The opinion of the court was delivered by: David E. Peebles U.S. Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff Jamel Monroe, a former New York State prison inmate who is no stranger to this court, has commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the superintendent and deputy superintendent of the prison facility in which he was housed at the relevant times, sued both individually and in their official capacities, alleging deprivations of his civil rights.*fn1 Plaintiff's claims, which are recited in largely conclusory fashion, include, inter alia, causes of action for unlawful retaliation, cruel and unusual punishment, and the denial of equal protection. As relief, plaintiff seeks recovery of compensatory and punitive damages totaling $5 million.
Currently pending before the court in connection with this action is a motion by the defendants seeking the entry of summary judgment on several grounds. In support of their motion, defendants assert that plaintiff's claims are procedurally barred by virtue of his failure to properly exhaust available administrative remedies with respect to his claims against the named defendants in this action, and that in any event his claims are lacking in merit. Defendants' motion is unopposed, plaintiff having failed to file papers in opposition to that application.
Having carefully reviewed the record now before the court, which at minimum reflects the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to the sufficiency of plaintiff's efforts to file and pursue a grievance concerning the matters now at issue through the internal grievance process, I do not recommend dismissal of plaintiff's claims on this basis. Because no reasonable factfinder could find in plaintiff's favor of any of his claims, however, I therefore recommend that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted and that plaintiff's complaint be dismissed in its entirety on the merits.
At the times relevant to his claims the plaintiff, who in May of 2007 was released on parole, was a prison inmate entrusted to the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (the "DOCS") and designated to the Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State"), located in Marcy, New York.*fn3 See generally Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1). On June 22, 2006, plaintiff's cube at Mid-State was searched, and documents suspected of constituting contraband were confiscated. Id. ¶ 2. The discovery of those materials resulted in the issuance of a misbehavior report on June 29, 2006 by Corrections Lieutenant G. Lawrence accusing Monroe of violating prison correspondence procedures (Rule 180.11). Id.; see also Rubinstein Aff. (Dkt. No. 18-2) Exh. B. Following the issuance of that disciplinary charge, plaintiff was taken to the facility's special housing unit ("SHU"), designated by him as "the box", and placed there on keeplock status.*fn4 Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) ¶ 2.
Beginning on or about July 7, 2006, a Tier III disciplinary hearing was conducted by defendant Chris Bulson, the Deputy Superintendent for Administration at Mid-State, to address the charges lodged against Monroe.*fn5, *fn6 Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) ¶ 3; Rubinstein Aff. (Dkt. No. 18-4) Exh. C. At the close of that hearing plaintiff was found guilty of the single charge set forth in the misbehavior report, and a penalty of ninety days of confinement in the facility SHU, with a corresponding loss of commissary, packages, and telephone privileges, was imposed. Id. Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) ¶¶ 4-6; Rubinstein Aff. (Dkt. No. 18-4) Exh. C. That determination was ultimately reversed on appeal to Keith F. DuBray, who at the time was the acting DOCS Director of Special Housing/Inmate Discipline, based upon the hearing officer's failure to interview the reporting employee in order to substantiate the charge, and plaintiff's records were expunged of all references to the matter. Rubinstein Aff. (Dkt. No. 18-4) Exh. D.
Plaintiff commenced this action on September 21, 2006. Dkt. No. 1. Named as defendants in plaintiff's complaint are Kenneth Perlman, the Superintendent at Mid-State, and Deputy Superintendent Bulson. Id. Plaintiff's complaint asserts a single cause of action which reads as follows:
Conspiracy, Retaliation, Harassment, Supervisory Liability, Official Misconduct, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Deliberate Indifference, Racial and Class Discrimination, -- against Defendants Perlman and Bulson, in violation of Plaintiffs' [sic] First, Fourth, fifth, Eighth, and fourteenth Amendment Rights.
Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) First Cause Of Action. Issue was joined by the filing of an answer on behalf of the defendants on March 28, 2007, generally denying plaintiff's constitutional claims and asserting various affirmative defenses, including failure to exhaust available administrative remedies as required under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Dkt. No. 12.
On April 28, 2008, defendants moved seeking the entry of summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims. Dkt. No. 18. In their motion defendants assert that 1) plaintiff's claims against them in their official capacities are precluded by the Eleventh Amendment; 2) plaintiff's claims are procedurally barred, based upon his failure to file and pursue to completion a grievance naming the defendants in this action and addressing the matters set forth in his complaint; 3) plaintiff's retaliation claim lacks merit; 4) plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the requisite degree of personal involvement on the part of the two named defendants in the civil rights violations alleged; 5) plaintiff's conspiracy claims are lacking in merit; and 6) plaintiff's claims of cruel and unusual punishment and equal protection deprivation are impermissibly stated in conclusory fashion and lacking in support from the record. Id. Defendants' motion, to which plaintiff has not responded, is now ripe for determination and has been referred to me for the issuance of a report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Northern District of New York Local Rule 72.3(c). See also Fed. R. Civ. 72(b).
A. Plaintiff's Failure to Oppose Defendants' Motion
Before turning to the merits of plaintiff's claims, a threshold issue to be addressed is the legal significance, if any, of his failure to oppose defendants' summary judgment motion, and specifically whether that failure automatically entitles defendants ...