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DAVIDSON v. KYLE

March 30, 2004.

RONALD DAVIDSON (76-A-1166), Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT KYLE, JAMES SNYDER, K. WILES, KEITH WHITE, POWELL, BECK and JOHN DOES 26-100,[fn1] Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM SKRETNY, District Judge

*fn1 Plaintiff has not identified John Does 26-100, nor has he set forth any reasons why they should not be dismissed. Plaintiff contends that he has inquired into the identify of the John Does, but that his inquiries remain unanswered. Nevertheless, because John Does 26-100 are alleged to have engaged in conduct similar to either those defendants who have been dismissed or the named Defendants who are parties to this motion, this Court will dismiss Plaintiff's claims against John Does 26-100.

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

  Plaintiff Ronald Davidson filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985 alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by strip frisking him on several occasions while he was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on April 30, 2003.*fn2 This Court has reviewed and considered the motion papers and finds that oral argument is unnecessary. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in its entirety. II. BACKGROUND

  A. Procedural History

  Plaintiff filed his Complaint on July 10, 2001, and it was entered on the docket on October 10, 2001.*fn3 The Complaint names 15 individual defendants and 100 John Doe defendants (John Does 1-26 and John Does 26-100). Because Plaintiff was initially granted in forma pauperis status,*fn4 his Complaint was screened by the Honorable John T. Elfvin, Senior United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

  On November 9, 2001, Judge Elfvin filed a Memorandum and Order dismissing several of Plaintiff's claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, Judge Elfvin (1) dismissed Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, (2) dismissed Plaintiff's claims related to strip frisks and strip searches conducted at the Auburn Correctional Facility as untimely, and (3) dismissed Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against several defendants for failure to allege the defendants' personal involvement in the complained-of acts. What remains are Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the defendants listed in the caption related to strip frisks conducted on Plaintiff while he was an inmate at the Wende Correctional Facility ("Wende"). The facts underlying those claims are discussed below.

  B. Facts

  Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not in dispute. At all times relevant, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the DOCS residing at Wende. (Defendants' Rule 56 Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Defendants' Statement"), ¶ 1.) Defendants Robert Kyle, James Snyder, Keith White, Emmanuel Powell, Kevin Wiles and Arthur Beck were at all times relevant employed by DOCS as corrections officers at Wende. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 5.)

  On September 11, 1998, Plaintiff was strip frisked at Wende by Defendant Kyle at the direction of the Acting Deputy Superintendent prior to Plaintiff being transported for an outside medical trip. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 9; Complaint, ¶¶ 35-39.)

  On September 29, 1998, Plaintiff was again scheduled for an outside medical trip. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 10; Complaint, ¶ 44.) As per the facility's procedure, Plaintiff's escort officers, Defendants Snyder and White, were ordered to strip frisk Plaintiff prior to departing the facility. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 10.) On this occasion, Plaintiff refused to submit to the strip frisk. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 10; Complaint, ¶ 47.) Consequently, Plaintiff's outside medical trip was cancelled and Plaintiff was not strip frisked. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 10; Complaint, ¶ 48.)

  On November 12, 1998, at the direction of the Deputy Superintendent, Plaintiff was strip frisked at Wende by Defendant Snyder prior to being transported for an outside medical trip. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 11; Complaint, ¶¶ 64, 66-67.)

  Plaintiff further alleges that on November 19, 1998, he was scheduled for an outside medical trip, and was advised by Defendants Powell and Beck that he would be stripped frisked prior to leaving the facility. (Complaint, ¶¶ 71-74.) Plaintiff refused to submit to the strip frisk and his outside medical trip was cancelled. (Complaint, ¶¶ 75-76.) Defendants assert that Defendant Beck was on vacation on November 19, 1998. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 12.) Plaintiff contends that whether Defendant Beck was present on November 19, 1998, is a disputed fact, and that this incident could have occurred on a different date.*fn5 (Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Statement.)

  All strip frisks conducted on Plaintiff were performed in compliance with DOCS policy and as ordered by the Deputy Superintendent of Security. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 13.) On those occasions when Plaintiff refused to submit to the strip frisk, he was not permitted to leave the facility. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 13.) Corrections officers assigned to escort inmates leaving Wende did not have discretion as to whether to conduct a strip frisk of the departing inmate. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 14; Powell Dec., ¶ 4; Snyder Dec., ¶ 4; White Dec., ¶ 4; Kyle Dec., ¶ 4; Wiles Dec., ¶ 4.) Rather, corrections officers were required to complete the strip frisk as ordered by the Deputy Superintendent of Security. (Defendants' Statement, ¶ 14.) III. DISCUSSION

  Cognizant of the distinct disadvantage that pro se litigants face, federal courts routinely read their submissions liberally, and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994). As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court has considered his submissions and arguments accordingly.

  Plaintiff alleges that the strip frisks performed on September 11 and November 12, 1998, and those attempted on September 29 and November 19, 1998, were violative of his rights under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, and were performed in contravention of the consent decree entered on July 21, 1983, in the Southern District of New York in Hurley v. Coughlin, 77-CV-3847. This Court notes that Plaintiff does not allege that the manner in which the strip frisks were conducted was in violation of any of his rights, but solely complains of the fact that the strip frisks were conducted or attempted. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's remaining claims.

  A. Summary Judgment Standard

  Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is warranted where the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A "genuine issue" exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Ford v. Reynolds, 316 F.3d 351, 354 (2d Cir. 2003). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In a case where the non-moving party bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial, the movant may satisfy its burden by pointing to the absence of evidence supporting an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 So. Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

  At this stage, the function of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Thus, summary judgment is not appropriate if "there is any evidence in the record that could ...


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