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Smith v. Goord

August 9, 2010

ISMAIL N. SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER GOORD; C.O. MATRESE, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; RANZE, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; BOGARDUS, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MICHAUD, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; NOETH, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE, KEEPLOCK C.O., COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, FROM F-2 ON 9/12/07; SPERRY, NURSE, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE, PHYSICAL THERAPIST FROM 8/7/08, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; JOHN DOE, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF PROGRAMS, DOCS; JOHN DOE, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF FACILITIES; MURZDA, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MCDERMOT, LT., COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; RIVERA, SUPERINTENDENT, COXSACKIE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; MONTUSELLO,*FN1 DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SECURITY; A. MTAMBU, NURSE,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randolph F. Treece United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER

Pro se Plaintiff Ismail N. Smith brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. On December 22, 2009, Defendants Goord, Rivera, and Martuscello filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 67. By their Motion, the moving Defendants assert that Plaintiff's supervisory liability claims are not facially valid and that Plaintiff has failed to plead any personal involvement on their part. Id. Plaintiff was ordered to file a response to the Motion no later than January 8, 2010. Id. On January 6, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Letter-Motion seeking an extension to file a response, which the Court granted, extending his deadline to March 8, 2010. Dkt. No. 70; Text Order, dated Jan. 6, 2010. On March 26, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint for a third time,*fn2 but did not otherwise address the pending Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. No. 74. By his Proposed Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff, in large measure, reiterates the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint. Compare Dkt. No. 65, Second Am. Compl. with Dkt. No. 74, Proposed Third Am. Compl. In terms of substantive changes contained in the Proposed Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to add claims against two new defendants, Correction Officers McKintyre and Stevenson, as well as new claims against Defendant Lieutenant ("Lt.") McDermott. Proposed Third Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 27-31 & 40. Defendants collectively filed a Partial Opposition to the Third Motion to Amend, arguing that Plaintiff's proposed claims against McKintyre are facially invalid and implausible, but otherwise registering no opposition to the remainder of that Motion. Dkt. No. 75. To date, Plaintiff has not responded to the Motion to Dismiss filed by Goord, Rivera, and Martuscello. See generally Case Dkt.

Because the Proposed Third Amended Complaint does not in any way add to or subtract from Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Goord, Rivera, and Martuscello, we shall begin by addressing their Motion to Dismiss and then proceed to Plaintiff's Third Motion to Amend.

I. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Summary of Plaintiff's Claims

As the Motion to Dismiss is limited to Plaintiff's claims against Goord, Rivera, and Martuscello, we need not recite the entirety of Plaintiff's allegations in order to put their Motion into context. Instead, a brief overview of Plaintiff's claims will suffice. Such overview is derived from the factual allegations in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, which, in accordance with the applicable standard under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), must be taken as true for the purposes of addressing the Motion to Dismiss. See infra Part I.B.

At all times relevant to this action Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie"). Dkt. No. 65, Second Am. Compl. at p. 7, Intro. Plaintiff claims that Defendants subjected him to a sustained serious of threats and harassment, Second Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 1-5, issued false misbehavior reports against him in retaliation for complaints he filed, Second Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 10-15, displayed deliberate indifference to his medical needs, Second Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 7-9 & 24-26, and finally, on September 12, 2007, he was beaten and subjected to excessive force by Defendants Ramsey, Bogardus, Noeth, Matrease, and Michaud, Second Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 17-20. Plaintiff also brings supervisory liability claims based on the above alleged constitutional violations against Defendants Goord, Rivera, Martuscello, and John Does Deputy Commissioner of Facilities and Deputy Commissioner of Programs. Id. at ¶¶ 37-41. We provide more detail regarding those supervisory claims in our discussion below. See infra Part I.C.

B. Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The trial court's function "is merely to assess the legal feasibility of the complaint, not to assay the weight of the evidence which might be offered in support thereof." Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1980). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

"Generally, in determining a 12(b)(6) motion, the court may only consider those matters alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and matters to which the court may take judicial notice." Spence v. Senkowski, 1997 WL 394667, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. July 3, 1997) (citing Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991)). Moreover, "even if not attached or incorporated by reference, a document 'upon which [the complaint] solely relies and which is integral to the complaint' may be considered by the court in ruling on such a motion." Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991) (emphasis added).

The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. See Retail Clerks Intern. Ass'n, Local 1625, AFL-CIO v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 754 n. 6 (1963); see also Arar v. Ashcroft, 532 F.3d 157, 168 (2d Cir. 2008). Nevertheless, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Therefore, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. (citation omitted).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) may not be granted so long as the plaintiff's complaint includes "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __ 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (citing Twombly). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __ 129 S.Ct. at 1949. This plausibility standard "is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Thus, in spite of the deference the court is bound to give to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts [which he or she] has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Assoc. Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). The process of determining whether a plaintiff has "nudged [his] claims . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible," entails a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __ 129 S.Ct. at 1950-51.

C. Personal Involvement

The Second Circuit has held that "personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983." Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Moreover, "the doctrine of respondeat superior cannot be applied to section 1983 actions to satisfy the prerequisite of personal involvement." Kinch v. Artuz, 1997 WL 576038, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 15, 1997) (citing Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 874 (2d Cir. 1995) & Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d at 501) (further citations omitted). Thus, "a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. at 1948.

Nevertheless, if a plaintiff seeks to bring a ยง 1983 action for supervisory liability, liability on the part of the supervisor may exist in one or more of the following ways: 1) actual direct participation in the constitutional violation, 2) failure to remedy a wrong after being informed through a report or appeal, 3) creation of a policy or custom that sanctioned conduct amounting to a constitutional violation, or allowing such a policy or custom to continue, 4) grossly negligent supervision of ...


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