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Sheils v. Minogue

August 21, 2008

KEVIN SHEILS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.J. MINOGUE, COMMISSIONER'S HEARING OFFICER; P. ANO, TIER HEARING ASSISTANT; D. SELSKY, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL HOUSING, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randolph F. Treece United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER

Pro se Plaintiff Kevin Sheils brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Defendants violated his due process rights by (1) intentionally withholding documents he requested in preparation for a Disciplinary Hearing, thereby preventing Plaintiff from framing "appropriate questions to inmate witnesses" and "disput[ing] the evidence against him[;]" and (2) denying him the opportunity to question and call certain witnesses and to view and introduce documentary evidence. Dkt. No. 1, Compl.

Defendants' now bring this Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), which Plaintiff opposes. Dkt. Nos. 27 & 30. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint be conditionally dismissed.

I. FACTS

During the time period relevant to this action, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Clinton Correctional Facility ("CCF"). Dkt. No. 27, Defs.' 7.1 Statement, at ¶ 2.*fn1 On October 31, 2003, Plaintiff was housed in cell #9 of the E-3 housing unit of CCF. On that day, security staff were conducting cell searches on Plaintiff's gallery. Id. at ¶ 3. During the search of his cell, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with the CCF security staff members, who used physical force to subdue him. Defendants' assert Plaintiff caused the incident when he became verbally abusive and punched a correctional officer in the face; Plaintiff asserts he was wantonly beaten for a half-hour without cause or justification. Id. at ¶ 4; Compl. at 14.

On November 1, 2003, Plaintiff was served with copies of Misbehavior Reports issued by Correctional Officers (C.O.'s) Evens and LaBombard. The Misbehavior Reports stated that while standing outside his cell during the search,*fn2 Plaintiff became angry when Evens began to look through his photos, and attempted to approach Evens in the cell. However, LaBombard interceded and ordered him to step back, at which point Plaintiff punched LaBombard on his left cheek, requiring Evens and LaBombard to force Plaintiff into mechanical restraints. Dkt. No. 30, Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Exs., Inmate Misbehavior Reps., dated Oct. 31, 2003, at A1, A-2, A-6, & A-7.

Defendant Captain Robert Minogue was designated to serve as the Superintendent's representative and conduct a Tier III Disciplinary Hearing on the charges filed by C.O.'s Evens and LaBombard. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at ¶ 6. Defendant Correctional Counselor Roy Ano was assigned to assist Plaintiff in his defense against the disciplinary charges. Id. at ¶ 7. At some point before the Hearing, Plaintiff met with Ano,*fn3 and advised him of the witnesses he wanted to have called and documentary evidence he wished to procure. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' 7.1 Statement at ¶¶ 8-9.

Defendant Captain Minogue convened the Disciplinary Hearing on November 13, 2003. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at ¶ 10. The Hearing spanned several days, and on November 19, 2003, Defendant Ano met with Plaintiff and discussed his requests for additional inmate witnesses and facility personnel. Id. at ¶ 12; Compl. at ¶ 20. Ano contacted the inmates, recorded their responses, and advised Plaintiff accordingly. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at ¶ 12. Over the course of the proceedings Plaintiff argued with Defendant Minogue over a range of issues including his requests to have security staff subjected to polygraph examinations, to have over a dozen inmates called to testify, and to have access to the medical records of security staff. Id. at ¶ 13; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' 7.1

Statement at ¶ 13. On November 25th, Defendant Minogue ejected Plaintiff from the Hearing after Plaintiff repeatedly failed to control his outbursts. Defs.' 7.1 Statement at ¶ 14. Minogue continued to receive testimony from witnesses in Plaintiff's absence. Id. at ¶ 15.

On November 26th, Minogue completed the Hearing and found Plaintiff guilty of Interference with an Employee, Assault on Staff, and several related charges. Id. at ¶ 16. Minogue sentenced Plaintiff to twelve (12) months confinement in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) with concomitant loss of packages, commissary, and telephone privileges; he also recommended a twelve (12) month reduction in good-time credits. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff appealed the decision to Donald Selsky on December 21, 2003, who affirmed the decision. Dkt. No. 27, Donald Selsky Decl., dated Feb. 21, 2008, Ex. A, Rev. of Supt. Hr'g, dated Feb. 12, 2004.

On March 8, 2004, Plaintiff filed another appeal with Selsky, asking him to reconsider his denial of Plaintiff's appeal on the grounds that he was wrongly denied the opportunity to bring in certain witnesses and that Minogue was impartial. Selsky Decl., Ex. A, Pl.'s Lt. Appeal, dated Mar. 8, 2004. In a letter written on Plaintiff's behalf, the Prisoners' Legal Services of New York asked Selsky to reconsider his denial of Plaintiff's appeals on the grounds of improper denial of witnesses and preclusion of relevant documentary evidence at Plaintiff's Hearing. Selsky Decl., Ex. A, Lt. from Theresa Wells to Donald Selsky, dated Apr. 9, 2004.

Although the record does not contain a formal response to these petitions, both parties assert that they were denied by Selsky. See Selsky Decl. at ¶ 9; Compl. at ¶ 43. Plaintiff filed the instant federal action on April 18, 2006.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment ...


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