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McEachin v. Drefus

March 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe, United States District Judge


In this civil rights complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant violated plaintiff's right to due process in a disciplinary hearing over which defendant presided. (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff seeks injunctive as well as substantial monetary relief. Presently before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss this complaint pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 12). Plaintiff has responded in opposition to the motion. (Dkt. No. 13*fn1 , 16). Defendant has filed reply memoranda. (Dkt. Nos. 14, 17). For the following reasons, this court agrees with defendant and will dismiss plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.


1. Motion to Dismiss

A court may not dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) unless "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Cohen v. Koenig, 25 F.3d 1168, 1172 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing inter alia Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true. Id. (citing Cooper v. Pate, 378 U.S. 546 (1964)(per curiam)). In determining whether a complaint states a cause of action, great liberality is afforded to pro se litigants. Platsky v. Central Intelligence Agency, 953 F.2d 26, 28 (2d Cir. 1991)(citation omitted). When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court may consider the complaint, together with any documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference. See Dangler v. New York City Off Track Betting Corp., 193 F.3d 130, 138 (2d Cir. 1998).

2. Facts

Plaintiff claims that his constitutional rights were violated as the result of a disciplinary hearing held against him on July 31, 2003. Complaint ¶ 9 (Dkt. No. 1).

Plaintiff names Richard Drefus, as the only defendant in this action. Mr. Drefus was the hearing officer who presided over plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff claims that because defendant Drefus was the "Education Supervisor," he was not qualified to preside over a disciplinary hearing, and that his assignment to do so was in violation of the New York State Civil Service Law. Id. In a separate section of the complaint, plaintiff also alleges that defendant Drefus denied plaintiff various due process rights during the hearing. Complaint ¶¶ 15(a)-15(e), 23-27.

Plaintiff states that defendant Drefus found plaintiff guilty of the misbehavior and sentenced plaintiff to twelve months in the Special Housing Unit, twelve months loss of various privileges, and recommended a twelve month loss of good time. Complaint ¶ 9. Plaintiff states that he appealed this disciplinary determination, and that it was reversed on November 6, 2003.

3. Statute of Limitations

Federal courts borrow the state law personal injury statute of limitations period for purposes of filing section 1983 actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276 (1985). In New York State, the relevant limitations period is three years. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 250-51 (1989). See N.Y. CIV. PRAC. L & R. § 214(5). Thus, unless the limitations period is tolled for some reason, a plaintiff must file his section 1983 civil rights action within three years of the accrual of each cause of action.

Federal law, however, governs the question of when a section 1983 claim accrues. Covington v. City of New York, 171 F.3d 117, 121 (2d Cir. 1999)(citing Morse v. University of Vermont, 973 F.2d 122, 125 (2d Cir. 1992)), cert. denied, 120 S.Ct. 363 (1999). Generally, under federal law, 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. (quoting Singleton v. City of New York, 632 F.2d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 1980)(internal quotation marks omitted)).

In this case, plaintiff is challenging the determination of a prison disciplinary proceeding in which he suffered a recommended loss of good time as the result of the disciplinary determination. The Second Circuit has held that if the length of a plaintiff's confinement is affected by the result of a disciplinary hearing, the plaintiff's cause of action does not accrue until the guilty determination is reversed. Black v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 72, 75 (2d Cir. 1996). This favorable termination requirement does not apply when the sanction does not impact plaintiff's term of confinement. See Jenkins v. Haubert, 179 F.3d 19, 27 (2d Cir. 1999), accord Peralta v. Vasquez, 467 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2006). Because plaintiff in this case suffered a recommended loss of good time, his cause of action accrued on November 6, ...

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