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Saunders v. Greene

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


April 16, 2007

ANTONIO SAUNDERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT GREENE, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; POTTER, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, GREAT MEADOW CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; GLENN S. GOORD, COMMISSIONER OF NYS DOCS; DONALD SELSKY; AND JOHN DOE, SERGEANT, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. BACKGROUND

The Clerk of the Court has sent Plaintiff Antonio Saunder's complaint and in forma pauperis application to the Court for its review.*fn1 In his pro se complaint, Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were violated when he was denied pre-hearing assistance before his Time Allowance Committee ("TAC") hearing on October 28, 2003. See Dkt. No. 1 at 4-5, 10.*fn2

Plaintiff alleges that the denial of pre-hearing assistance was contrary to the facility's policy and procedure and caused him to be unable to rebut the TAC's reasoning for taking five years and four months of good-time credit away from him. See id. at 5, 10. Plaintiff claims that he has exhausted all of his administrative and state-court remedies. See id. at 2. For these alleged violations, Plaintiff seeks only monetary damages, including $200.00 per day for the seven hundred and twenty days he claims that he spent in prison past his initial release date.*fn3 See id. at 11.

II. DISCUSSION

Section 1915(e) of Title 28 of the United States Code directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "(2) . . . the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -- . . . (B) the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Thus, it is the court's responsibility to determine whether a plaintiff may properly maintain his complaint in this District before it permits him to proceed with his action in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

Moreover, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review any complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from officers or employees of a government agency and must "identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint . . . is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam) (citation omitted).

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which "establishes a cause of action for 'the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States." German v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 885 F. Supp. 537, 573 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508, 110 S.Ct. 2510, 2516, 110 L.Ed. 2d 455 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983)) (footnote omitted); see also Myers v. Wollowitz, No. 95-CV-0272, 1995 WL 236245, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 1995) (holding that "§ 1983 is the vehicle by which individuals may seek redress for alleged violations of their constitutional rights" (citation omitted)).

Plaintiff contests the outcome of his October 28, 2003 TAC hearing and claims that, because he was denied pre-hearing assistance, he could not fully contest the committee's reasoning for its decision. See Dkt. No. 1 at 5. In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that a § 1983 action seeking money damages is not cognizable if a decision in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily invalidate a criminal conviction unless that conviction or sentence "has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal . . ., or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. . . ." Id. at 487.*fn4*fn5 Moreover, the Heck Court directed that, "when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Id. (emphasis added).*fn6 Conversely, where the § 1983 action, "even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment," id., or prison disciplinary determination against the plaintiff, the court should allow the action to proceed.

In this action, the essence of Plaintiff's claim is that he was denied the right to pre-hearing assistance; and, as a result, he lost good-time credit and remained incarcerated past his initial release date. Thus, it appears that, because the TAC's decision was not reversed, Heck would bar Plaintiff's claims.

Alternatively, even if the Court assumes that Heck and Edwards did not bar Plaintiff's claims, the Court must still dismiss these claims because the statute of limitations bars them.

The applicable statute of limitations for § 1983 actions arising in New York is three years from the date on which the action accrues. See Pinaud v. County of Suffolk, 52 F.3d 1139, 1156 (2d Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). "Federal law determines when a section 1983 cause of action accrues . . . ." Pearl v. City of Long Beach, 296 F.3d 76, 80 (2d Cir. 2002) (citations and footnote omitted). The Second Circuit has held that a cause of action accrues "'"when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his action."'" Id. (quotation omitted).

At the very latest, Plaintiff knew that he had not received any pre-hearing assistance on the date that the hearing was held, October 28, 2003. See Dkt. No. 1 at 5. Therefore, the limitations period began to run at that time and expired three years later on October 28, 2006. Plaintiff signed his complaint on February 12, 2007, see id. at 11, more than three months after the limitations period had expired. Therefore, even if Heck and Edwards were not applicable to Plaintiff's claims concerning the TAC hearing, the statute of limitations bars Plaintiff's due process claims.

Likewise, the statute of limitations bars Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Doe, which is based upon Defendant Doe's alleged request on October 29, 2003, that Plaintiff sign a document indicating that he had received pre-hearing assistance, see Dkt. No. 1 at 6.

III. CONCLUSION

After carefully reviewing Plaintiff's complaint and the applicable law, and for the above-stated reasons, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against the named Defendants upon which this Court can grant relief; and, therefore, his complaint is subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii).*fn7 Accordingly, the Court hereby

ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court enter judgment dismissing this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), (ii); and the Court further ORDERS that Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application is DENIED as moot; and the Court further

ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court serve a copy of this Order on Plaintiff.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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