United States District Court, S.D. New York
January 10, 2005.
RODGERICK BUNTIN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEW YORK, CITY OF NEW YORK HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINISTRATION, NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONSTANCE MOTLEY, Senior District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Rodgerick Buntin brings this action for alleged
violations of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and
Article 1, Section 6 of the New York State Constitution.
Plaintiff commenced this action on March 8, 2004, alleging that
he was deprived of his property right of continued civil service
employment in the New York City Human Resources Administration
without being afforded the due process rights guaranteed to him
under the U.S. Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the New York
This matter comes before the court on a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, filed on May 25, 2004 by defendants City of New York,
City of New York Human Resources Administration, and New York
City Department of Corrections ("DOC"), on the grounds that
plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief could be
granted. Defendant New York State Department of Correctional
Services has failed to appear. For the reasons set forth below,
defendants' motion to dismiss is DENIED.
Plaintiff Rodgerick Buntin was formerly employed by the New
York City Human Resources Administration ("HRA") as a permanent
caseworker until March, 2001. In May, 2000, plaintiff was
incarcerated on Rikers Island after he was arrested for alleged
parole violations. He was subsequently transferred to a New York State facility, the
Wyoming Correctional Facility, in or around September, 2000,
where he remained until November, 2001. During the period of his
incarceration, the HRA undertook a series of disciplinary
proceedings against plaintiff that resulted in his discharge in
Plaintiff alleges that although he notified HRA of his place of
incarceration at the time of his arrest, HRA failed to serve him
with notice of disciplinary charges and subsequent related
proceedings while he was incarcerated. Specifically, plaintiff
alleges that he never received copies of the disciplinary charges
against him, the notice scheduling an Informal Conference
hearing, the Informal Conference determination, the notice of a
hearing before the New York City Office of Administrative Trials
and Hearings (OATH), the Decision and Recommended Penalty of the
OATH Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), or the letter discharging
him from employment until after his release in November, 2001.
Plaintiff claims that as a result of failing to properly serve
him with notice of the aforesaid charges, hearings, and
determinations, defendants deprived him of his right to contest
the disciplinary charges and thereby also deprived him of his
right to continued employment as a caseworker without due process
Defendants raise two arguments in their motion to dismiss.
First, defendants contend that plaintiff concedes in his
complaint that he was served by HRA at his last address of record
on file with HRA, at Rikers Island, and at Wyoming Correctional
Facility. Second, defendants argue that because plaintiff was not
in custody of the New York City DOC after he was moved to Wyoming
Correctional Facility in September, 2000, his claims that the DOC
denied him due process after that date are without merit. The
court addresses each of these claims in turn.
A. Motion to Dismiss Standard
On a motion to dismiss, the court must view the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scalisi v. Fund
Asset Management, L.P., 380 F.3d 133, 137 (2d. Cir. 2004)
(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The court
"must accept as true the allegations contained in the complaint
and draw all reasonable inferences" in favor of the pleader.
Blue Tree Hotels Inv. (Canada), Ltd. v. Starwood Hotels &
Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 369 F.3d 212, 217 (2d. Cir. 2004). A
complaint should not be dismissed unless "`it appears beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
his claim that would entitle him to relief.'" McKenna v. Wright
et. al., 386 F.3d 432, 436 (2d. Cir. 2004) (quoting Citibank,
N.A. v. K-H Corp., 968 F.2d 1489, 1494 (2d. Cir. 1992)). "This
standard is applied with even greater force where the plaintiff
alleges civil rights violations." Hernandez v. Coughlin,
18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d. Cir. 1994) (citing Easton v. Sundram,
947 F.2d 1011, 1015 (2d. Cir. 1991)). When considering a motion to
dismiss, "[t]he issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately
prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to
support the claims." Courtenay Comunications Corp. v. Hall,
334 F.3d 210, 213 (2d. Cir. 2003) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). B. Defendants' Claim that Plaintiff Was Not Deprived Due
Process Because Plaintiff Concedes that He Was Served
Defendants argue that the complaint against municipal
defendants should be dismissed because plaintiff was afforded due
process since, "as plaintiff concedes, he was served by mail
both at his address on file with HRA and at the prison where he
was incarcerated." (Defs.' City of New York, City of New York
Human Res. Admin., and New York City Dept. of Corr. Supp. Mot.
