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
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
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
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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