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Case Name Encarnacion v. City of New York CJ-NY-0013
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-00156-DLC ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
On January 8, 2016, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover property seized by the NYPD after an arrest. The case was assigned to Judge Denise L. Cote. The individual plaintiff was arrested in November 2014, and his iPhone and $1,399 ... read more >
On January 8, 2016, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to recover property seized by the NYPD after an arrest. The case was assigned to Judge Denise L. Cote. The individual plaintiff was arrested in November 2014, and his iPhone and $1,399 in wages were seized by police. In his criminal case, which was dismissed in May 2015, he was represented by the Bronx Defenders, who are the second plaintiff to this lawsuit. The Bronx Defenders, a non-profit organization that provides criminal defense and civil legal services to law-income people in the Bronx, also assists hundreds of clients every year who are attempting to retrieve property seized pursuant to an arrest. Together they brought this lawsuit against the City of New York under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the city violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, inter alia. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory damages for the individual plaintiff for the monies seized from him at his arrest, the replacement costs for his iPhone, and all applicable interest.

According to the complaint, after a person is arrested, the NYPD routinely seized his or her personal property and recorded it in a computerized invoice system that tracked and categorized it. Once the criminal case against that individual was terminated, and the time to appeal had lapsed, the U.S. Constitution mandated that the government demonstrate a new legal basis to retain the property. However in practice, the NYPD often retained property and refused to release it until claimants obtain a "DA Release," even where all charges have been dismissed and sealed. In the Bronx, the District Attorney's Office frequently failed to respond to requests for DA Releases and the City did not provide an alternate recourse or assistance. The plaintiffs here alleged in the complaint that they tried numerous times - via voicemails, letters, and in-person requests - to obtain the property seized by the NYPD with no success. They subsequently filed this complaint against the city. The proposed class would consist of "all individuals who have been or will be unable to secure the release from the NYPD Property Clerk of Personal Property seized in connection with an arrest where (i) the individual named on the voucher for the property can no longer be tried on any charge that was the original basis for the arrest, and (ii) the City has made no showing of any continued basis to retain the property."

On May 17, 2016, Judge Cote signed an order referring this case to a magistrate judge for settlement and the settlement discussions were to take place in June. However, on June 3, 2016, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint, which added two additional individual plaintiffs who experienced similar property loss by the NYPD and provided more facts as to the NYPD's process of returning property seized after an arrest. Five days later, the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification.

On July 25, 2016, the parties agreed to stay all proceedings through February 28, 2017 to work toward a possible settlement. Accordingly, on the same day, Judge Cote ordered that the plaintiffs' motion for class certification be denied without prejudice to renewal upon the expiration of the six-month stay. On March 1, 2017, the parties agreed to extend the stay, and at the parties’ consent, Judge Cote referred the case to Magistrate Judge James Francis for further settlement discussions. On June 22, 2017, after nearly a year of unsuccessful settlement negotiations, the court lifted the stay, and litigation continued.

Despite this, the parties did eventually reach a settlement agreement on February 9, 2018. The court ordered the settlement agreement into effect three days later. This settlement agreement required the city to pay the plaintiffs a total of $10,000 in damages and create a committee to assess its compliance over the two years that the agreement would be in effect. The Bronx DA was also required to reform its policies to make it easier for arrestees to recover their seized property in a timely fashion. The parties agreed to resolve their dispute over attorneys’ fees at a later date.

As of early July 2018, this case is ongoing. While the case has been settled, the issue of attorneys’ fees has not. The parties are scheduled to come up with an agreement regarding attorneys’ fees by July 26, 2018. The court will retain jurisdiction over this case at least until February 2020.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 12/01/2016
Rebecca Strauss - 07/02/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Required disclosure
Grievance Procedures
Pattern or Practice
Search policies
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) City of New York
Plaintiff Description Individuals whose property was seized by the NYPD during an arrest and wrongfully withheld by the NYPD even after their criminal cases were dismissed, and The Bronx Defenders who represented these individuals in their criminal cases.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2018 - 2020
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
1:16-cv-00156 (S.D.N.Y.)
CJ-NY-0013-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/20/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-NY-0013-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 31]
CJ-NY-0013-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/03/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify a Class Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 [ECF# 33]
CJ-NY-0013-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/08/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of Settlement and Order [ECF# 80]
CJ-NY-0013-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Cote, Denise (S.D.N.Y.)
Francis, James C. IV (S.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brenner, Eric (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0002 | CJ-NY-0013-0003 | CJ-NY-0013-0004 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Jain, Niji (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0004 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Kolodin, Zachary J. F. (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0002 | CJ-NY-0013-0003
Kovel, Mariana Louise (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0001 | CJ-NY-0013-0002 | CJ-NY-0013-0003 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Shoop, Adam Nicholas (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0001 | CJ-NY-0013-0002 | CJ-NY-0013-0003 | CJ-NY-0013-0004 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Steinberg, Johanna B. (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0001 | CJ-NY-0013-0002 | CJ-NY-0013-0003 | CJ-NY-0013-0004 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Horowitz, Aviva Yocheved (New York)
CJ-NY-0013-0004 | CJ-NY-0013-9000
Murray, Diana Marsh (New York)

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