew Imperio counter-sued the plaintiff for defamation. Southern District Judge Nelson Roman granted Officer Imperio summary judgment on liability, finding plaintiff defamed him, and scheduled a trial on damages, after which the case was settled.
Mark Radi drafted the successful motion.
In O’Brien v. Town of Yorktown, plaintiff sued in state court alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and negligence. New York Supreme Court Justice Joan B. Lefkowitz granted Sokoloff Stern’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing all of plaintiff’s claims, finding there was probable cause for his arrest. The court also held that plaintiff failed prove that defendant breached a duty of care to him.
Brian S. Sokoloff and David A. Gold handled the case and drafted the successful motion for summary judgment.
In Scott v. Village of Spring Valley, the plaintiff alleged excessive force when police officers temporarily stopped and handcuffed him for driving a stolen van. Southern District Judge Nelson S. Román denied plaintiff’s motion to name the individual police officers after the statute of limitations expired, agreeing that plaintiff failed to satisfy the requirement of the “relation back” doctrine. Sokoloff Stern then successfully moved for summary judgment on behalf of the Village. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed on all grounds.
Brian S. Sokoloff and Susan H. Odessky successfully handled the case.
In Tribie v. Village of Spring Valley, the plaintiff brought a federal lawsuit against two Village police officers, alleging false arrest, excessive force, and a violation of due process. Following a four day trial before the Honorable Vincent L. Briccetti, the jury found in the officers’ favor on all claims.
Susan Odessky and Anthony F. Cardoso successfully defended the police officers at trial.