Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

New York Parolee Detained Without Hearing; City Not Entitled to Summary Judgment

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a parolee’s wrongful imprisonment claims, holding that the defendant, New York City, was not entitled to summary judgment.

On December 13, 2001, Keith McDay was arrested in New York on criminal charges and a parole violation warrant. The charges were eventually dismissed, and the parole warrant was the sole basis for McDay’s detention.

New York law mandates that parolees be given a probable cause hearing within 15 days of issuance of a parole warrant, and a revocation hearing within 90 days of the probable cause hearing. Otherwise, “the parole warrant is rendered void and the prisoner is entitled to release.”

McDay was entitled to a probable cause hearing by December 28, 2001 and a revocation hearing by March 29, 2002. He claimed he was denied both hearings, yet was not released from confinement until July 23, 2002.

McDay filed suit in federal court, alleging that he had been wrongfully imprisoned beyond the date he should have been released. On January 26, 2005, however, the district court granted summary judgment to all of the defendants, dismissing the case.

In an unpublished opinion, the Second Circuit reversed with respect to the City of New York. The Court of Appeals held that the district court had “incorrectly concluded that the parole warrant serving as the basis for plaintiff’s detention ‘was still in effect’ as of July 21, 2002, the conclusion of plaintiff’s maximum term of imprisonment.” Since McDay did not receive either of the mandated hearings, the appellate court concluded “that, under New York law, the parole warrant was invalid fifteen days after the warrant’s issuance – to wit, December 28, 2001 – and the City lacked legal authority to hold plaintiff on the basis of the warrant after that date.” Therefore, the city’s refusal to release McDay until July 23, 2002 violated the due process requirements of Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593 (1972).

The Second Circuit rejected the city’s argument “that it may not be liable for a violation of a plaintiff’s due process rights because ... the State was solely responsible for ensuring that plaintiff received a probable cause hearing in connection with the parole warrant, and, if necessary, a revocation hearing.... Rather, the record raises the possibility that plaintiff was unconstitutionally detained pursuant to the ‘execution of a [City] policy or custom.” The district court’s grant of summary judgment to the other defendants was affirmed. See: McDay v. Travis, 303 Fed.Appx. 928 (2nd Cir. 2008) (unpublished).

Following remand the parties cross-moved for summary judgment. However, in a May 25, 2010 report and recommendation, the magistrate judge recommended that both motions be denied. In June 2010 the district court granted in part and denied in part McDay’s summary judgment motion, and denied the defendants’ motion.

While the court found that the magistrate’s “legal analysis of the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel and their application to the present circumstances” in the case was correct, the district court was not convinced that McDay “actually had the parole revocation hearings required by New York law, so as to render the parole warrant that lies at the fulcrum of this case invalid.” Further, the court noted that the city’s “Corporation Counsel fumbled an opportunity to obtain remand for the purpose of augmenting and clarifying the record with regard to whether certain parole revocation hearings required by state law (and the Constitution) were or were not held in McDay’s case.”

Apparently, the city had obtained extensive evidence after the remand from the Second Circuit that indicated the required revocation hearings had in fact taken place. Thus, McDay’s “claim of lawful imprisonment ought not go forward,” but, bound by the appellate ruling, the district court noted “it seems that it will.” The city had been invited by the Court of Appeals to seek remand to the district court to augment the record but had declined to do so.

Despite the new evidence presented by the city, which undercut McDay’s claim, the district court observed that “where issues have been explicitly or implicitly decided on appeal, the district court is obliged, on remand, to follow the decision of the appellate court.” The district court noted, dryly, that “McDay gamed the Court of Appeals,” since he knew the required revocation hearings had been held but remained silent on that issue, and had been released on the day he was supposed to be released. While expressing disappointment with the city’s poor lawyering in this case, the district court also observed that McDay “has made no effort to be honest with this court or with the Court of Appeals about his own circumstances.”

The parties agreed to settle the case for $5,000, and a stipulation of settlement and order of dismissal were entered on August 30, 2010. McDay represented himself pro se in the district court and had appointed counsel on appeal. See: McDay v. Travis, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 7:03-cv-05277-CM.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

McDay v. Travis