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Sledge v. Kooi

February 17, 2009

RONNIE SLEDGE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
PANG L. KOOI, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.*FN1



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Appellant argues that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment to Defendant and dismissing Appellant's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint. The judgment of the District Court is AFFIRMED.

Per curiam.

Submitted: November 21, 2008

Amended: April 28, 2009

Before: McLAUGHLIN, CALABRESI, and LIVINGSTON, Circuit Judges.

Ronnie Sledge appeals from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (McAvoy, J.) granting Dr. Pang L. Kooi's motion for summary judgment and dismissing Sledge's complaint raising claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sledge's complaint alleged that Kooi had violated his Eighth Amendment rights while Sledge was incarcerated at the Auburn Correctional Facility. The District Court adopted the Magistrate Judge's conclusion*fn2 that there was no basis to find that Kooi was deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. In doing so, the District Court also adopted the Magistrate Judge's revocation of Sledge's special status as a pro se litigant. For the reasons that follow, we find that the District Court properly granted Kooi's motion for summary judgment and dismissed Sledge's complaint. We write, however, to advise district courts as to the proper means of approaching pro se litigants who are repeat filers.

BACKGROUND

In May 2005, Sledge, pro se and incarcerated, filed a second amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This complaint alleged, inter alia, that Defendant Kooi had violated Sledge's Eighth Amendment rights by refusing to provide him with proper medical treatment for eczema, back pain, various stomach disorders, allergies, and asthma. Kooi answered, denying the material allegations and raising, inter alia, the defense of qualified immunity.

On February 14, 2006, Sledge moved to compel the production of his medical records for the years 1999 through 2005. Kooi opposed the motion, explaining that Sledge had already been informed that his medical records were available from the medical department at his detention facility. When Kooi moved for summary judgment in July 2006, he provided Sledge and the District Court with copies of Sledge's medical records from October 2002 through March 2005. In August 2006, the Magistrate Judge (Lowe, M.J.) ordered Kooi to produce Sledge's medical records for inspection at Sledge's correctional facility, as Kooi had indicated was possible.

As previously noted, Kooi moved for summary judgment in July 2006. Kooi's motion was supported by, inter alia, an affidavit of Kooi, Sledge's medical records from October 2002 through March 2005, and a statement of material facts as required by the Northern District's Local Rule of Practice 7.1(a)(3). As required by N.D.N.Y. R. Civ. P. 56.2, the accompanying notice of motion explicitly advised Sledge of his obligations pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 and N.D.N.Y. R. Civ. P. 7.1(a)(3).*fn3 In his opposition papers responding to Kooi's motion for summary judgment, Sledge provided a "statement of facts" that tracked, in substantial part, the allegations set forth in his second amended complaint. It also added numerous allegations regarding events that occurred subsequent to the incidents underlying the complaint and, indeed, the filing of the complaint. Sledge's response, however, made no mention of Kooi's statement of material facts, included essentially no references to the record, and was supported only by Sledge's signed "declaration" detailing his various maladies as well as indicating that Kooi had declined to prescribe desired medication and, on occasion, had threatened Sledge.

On February 12, 2007, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Kooi's motion for summary judgment be granted. The Magistrate Judge began by stating that, while the court generally affords special solicitude to pro se litigants, "there are circumstances where an overly litigious inmate, who is quite familiar with the legal system and with pleading requirements, may not be afforded [this] special solicitude." The Magistrate Judge explained that the "rationale for this revocation of special status . . . is not that the pro se litigant should be punished but that his excessive litigiousness demonstrates his experience, the lack of which is the reason for conferring the special status upon pro se litigants in the first place." Applying this analytical framework, the Magistrate Judge noted that Sledge had filed at least twelve other federal or state court actions or appeals, that he had been victorious or partially victorious in at least three of these, and that among the partial victories was a successful opposition of the dismissal upon summary judgment of a claim for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment, the exact scenario presented in this case. The Magistrate Judge further observed that Sledge's papers in his past actions, as well as the present one, were "fairly good." On this basis, the Magistrate Judge revoked Sledge's special status as a pro se litigant "for the remainder of this action."

The Magistrate Judge then noted that Kooi had filed a N.D.N.Y. R. Civ. P. 7.1(a)(3) statement, but that Sledge had failed to file a N.D.N.Y. R. Civ. P. 7.1(a)(3) response. The Magistrate Judge therefore took the facts set forth in Kooi's statement as true to the extent supported by the record and not specifically controverted by Sledge.

Turning to the merits of Sledge's claims, the Magistrate Judge found that Sledge had failed to establish an Eighth Amendment claim, and that it was therefore unnecessary to determine whether Kooi was entitled to qualified immunity. The Magistrate Judge also recommended dismissal of other claims in the complaint, which are not at issue in this appeal. Sledge objected to the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation. By decision and order ...


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