Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Too-tight handcuff claim returns to the district court

You don't see many cases alleging the police violated constitutional requirements in overly tightening handcuffs. But here's one out of Riker's Island where a pro se inmate wins his appeal against the City of New York.

The case is Johnson v. Turnbill, a summary order decided on March 20. Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee at Riker's Island. That means he was not yet found guilty of anything. "Johnson’s complaint attributed his injuries in part to the duration and tightness of his handcuffs. An attachment to the complaint alleges that Johnson asked defendant Suarez for help after having been restrained in tightened handcuffs for three hours in a holding pen."

Here is the basic rule:

To succeed in an excessive force claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, a pretrial detainee like Johnson “must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). This Court has “recognized that excessively tight handcuffing that causes injury can constitute excessive force . . .” Shamir v. City of New York, 804 F.3d 553, 557 (2d Cir. 2015).
The district court did not take up this issue on the City's motion for summary judgment. Nor did the City address it on the motion. This claim was simply overlooked. The Court of Appeals (Wesley, Jacobs and Eaton [CIT]) notices the claim. Back it goes to the district court to review whether plaintiff actually has a case.

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