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SANTIAGO v. MEINSEN

February 25, 2000

ANGEL SANTIAGO, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT MEINSEN, CAPTAIN MALY, LIEUTENANT GLASS, SERGEANT WHITNEY, SERGEANT B. RIVERA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scheindlin, District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Angel Santiago brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants Deputy Superintendent William Meinsen, Captain John Maly, Lieutenant Glass, Sergeant James Whitney and Sergeant B. Rivera were deliberately indifferent to his safety needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment.*fn1 Defendants are all employees of the Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate") in Fishkiil, New York, where plaintiff contends the alleged constitutional violation occurred.

Defendants now move, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), to dismiss plaintiff's Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Specifically, defendants contend that: (1) plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) plaintiff fails to adequately state a claim under the Eighth Amendment; and (3) even assuming plaintiff has adequately set forth an Eighth Amendment claim, plaintiff fails to plead that defendants Meinsen, Whitney and Maly were personally involved in the alleged constitutional violation. For the following reasons, plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed without prejudice with respect to defendant Rivera. The Complaint is dismissed with prejudice with respect to defendants Meinsen, Maly and Whitney.*fn2

I. Factual Background

The facts set forth below are taken from the Complaint and are presumed true for purposes of this motion.

Plaintiff is an inmate currently incarcerated at the Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, New York. The incident in dispute allegedly occurred at Downstate while plaintiff was incarcerated there.

On April 6, 1998, defendant Rivera escorted plaintiff to the "tier hearing room" to provide a urine sample for drug testing. See Complaint § IV. When plaintiff realized he was about to undergo drug testing, he informed Rivera that the test results would be positive for drug use. See id. Rivera told plaintiff that if plaintiff "were in fact positive for drugs," he would be placed in Downstate's Special Housing Unit (the "SHU").*fn3 See id. Plaintiff claims he immediately told Rivera that he "could not be placed [in the SHU] because [he] had known enemies, listed with corrections in that housing unit." Id. Rivera ignored plaintiffs concerns, stating "so what." See id. Plaintiff then asked to speak with Whitney, Meinsen or Glass. See id. Rivera refused plaintiff's request stating that Whitney, Meinsen and Glass "didn't have time" to speak with him. See id.

Following plaintiff's conversation with Rivera, a different Sergeant, whom plaintiff is unable to identify, escorted plaintiff to the SHU. See id. Plaintiff reiterated his concerns regarding the SHU to this unidentified Sergeant. See id. Specifically, plaintiff told the unidentified Sergeant that he "was being put where [he] had known enemies." Id. The Sergeant told plaintiff that he "need not worry", because plaintiff would be locked in his cell for twenty-three hours. See id. Plaintiff claims that approximately four hours after he was placed in the SHU, he was cut "severely" on his left hand. See id. Plaintiff does not identify who cut him, nor does plaintiff provide any details surrounding the cutting incident, such as whether it took place inside his cell or in a common area.

On April 30, 1998, approximately three weeks after the incident, the Department of Corrections transferred plaintiff from Downstate to Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica"). On February 26, 1999, when plaintiff filed his Complaint, he was housed at the Orleans Correctional Facility ("Orleans"). Although plaintiff acknowledged that Orleans has prisoner grievance procedures in place, he admitted that he did not avail himself of these procedures as the "incident did not occur at [Orleans]." See id. § II. Plaintiff seeks unspecified compensatory damages for his injury. See id. § V.

II. Legal Standard

Dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper "only where it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him to relief." Scotto v. Almenas, 143 F.3d 105, 109-10 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "The task of the court in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Cooper v. Parsky, 140 F.3d 433, 440 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, in deciding such a motion, the court must accept as true all material facts alleged in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor. See Thomas v. City of New York, 143 F.3d 31, 37 (2d Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, "[a] complaint which consists of conclusory allegations unsupported by factual assertions fails even the liberal standard of Rule 12(b)(6)." De Jesus v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 87 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

However, pro se complaints are held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers," and are to be construed liberally on a motion to dismiss. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652(1972). Thus, a pro se complaint "should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond "doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 10, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163(1980).

III. Discussion

A. Dismissal Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)

Defendants assert that plaintiff's claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion to Dismiss the Complaint ("Def.Mem.") at 3-6. A prisoner must exhaust all available remedies before bringing an action regarding prison conditions. See Wright v. Dee, 54 F. ...


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