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CEPEDA v. COUGHLIN

February 7, 1992

RAMON CEPEDA, Plaintiff, against THOMAS A. COUGHLIN, III, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, State of New York; J. O'GORMAN, Correction Officer; SGT. LABOY; LT. McMAHON, GREEN HAVEN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT W. SWEET

Sweet D. J.

 Defendants Thomas A. Coughlin, III ("Commissioner Coughlin"), J. O'Gorman ("Officer O'Gorman"), Bobbie Jo LaBoy ("Sergeant LaBoy") and Lt. McMahon ("Lieutenant McMahon") (collectively, the "Defendants") have moved to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff pro se Ramon Cepeda ("Cepeda") for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

 The Parties

 Commissioner Coughlin in the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections.

 Lieutenant McMahon is a lieutenant at Green Haven.

 Officer O'Gorman is a corrections officer at Green Haven.

 Facts and Prior Proceedings

 On July 23, 1988, Cepeda was the subject of a disciplinary hearing (the "Tier II Hearing") at Green Haven over which Lieutenant McMahon presided as hearing officer. Cepeda was found guilty of the charges brought against him for threats and extortion or attempted extortion, as set forth in a misbehavior report prepared by Officer O'Gorman. Cepeda appealed administratively to the Superintendent of the Department of Corrections ("DOCS") and to Commissioner Coughlin, who, either personally or through his designees, affirmed the decision.

 Cepeda then brought a proceeding under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules against Commissioner Coughlin and Officer O'Gorman in the New York State Supreme Court. In his Article 78 petition, Cepeda sought to have the Tier II Hearing set aside on the grounds that "the Misbehavior Report lacked certain written particulars of the alleged incident; that the person who wrote the Misbehavior Report lacked personal knowledge of the facts; that confidential information which was used in reaching the determination was not made a part of the record of the disciplinary hearing; and that petitioner was denied a fair and impartial hearing." Cepeda v. Coughlin, Index No. 89-8716 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. July 11, 1989). The state court dismissed the petition as untimely under the four-month limitation period applicable to Article 78 proceedings.

 On April 9, 1991, Cepeda filed a complaint in the present action ("the Complaint") under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), naming as defendants Commissioner Coughlin, Officer O'Gorman, Lieutenant McMahon and Sergeant LaBoy. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants violated Cepeda's right to due process by depriving him of a fair and impartial hearing. The acts constituting the alleged deprivation are essentially identical to those raised in Cepeda's Article 78 petition.

 On October 1, 1991, Defendants filed the present motion seeking to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that Cepeda is collaterally estopped from litigating these claims in this court by the prior dismissal of the Article 78 proceeding. In the alternative, Defendants move pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) that the claims against Commissioner Coughlin, Sergeant LaBoy and Officer O'Gorman be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 Discussion

 The Defendants first argue that Cepeda's complaint must be dismissed because the issues raised are identical to those raised in his Article 78 petition and thus relitigation of these issues is precluded under the doctrine of collateral estoppel. In determining whether Cepeda is estopped, this court must give the same preclusive effect to the state court judgment as would be given in New York, the state in which it was rendered. Migra v. Warren City ...


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