Case: Detainees of Brooklyn House of Detention for Men v. Malcolm

1:73-cv-00261 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Filed Date: Feb. 26, 1973

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In February of 1973, this class action lawsuit was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, on behalf of detainees at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City against New York City and its Commissioner of Correction. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Society, sought injunctive relief for the conditions of their incarceration. The plaintiffs' alleged violation of their constituti…

In February of 1973, this class action lawsuit was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, on behalf of detainees at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City against New York City and its Commissioner of Correction. The plaintiffs, represented by the Legal Aid Society Prisoners' Rights Society, sought injunctive relief for the conditions of their incarceration. The plaintiffs' alleged violation of their constitutional rights on two fronts: overcrowding and the jail's proscription of all contact visits.

To cope with overcrowding, the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men resorted to "double celling," a practice of housing two inmates in a single-occupancy cell. Similar claims made by detainees at the Queens House of Detention were joined for adjudication. On October 2, 1974, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Orrin Grimmell Judd) held that double celling violated detainees' equal protection and due process, including privacy, rights and ordered the city discontinue the practice by March 1, 1975.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals (District Judge John Reis Bartels, sitting by designation) affirmed the district court's findings of fact and legal conclusions. Detainees of Brooklyn House of Detention for Men v. Malcolm, 520 F.2d 329 (2d Cir. 1975). In its decision, the Court of Appeals relied on Rhem v. Malcolm, 507 F.2d 333 (2d Cir. 1974) (JC-NY-0007), which addressed similar concerns at the Manhattan House of Detention ("the Tombs"). The Court of Appeals adjudged the order too broad, however, because it reached all inmates, not just those awaiting trial. The Court of Appeals also held that federal courts could order the city to release some detainees, but could not mandate construction of new jails.

The plaintiffs' second claim, that their constitutionally protected rights were violated by the jail's policy prohibiting contact with detainees, was heard independently. The jail claimed that its policy facilitated visitation and assured jail security. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Judge Henry Bramwell) held that the jail's broad ban on contact visits was an impermissible violation of detainees' equal protection and due process rights. Detainees of Brooklyn House of Detention for Men v. Malcolm, 421 F. Supp. 832 (E.D.N.Y. 1976). The district court reasoned that jail security could be maintained by proscribing contact visits only for the detainees it classified as security risks. The district court (Judge Bramwell) ordered the city to submit a plan for classification and contact visits within ninety days and allotted fourteen days for the plaintiffs to respond. A conference between the parties was scheduled for February 3, 1977.

We do not have the docket, pleadings, or record of any subsequent proceedings, but according to the website of the Legal Aid Society of New York, at some point the matter was consolidated with Benjamin v. Malcolm for enforcement purposes; see that case for more details for subsequent decades of litigation.

Summary Authors

Elizabeth Chilcoat (5/18/2006)

Related Cases

Rhem v. Malcolm, Southern District of New York (1970)

Benjamin v. Horn, Southern District of New York (1975)

Ambrose v. Malcolm, Southern District of New York (1976)

People


Judge(s)

Bartels, John Ries (New York)

Bramwell, Henry (New York)

Lumbard, Joseph Edward (New York)

Oakes, James Lowell (Vermont)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Berger, Joel (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Herman, Steven A. (New York)

Lefkowitz, Mark D (New York)

Mushlin, Michael B. (New York)

Neisser, Eric (New York)

Judge(s)

Bartels, John Ries (New York)

Bramwell, Henry (New York)

Lumbard, Joseph Edward (New York)

Oakes, James Lowell (Vermont)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Berger, Joel (New York)

Hellerstein, William E. (New York)

Herman, Steven A. (New York)

Lefkowitz, Mark D (New York)

Mushlin, Michael B. (New York)

Neisser, Eric (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Richland, W. Bernard (New York)

Tobias, Donald J. (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Reported Opinion

Detainees of the Brooklyn Ho. of Det. v. Malcom

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

520 F.2d 392

July 31, 1975 Order/Opinion

Reported Opinion

421 F.Supp. 832

Oct. 8, 1976 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Jail Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 26, 1973

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

detainees at the Brooklyn House of Detention for Men in New York City

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: Unknown

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Brooklyn House of Detention for Men, City

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Freedom of speech/association

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Order Duration: 1974 - None

Issues

General:

Classification / placement

Visiting

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload

Affected Gender:

Male

Type of Facility:

Government-run