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Green v. Greene

August 5, 2009

SHAWN GREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GARY GREENE, SUPERINTENDENT; DARWIN LACLAIR, SUPERINTENDENT; DAVID A. CARPENTER, PROGRAM DEPUTY; RICHARD W. POTTER, ADMINISTRATIVE DEPUTY; R. EASTMAN, CAPTAIN; R. JUCKELL, J. BAISLEY; D. SAWYER; S. WINCHELL; B. WINCHELL; T. LOOMAN; T. VEDDER; SHEPANSKI; D. WILLIAMS; C. RUSSELL; C. CHARBONEAU; J. ALLEN; G. BLOOD; JOHN DOE; JOHN/JANE DOE; J. DANIEL; R. HILLIER; KENNETH MCLAUGHLIN; CENTRAL OFFICE REVIEW COMMITTEE; R. MCCLURE; IMAM ELMI; C. GOODMAN, INMATE GRIEVANCE PROGRAM SUPERVISOR; AND R.K. WOODS, 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 filed by Shawn Green ("Plaintiff") against twenty-seven individuals who are employed by, and one committee that is part of, the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("Defendants") are (1) a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim filed by Defendant Hillier, (2) a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim filed by the remaining Defendants ("the non-Hillier Defendants"), and (3) Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles' Report-Recommendations of March 30, 2009, and April 30, 2009, recommending that Defendant Hillier's motion be granted, and the non-Hillier Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted in part and denied in part. (Dkt. Nos. 57, 65, 67, 69.) Plaintiff has filed timely Objections to both Report-Recommendations. (Dkt. Nos. 68, 70.) For the reasons set forth below, both Report-Recommendations are accepted and adopted in their entirety; Defendant Hillier's motion to dismiss is granted and the non-Hillier Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part; various of Plaintiff's claims are dismissed; and the remainder of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is conditionally dismissed unless, within thirty (30) days of this Decision and Order, Plaintiff pays the Court's filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars ($350).

I. BACKGROUND

On February 5, 2008, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint in this action against Defendants. (Dkt. No. 20.) Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint asserts claims arising under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, based on a number of incidents of retaliation, excessive force, religious discrimination, inadequate medicare care and/or cruel-and-unusual punishment that occurred while he was incarcerated at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in 2006 and 2007. (Id.) As to Defendant Hillier, Plaintiff asserts a First Amendment denial-of-access-to-courts claim, alleging that Defendant Hillier failed to provide him with a copy of a grievance decision and also denied him an extension of time to appeal that decision. (Id. at ¶ 49.)

On May 29, 2008, the non-Hillier Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), seeking dismissal of all claims against them on a variety of grounds (including untimeliness, the Eleventh Amendment, a lack of personal involvement, a lack of standing, the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 [1994], and the doctrine of qualified immunity). (Dkt. No. 57.) On August 11, 2008, after receiving an extension of time in which to do so, Plaintiff submitted a response in opposition to the non-Hillier Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 60.) On March 30, 2009, Magistrate Judge Peebles issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that the non-Hillier Defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part. (Dkt. No. 67.) In particular, Magistrate Judge Peebles recommended that only the following claims asserted by Plaintiff be dismissed: (1) Plaintiff's claim for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 premised on breach of contract, as well as any state law claim of breach of contract; (2) his claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need under the Eighth Amendment; (3) his claim for civil conspiracy; (4) his claim against Defendant B. Winchell alleging that Winchell gave false testimony at a disciplinary hearing; (5) his free-exercise-of-religion claim under the First Amendment; (6) all claims against Defendants McLaughlin and Greene; and (7) all claims against the remaining Defendants in their official capacities. (Id.)*fn1 On April 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed his Objections to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 68.)

Meanwhile, on December 11, 2008, Defendant Hillier also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), seeking dismissal of all claims against her because (1) Plaintiff failed to state a claim, and (2) she is entitled to qualified immunity. (Dkt. No. 65, Part 2.) On January 15, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a response in opposition to Defendant Hillier's motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 66.) On April 30, 2009, Magistrate Judge Peebles issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant Hillier's motion be granted, because Plaintiff failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that he suffered an actual deprivation (as a result of Defendant Hillier's actions) that would support a due process claim. (Dkt. No. 69.)*fn2 On May 18, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Objection to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 70.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. 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).*fn3

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).*fn4 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).

B. Standard Governing a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

It has long been understood that a defendant may base a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on either or both of two grounds: (1) a challenge to the "sufficiency of the pleading" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); or (2) a challenge to the legal cognizability of the claim. Jackson v. Onondaga County, 549 F. Supp.2d 204, 211, nn. 15-16 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (McAvoy, J., adopting Report-Recommendation on de novo review) [citations omitted].

With regard to the first ground, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) [emphasis added]. By requiring this "showing," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that the pleading contain a short and plain statement that "give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.17 [citations omitted]. The main purpose of this rule is to "facilitate a proper decision on the merits." Id. at 212, n.18 [citations omitted].*fn5

The Supreme Court has long characterized this pleading requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) as "simplified" and "liberal," and has repeatedly rejected judicially established pleading requirements that exceed this liberal requirement. Id. at 212, n.20 [citations omitted]. However, even this liberal notice pleading standard "has its limits." Id. at 212, n.21 [citations omitted]. As a result, numerous Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions exist holding that a pleading has failed to meet this liberal notice pleading standard. Id. at 213, n.22 [citations omitted].

Most notably, in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, the Supreme Court reversed an appellate decision holding that a complaint had stated an actionable antitrust claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1. Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007). In doing so, the Court "retire[d]" the famous statement by the Court in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1968-69. Rather than turning on the conceivability of an actionable claim, the Court clarified, the "fair notice" standard turns on the plausibility of an actionable claim. Id. at 1965-74. The Court explained that, while this does not mean that a pleading need "set out in detail the facts upon which [the claim is based]," it does mean that the pleading must contain at least "some factual allegation[s]." Id. at 1965 ...


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