Civil Case Law - Second Circuit

2nd Circuit (Connecticut, New York, Vermont)

Cases Upholding Agency Anti-Fraternization Policies

Fisher v. Goord , 981 F.Supp. 140 (W.D.N.Y. 1997): A female inmate alleged several male correctional officers raped her while she was in custody. She also alleged correctional officials violated her First Amendment rights when they punished her for sending love letters to correctional officers. She requested that the court grant a preliminary injunction to move her to another facility to vindicate these rights. The court dismissed her motion for preliminary injunction, because inmates do not have a First Amendment right to write love letters to correctional officers, and correctional officials have a legitimate interest in prohibiting and punishing such conduct. The court also noted that “sexual interactions between corrections officers and inmates, no matter how voluntary, are totally incompatible with the order and discipline required in a prison setting.” Furthermore, the court found that even if the inmate could prove the correctional officers had violated her First Amendment rights, transfer to another facility would not be an appropriate remedy.

Baron v. Meloni, 602 F.Supp. 614 (W.D.N.Y. 1985): The male deputy sheriff at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department developed a relationship with the estranged wife of an organized crime member. She, herself, was never convicted of a crime, but had past associations with organized crime figures. The Chief of Detectives ordered the deputy not to associate with her. After the order, the deputy was seen with the wife on three different occasions and was again told not to associate with her. Although officials held a disciplinary hearing, they took no further action against the deputy. Later, the wife was injured in a car accident while she was driving the deputy’s car. After this incident, officials charged the deputy with insubordination, consorting with persons of ill repute, and conduct discrediting the department. At a hearing, the sheriff discharged the deputy for insubordination. The deputy brought suit, claiming First and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The court found that his termination was proper, given that the department was currently investigating organized crime, and the deputy was romantically involved with someone with ties to organized crime members.

Laspisa v. Mahoney , 198 A.D.2d 279 (N.Y.A.D. 1993): The Sheriff at Suffolk County Jail terminated a female correctional officer for violating the agency’s policies by fraternizing with a male inmate and continuing a relationship with him after his release. The court affirmed the correctional officer’s dismissal, finding that “[a] police force is a quasi-military organization demanding strict discipline,” and that internal discipline of employees should be given great deference. The court held that termination was proportionate to the officer’s conduct, as a relationship with an inmate poses a serious threat to security.

Vega v. Department of Correctional Services, 186 A.D.2d 340 (N.Y.A.D. 1992): A female correctional officer received a notice of discipline that referenced her marriage to a former male inmate. The disciplinary note also listed her “covert and unauthorized conduct in developing and maintaining an apparent close relationship with an inmate and parolee.” The officer challenged her dismissal as arbitrary and capricious, and claimed the dismissal violated a state law, which prohibited employers from dismissing an employee based on the employee's marital status. The court found that she was not dismissed for her marital status, but for violating the Employees' Manual rule prohibiting employees from having a “relationship with any inmate, former inmate, [or] parolee in any manner or form which is not necessary or proper for the discharge of the employee's duties,” and requiring the employee to make a report of such behavior. The court found that agency did not discipline the employee for her marriage, but for violating agency rules governing anti-fraternization.