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United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 26, 2004.

REGINALD CONNOR, Plaintiff -v- OFFICER JOHN P. HURLEY, OFFICER DALE M. BISSONETTE, Green Haven Correctional Facility (Medical Staff), Green Haven Correctional Facility (Administration), Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge


Plaintiff Reginald Connor ("Connor"), a prisoner in Collins Correctional Facility, brought this pro se action against two officers, the prison medical staff, and the prison administration. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Officers Hurley and Bissonette handled him with excessive force during an incident that occurred on September 13, 1997. Plaintiff alleges that the prison medical staff and administration provided him with inadequate medical attention for injuries sustained in his altercation with the officers. Plaintiff seeks relief in the form of monetary damages. Defendants move pursuant to Rule 56(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking summary judgment in their favor on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to bringing suit in federal court and also that Plaintiff has failed to properly name a "person" as defendant as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983 insofar as he seeks to assert claims against Green Haven medical and administrative personnel. BACKGROUND

Underlying Claim

  Connor alleges that during a routine pat-frisk on September 13, 1997, Officer Hurley handled him unprofessionally, with excessive force and malicious intent. (Compl. at ¶ 4.) According to Connor's complaint, Officer Hurley observed Connor put an object in his mouth, whereupon Hurley allegedly put his hands on Connor's throat and began to choke him. (Id.) Then Officer Bissonette grabbed Connor from behind and wrestled him to the floor. (Id.) Connor alleges that he sustained injuries to his neck, shoulder, arm, back, and leg as a result of this altercation. (Compl. at 6.) Connor further alleges that his several attempts to receive proper medical care for these injuries were met with insufficient attention. (Id.) Connor seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of 60 million dollars Plaintiff's Use Of Administrative Grievance Procedures

  Before bringing this action, Connor attempted to use the grievance procedures available at his correctional facility. First, he alleges that he drafted an informal grievance on September 13, 1997. Defendants claim that this first grievance was never received by the Internal Grievance Reveiew Committee ("IGRC"). (Tr. of January 24, 2003 Case Management Conference, at 2-3.) In the informal grievance Connor alleged that officers Hurley and Bissonette violated standard pat-frisk procedures. (Decl. of Laura Jones Ex. R.) In addition to the informal grievance, Connor sent a letter to Superintendent Christopher Artuz describing his confrontation with Hurley and Bissonette. (Id., Ex. S.) This letter was not dated, but Artuz responded on September 19, 1997. (Id., Ex. T.) On September 18, 1997, Connor wrote a letter to Commissioner Glenn S. Goord in which he once again described the September 13 incident. (Id., Ex. U.) Then starting in December 1997, Connor filed a series of twelve formal grievances alleging inadequate medical attention. (Id., Exs. W-HH.) Connor appealed these decisions to the Superintendent and then to the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC").


  Summary judgment shall be granted in favor of a moving party 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). The moving party bears the burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). In the summary judgment context, a fact is material "if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law," and an issue of fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 69 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted).

  Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiffs complaint on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to the claims against Officers Hurley and Bissonette. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the "PLRA") provides that "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (West 1994 & Supp. 2003). In Porter v. Nussle, the Supreme Court held that the exhaustion requirement "applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). New York's Department of Correctional Services has a procedure for dealing with prisoner complaints. This procedure is called the Internal Grievance Procedure ("IGP"). The IGP is mapped out in 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 701.7. It is well settled that, in order for a prisoner to exhaust his administrative remedies, he or she must complete three steps, which have been summarized as follows:

First, an inmate must file a complaint with the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (`IGRC') within 14 days of the alleged event. The IGRC must then investigate and may resolve the issue informally within seven days. If there is no informal resolution, a hearing is held, and the inmate may appeal to the superintendent of the facility within four days of the IGRC's action. Finally, after receiving a response from the superintendent, the prisoner may appeal that decision to the Central Office Review Committee (`CORC') within four days of its receipt. The CORC, in turn, must render a decision within 20 days.
Harris v. Totten, 244 F. Supp.2d 299, 233 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (internal citations omitted).

  Defendants have carried their burden of demonstrating that Connor cannot be deemed to have satisfied the requirements of the IGP, and therefore did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing suit in this Court. Even if the informal complaint that Connor allegedly filed on September 13, 1997, satisfies the first step of the IGP, Connor never satisfied the second or third steps by filing an administrative appeal to the superintendent or to the CORC. Connor claims that he never received a response from the IGRC after he filed his first complaint. (This is most likely because the IGRC did not have a record of ever having received the first complaint.) In any event, failure of the IGRC to respond is not material. In order to satisfy the exhaustion requirement, Connor must have appealed to the Superintendent even in the absence of a response from IGRC. The rules "provide that if the determination is delayed, the inmate may appeal to the next level of review, including CORC, without waiting for administrative action." Mendoza v. Goord, No. 00 Civ. 0146(GEL), 2002 WL 3654855 at *2 (S.D.N.Y. November 21, 2002). Furthermore, Connor's letters to Superintendent Artuz and to Commissioner Goord may not be deemed substitutes for strict compliance with the requirements of the IGP. See Hemphill v. New York, 198 F. Supp.2d 546, 549 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) ("[A] letter to the Superintendent has been expressly held to be `insufficient' to warrant considering a matter `effectively grieved'"); Mendoza. at *3 (Even though plaintiff "wrote letters of complaints to various prison officials, including the Deputy Superintendent of his institution, the Commissioner of DOCS, and its inspector general . . . he does not exhaust his remedies as required by § 1997e(a) unless he pursues the proper channels provided by the state for remedying his situation.") Thus, with respect to Connor's inmate grievances alleging misconduct by Hurley and Bissonette, Connor failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing a complaint in this Court.

  Connor did exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to grievances filed after December 1997. Plaintiff followed all three steps of the IGP and appealed the matter all the way up through the CORC. Plaintiff did not, however, name Officers Hurley and Bissonette in these grievances. Therefore, exhaustion of remedies with respect to those grievances cannot give rise to a right to bring suit against Hurley or Bissonette. The only other named Defendants are "Green Haven Correctional Facility (Medical Staff)" and "Green Haven Correctional Facility (Administration)", but neither the "Medical Staff nor the "Administration" of Green Haven Correctional Facility is a "person" within the meaning of section 1983. Because section 1983 expressly provides for a cause of action against "person[s]" who engage in deprivations of federal rights, the statute "has been interpreted to mean that a plaintiff cannot seek relief directly from the state or one of its agencies without naming a government official as a defendant." Ferguson v. Morgan, No. 90 Civ. 6318(JSM). 1991 WL 115759 at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 20, 1991) (holding that since the correctional facility's "medical staff is not a person under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 the complaint is deficient and must be dismissed.") Plaintiffs section 1983 claims against Green Haven Correctional Facility Medical Staff and Green Haven Correctional Facility Administration must therefore be dismissed.


  Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiffs claims are hereby dismissed without prejudice. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.



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