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Rahman v. Fischer

March 23, 2010

SHA-HEED RAHMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER BRIAN FISCHER, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER RICHARD ROY, SUPERINTENDENT LUIS MARSHALL, FIRST DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT KENNETH DECKER, DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL HOUSING VENETTOZZI, SERGEANT E. MENDEZ, SERGEANT PAULTER, HEARING OFFICER CALERO, OFFICER ACEVEDO, OFFICER DAWKINS, OFFICER LASHLEY, OFFICER MAYFIELD, OFFICER SMITH, OFFICER J. TEJEDA, CIVILIAN COOK JOHN SULLIVAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

This Opinion confronts the pleading of supervisory liability in the wake of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ____, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), in a complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sha-Heed Rahman ("Rahman") has sued six supervisors at Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing") and within the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), along with other defendants, for violations of his constitutional rights. Rahman having been granted leave to amend his pleadings against these supervisory defendants, five of those defendants have renewed their motion to dismiss.*fn1 For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the second amended complaint of May 17, 2009, and are assumed to be true for the purposes of deciding the motion to dismiss. Rahman alleges that he was beaten and subjected to the excessive use of force on June 4, 2007, because he had commented during the lunch period at the Sing Sing mess hall that an officer was improperly handling food. Corrections officers also filed a false misbehavior report against him. Rahman asserts that during the ensuing disciplinary hearing, Rahman's guilt was prejudged and he was denied the right to call an inmate witness. Following the hearing, Rahman wrote several letters to DOCS supervisory officials complaining about the assault and the hearing.

Rahman filed this action on May 9, 2008, and amended his complaint on December 31. On April 10, 2009, the motion by six supervisory defendants to dismiss the claims against them was granted. Rahman v. Fisher, 607 F. Supp. 2d 580 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) ("April Opinion"). Explaining that a plaintiff's claim for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 could not rest on the doctrine of respondeat superior and required a pleading of personal involvement and proximate causation for the asserted damages, id. at 584-85, the April Opinion granted Rahman leave to replead his § 1983 excessive force claim against the supervisory defendants based on his assertion that the guards in his housing block, Housing Block B, had engaged in a pattern of assaulting inmates in the C.R. Program*fn2 during the month before June 4, 2007, a pattern which should have put the supervisory defendants on notice of a condition that left unaddressed could be reasonably expected to result in an assault on an inmate such as Rahman. Id. at 585-86. The April Opinion advised Rahman,

To the extent that plaintiff is able to plead that a pattern of assaults by guards existed prior to June 4, 2007 that did or should have put supervisory defendants on notice of a condition that left unaddressed could be reasonably expected to result in an assault on an inmate such as Rahman, then he may be able to state a claim for supervisory liability against such defendants.

Id. at 586.

Rahman amended his complaint on May 17, 2009. In this second amended complaint, as supplemented by his submissions in opposition to this motion,*fn3 Rahman makes the following allegations against the five supervisory defendants regarding their knowledge of a pattern of assaults before June 4, 2007.

First, based on Rahman's allegations, it appears that the five supervisory defendants who have filed a motion to dismiss the § 1983 excessive force claim held the following positions during the period immediately preceding June 4, 2007: Brian Fischer ("Fischer") was Commissioner of DOCS;*fn4 Lucien LeClaire ("LeClaire") was a Deputy Commissioner of DOCS; Richard Roy ("Roy") was a Deputy Commissioner of DOCS and oversaw DOCS's Office of Inspector General; Luis Marshall ("Marshall") was Superintendent of Sing Sing; and Kenneth Decker ("Decker") was the First Deputy Superintendent of Sing Sing. Since the second amended complaint only alleges a claim against Decker for violation of Rahman's due process rights, that claim is beyond the scope of the permitted amendment and is dismissed.*fn5

Rahman alleges that in some unspecified period of time prior to June 4, 2007, Fischer, as Superintendent of Sing Sing, had received over sixty complaints alleging that staff members had assaulted inmates in Housing Block B, and had forwarded those complaints to DOCS's central office. Also before June 4, 2007, as Commissioner, Fischer had received over sixty complaints about staff assaulting inmates and writing false misbehavior reports at Sing Sing. By doing nothing about the assaults, Fischer created "an unwritten policy that it[']s okay to assault inmates because nothing will happen to [the staff]."

Rahman asserts that LeClaire received several complaints of Sing Sing staff assaulting prisoners in the C.R. Program and was responsible for investigating them for the Commissioner. LeClaire "turned a blind eye" to these assaults.

Rahman asserts that Roy also turned a blind eye to the high volume of reports being sent to his office regarding assaults by staff in Housing Block B prior to June 4, 2007. As the official in charge of the inspector general's office, Roy knew of the incidents and acted to cover them up. Rahman alleges that Roy or his office are biased in favor of law enforcement and arrange for complaints about officer assaults to be misplaced, as Rahman alleges happened with a complaint he submitted to Roy's office. Roy also failed to notice a pattern of assaults emerging from these complaints and to inform the Commissioner of the high volume of assaults by staff in Sing Sing's Housing Block B.

Rahman asserts that on and before June 4, 2007, Marshall's office had received more than fifty use of force reports from Housing Block B, which was four times the volume of reports generated from any other housing block at Sing Sing. Rahman alleges that Marshall "turned a[] blind eye to this misbehavior" and "knew that ...


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