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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Louima v. City of New York PN-NY-0001
Docket / Court 98 Civ 5083 (SJ) ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
This is a summary of the infamous Abner Louima case. a matter which attracted international attention and sparked demonstrations on New York City Hall in 1997 for its allegations of conscious-shocking police abuse. On August 8, 1998, Louima's private attorneys, who included the late Johnnie ... read more >
This is a summary of the infamous Abner Louima case. a matter which attracted international attention and sparked demonstrations on New York City Hall in 1997 for its allegations of conscious-shocking police abuse. On August 8, 1998, Louima's private attorneys, who included the late Johnnie Cochran, filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against the City of New York, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) and various individual police officers, alleging police brutality. Louima, a Haitian immigrant, claimed that he was beaten and sodomized with a broken piece of a broomstick or toilet plunger, in a Brooklyn stationhouse bathroom following his arrest at a Haitian nightclub. Louima claimed that the following his torture, officers and the PBA engaged in a widespread conspiracy to cover-up the incident. Louima further alleged that the officer's brutality was the caused by the policies, customs and/or practices of the NYPD and the PBA, including a "code of silence" that existed within the department. Louima's wife alleged a claim for loss of consortium.

Five of the individual officers named as defendants in Louima's civil suit were also indicted on federal criminal violations stemming from the attack on Louima. Two separate criminal trials began while Louima's civil case was pending. One defendant officer, Justin Volpe, eventually pled guilty to charges relative to his involvement. Other officers were convicted, but the convictions were overturned on appeal, with charges against one officer being remanded for a new trial. See U.S. v. Schwarz, 283 F.3d 76 (2nd Cir. 2002).

Louima's complaint was amended three times, with the third amended complaint being filed on September 27, 2000. Several individual defendants filed cross-claims, but the legal basis for those cross-claims is unclear from the docket. The PBA responded to the third amended complaint by filing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. PBA argued in part that plaintiffs' third amended complaint did not adequately allege that the PBA acted under color of state law, nor that it conspired with a state actor to deprive plaintiffs' civil rights. Plaintiffs served a memorandum in opposition to PBA's motion to dismiss, addressing the novel issue of the PBA's potential liability in a Section 1983 police brutality case.

In March 2001 Magistrate Cheryl L. Pollak entered a protective order in the case, restricting public access to the proceedings and pleadings. With settlement talks ongoing, Judge Pollak also ordered that all parties to the litigation refrain from publicly disclosing any information regarding settlement negotiations. The protective order was amended several times thereafter and eventually lifted on October 17, 2002.

After years of discovery and protracted settlement negotiations, the case was globally settled for $8.75 million (the City agreeing to pay $7.125 million; the PBA agreeing to pay $1.625 million) in exchange for dismissal of the claims against all of the defendants, except for Officers Charles Schwarz and Francisco Rosario. On July 23, 2001, a stipulation and order of settlement and dismissal was filed. There was a dispute among Louima's attorneys as to the distribution of attorneys' fees, so district court judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. ordered that the amount of the fees be placed in an escrow account, overseen by trustee Ronald L. Garnett, Esq., pending resolution of the fee dispute.

A hearing was held before the court beginning on October 16, 2002, regarding the attorney fee dispute. On October 5, 2004, district court judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. adopted magistrate judge Pollack's report and recommendation on the fee dispute in part and awarded several of the attorneys less than 10% of the total attorneys' fees of $2.9 million. The majority of the fees were ordered payable to attorneys Cochran, Neufeld, Scheck and Rubenstein.

Attorney Roper-Simpson appealed the order. The second circuit court of appeals affirmed and the district court thereafter ordered the distribution of the attorney's fees in accordance with its order.

Dan Dalton - 01/02/2007

compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Race discrimination
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures
Racial profiling
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) New York Police Department
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York
Plaintiff Description Man alleging brutal assault by police officers and subsequent alleged cover-up conspiracy by the officers
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2006
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

1:98-cv-05083-SJ-CLP (E.D.N.Y.) 12/04/2006
PN-NY-0001-9001 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Third Amended Complaint and Jury Demand 10/02/2000
PN-NY-0001-0001 PDF | Detail
Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Response to the PBA's Motion to Dismiss 11/08/2000
PN-NY-0001-0002 PDF | Detail
Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint against Defendants the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association of the City of New York, Inc., Patrick Lynch, Louis Matarazzo, Michael Immitt and Timothy Lee 05/03/2001
PN-NY-0001-0004 PDF | Detail
Report and Recommendation 07/21/2004 (2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 13707) (E.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0001-0008 PDF | LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Memorandum and Order 09/28/2004 (2004 WL 2212093 / 2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 2886) (E.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0001-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum and Order 10/05/2004 (2004 WL 2359943 / 2004 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 28886) (E.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0001-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Summary Order 01/20/2006 (163 Fed.Appx. 70)
PN-NY-0001-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Jacobs, Dennis G. (Second Circuit)
Johnson, Sterling Jr. (E.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0001-0006 | PN-NY-0001-0007 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Leval, Pierre Nelson (Second Circuit, S.D.N.Y.)
Pollak, Cheryl L. (E.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Straub, Chester J. (Second Circuit)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cochran, Johnnie L. Jr. (California)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Goldberg, David T. (New York)
Neufeld, Peter J. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0002 | PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Ross, Michael S. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0006 | PN-NY-0001-0007
Rubenstein, Sanford A. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Scheck, Barry C. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Balber, Scott S. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0004 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Baumstein, Douglas P. (New York)
Bergman, Paul B. (New York)
Blessinger, Peter J. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Brounstein, Steven Lloyd (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
DeBlasio, John W. (New York)
Fischetti, Ronald P. (New York)
Granger, Raymond (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Jenks, Thomas (Ohio)
Kahn, Lawrence S. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Keating, Kevin James (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Kessler, Frederick R. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Kornberg, Marvyn M. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Laquercia, Thomas Michael (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Levitt, Richard Ware (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Longworth, Gregory M. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
McMahon, Gerald J. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Murray, Michael T. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0004 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Pagan, William (New York)
Patten, John D. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Pestana, Georgia (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Puccio, Thomas Philip (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0004 | PN-NY-0001-0008
Simon, Bradley Drew (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0006 | PN-NY-0001-0007 | PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Tacopina, Joseph (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Waller, Brian D. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0006 | PN-NY-0001-0007
Worth, Stephen C. (New York)
Zweifach, Lawrence J. (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0008 | PN-NY-0001-9001
Other Lawyers Okoli, Kenechukwu Chudi (New York)
PN-NY-0001-0005 | PN-NY-0001-0006 | PN-NY-0001-0007

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