Dismiss at 2) (emphasis added). Specifically, defendants assert
that, "Plaintiff concedes that HRA served him with the notice
scheduling the Informal Conference Hearing, the Informal
Conference Determination, the scheduling of the OATH hearing, the
Decision and Recommended penalty of the OATH ALJ and the letter
discharging him both at his last address of record on file with
HRA and upon the warden of DOC at the Rikers Island facility and
upon the warden of NYSDCS at the Wyoming facility." (Id. at 6)
(emphasis added). Defendants then proceed to discuss what methods
of service satisfy due process.
Defendants misstate plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff repeatedly
states in his complaint that "defendant HRA purportedly
attempted to serve" him, and repeatedly follows those statements
with the assertion that "plaintiff never actually received
copies" of any of the notices of charges, hearings, or
determinations. (Compl. §§ 14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23, 26, 27, 29,
30) (emphasis added). At issue is whether or not HRA served
plaintiff. It is clear from plaintiff's complaint that plaintiff
does not concede that he was in fact served. Indeed, it is clear
from plaintiff's complaint that this is precisely the issue he is
contesting; plaintiff disputes that service was made at all.
Thus, a discussion of what method of service satisfies due
process is moot, as the antecedent issue of whether service was
made at all remains unresolved.
Based on the standard set forth above requiring this court to
consider the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and to accept as true the allegations in the complaint, and
considering defendants' mischaracterization of plaintiff's
complaint on the central issue of this case, this court finds
that defendants have not met their burden in establishing that
the plaintiff has no legal claim of denial of due process upon
which relief could be granted. Indeed, the preliminary issue of
whether plaintiff was served at all is clearly in dispute and is
entirely unresolved. Defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's
claim of denial of due process is therefore denied.
C. Defendants' Claim that Because Plaintiff Was Not In the
Custody of the DOC After September, 2000, the DOC Cannot Have
Denied Plaintiff Due Process
Defendants' argue that because plaintiff was not in the custody
of the DOC once he was moved to the Wyoming Correctional Facility
in September, 2000, his claims of denial of due process, all of
which commenced after that date, must be denied as to the DOC.
The whole of defendants' argument on this point is comprised of
three sentences. After quoting from plaintiff's complaint,
Plaintiff also contends that HRA initiated
disciplinary proceedings against him commencing on
November 6, 2000 and that from that time on he was
allegedly denied due process because he did not receive notice
of the disciplinary proceedings against him.
Accordingly, because plaintiff was no longer in the
custody of DOC after September, 2000, his claims that
DOC allegedly denied him due process commencing on
November 6, 2000 are frivolous and fail to state a
cause of action against DOC.
Id. at 8 (internal citations omitted).
The inference that defendants ask the court to make that the
DOC cannot be liable for any denial of due process that took
place once plaintiff was moved from Rikers Island, a DOC
facility, to Wyoming Correctional Facility, a state facility on
its face appears to make logical sense. Defendants, however, have
provided no facts, statutory law, or case law in support of this
contention. Defendants have provided no information as to the
scope of the DOC's authority or the relationship between the DOC
and state correctional facilities. Without additional support for
this argument, and in light of the standard discussed above
requiring the court to view the facts in the light most favorable
to the pleader and to dismiss a complaint only where it appears
beyond doubt that the pleader can prove no set of facts in
support of his claim, this court cannot grant defendants' motion
to dismiss as to this claim.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is denied, and the parties
are ordered to appear for a pre-trial conference. An order to
this effect will be filed concurrently with this Memorandum
Opinion and Order.
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