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Seymore v. Joslyn

April 14, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lyle E. Strom, Senior Judge United States District Court



This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (Filing No. 35.) Upon review of the motion, the local rule 7.1(a)(3) statements, the memoranda and evidentiary submissions of the parties, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


Maurice Seymore, an inmate in the custody of the State of New York Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges in this case that Ronald Lanaux, a corrections counselor at Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State"), made inappropriate sexual comments to him in June and October of 2005. Seymore states that during his attendance of the Chemical Dependency Sex Offender Program ("CDSOP"), Lanaux insisted that Seymore sit at the front of the classroom so Lanaux could watch him all day. Seymore also attests that at some point in October, 2005, Lanaux told him that he wanted Seymore to "do to him what he did to his victim." Seymore is serving a sentence for rape. He filed grievances against Lanaux regarding this conduct on January 3 and 4, 2006.

The superintendent assigned the review of Seymore's grievance, and the corresponding investigation, to defendant Anne Joslyn, Lanaux's supervisor. On January 5, 2006, Seymore was ejected from the CDSOP program and moved out of his housing unit. On January 10, 2006, Joslyn met with Seymore regarding the grievance. Joslyn also interviewed Lanaux. On January 17, 2006, Seymore was also interviewed about his grievance by senior counselor Allen. Granting the benefit of reasonable inferences to Seymore, on January 26, 2006, upon completion of her investigation, Joslyn filed an inmate misbehavior report stating in part that Seymore's grievance was a blatant attempt by inmate Seymour [sic] to misuse the grievance process in an attempt to harass, intimidate, and humiliate the employee named in the grievance. Inmate Seymour [sic] committed to writing a fabricated story using the acts committed against his own victim as the foundation for the lie in an attempt to harass, intimidate, and humiliate the DOCS employee through fabrication of absurd allegations of sexual behavior. Inmate Seymour [sic] attempted to fantasize about a personal relationship with a DOCS employee using the offense he is under custody for as the basis.

(Filing No. 38, at 25.) On January 27, 2006, Seymore filed a grievance against Joslyn, based in part on the misbehavior report. On January 30, 2006, Seymore was transferred from Mid-State Correctional Facility to Marcy Correctional Facility. Defendants argue that the movement had nothing to do with Seymore's allegations against Lanaux "but was a combination of his request and the routine application of DOCS policy to allow for the movement of other inmates into Mid-State Correctional Facilty and the CDSOP." (Filing No. 35-3.)


On a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable factual inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See, e.g., Savino v. City of New York, 331 F.3d 63, 71 (2d Cir. 2003)(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, to survive a motion for summary judgment, "the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). "Conclusory allegations, conjecture, and speculation... are insufficient to create a genuine issue of fact." Kerzer v. Kingly Mfg., 156 F.3d 396, 400 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). Thus, "statements that are devoid of any specifics, but replete with conclusions, are insufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Bickerstaff v. Vassar Coll., 196 F.3d 435, 452 (2d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). "In moving for summary judgment against a party who will bear the ultimate burden of proof at trial, the movant may satisfy this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim." Vann v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1040, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). A party "moving for summary judgment must prevail if the [non-movant] fails to come forward with enough evidence to create a genuine factual issue to be tried with respect to an element essential to its case." Allen v. Cuomo, 100 F.3d 253, 258 (2d Cir. 1996)(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48).


A. Section 1983

Seymore brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to prevail on his claims, Seymore must present evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that conduct by a person acting under color of state law proximately caused a deprivation of his federally protected rights. See § 1983. However, there is no question that when Seymore alleges conduct by prison staff, he is complaining of conduct by persons acting under color of state law. A key issue in this case is whether that conduct deprived him of any federally protected rights.

B. Sexual Harassment Claim - Eighth Amendment

Seymore claims that Lanaux sexually harassed him by staring at him and stating that he wanted Seymore to do to him what he did to his victim. This claim is properly analyzed under the Eighth Amendment. The Amendment prohibits the infliction of "cruel and unusual punishments" and is applicable to the states by incorporation into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. U.S. Const. amends. VIII, XIV; See Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 666-67 (1962). To prove a violation of the Eighth ...

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