The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., District Judge.
This is an action brought by a prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging due process and equal protection violations
stemming from disciplinary proceedings invoked against him
while he was an inmate at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility
in 1984. Plaintiff moves pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure for partial summary judgment on his
claims against defendant Lieutenant Michael Stokes ("Stokes").
Defendants cross-move for summary judgment dismissing the
complaint. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion
is granted in part and denied in part and defendants' motion is
granted in part and denied in part.
On October 11, 1984 Jose Figueroa ("Figueroa"), an inmate at
the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, was allegedly attacked by
a group of other inmates on a staircase outside the mess hall.
No corrections officers witnessed the incident. Exh. B at 2,
Howard Aff. A handwritten report by W. Stoddard, the
corrections officer who took Figueroa to the emergency room
after the attack, states:
He [Figueroa] said "There was five of them and
they were all black, and one of them piped me. I
heard the others call him `Cash.' I don't know
the other guys names, I just got here."
Exh. M, Howard Supp. Aff. However, when Lieutenant Walter
Wilkerson ("Wilkerson") later interviewed Figueroa about the
incident, Figueroa named plaintiff Clifford Howard ("Howard")
as one of the attackers and identified him from photographs
Wilkerson showed him. Wilkerson Aff. ¶¶ 7-8.
On October 12, 1984 Wilkerson ordered that Howard be placed
in keeplock confinement pending a disciplinary hearing. Howard
Aff. ¶ 2 & Exh. B (Response No. 1 to Plaintiff's Request for
Admissions). On October 15, 1984 Wilkerson filed an inmate
misbehavior report against Howard. Id. ¶ 10 & Exh. A.
M.L. Hurston ("Hurston"), a corrections counselor appointed
to assist Howard in preparing for his disciplinary hearing,
interviewed Howard on October 16, 1984 and submitted a written
statement on his behalf in essence stating that Howard denied
any involvement in the attack. Id. ¶ 4; Exh. B, Wilkerson
The transcript of Stokes' remarks at the hearing include the
statement that Howard "has refused to attend this hearing."
Id., Exh. A. Plaintiff claims, and defendants have admitted,
that the officers assigned to bring plaintiff to the hearing
informed plaintiff that they were taking him to the "adjustment
committee" for an "adjustment hearing." Exh. A at 4-5, Stokes
Aff.; Response No. 4 to Plaintiff's Request for Admissions.
Plaintiff responded he was afraid to leave his cell at that
time of night. Id. Plaintiff further alleges that he told the
officers that he knew he had a "superintendent's hearing" but
that he knew nothing about a so-called "adjustment hearing."
Exh. G, Howard Aff. The officers thereupon informed Howard that
Stokes would conduct the hearing in plaintiff's absence.
Wilkerson claims in his affidavit that in 1984 the term
"adjustment committee" was commonly used to refer to both the
room at Sing Sing in which disciplinary hearings were
conducted and to refer to the proceedings themselves.
Wilkerson Aff. ¶ 16.
The hearing was opened at 9:55 p.m. After reading the
charges and a notation of M.L. Hurston who had been assigned
as plaintiff's counselor (but was not present), Stokes
adjourned plaintiff's Tier III hearing at 10:00 p.m. to reach
a decision. Fifteen minutes later, Stokes reopened the
proceeding and found Howard guilty of violating Rule 100.10
(assault). Stokes Aff. ¶¶ 10-11. In a document entitled,
"Superintendent's Hearing Disposition Rendered," (hereinafter
the "record of disposition") Stokes listed the evidence he
relied upon as "Base [sic] on Officers Report & Inmates Written
Statement." In his opposing affidavit, Stokes claims he relied
not only upon Wilkerson's report but on earlier oral reports
from Wilkerson and Officer Brady who assisted Wilkerson and
oral statements from certain other gallery and block officers
as well as Howard's written statement. Id. ¶ 12.*fn3 Stokes
sentenced Howard to 365 days of keeplock confinement but
suspended 90 days of that sentence and gave credit for time
served. Stokes also revoked Howard's telephone and commissary
privileges for six months. Id. ¶ 11.
Two days later, on October 22, 1984, Howard submitted a
"Request for Interview or Information" addressed to the
"Commissioner of Sing Sing C.F." stating that he was innocent
and had never been given the chance to attend the hearing and
prove it. Exh. N, Howard Supp. Aff. Stokes conducted a second
hearing on October 29, 1984, at which plaintiff again was not
present, to review the circumstances surrounding plaintiff's
absence from the October 20 Tier III proceeding. Plaintiff
claims he was never notified of the October 29 hearing and
there is no evidence that he was notified of the hearing.
Howard Aff. ¶ 8. Stokes interviewed the officers involved in
summoning plaintiff to the Tier III hearing. Exh. G, Howard
Aff. Sergeant Leo Mollette stated at the hearing that when he
confronted plaintiff in his cell that night:
[Plaintiff] stated to me that he was having a
Supts. proceeding and that he didn't think that
Supt. would send for him at this particular time
of night. I informed him that the hearing can be
held anytime or that he would have to go down to
the Adjustment Committee and tell them his
problem here. He refused. He said, I'm not coming
out of my cell at this time of night. I don't
know what ...