Filed Date: April 24, 2018
Clearinghouse coding complete
Under New York law, records must be sealed from cases where the prosecutor declined to pursue charges, the charges were later dismissed, or the allegations were disproven in court. On April 24, 2018, three plaintiffs brought a class action suit in New York state court against the city of New York and New York City Police Department Commissioner challenging the use of the sealed records. The plaintiffs alleged that New York Police Department (NYPD) policy and practice allowed the use of information from records of arrest that did not result in criminal convictions to target predominantly Black and Latino people for investigation, arrest, and harsher penalties. They alleged that this practice violated New York law and due process under the New York state constitution. Represented by private counsel and the Bronx Defender Services, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief requiring the NYPD to implement protocols, trainings and safeguards to prohibit the improper access, use, or disclosure of sealed records. They also sought damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
The defendants sought to dismiss the case and, on April 30, 2019, Judge Alexander M. Tisch granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in part and denied the motion in part. The judge agreed with the defendants that based on precedent the plaintiffs failed to state a due process claim. Judge Tisch reasoned that the state’s establishment of procedures to be followed did not automatically imply that the state created a liberty interest that would allow plaintiffs to sue under a due process claim. However, the judge upheld the sufficiency of plaintiffs' causes of action under New York law. This case was then reassigned to Judge Lyle E. Frank, but it is not clear to the Clearinghouse why.
On September 5, 2019, Judge Frank granted the plaintiffs class action certification. The class was certified as “all those who have sealed records and who have been or may be aggrieved by the NYPD's policies and practices.” The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that there are likely tens of thousands of individuals who would be impacted by this case based on the number of arrests in recent years.
The parties engaged in contentious discovery and on July 8, 2021, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. They requested that defendants be preliminarily enjoined from training NYPD personnel in a manner that violates sealing statutes. The plaintiffs also asked that the defendants issue legal directives to NYPD personnel regarding the statutes, prohibit personnel from accessing sealed records without a court order, and remove confidentiality designations from relevant trainings requested in discovery. Judge Lyle E. Frank granted the injunction on September 27, 2021.
The plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the preliminary injunction on August 23, 2022 after the NYPD shared sealed arrest information about ten plaintiffs at a press conference. On March 2, 2023, the court found that the NYPD had violated the preliminary injunction, but declined to issue sanctions, finding that NYPD officials could have been acting in good faith.
The court ordered, without either party moving for such an order, what it deemed an "implementation plan" on March 29, 2023. Broadly, the plan prohibited the defendants from using, accessing, or disclosing sealed records subject to limited exceptions. The court further ordered the defendants to establish a "permission list" of individuals who, in accordance with other statutes, were allowed to access such sealed records. Additionally, the plan set forth recordkeeping requirements when the NYPD conducted automated audits of record access attempts. Further, the plan required the defendants to establish training and reporting measures.
On April 28, 2023, the defendants gave notice of their intent to appeal. As of June 1, 2023, this case is ongoing.
Richa Bijlani (2/19/2020)
Robin Peterson (5/25/2023)
Barbour, Sharon L. (New York)
Boettcher, Eric (New York)
Borchetta, Jennifer Rolnick (New York)
Cinnamon, Michael (New York)
Erdelack, Wesley Lyons (New York)
Frank, Lyle E. (New York)
Tisch, Alexander M. (New York)
Last updated Aug. 30, 2023, 1:46 p.m.
State / Territory: New York
Filing Date: April 24, 2018
Case Ongoing: Yes
All those who have sealed records and who have been or may be aggrieved by the New York Police Department's policies and practices.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Order Duration: 2023 - None
Content of Injunction: