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FLOWERS v. DALSHEIM

July 1, 1993

RICHARD FLOWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN DALSHEIM, A. ESPARRA, and D. CUCCIAS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHARON E. GRUBIN

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO THE HONORABLE KIMBA M. WOOD

 SHARON E. GRUBIN, United States Magistrate Judge:

 On September 23, 1992 the Pro Se Office of this court received the complaint in this § 1983 action from plaintiff, then an inmate at the Downstate Correctional Facility, who proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The complaint was filed on October 20, 1992. Pending is defendants' motion to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, I respectfully recommend that the motion be granted.

 BACKGROUND

 In his complaint, the signature date of which is September 8, 1992, plaintiff alleges that "since Sept. 6, 1992 plaintiff has been repeatedly hollering from his cell and writing to the Housing Unit Officer to get notary service, and medication," and that defendant correction officer A. Esparra "since writing plaintiff up, refuses to call an area sgt. so that plaintiff doesn't go into insulin shock." Plaintiff further alleges that on September 8, 1992 he "tried to get to the law library to get notary service" and gave defendant correction officer D. Cuccias a note requesting that he "call an area sgt., so that arrangements can be made this afternoon, for me to have legal papers notarized," but that Cuccias ignored his requests and returned the note to him. Plaintiff further alleges that defendant Dalsheim, the Superintendent at Downstate, "with full knowledge that these abuses are occurring" allows them to occur and that "by practice and policy" he authorizes his staff to violate the rights of inmates to access to the law library for notary services. Claiming that he is "suffering severe emotional stress & trauma, being denied medication or any access to medical treatment while C.O. Esparra is working the unit, and C.O. Cuccias, does the same, in denying [ ] access to notary services," plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. On April 14, 1993 defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. By Order of April 16, 1993 I gave plaintiff until May 10, 1993 to file a response, but he has not responded.

 DISCUSSION

 On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Walker v. City of New York, 974 F.2d 293, 298 (2d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S. Ct. 1387 & 113 S. Ct. 1412 (1993); Frazier v. Coughlin, 850 F.2d 129, 129 (2d Cir. 1988); see Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 1161 (1993). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless, "after viewing plaintiff's allegations in this favorable light, 'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Walker v. City of New York, 974 F.2d at 298 (quoting Ricciuti v. New York City Transit Auth., 941 F.2d 119, 123 (2d Cir. 1991)). Moreover, pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163, 101 S. Ct. 173 (1980) (per curiam); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972) (per curiam); Salahuddin v. Coughlin, 781 F.2d 24, 28 (2d Cir. 1986).

 Alleged Denial of Access to Notary Services

 The Supreme Court has held that "indigent inmates must be provided at state expense with paper and pen to draft legal documents with notarial services to authenticate them, and with stamps to mail them." Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 824-25, 52 L. Ed. 2d 72, 97 S. Ct. 1491 (1977). However, "there is no constitutional right to a notary service five days a week," Washington v. Vincent, 361 F. Supp. 942, 943 (S.D.N.Y. 1973); accord: Dugar v. Coughlin, 613 F. Supp. 849, 854 (S.D.N.Y. 1985); Woodson v. Ward, No. 78 Civ. 1404 (RWS), slip op. (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 6, 1978) (available on Lexis), and "it is within the discretion of prison officials to establish reasonable procedures governing access to prison legal facilities, including access to notary publics." Id. Thus, in Washington v. Vincent, the court upheld facility procedures providing inmates with notary services at least twice per week. 361 F. Supp. at 943. The current DOCS guidelines, which call upon facilities to establish a schedule ensuring "access to the services of a notary public within 72 hours of request excluding weekends and holidays," State of New York Department of Correctional Services Directive No. 4483, § III(J) (June 14, 1990), satisfy the requirements drawn from these cases.

 Since there is no right to a notary "five days a week," it goes without saying that there is no right to one on weekends and holidays. Plaintiff alleges he requested a notary on September 6, 1992. However, September 6 was a Sunday, and September 7 was Labor Day. It was on September 8 that plaintiff issued his complaint herein. But even if the three days in question had all been weekdays, since plaintiff does not allege that an emergency existed or that his access to the courts was in any way impaired, that delay would not have risen to the level of a constitutional deprivation. See Hudson v. Robinson, 678 F.2d 462, 465 (3d Cir. 1982) (inmate required to wait ten days to have a document notarized who suffered no "actual injury" as a result of that delay did not state a claim for denial of access to the courts). *fn1" Accordingly, defendants' motion should be granted on this claim.

 Alleged Denial of Medication

 Plaintiff does not state which constitutional provision defendant Esparra allegedly violated, but in accordance with our duty to construe pro se pleadings liberally we assume plaintiff wishes to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment which guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment and is the only claim available to him under the circumstances alleged. However, the cruel and unusual punishments clause of the Eighth Amendment is violated by the behavior of prison officials only when that behavior involves the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 89 L. Ed. 2d 251, 106 S. Ct. 1078 (1986). See Hudson v. McMillian, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156, 112 S. Ct. 995, 998 (1992). In order to state an Eighth Amendment claim with respect to medical harm caused by a prison official, a prisoner must "allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976). *fn2" See Hudson v. McMillan, 112 S. Ct. at 998. The Supreme Court has recently emphasized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs" has an "objective component" as well as a "subjective" one. Id. at 999. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. , 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321, 2326 (1991). "Because society does not expect that prisoners will have unqualified access to health care, deliberate indifference to medical needs amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation only if those needs are 'serious.'" Hudson v. McMillan, 112 S. Ct. at 1000 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 103-04).

 Even liberally construed, plaintiff's elliptical allegations do not evince either "serious medical needs" or "deliberate indifference" to them. Plaintiff does not state what his medical condition was. His single reference to "insulin shock" notwithstanding, plaintiff does not state that he suffered this on September 6, 1992. Indeed, from the fact that he alleges in the complaint only that he suffered "severe emotional stress & trauma" and from the fact that he did not seek injunctive relief but asks herein only for monetary damages, the inference may be drawn that he did not suffer an injury beyond an emotional one. Moreover, since plaintiff alleges nothing with respect to Esparra's intent or state of mind and one cannot otherwise determine from the complaint what Esparra either observed or heard from plaintiff, plaintiff's allegations do not reflect a "sufficiently culpable state of mind" to sustain an Eighth Amendment claim. Hudson v. McMillan, 112 S. ...


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