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WEBB v. GOLDSTEIN
September 29, 2000
JAMES WEBB, PLAINTIFF,
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
II. Section 1983 Claims Implicating the Validity of Webb's
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
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 ...