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FORD v. MCGINNIS

November 29, 2001

WAYNE FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN MCGINNIS, SUPERINTENDENT; PATRICK MCGANN, SUPERINTENDENT OF ADMINISTRATION; GORDON LORD, ASSISTANT DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, U.S.D.J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff has moved for reconsideration of a portion of this Court's Opinion and Order denying defendants' motion to dismiss. See Ford v. McGinnis, No. 00 Civ. 3437, 2000 WL 1808729, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 11, 2000). In particular, plaintiff seeks reconsideration of the following footnote:

To the extent plaintiff seeks damages for mental anguish, those claims are dismissed. See Wright v. Miller, 973 F. Supp. 390 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (prisoners are not entitled to damages for mental anguish under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (e)).

Id, at *1 n.2.

Defendants object to reconsideration on the ground that

the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA") "bars civil rights suits seeking damages for alleged constitutional violations where the inmate-plaintiff alleges no physical injury in the first instance and instead suffers only emotional and mental injury." Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider Dismissal of Claims for Mental Anguish at 3. For the following reasons, plaintiff's motion for reconsideration is granted in part.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Section 1997e (e) — Applicability

Section 1997e (e), which was enacted by Congress as part

of the PLRA, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321-66 (1996), provides:

LIMITATION ON RECOVERY: No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e (e). This section applies only to damage actions and "has no restrictive effect for declaratory or injunctive relief." Davis v. District of Columbia, 158 F.3d 1342, 1346 (D.C. Cir. 1998). The question, which remains open in the Second Circuit, *fn1 is whether this section applies to actions asserting violations of prisoners' First Amendment rights, where no physical injury is alleged.

Plaintiff urges this Court to find the statute ambiguous and cites Mason v. Schriro, 45 F. Supp.2d 709, 717 (W.D. Mo. 1999), for the alternative ways the phrase "for mental or emotional injury" can be interpreted. See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration ("P1. Mem.") at 13-15. If ambiguous, this Court could look to the legislative history surrounding the statute to discern Congress' intent. See Mason, 45 F. Supp. 2d at 717 ("If, however, a statute is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, then the reviewing court must look beyond the language of the statute in an effort to ascertain the intent of the legislative body."). I conclude, however, that the statute is not ambiguous. Resort to legislative history is therefore unnecessary. See Nussle v. Willette, 224 F.3d 95, 100-01 (2d Cir. 2000) ("[T]he language of a ...


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