University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Sarnicola v. County of Westchester PN-NY-0002
Docket / Court 01-CV-6078 ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On July 5, 2001, plaintiff, twenty six year old Nicole Sarnicola, filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the County of Westchester and individual police officers, alleging that she was subjected to false ... read more >
On July 5, 2001, plaintiff, twenty six year old Nicole Sarnicola, filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the County of Westchester and individual police officers, alleging that she was subjected to false arrest and an illegal strip search. Plaintiff sought monetary and injunctive relief. The complaint was amended on October 16, 2001.

On January 8, 2002, the parties agreed to a partial dismissal of certain individually named officer defendants. The case remained pending against Westchester County and one individual officer, who then moved for summary judgment on February 7, 2002. On February 22, 2002, plaintiff responded by filing a cross-motion for summary judgment.

On October 24, 2002, district judge Colleen McMahon issued her memorandum decision, granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment, and granting in part, denying in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. Judge McMahon ruled that on the record presented the police had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for suspicion of drug related activity and that plaintiff was not subjected to excessive detention, thereby defeating plaintiff's false arrest claim. The court further held that the defendant officer was not constitutionally justified in ordering a strip search of plaintiff, when there was no particularized reasonable belief that she was secreting drugs or other contraband and that he was not entitled to qualified immunity for his actions. The court denied Westchester County's motion, finding that there was a factual dispute in the record as to whether the strip search was conducted pursuant to an unconstitutional custom or practice of the County's police department.

On November 14, 2005, defendants filed a notice of appeal. The parties then arrived at a settlement and the case was voluntarily dismissed by the parties on January 13, 2003 and defendants' appeal was withdrawn.

Dan Dalton - 12/29/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
General
Racial profiling
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Westchester County Police Department
Plaintiff Description Arrestee suing county, police department and sergeant, claiming false arrest and unlawful strip search
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 n/a
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 ]

  Legal Construction of Litigation Threat in a Correctional Organization: A Case Study of Sarnicola v County of Westchester
Written: Dec. 04, 2004
By: Patrick Troy (Washington University)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  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 ]

Docket(s)
01-6078 (S.D.N.Y.) 04/14/2003
PN-NY-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Westchester County P.D. Procedure for Search Detention and Transportation of Female Prisoners 01/01/1992
PN-NY-0002-0001 PDF | Detail
Westchester County P.D. Procedure for Prisoner Transports; Searching/Handcuffing 01/01/1992
PN-NY-0002-0002 PDF | Detail
Westchester County P.D. Rules and Procedures for Prisoner Detention 06/15/1995
PN-NY-0002-0003 PDF | Detail
Complaint/Jury Trial 07/05/2001
PN-NY-0002-0004 PDF | Detail
Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment 02/06/2002
PN-NY-0002-0008 PDF | Detail
Defendant County of Westchester's Statement Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1 02/07/2002
PN-NY-0002-0009 PDF | Detail
Affidavit of Nicole Sarnicola 02/16/2002
PN-NY-0002-0010 PDF | Detail
Declaration and Affirmation of James I. Meyerson 02/17/2002
PN-NY-0002-0011 PDF | Detail
Plaintiff's Consolidated Local Rule 56.1 Statement in Support of Her Cross Motion, Motion for Summary Judgment/Counter Rule 56.1 Statement Relative to the Defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement 02/22/2002
PN-NY-0002-0012 PDF | Detail
Memorandum and Decision Granting in Part and Denying in Part the Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment 10/23/2002 (229 F.Supp.2d 259) (S.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0002-0014 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges McMahon, Colleen (S.D.N.Y.)
PN-NY-0002-0014 | PN-NY-0002-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Meyerson, James I. (New York)
PN-NY-0002-0004 | PN-NY-0002-0011 | PN-NY-0002-0012 | PN-NY-0002-0014 | PN-NY-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Felix, Jane Hogan (New York)
PN-NY-0002-0008 | PN-NY-0002-0009 | PN-NY-0002-0014 | PN-NY-0002-9000
Indelicato, Charlene M. (New York)
PN-NY-0002-0008 | PN-NY-0002-0014
Nicolas, Mary Lynn (New York)
PN-NY-0002-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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