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Coleman v. Beale

July 8, 2009


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


Plaintiff, Derrick Coleman, appearing pro se, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), asserts claims under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution against two defendants, Beth Beale and James Coates, who at all relevant times were an alcohol and substance abuse treatment ("ASAT") program assistant and a correction counselor at the Orleans Correctional Facility.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.


In 2005, plaintiff was a participant in the ASAT program at Orleans, where he was then confined. Successful completion of the program is a factor that may be taken into favorable consideration by the state parole board in considering whether to release an inmate on parole. See 9 N.Y.C.R.R. § 8002.3. Like all ASAT participants, plaintiff was advised upon entering the program that he would be subject to removal from the program if he engaged in disruptive behavior or otherwise failed to comply with the rules of the program.

On June 1, 2005, during an ASAT session conducted by Beale, which was attended by about forty inmates, one of the inmate participants mentioned a problem that he had recently had with a correction officer. Plaintiff responded by stating that when he encountered similar problems, he would file a grievance against the officer in question. Plaintiff went on to explain some of the mechanics of filing a grievance.

The next day, Beale issued a "counseling notification" to plaintiff, stating that plaintiff had "made inappropriate comments in the community meeting refering [sic] to the conduct of employees." Dkt. #18 at 68. The notification further advised plaintiff that community meetings were meant "to give helpful teachings" to the participants, and were not meant to "be about staff [or] used as intimidation ... ." Id.

That same day, plaintiff submitted a "formal complaint" about the notification issued by Beale. Plaintiff alleged that he had done nothing to warrant the issuance of the notification and that Beale was "attempting to send a threatening message to [plaintiff] about writing grievances or encouraging others at a time they requexst [sic] such assistance." Dkt. #18 at 71.

Plaintiff's ASAT group met again on June 3, but plaintiff did not attend. He alleges that he had one of Beale's assistants had excused him from attending so that plaintiff could attend a religious service. Defendants contend that plaintiff did not give the ASAT staff prior notice of a "call out," in violation of ASAT rules. See Beale Decl. (Dkt. #18) ¶ 16 and Ex. B (Dkt. #18 at 34).

Based on plaintiff's failure to attend the June 3 session, Beale issued a second counseling memo on June 6. Plaintiff was warned that "[t]his is your second counseling notification and any further acts of rebelling against the program may result in an unsatisfactory removal of [sic] the program." Dkt. #18 at 73. Plaintiff again responded by filing a grievance against Beale, alleging that she had issued the June 6 notification "because [plaintiff] voiced orally [his prior] grievance to her in her interview office." Dkt. #18 at 75.

On June 21, 2005, Beale issued plaintiff an unsatisfactory evaluation for the month of June, citing plaintiff's "difficulty following the rules of the program ... ." Dkt. #18 at 96.

On June 30, the Superintendent issued a decision on plaintiff's grievances over Beale's counseling notifications, denying the grievances. The Superintendent found that the notifications were justified because plaintiff had made "inappropriate comments in a community meeting" and had "failed to notify ASAT staff of a call out." Dkt. #18 at 89. The Central Office Review Committee subsequently affirmed the Superintendent's decision. Dkt. #18 at 94.

On July 20, 2005, plaintiff was scheduled to give a presentation during his ASAT session dealing with "men's health issues." Plaintiff's topic was cancer (from which he allegedly suffers, see Dkt. #27 at 3 ¶ 8). During his presentation, plaintiff analogized correction officers to antigens, allegedly stating that "if there are not enough officers, the population will take over," that "white blood cells try to overtake all other cells," and that "white cells are a sign of cancer and cancer needs to be cut out." Dkt. #18 at 108.

That same day, Beale prepared a misbehavior report charging plaintiff with violating DOCS rules against rioting and unauthorized organization. Dkt. #18 at 108. She also gave him an unsatisfactory evaluation for the month of July. After a disciplinary hearing on this misbehavior report, the hearing officer ...

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