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Bradley v. Coughlin

decided: January 27, 1982.

KENNETH BRADLEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
THOMAS COUGHLIN, COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES; EUGENE REYNOLDS, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, AUBURN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; AND ROBERT HENDERSON, SUPERINTENDENT, AUBURN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of New York, Foley, J., granting a motion to dismiss a pro se civil rights complaint. Reversed and remanded.

Before Feinberg, Chief Judge, Friendly, Circuit Judge and Pierce, Circuit Judge.*fn*

Author: Pierce

This is an appeal from an order of Judge James T. Foley of the Northern District of New York dismissing plaintiff's pro se civil rights complaint. Plaintiff alleged that while he was a prisoner at Auburn Correctional Facility he was wrongfully beaten and confined in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) for which he demanded damages as well as declaratory and equitable relief. The complaint was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; jurisdiction was predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

FACTS

This case arose from an incident which occurred at New York State's Auburn Correctional Facility on October 10, 1979. Plaintiff-appellant Kenneth Bradley, then an inmate at Auburn, became involved in a dispute with a correctional officer. According to defendants, Bradley provoked the incident by throwing a bucket of "coffee, urine and human defecation" on the officer.

A report of the incident was made to Deputy Superintendent Reynolds who ordered Bradley moved to a plexiglass cell. A joint affidavit signed by thirteen of Bradley's fellow inmates states that as many as seven correctional officers came to Bradley's cell, handcuffed him, and beat him severely. Bradley was then allegedly dragged by the hair, bleeding, to the plexiglass cell.

Bradley was charged with several violations of prison regulations, and a disciplinary proceeding was instituted. Without hearing plaintiff's version of the incident, as is required by 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 252.3(f),*fn1 the prison's Adjustment Committee referred the matter to a Superintendent's Proceeding.*fn2 This proceeding was not held until November 21, 1979, 42 days after the incident, despite a requirement that under normal circumstances such proceedings are to be held within seven days of an inmate's confinement in SHU. See Powell v. Ward, 542 F.2d 101, 103-04 (2d Cir. 1976); Allison v. Wilmot, 101 Misc.2d 632, 633-34, 421 N.Y.S.2d 760, 762 (Sup.Ct.1979). Bradley was confined in the SHU during the 42 days.*fn3

On November 21, 1979, a hearing was held by Deputy Superintendent Taylor who, in contravention of 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 253.4(c), apparently did not interview any prison employees who had directly witnessed the incident.*fn4 This failure occurred despite Bradley's denial of the charges against him and some evidence that Bradley sustained injuries at the time of the incident with the correctional officers.

On the same date, Deputy Superintendent Reynolds, who had not conducted the proceeding, rendered a decision finding Bradley guilty of all charges and ordering him confined in the SHU for 90 days. Bradley was also deprived of 90 days of "good time" towards release. Reynolds' only stated reason for this disposition was "serious report." Bradley claims that the decision was in violation of 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 253.4(i), which requires that the deciding officer state the evidence upon which his decision is based.*fn5 More crucially, it is apparent that 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 253.2(d) did not permit Reynolds to act as the hearing officer, since it is undisputed that he was involved in the incident being reviewed.*fn6

Bradley appealed Reynolds' decision to the New York State Department of Correctional Services. On February 27, 1980, after Bradley had spent 90 days in the SHU, the Department reversed the decision. Citing the failure of the Superintendent's Proceeding to provide Bradley with due process, the Department restored Bradley's 90 days of good time.

On October 9, 1980, Bradley filed the pro se action in the District Court for the Northern District of New York which is the subject of this appeal. In his complaint Bradley asked for a declaratory judgment, a preliminary injunction, and "damages for time in the Box, SHU." On November 10, 1980, Bradley filed a proposed amended complaint which set forth his claims for relief with greater specificity: among other things, Bradley prayed for damages of $25 per day for each of the ninety days spent in SHU, $25 per day in lost wages for ninety days, and punitive damages of $2250.

Defendants moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Fed.R.Civ.P. to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the State Department of Correctional Services' reversal of the Superintendent's Proceeding decision rendered any equitable claims moot, since the good time had been restored. Regarding the damages claims, defendants maintained that any damages plaintiff might have sustained were too remote and speculative for judicial determination.

On February 26, 1981, the district judge filed a decision and order granting defendants' motion to dismiss on essentially the grounds urged by defendants, and denying Bradley's requests to file an amended complaint and to take discovery. Four days later, on March 2, 1981, the clerk of the court sent Bradley a card informing him of the decision.

This card did not reach Attica Correctional Facility, where he was then incarcerated, until March 4, 1981, and he did not receive the card until the following day. Bradley prepared a "Motion to Reconsider Order or in the Alternative, Motion for Leave to take an Interlocutory Appeal In Forma Pauperis," ("first notice of appeal"), which he served on March 11, 1981. Defendants did not object to ...


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