On February 23, 2012 the plaintiff, a New York City Police Officer, filed a lawsuit against the City of New York, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff, represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, asked the court for an injunction ordering the City of New York to cease all retaliation against the plaintiff and for compensatory damages, claiming that his superiors at his precinct had targeted him for retaliation and harassment, because he had repeatedly complained about the use of an illegal quota system at his precinct.
Specifically, the plaintiff police officer claimed that an illegal system of quotas mandating numbers of arrests, summonses, and stop-and-frisks was in use in the 42nd precinct. He alleged that police officers are under intense pressure to meet their quotas and that officers who do not meet their quotas face punishments ranging from undesirable assignments or the loss of overtime to separation from partners and poor evaluations. He stated that on four occasions he complained to his commanding officers about the use of the quota system by his mid-level superiors, but that no action was taken to stop the practice.
As a result of his complaints, he was personally targeted by his mid-level superiors for harassment and retaliation. Specifically, in his 2010 and 2011 evaluations, he received reduced marks that put him at risk of being fired, accompanied by comments such as "[he] is argumentative and questioning regarding his assignments." He was also permanently reassigned to a new partner, unique among officers who failed to meet their quotas, and he was denied overtime, time off, and was denied the sorts of assignments that offer overtime and that officers of his seniority usually would receive.
On April 12, 2012, Judge Barbara S. Jones granted a motion to dismiss. Matthews v. City of New York
, No. 12 CV 1354 (BSJ), 2012 WL 8084831 (S.D.N.Y. April 12, 2012). The court found that the plaintiff police officer was acting as an employee and not as a civilian when he notified his superiors of the quota system. Thus, the Court held his speech was not entitled to First Amendment protection.
On November 28, 2012, the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit reversed. Matthews v. City of New York
, 488 Fed. Appx. 532 (2d Cir. 2012). The Court found that there was insufficient discovery to conclude that the plaintiff spoke pursuant to his official duties, and so ordered the district court to re-open the case and begin discovery proceedings in order to decide whether as a matter of law the plaintiff's speech was entitled to constitutional protection.
On remand, on July 29, 2013, Judge Englemayer of the District Court for the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment for the defendant. Matthews v. City of New York
, 957 F.Supp.2d 442 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). The court found that the police officer was speaking pursuant to his official duties and therefore held that his speech was unprotected by the constitution.
On August 1, 2013, plaintiff appealed the summary judgment order to the Court of Appeals. The appeal is pending. Nick Kabat - 03/09/2014