Morvillo Abramowitz Secures Reform to Protect Rights of Individuals in DOC Custody

April 15, 2024

Last year, Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC won its appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Drew v. City of New York, No. 21-1194, obtaining vacatur of the district court’s judgment and remand of an action brought by our client, Keith Drew.  The action challenged the New York City Department of Correction’s policy of removing money from inmates’ fund accounts without due process.  Today, the firm is pleased to announce that a settlement has been reached that not only compensates our client but requires the City to reform its longstanding policy regarding inmates’ access to their personal fund-account records.  Individuals are now ensured the right to review records of their financial transactions and to receive notice of this right upon entry into DOC custody.

Mr. Drew, proceeding pro se, commenced this action against the City in October 2018 while detained on Rikers Island for possession of a bent MetroCard.  He alleged that the City deprived individuals in DOC custody of their property without due process, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that the City withdrew money from his fund account for goods and services that he did not receive, in violation of New York State common law.  After the district court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, Mr. Drew appealed to the Second Circuit, where Morvillo Abramowitz was appointed as pro bono counsel.  In April 2023, following oral argument, the Second Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the action to the district court for further proceedings.  The parties conducted additional discovery and later entered into settlement negotiations, leading to the outcome announced today.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the City must revise the DOC policy by June 30, 2024, so that individuals may review their financial statements on a monthly basis and dispute any charges or outstanding debts with their facility’s Office of Constituent and Grievance Services.  The settlement further requires the City to notify individuals of the new policy, orally and in writing, upon entry to DOC custody.  The City will amend its orientation program so that individuals are informed of their right by audiovisual presentation and through receipt of an inmate handbook that describes their right to review personal fund-account records.

The Morvillo Abramowitz team included current associates Raymond D. Moss, Sloane M. Lewis, and former associate Daniel P. Gordon, who all practiced under the supervision of partner Karen R. King.

A summary of the firm’s win before the Second Circuit can be found here.