Opinions

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Selected written opinions from New York Eastern District Court and participating courts are also available for free from the U.S. Government Printing Office United States Courts Opinions or   United States Courts Opinion BETA  websites. No account is required to access these opinions.

 

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1:15-cv-05174

DaCosta v. City of New York, et al. 
 
Senior United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein issued an opinion today concluding that a government attorney had an ethical and procedural obligation to inform a civil rights plaintiff about the proper identity of the police officer against whom he alleges misconduct.  The plaintiff’s amended complaint adding the proper officer was allowed to “relate back” to the time the lawsuit was filed, thus defeating the statute of limitations defense. 
A municipal attorney serves the institutional interests of the government, as well as the citizenry at large.  Because of this dual obligation, the government attorney has heightened ethical duties, including disclosure of the identity of the correct police officer, who allegedly acted illegally, when the wrong officer was originally named in a civil rights case.
 
The Court reviewed state and federal law controlling when an amendment to a pleading relates back to the filing of a plaintiff’s original complaint.  Both the United States Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals have developed flexible standards for this doctrine that favor plaintiffs, but these rules have not always been applied by courts in the Second Circuit.  A close review of interconnected doctrines and case law reveals that a civil rights plaintiff’s claims should not be barred by the statute of limitations when, under the circumstances of the present litigation, the plaintiff learns the identity of the person he has accused of wrongdoing after the statute of limitations has run. 
 

1:14-cv-06905

Leevson et al v. Aqualife USA, Inc. et al

Senior United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein today issued an opinion addressing at length two evolving issues in state and federal labor law: (1) the increasing misclassification of regular workers as independent contractors by their employers in an attempt to avoid liability and gain a competitive advantage; and (2) advancements in technology resulting in a home-work environment that blurs the line between “work” and “free time.” 

Plaintiffs sued Aqualife, Inc., alleging failure to pay wages and overtime.  Employees were required by Aqualife to use independent corporate entities through which they were paid, but were found by the jury to be employees covered by labor laws.    
The court noted that home-work habits have changed drastically with the advent of new technology.  The jury recognized this when it answered “yes” to a special interrogatory: “Were [the plaintiffs when at home after work] impeded from going about their normal routine in their non-work life, such as deciding when to eat, sleep, watch television, etc.?”  Substantial compensation was awarded by the jury for periods of time, after the employees left the office, for answering phone calls in their home and for being “on-call” to assist technicians with sales.   
Motions to reject the jury’s findings were denied.  
 

15-CV-3436

Cordero v. The City of New York , et al

Senior United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein today issued an opinion allowing a Monellclaim under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983 to proceed against the City of New York on grounds that the City has failed to take reasonable steps to control extensive lying by its police officers.  The Plaintiff’s theory is that, for example, the police department has long been aware of a wide-spread practice of false arrests at the end of tours of duty in order to obtain overtime and that it has failed to make reasonable efforts to stop this practice.  In extensive footnotes the Court documented widespread media coverage of police mendacity.  
Hector Cordero sued the New York Police Department (“NYPD”), as well as four individual officers, alleging that the officers trumped up street sale drug charges against him because they wanted to receive overtime pay for processing the arrest.  
The Court noted that the NYPD is widely respected for keeping the citizens of New York safe on a daily basis.  But, police officers’ fabrication of paper work and testimony has become increasingly pervasive and well-documented.  
 
 

United States v. Lawrence

Judge Weinstein issued an opinion sentencing a possible gang member who recklessly fired a gun into a pedestrian street, shooting his own companion.  The opinion contains an expanded discussion of the relation of length of sentence to deterrence.  It relies on the opinion of an expert, Professor Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia Law School, that other factors are more important than length.  The sentence is based on the expert’s opinion and other relevant factors. 

 

17-CV-1033

Murphy et al v. HeartShare Human Services of New York et al
 

Plaintiffs were employees of both a school and a residence for students with disabilities. They claim that the two employers are so closely related that they must be considered one for purposes of federal and state overtime law. Alleged are violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York State labor law. Defendants had good professional and business reasons for setting up two related separate operations. But those non-pretextual business reasons do not affect workers’ rights to overtime. By treating the two entities as one for compensation purposes, the law leans strongly in favor of protecting workers’ wage rights over employers’ rights to run an efficient business. The employer cannot reduce these worker rights by contract or organization of its operations.
 
Defendants have moved to dismiss for failure to allege that defendants are joint employers. The motion is denied and the case is set down for trial.