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Stewartson v. Almstead

March 20, 2008

LANCE STEWARTSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
P. ALMSTEAD, CORRECTIONAL LIEUTENANT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Lance Stewartson commenced the instant action against Defendant Paul Almstead pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming violations of his constitutional rights arising out of the issuance of an inmate misbehavior report, his conviction on the charges, and his placement in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"). Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiff has opposed the motion.

II. FACTS

At all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Oneida Correctional Facility operated by the New York State Department of Corrections ("DOCS"). Defendant was employed by DOCS at Oneida Correctional Facility as a Correctional Lieutenant.

On June 18, 2003, Defendant issued an Inmate Misbehavior Report ("IMR") against Plaintiff charging him with violations of Rules 113.25 (conspiring to introduce controlled substances in the correctional facility) and 114.10 (smuggling) of the Standards of Inmate Behavior. The basis of the charge was an investigation conducted by security staff indicating that Plaintiff conspired with another inmate to smuggle marijuana into the facility. It was anticipated that confidential information would be provided to the hearing officer to substantiate the charges.

Plaintiff was served with a copy of the IMR on June 19, 2003. Deputy Superintendent William F. Hulihan was appointed as the hearing officer to preside over the Tier III Superintendent's Hearing regarding the IMR. The hearing was commenced on June 23, 2003 and completed on July 1, 2003. Defendant states that Plaintiff was provided the opportunity to request assistance and witnesses and testify at the hearing.*fn1 Plaintiff denies this and states that he was denied the opportunity to present a defense because of Defendant's threats and intimidation.

At the hearing, Defendant testified that he had been involved in an ongoing investigation conducted by security staff at the facility. Defendant testified that the investigation revealed that Plaintiff conspired with inmate Coffield to smuggle marijuana into the facility. In support of this conclusion, Defendant testified that Plaintiff sent money to a third person for the purpose of having marijuana smuggled into the facility and that confidential information had been provided to security staff specifically identifying Plaintiff as the person who sent the money for that purpose. Defendant further testified that drugs were confiscated in the facility visiting room.

After the hearing, Plaintiff was found guilty of the charged misconduct and sentenced to 90 days confinement in the SHU and a loss of privileges. On July 14, 2003, Plaintiff was transferred out of Oneida Correctional Facility to Mid-State Correctional Facility. As a result, Plaintiff only served 80 days confinement in SHU.

Plaintiff appealed the results of his Tier III hearing. On September 10, 2003, the Tier III determination was reversed on the following grounds: "no indication an assessment was made of the confidential information to determine its credibility (note: confidential tape could not be found for review)."

Plaintiff now claims that Defendant retaliated against him by filing a false IMR. Plaintiff complains of the following: (1) after being placed in SHU (as a result of the IMR), two unidentified corrections officers stated that they had orders by Defendant to "treat plaintiff extra special;" (2) at the Tier III hearing, Defendant stood up "screaming (poking his fingers in plaintiff's face) stating 'stop wasting time here, take what's coming to you or I will give it to you right here;'" (3) after the Tier III hearing, "as a direct effort of Lt. Almstead's authority-rank, and his misbehavior report, plaintiff was denied Religious Services . . ., recreation . . ., [and] was forced to be intimidated by numerous spontaneous unauthorized cell and body searches, said to be a 'gift' by plaintiff's best friend, Lt. Almstead' . . . [by unidentified SHU officers];" (4) while in SHU, unidentified officers said "Almstead is not the man to piss off;" and (5) Defendant prevented Plaintiff from presenting a defense at his hearing with threats and intimidation. See Pl.'s Response to Def.'s Stmnt. of Mat. Facts at ¶ 20.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures governs motions for summary judgment. It is well settled that on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, see Tenenbaum v. Williams, 193 F.3d 581, 593 (2d Cir. 1999), and may grant summary judgment only where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 (c). An issue is genuine if the relevant evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to a dispositive issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant is able to establish a prima facie basis for summary judgment, the burden of production shifts to the party opposing summary judgment who must produce evidence establishing the existence of a factual dispute that a reasonable jury could resolve in his favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for ...


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