Morvillo Abramowitz Wins Second Circuit Appeal in Constitutional Due Process Case

May 17, 2023

On April 26, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of New York and against Keith Drew, a former inmate at Rikers Island. Drew v. City of New York, No. 21-1194 (2d Cir.). Morvillo Abramowitz represented Drew on appeal and argued successfully to the Second Circuit that the district court applied the wrong legal standard to Drew’s constitutional claim, erred in failing to recognize Drew’s conversion and negligence claims under state law, and abused its discretion in denying Drew leave to amend his complaint.

The case arises from the City’s policy and practice of removing funds from inmate accounts without prior notice and without retaining records to support the deductions. In December 2018, Drew, proceeding pro se, sued the City of New York and two unknown defendants, alleging that the City wrongfully took his money and violated his constitutional rights when, without notice of purported debts, it removed funds from his inmate account for services he never received while in City custody. After discovery, the district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment on all claims and Drew appealed to the Second Circuit.

Morvillo Abramowitz was appointed by the Second Circuit to handle the appeal. The firm argued, among other things, that the district court should have evaluated Drew’s constitutional claim under the three-factor balancing test first articulated in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976). It further argued that the district court failed to address at summary judgment Drew’s state-law conversion and negligence claims apparent from his complaint and that denying Drew’s sole request to amend his complaint constituted an abuse of discretion.

The Second Circuit agreed with Drew’s position on all three points, vacated the judgment, and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings on Drew’s procedural due process, conversion, and negligence claims.

The Morvillo Abramowitz team included partner Karen R. King and associates Raymond D. Moss, Daniel P. Gordon, and Sloane Lewis. Mr. Moss presented oral argument before the Court.

A copy of the Court’s decision can be read here.

A copy of the firm’s briefing before the Court can be found here.