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Ford v. Krusen

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


April 6, 2009

COREY FORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT KRUSEN AND ANDREW HARVEY, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this pro se prisoner civil rights action are Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief might be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and United States Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles' Report-Recommendation that Defendants' motion be granted. (Dkt. Nos. 26, 30.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted, Defendants' motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint

On May 14, 2008, Senior District Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., directed Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint in this action. (Dkt. No. 23.) On May 21, 2008, Plaintiff filed that Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 24.) Generally, in his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts due process claims against (1) Robert Krusen, a New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") inmate who assisted Plaintiff in a disciplinary hearing at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, and (2) Andrew Harvey, the DOCS hearing officer who presided over the disciplinary proceeding. (Id.) More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, before and during the disciplinary hearing on April 30, 2004, he asked for exculpatory videotape and/or documentary evidence (which supported his defense of justification to the charge of assault), and Defendants falsely responded that no such documents existed. (Id.) Moreover, he alleges that Defendants continued to wrongfully withhold this evidence during an Article 78 proceeding that he filed on September 10, 2004, to challenge the results of his disciplinary conviction. (Id.)*fn1

B. Defendants' Motion and Magistrate Judge Peebles's Report-Recommendation

On June 30, 2008, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief might be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 26.) Generally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, as well as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. (Id. at Part 2.)

On August 1, 2008, Plaintiff submitted an opposition to the motion to dismiss, repeating the allegations made in his Amended Complaint that he was denied due process during the disciplinary proceeding. (Dkt. No. 27.)

On August 26, 2008, Defendants submitted a reply in further support of their motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 28.) In their reply, Defendants argued, inter alia, Plaintiff is precluded from litigating the facts and issues currently before the Court, because he previously litigated those facts and issues in a (newly discovered) Section 1983 action, which was dismissed by the Southern District of New York in Ford v. Phillips, 05-CV-6646, 2007 WL 946703 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2007). (Dkt. No. 28.)

On December 15, 2008, Magistrate Judge Peebles issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion be granted and that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint be dismissed in its entirety without leave to amend. (Dkt. No. 30.) Generally, Magistrate Judge Peebles found that, while Plaintiff's previous Article 78 proceeding does not bar his current claim regarding Defendants' conduct during his disciplinary hearing under the doctrine of claim preclusion, Plaintiff's previous action in the Southern District of New York does bar that claim under the doctrine of claim preclusion. (Id. at 13-16.) Moreover, he found that Plaintiff's previous Article 78 proceeding also bars that claim under the doctrine of issue preclusion (or "collateral estoppel"). (Id. at 16-19.) Finally, Magistrate Judge Peebles found that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine bars Plaintiff's current claim regarding Defendants' conduct during his Article 78 proceeding. (Id. at 19-23.) With regard to the specifics of Magistrate Judge Peebles' reasoning, familiarity with Magistrate Judge Peebles's Report-Recommendation is assumed in this Decision and Order.

On January 29, 2009, Plaintiff submitted an Objection to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 32.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When specific objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court makes a "de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).*fn2

When only general objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court reviews the report-recommendation for clear error or manifest injustice. See Brown v. Peters, 95-CV-1641, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997) (Pooler, J.) [collecting cases], aff'd without opinion, 175 F.3d 1007 (2d Cir.1999).*fn3 Similarly, when a party makes no objection to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court reviews that portion for clear error or manifest injustice. See Batista v. Walker, 94-CV-2826, 1995 WL 453299, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 1995) (Sotomayor, J.) [citations omitted]; Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition [citations omitted]. After conducing the appropriate review, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

III. ANALYSIS

After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, including Magistrate Judge Peebles's Report-Recommendation and Plaintiff's Objection thereto, the Court rejects each of Plaintiff's Objections, and agrees with the conclusions offered in the Report-Recommendation.*fn4

Magistrate Judge Peebles employed the proper legal standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. (See Dkt. No. 30.) As a result, the Court accepts and adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety, for the reasons stated therein. The Court would add only that, not only is granting Plaintiff leave to amend unnecessary due to the futility of any such amendment (as pointed out by Magistrate Judge Peebles),*fn5 granting Plaintiff leave to amend is unnecessary also because Plaintiff was already afforded such an opportunity.*fn6

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 30) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 26) is GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 24) is DISMISSED in its entirety, without leave to amend.


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