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Barnes v. Henderson

June 19, 2007

ARRELLO BARNES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT F. HENDERSON, JOHN W. BURGE, GLENN GOORDE, DONALD SELSKY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Arrello Barnes, appearing pro se, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS'), alleges that defendants Robert Henderson, John Burge, Glenn Goord, and Donald Selsky, all of whom at all relevant times were officials or employees of DOCS, violated his constitutional rights in connection with a disciplinary hearing held at Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira") in April 2006. Specifically, plaintiff alleges a due process claim against Henderson, Burge and Goord, an Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim against Burge, Goord, and Selsky, and an equal protection claim against all defendants.

Defendants have moved to dismiss the equal protection and failure-to-protect claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants also move to dismiss all the claims against Goord and Selsky on the ground of lack of personal involvement. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.*fn1

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In April 2006, a Tier III Disciplinary Hearing, was held before defendant Henderson concerning plaintiff's involvement in a fight between inmates which occurred on March 24, 2006 (Dkt. #t.#1-1 at 17; #1-2 at 11). Plaintiff was found guilty and was sentenced to eighteen months in the Special Housing Unit. (Dkt. #1-1 at 6).

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 20, 2006. He alleges that Henderson violated his right to equal protection by "conducting an unfair and bais [sic] hearing" and by denying plaintiff's request to call certain witnesses and introduce certain evidence. (Dkt. #1-1 at 6). Plaintiff also alleges that he complained in writing about these matters to Elmira Superintendent Burge, and that Burge failed to "correct the mistake of his subordinates." (Dkt. #1-1 at 8).

In addition, plaintiff has sued DOCS Commissioner Glenn Goord and Director of Special Housing Donald Selsky. The bases for plaintiff's claim against Goord are that he "covered up for his employees" concerning what plaintiff alleges was an invalid extension of his hearing by Henderson, and that Goord failed to notify plaintiff of the decision concerning plaintiff's appeal. (Dkt. #1-1 at 7). The bases for plaintiff's claims against Selsky are that he failed to notify plaintiff of the decision on plaintiff's appeal, and that Selsky ratified or failed to overturn Henderson's findings and the sentence imposed on plaintiff. (Dkt. #1-1 at 7).

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the facts in the complaint are presumed to be true, and all reasonable inferences are drawn in the plaintiff's favor. See Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Staten Island Savings Bank, 207 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 2000). A complaint may be dismissed only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Drake v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 147 F.3d 169, 171 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, (1957)).

Because the plaintiff here appears pro se, the complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, and held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, (1972); see also Ferran v. Town of Nassau, 11 F.3d 21, 22 (2d Cir. 1993). The Court interprets complaints submitted by pro se plaintiffs to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.

Burgin v. GMC, No. 04-CV-503S, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16915, at *10 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2006) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, (1972)).

The rules concerning liberal construction of pro se complaints have their limits, however. In order to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the complaint "must contain specific allegations of fact which indicate a deprivation of constitutional rights; allegations which are nothing more than broad, simple and conclusory statements are insufficient to state a claim under ยง 1983." Holland v. Goord, No. 05-CV-6295, 2006 U.S. Dist. ...


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