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Williams v. Allen

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


September 1, 2009

ALSHON C. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
T. ALLEN, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, CLINTON C.F.; C. SMITH, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, CLINTON C.F.; AND T. TAMER, SERGEANT, CLINTON C.F., DEFENDANTS.

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

MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this pro se prisoner civil rights action filed by Alshon C. Williams ("Plaintiff") are (1) a motion for summary judgment filed by three employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services at Clinton Correctional Facility, Correctional Officer T. Allen, Correctional Officer C. Smith, and Sergeant T. Tamer ("Defendants"), (2) United States Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles' Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion be granted in its entirety, and (3) Plaintiff's timely filed Objection to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. Nos. 43-45.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted, Defendants' motion is granted, and Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint is dismissed.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

Plaintiff commenced this action on March 20, 2006 against five employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"). (Dkt. No. 1.) Following the Court's initial review of Plaintiff's original Complaint and Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on August 16, 2006. (Dkt. No. 9.)Generally, in his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims of excessive force and denial of due process against Defendants Allen, Smith and Tamer, as well as against Donald Selsky and C. Drown, stemming from an alleged incident at Clinton Correctional Facility on October 19, 2005, in which Defendants Allen and Smith allegedly assaulted him while Defendant Tamer stood by, failing to intervene on Plaintiff's behalf. (Dkt. No. 9.) As relief for his injuries, Plaintiff seeks (1) monetary and punitive damages in the amount of two million dollars ($2,000,000) against each Defendant, (2) the expungement of all references to the incident in his disciplinary record, and (3) the termination of Defendants' employment with DOCS. (Id.)

On March 20, 2007, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 23.) By Order dated February 5, 2008, United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn, of this Court, dismissed Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process claim, as well as all claims against Selsky and Drown, but denied the remainder of the motion. (Dkt. No. 29.)

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

On October 22, 2008, the remaining Defendants (Allen, Smith, Tamer) filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking dismissal of the Second Amended Complaint in its entirety as a result of Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Dkt. No. 43.) Plaintiff did not respond to Defendants' motion, despite having been advised of the consequences of failing to do so. (Dkt. No. 43, Parts 1-2.)

C. Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation

On June 26, 2009, Magistrate Judge Peebles issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion be granted and that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint be dismissed in its entirety. (Dkt. No. 44.) Familiarity with the grounds of Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation is assumed in this Decision and Order, and only those facts necessary to the discussion will be set forth herein.

D. Objection to the Report-Recommendation

On July 8, 2009, Plaintiff submitted a timely Objection to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 45.) In his Objection, which is one page in length, Plaintiff argues that he objects to the Report-Recommendation because, "from the start [Magistrate Judge Peebles] and District Judge Kahn knew that [he] did not file a grievance and should have ordered [him] to do so immediately." (Id.) Plaintiff also argues that his "illiteracy" in legal matters inhibited his ability to effectively prosecute his claims, and that, by not assisting him, Judge Peebles "failed in [his] duty to [Plaintiff] as well as [to] the court of law entrusted in [your] care, custody and control." (Id.)

II. GOVERNING LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Legal Standard Governing Motion for Summary Judgment

Magistrate Judge Peebles correctly recited the legal standard governing a motion for summary judgment, including the standard governing such motions that are not properly opposed by pro se litigants. (Dkt. No. 44, at 6-8.) As a result, that standard is incorporated by reference herein.

The Court would only add that, where a non-moving party fails to adequately respond to a motion for summary judgment, a district court has no duty to perform an independent review of the record to find proof of a factual dispute-even if that nonmoving party is proceeding pro se.*fn1 This is because the Court extends special solicitude to the pro se litigant, in part by ensuring that he or she has received notice of the consequences of failing to properly respond to the motion for summary judgment.*fn2 As has often been recognized by both the Supreme Court and Second Circuit, even pro se litigants must obey a district court's procedural rules.*fn3 For this reason, this Court has often enforced Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) by deeming facts set forth in a moving party's statement to have been admitted where the nonmoving party has failed to properly respond to that statement*fn4 -even where the nonmoving party was proceeding pro se in a civil rights case.*fn5

B. 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).*fn6

When only general objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation (or the objecting party merely repeats the allegations of his pleading), the Court reviews 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).*fn7 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 conducting 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

Because Plaintiff's Objections are not specific in nature, the Court need review Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation for only clear error or manifest injustice. After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, including Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation and Plaintiff's Objection thereto, the Court agrees with each of the conclusions offered in the Report-Recommendation. Magistrate Judge Peebles employed the proper legal standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. As a result, the Court accepts and adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety, for the reasons stated therein. The Court would add only three points.

First, Magistrate Judge Peebles' thorough and correct Report-Recommendation would survive even a de novo review.

Second, Plaintiff's argument that "from the start [Magistrate Judge Peebles] and District Judge Kahn knew that [he] did not file a grievance and should have ordered [him] to do so immediately" is without merit. Because Plaintiff's original Complaint alleges that he had fully exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing suit, Plaintiff's argument that Judges Peebles and Kahn knew "from the start" that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies is nonsensical. (Dkt. No. 1, at 5-6.) In any event, even if Judges Peebles and Kahn could have somehow divined Plaintiff's failure to exhaust from the limited information available to them, they had no duty to stay the proceeding in order to permit Plaintiff to try to exhaust his administrative remedies. Indeed, any such stay would likely have been in vain, given (1) the length of time that had elapsed between the occurrence of the event and the filing of the action, and (2) the fact that the Prison Litigation Reform Act requires a pro se plaintiff to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to commencing an action in federal court (with limited exceptions not available here). See Sedney v. Hasse, 02-CV-2583, 2003 WL 21939702, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 12, 2003) (noting that a prisoner's exhaustion of administrative remedies after a complaint is filed will not save a case from dismissal).

Third, Plaintiff's argument that his "illiteracy" in legal matters inhibited his ability to effectively prosecute his action is without merit. His various filings in the action (see, e.g., Dkt. Nos. 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, 26, 28, 36) demonstrate his capability of prosecuting this action, which Judge Peebles appropriately characterized as "not overly complex" (see Dkt. No. 41, at 2). It should be noted that Plaintiff succeeded in moving to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. Nos. 2-4, 6), and he partially succeeded in opposing Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Dkt. Nos. 26, 27, 28, 29).

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 44) is hereby ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 43) is GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 9) is DISMISSED in its entirety. The clerk is directed to enter judgment dismissing this case.


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