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Barnes v. Henderson

June 23, 2009

ARRELLO BARNES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT HENDERSON, JOHN W. BURGE, DEFENDANTS.



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

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Arrello Barnes, appearing pro se, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges that defendants Robert Henderson and John Burge, who at all relevant times were officials or employees of DOCS, violated his constitutional right to procedural due process in connection with a disciplinary hearing held at Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira") in April 2006.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff has cross-moved for summary judgment in his favor. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted, plaintiff's motion is denied, and the complaint is dismissed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The relevant facts are largely undisputed. On March 24, 2006, plaintiff was involved in a fight with some other inmates at Elmira. As a result of this fight, plaintiff was issued a misbehavior report charging him with several disciplinary infractions.

A Tier III disciplinary hearing on those charges was held before defendant Deputy Superintendent Robert Henderson on March 28, 2006. At the hearing, plaintiff pleaded guilty to a charge of fighting, and not guilty to charges of violent conduct and creating a disturbance.

Correction Officer G. Davis testified at the hearing that he observed plaintiff throwing punches during the March 24 fight. Three other officers also testified, but they were essentially unable to say whether plaintiff had been fighting or not. Henderson denied plaintiff's requests to call several other witnesses, on various grounds.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Henderson found plaintiff guilty on all charges, and sentenced him to eighteen months' confinement in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") and loss of good time. Plaintiff sought discretionary review by Superintendent John W. Burge, who issued a memorandum on May 1, 2006, stating that he "f[ou]nd no reason to modify the disposition rendered." Dkt. #1-2 at 17.

On administrative appeal, and on June 8, 2006 Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program Director Donald Selsky reversed the finding on the charges of violent conduct and creating a disturbance. Selsky stated that the reason for his decision was the "failure to interview requested witnesses who could have provided relevant testimony on [those] dismissed charges." Dkt. #28 at 82. Selsky also reduced plaintiff's sentence to six months in SHU and loss of six months' good time, based on plaintiff's conviction on the charge of fighting, to which he had pleaded guilty. At the time of Selsky's decision, plaintiff had not yet served six months of his SHU sentence. Plaintiff did serve that six-month sentence, but no additional sentence on the charges stemming from the March 24, 2006 fight.

Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on July 20, 2006, asserting various constitutional claims against Henderson, Burge, Selsky, and DOCS Commissioner Glenn Goord. By Decision and Order entered on June 19, 2007 (Dkt. #14), the Court dismissed all but plaintiff's due process claims against Henderson and Burge. The gist of plaintiff's remaining claims is that Henderson improperly delayed or extended the hearing, in violation of DOCS regulations, that Henderson wrongfully denied plaintiff's requests to call certain witnesses, and that Burge failed to correct these errors or violations on appeal.

DISCUSSION

I. General Principles

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor." Sologub v. City of New York, 202 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir. 2000) (quotations omitted). Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court must "read the pleadings... liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Corcoran v. New York Power Auth., 202 F.3d 530, 536 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotations omitted). "Nonetheless, '[p]roceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve a litigant of the usual requirements of summary judgment, and a pro se party's bald ...


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