On May 25, 2010, the plaintiffs -- individuals who were issued summonses without probable cause by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) -- filed this class action lawsuit in the United States Court for the Southern District of New York, against the City of New York under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought compensatory, injunctive, and declaratory relief, claiming that they had been deprived of their First and Fourth amendment rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that an unwritten 'summons quota' drove NYPD officers to issue summonses and arrest individuals without probable cause, and in violation of the federal and state constitutions.
In 1994, the NYPD instituted the COMPSTAT system, which records the statistics of arrests by type and the amount of summonses issued. Summonses are tickets written by police officers in lieu of arrest for a crime that directs the recipient of the summons to appear in court to face charges. Marijuana violations, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of governmental administration (OGA) are crimes for which summonses are typically issued. The plaintiffs alleged that since the institution of the COMPSTAT system, the number of summonses issued has increased of 500%, and that more than half (50.5%) of these charges are dismissed later on.
The plaintiffs alleged that the NYPD employs an illegal quota system for summonses, arrests, and quality-of-life violations. An officer's ability to meet quotas, plaintiffs claimed, is linked to officer promotion and demotion. This scheme was found by an arbitrator to be illegal under New York labor law.
As alleged by the plaintiffs, as part of an effort to meet the quota system NYPD Precinct commanders ordered officers to issue summonses in cases in which there was no probable cause of a crime being committed. They introduced tape recordings of two precinct commanders issuing orders for officers to issue summonses and 'articulate' violations of the law after-the-fact. The plaintiffs further alleged that this policy was disproportionately enforced in minority communities in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. As a result, they have been falsely arrested and denied their right to peaceable assemble in their own communities.
On April 23, 2012, after hearing the parties on the matter of class certification, the court (Judge Robert W. Sweet) issued an unpublished opinion and order certifying the class as "includ[ing] individuals who were issued summonses that were later dismissed upon a judicial finding of facial insufficiency and who were ticketed without probable cause." The defendants filed a motion for reconsideration on the issue of class certification, but were denied on July 19, 2012.
For the next several years, the parties engaged in discovery and litigated many issues regarding access to evidence during discovery. One notable discovery debate concerned removing the statutory seal on the records of individuals whose criminal court summonses were dismissed for factual insufficiency for the relevant time period. On February 24, 2016, the court (Judge Sweet) issued an opinion granting in part and denying in part defendants’ second motion to remove the statutory seal, concluding that unsealing the records for the purpose of aggregating statistics and discerning patterns is permissible, but doing so to identify officers who issued disputed summonses so that they can be called at trial is not. 2016 WL 817445. On April 1, 2016, the court (Judge Sweet) issued an order detailing the summons information to be provided and that which was to be withheld.
On January 23, 2017, the plaintiffs submitted an executed stipulation of settlement and a proposed preliminary approval order. On January 24, 2017, the court (Judge Sweet) issued an order granting preliminary approval of the proposed settlement and notice plan, and appointing a settlement claims administrator.
The parties agreed to settlement benefits of up to seventy-five million dollars, with up to $56,500,000 to be used to fund settlement payments to individual class members, service awards to the named class representatives, and costs of notice and settlement administration, and an additional $18,500,000 to pay attorneys’ fees and costs.
As is detailed in the settlement, the NYPD has made changes to its policies, practices, and procedures related to criminal summonses, and will continue to make additional changes. The changes address the use of quotas, numerical measurements of performance, and other matters that have been the subject of the class’ injunctive relief claims in this case, including: signing into law the Quota Bill to prohibit discrimination against an employee for the failure to meet quotas; publishing Legal Bureau Bulletin concerning the Quota Bill; revising Patrol Guide Section 205-38 to reiterate the retaliating against service members for providing information regarding misconduct and corruption will not be tolerated; developing new Patrol Guide procedures and updating training and reference materials; announcing the “Justice Reboot” initiative; signing the Criminal Justice Reform Act (singed by Mayor de Blasio); voluntarily posting certain summons data on the NYPD website; and agreeing to make a confidential presentation to counsel for the class regarding changes to the performance evaluation system.
The NYPD agreed to present additional pilots and ongoing projects at the fairness hearing, currently set for March 24, 2017. Such pilots and projects include: making reasonable efforts to ensure that the NYPD sends a department-wide email regarding quota policy, disciplinary action, and retaliation; investigating allegations regarding quotas, numeric performance goals, and misconduct; conducting such investigations by a designated parent command Investigations Unit; making reasonable efforts to conduct targeted internal review of training materials and to ensure compliance with the Quota Bill; and making reasonable efforts to make changes to its Patrol Guide and conduct training relating to the distribution of “Contact Cards.”Blase Kearney - 06/19/2012
Erin Pamukcu - 02/15/2016
Julie Singer - 03/09/2017