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WEBB v. GOLDSTEIN

September 29, 2000

JAMES WEBB, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DONNA GOLDSTEIN, JULIE L. SCHWARTZ, RHONNIE JAUS, ANTHEA H. BRUFFEE, VICTOR BARALL, CHARLES J. HYNES, SALLY B. JOHNSON, ANNA GIBBS, JAMES RAYMOND AVELLINI, JAMES MACK, WILLIAM MCCARTNEY, JOHN DOE, JANE DOE, AND JOHN DOE, AND OTHER PRESENTLY UNNAMED ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEYS, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION EMPLOYEES, PAROLE OFFICIALS, AND MEDICAL STAFF AT THE SULLIVAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY ALL INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



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

    Memorandum and ORDER

Plaintiff James Webb is a New York State prisoner who is serving concurrent terms of twenty-five years to life as a result of his 1997 conviction on multiple counts of rape, sodomy, arson, and robbery. See Certificate of Disposition in People v. Webb. Ind. No. 15200-95, attached as Exh. B to City Def. Motion to Dismiss. Webb now sues Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes; Assistant District Attorneys Julie Schwartz, Rhonnie Jaus, Anthea Bruffee, and Victor Barall; District Attorney's Office paralegal Donna Goldstein; Orleans Correctional Facility ("Orleans") Superintendent Sally Johnson; Orleans staff clerk Anna Gibbs; New York State Parole Officers James Mack and William McCartney; Dr. James Raymond Avellini; as well as various unnamed assistant district attorneys and parole officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994 & Supp. 2000) for violations of his federal constitutional rights in connection with the investigation and prosecution of his criminal case. Webb claims that defendants' misconduct also violated rights protected by unspecified sections of the constitution and laws of New York State. Finally, Webb sues unnamed members of the medical staff at the Sullivan Correctional Facility ("Sullivan"), where he is presently housed, for denying him adequate medical treatment, thereby violating rights protected both by § 1983 and state law. He seeks total monetary damages of one billion dollars.

Motions to dismiss have been filed on behalf of the parole officers, prison officials, members of the district attorney's office, and Dr. Avellini. Having carefully reviewed the parties' papers in support of and opposition to these motions, the court concludes that plaintiffs § 1983 claims against these defendants must be dismissed because they either are premature, fail to state a claim, or are barred by the principle of qualified immunity. Although no motion is made on behalf of the medical staff at Sullivan, this court finds that any federal claims against them for inadequate medical treatment are not properly venued in this district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (1994 & Supp. 2000). The court directs the Clerk of the Court to transfer these claims to the Southern District of New York, where they could properly have been brought. See 28 U.S.C. § 1406 (1994).*fn1 With no federal claim remaining in this district against any party, the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs state law claims against the parole officers, prison officials, district attorney's staff, or Dr. Avellini. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966). The Clerk is directed to transfer these state law claims to the New York Supreme Court for Kings County.

Factual Background

In December 1995, plaintiff James Webb was a state parolee being supervised in Brooklyn by defendant Officers James Mack and William McCartney.*fn2 At about this time, New York City police were investigating a serial rape case. Officers Mack and McCartney concluded that Webb had certain distinctive physical characteristics that matched those of the rape suspect and so notified the authorities, providing them with copies of plaintiffs prison medical records. On December 6, 1995, New York City police arrested Webb and charged him with numerous rapes.*fn3

Webb asserts that DNA tests eventually cleared him of one of the rapes. Nevertheless, he insists that the defendant assistant district attorneys, acting under the direction of defendant District Attorney Hynes, conspired to fabricate evidence against him on the remaining charges or withheld evidence material to the defense.

Webb further complains that Officers Mack and McCartney improperly provided law enforcement officials with copies of plaintiff's medical records from his earlier incarceration at Orleans. Thereafter, prosecutors arranged for defendant Donna Goldstein to subpoena plaintiffs original prison medical records. In response to the subpoena, Superintendent Sally B. Johnson directed a prison clerk, defendant Anna Gibbs, to locate Webb's records and transmit them to the prosecutors.

Subsequent to receiving the medical records, prosecutors applied for a court order directing Webb to submit hair and saliva samples and to undergo a physical examination of his genital area. The order was granted, and plaintiff was examined by defendant Dr. James Raymond Avellini. Webb asserts that Dr. Avellini was negligent in his manual examination of plaintiff's testicles, thereby reversing the benefits of earlier corrective surgery and leaving him in constant pain.

Apparently, Webb's medical records and Dr. Avellini's examination further inculpated plaintiff in some of the charged crimes. Plaintiff moved to suppress this evidence on the grounds that the records were procured in violation of New York State law and that Dr. Avellini's testimony was directly derived from the illegally procured records. After conducting a hearing, the state court granted the motion to suppress the medical records.*fn4 Plaintiff submits that the judge found that "the District Attorney should not have subpoenaed [the medical] records without his consent." See Plaintiff's Aff. in Response to Def. Motions to Dismiss ¶ 60. It also appears that the subpoena may have been defective because the records were delivered to the district attorney's office rather than the court. See People v. Natal, 75 N.Y.2d 379, 385, 553 N.Y.S.2d 650, 653, 553 N.E.2d 239 (1990) ("where the District Attorney seeks trial evidence the subpoena should be made returnable to the court"). Whatever defects there may have been with the subpoena, the trial court declined to suppress Dr. Avellini's testimony, finding that the district attorney's office had "independent knowledge that the perpetrator might have a medical condition causing azoospermia" and would inevitably have sought a physical examination. See Plaintiff's Aff. in Response to Def. Motions to Dismiss ¶ 60.

On October 29, 1997, Webb was found guilty by jury verdict of multiple counts of rape, sodomy, arson, and robbery. On December 23, 1997, he was sentenced to concurrent terms of twenty-five years to life imprisonment. Webb is presently incarcerated at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, where he claims prison officials are not providing him with adequate medical treatment for his genital problems.

Discussion

I. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss will be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim that would entitle [him] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); accord Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Dangler v. New York City Off Track Betting Corp., 193 F.3d 130, 138 (2d Cir. 1999). The court must accept all facts alleged in the complaint or in attached supporting documents as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Dangler v. New York City Off Track Betting Corp., 193 F.3d at 138 (citations omitted). Where, as here, a plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court is under a special duty liberally to construe his pleadings. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Sawyer v. American Fed'n of Gov't Employees, AFL-CIO, 180 F.3d 31, 36 (2d Cir. 1999).

II. Section 1983 Claims Implicating the Validity of Webb's Conviction

A liberal reading of Webb's complaint suggests that he is suing state prosecutors for violating his constitutional rights by (1) conspiring among themselves and with witnesses to manufacture evidence against him. (2) withholding material evidence from the defense, and (3) depriving him of his right to be present at pretrial proceedings relating to his physical examination. These claims must all be dismissed since each implicates the validity of the conviction for which Webb is presently incarcerated.

In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), the Supreme Court ruled that a prisoner could not sue for damages under § 1983 on claims that "necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence . . . unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Accord Jenkins v. Haubert 179 F.3d 19, 24-25 (2d Cir. 1999).

Webb's claim that prosecutors manufactured false evidence plainly challenges the validity of his recent conviction. Indeed, it equates to a claim that without the challenged evidence there was insufficient proof to establish his guilt of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Similarly, Webb's assertion that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense translates into a claim that he would not have been convicted if the proper disclosures had been made and, thus, that his present conviction was obtained in violation of due process. Finally, Webb's complaint about being absent from pre-trial proceedings is, at its core, an assertion that, in ...


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