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Clark v. Dannheim

December 1, 2008


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


Plaintiff, Khaliq Clark, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated in a number of respects in connection with an altercation between plaintiff and three guards on May 3, 2001, and a subsequent hearing on the disciplinary charges brought against plaintiff as a result of that altercation.

Defendants include the three correction officers involved in the May 3 incident--Andrew Dannheim, Dennis Hardy, and David Matyas--as well as the hearing officer on the disciplinary charges, Thomas Breckon, who found plaintiff guilty of the charges against him, and Donald Selsky, the DOCS Director of Special Housing, who denied plaintiff's appeal from Breckon's determination.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel, has filed a memorandum of law and other papers in opposition to the motion.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The amended complaint (Dkt. #22) alleges that on May 3, 2001, plaintiff was summoned from his cell to the office of Sgt. Szczepanowski , who wished to speak to plaintiff concerning a letter that plaintiff had recently written to the facility superintendent complaining about certain matters. According to plaintiff, as he was leaving Szczepanowski's office following this interview, he was approached by Dannheim, who made some comments about why plaintiff had "writ[ten] that bullshit," i.e., the letter to the superintendent. Dannheim then allegedly began punching plaintiff, and defendants Hardy and Matyas allegedly joined in the assault. Plaintiff was then taken to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), where he was treated for his injuries. Dkt. #22 ¶¶ 10-19.

The next day, plaintiff was issued a misbehavior report charging him with assault on staff, violent conduct, and harassment. A hearing was held on May 16 and 17, 2001, before defendant Breckon.

At one point in the hearing, plaintiff raised an objection to certain matters, which Breckon overruled. Plaintiff continued to pursue the objection, and Breckon had him removed, stating, "I'm not gonna put up with inmate Clark interrupting me while I'm trying to give him instructions." Dkt. #44 Ex. C at 10. The hearing then continued in plaintiff's absence.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Breckon found plaintiff guilty on all three charges, and sentenced him to twelve months' confinement in SHU and loss of certain privileges. Dkt. #41 Ex. D. Selsky affirmed that disposition on appeal.

Following the hearing and disposition, plaintiff commenced an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court, Wyoming County, seeking to annul the hearing results on a number of grounds. On March 22, 2002, Acting Supreme Court Justice Mark H. Dadd issued a decision finding that "the record does not support the Hearing Officer's decision to exclude the petitioner from the hearing," and ordering "that a new hearing be held regarding petitioner's misbehavior report ...," within fourteen days of service of the court's order. Dkt. #41 Ex. C.

It appears, however, that no rehearing was ever held, at least to a conclusion. According to plaintiff, a rehearing was begun, but not within the fourteen days directed by Justice Dadd, and when plaintiff objected to the untimeliness of the hearing, the hearing was simply cancelled, and plaintiff was released from SHU after serving 295 days there. Dkt. #45 Ex. L.

Based on these allegations, plaintiff asserts several claims. First, he contends that the alleged assault on May 3, 2001 violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from excessive force, and that it was initiated in retaliation for plaintiff's having complained about certain matters, in violation of his rights under the First Amendment.

Plaintiff also contends that his procedural due process rights were violated at the hearing before defendant Breckon. Plaintiff bases this claim on Breckon's denial of plaintiff's request for Dannheim's medical records, his denial of plaintiff's request to call Sgt. Szczepanowski as a witness, and Breckon's exclusion of plaintiff from the hearing. ...

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