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Freeman v. Santos

March 14, 2010

RODNEY FREEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LT. SANTOS, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE #1, CORRECTION OFFICER, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE #2, CORRECTION SERGEANT, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE #3, CORRECTION OFFICER, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; AND JOHN DOE #4, CORRECTION OFFICER, ONEIDA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant Santos and four John Doe Defendants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See, generally, Dkt. No. 1. In response to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendant Santos moved to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which this Court might grant relief. See Dkt. No. 6. Plaintiff opposed the motion and filed a cross-motion concerning the accuracy of hearing transcripts that Defendant Santos had attached to his motion papers. See Dkt. No. 13.

In a Report-Recommendation and Order dated February 23, 2010, Magistrate Judge Homer recommended that this Court deny Defendant Santos' motion to dismiss. See Dkt. No. 15 at 9.*fn1 Currently before the Court are Defendant Santos' objections to Magistrate Judge Homer's recommendation.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standards of Review

In reviewing a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the district court may decide to accept, reject or modify those recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court conducts a de novo review of the portions of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which a party objects. See Pizarro v. Bartlett, 776 F. Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). "'"If, however, the party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error."'" Salmini v. Astrue, No. 3:06-CV-458, 2009 WL 1794741, *1 (N.D.N.Y. June 23, 2009) (quoting [Farid v. Bouey, 554 F. Supp. 2d 301] at 306 [(N.D.N.Y. 2008)] (quoting McAllan v. Von Essen, 517 F. Supp. 2d 672, 679 (S.D.N.Y. 2007))). Finally, even if the parties file no objections, the court must ensure that the face of the record contains no clear error. See Wilds v. United Parcel Serv., 262 F. Supp. 2d 163, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (quotation omitted).

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court explained that "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'" Id. at 1949 (quoting [Twombly, 550 U.S.], at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing [Twombly, 550 U.S.], at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

Furthermore, the Court stated that there are "[t]wo working principles [that] underlie [its] decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions... [and] [s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss...." Id. at 1949-50 (internal citations omitted). The Court also stated that

[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.... But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not "show[n]" -- "that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Id. at 1950 (internal quotation and citations omitted).

Therefore, the Court instructed that, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. Finally, when a party seeks to dismiss a pro se litigant's complaint, a court must afford the non-movant special solicitude. See Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 477 (2d Cir. 2006) (noting that the court must liberally construe a pro se litigant's submissions and must read those submissions "to raise the strongest arguments that they 'suggest'").

B. Defendant Santos' Personal Involvement In The Alleged Constitutional Violations

Magistrate Judge Homer correctly noted that Plaintiff could not hold Defendant Santos liable for the alleged constitutional violations "solely because [Santos] held a supervisory position at Oneida." See Report-Recommendation and Order dated February 23, 2010, at 7. However, after reviewing Plaintiff's complaint, Magistrate Judge Homer found that Plaintiff had "asserted more than liability based on a supervisory role. [Plaintiff] contends that Santos personally orchestrated the assault by conversing with John Doe defendants and ordering them to teach [Plaintiff] a lesson." See id. Magistrate Judge Homer concluded that "[t]his allegation is more than a mere conclusion and is supported by facial plausibility as [Plaintiff] saw Santos speaking to John Doe defendants while simultaneously gesturing to [Plaintiff], John Does 1 and 2 identifying [Plaintiff] as the 'tough guy' after speaking with Santos and arriving to transport him, and John Doe 4 indicating that the assault occurred because John Doe defendants were charged by Santos to teach [Plaintiff] a lesson." See id. (citing Compl. ¶¶ 14yup, 15, 34). Furthermore, Magistrate Judge Homer stated that "[o]rdering subordinates to perform an unconstitutional assault constitutes direct participation in a constitutional violation." See id. (citing Provost v. City of Newburgh, 262 F.3d 146, 155 (2d Cir. 2001) (explaining that when evaluating personal involvement of a defendant, direct participation "does not ...


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