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Davis v. Rhoomes

September 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge


The plaintiff, Samuel Davis ("plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Correction Officer Aretha Rhoomes ("Rhoomes"), Correction Officer Sabrina Andino ("Andino"), Correction Lieutenant Paul Faliski ("Faliski"), Deputy Superintendent of Programs Robert Jones ("Jones"), and Superintendent Diane Van Buren ("Van Buren"). The plaintiff alleges that, while he was incarcerated at the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, defendants Rhoomes, Andino, and Faliski retaliated against him for filing a grievance and this lawsuit, in violation of his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Jones negligently supervised Defendant Rhoomes, and that Defendant Van Buren was grossly negligent in managing, supervising, and training defendants Rhoomes and Andino, leading to their retaliatory acts.

The defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. They contend that they took no adverse action against the plaintiff; that they had legitimate bases for their allegedly retaliatory acts; and that no causal connection exists between the plaintiff's protected activities and their allegedly retaliatory acts. The defendants also argue that the plaintiff cannot establish the personal involvement of defendants Van Buren and Jones, and that those defendants thus cannot be held liable on a theory of supervisory liability. Finally, the defendants contend that defendants Rhoomes, Andino, Faliski, and Jones are entitled to qualified immunity.

The plaintiff has opposed the motion for summary judgment and moved to preclude the defendants from relying on certain documents in the litigation, arguing that they have been altered or otherwise fabricated.

Both motions were referred, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), to Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz, who issued a Report and Recommendation on July 8, 2010. The Court has received and reviewed the Report and Recommendation, which recommends that the defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part, and the plaintiff's motion be denied. The Court has also reviewed the defendants' objection to the Report and Recommendation, which objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the defendants' motion for summary judgment should be denied both on the merits and on qualified immunity grounds as to Officer Rhoomes's alleged retaliatory filing of a false misbehavior report. Finally, the Court has reviewed the plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation, which object to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that summary judgment should be granted to the defendants on the plaintiff's remaining claims and his conclusion that the plaintiff's motion to preclude should be denied.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court has reviewed de novo the Magistrate Judge's disposition of the disputed issues. Having conducted a de novo review, for the reasons explained below and in the Magistrate Judge's thorough Report and Recommendation, the Court finds that the objections are unfounded, and adopts the findings of Magistrate Judge Katz's Report and Recommendation.


The following is a summary of the relevant facts. Except as otherwise noted, they are undisputed and drawn primarily from the parties' affidavits and statements pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1 of the Southern District of New York.


Plaintiff is a prisoner in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), and at all relevant times, was an inmate at Mid-Orange Correctional Facility ("Mid-Orange"). Beginning in March 2007, over a period of three weeks, the plaintiff requested, on several occasions, a statutory law book from the Mid-Orange law library. Although inmates are not permitted to check out books from the law library for any extended period of time, on each occasion, the plaintiff was told that the book was checked out.

On March 25, 2007, an incident ensued and Rhoomes issued a verbal warning to the plaintiff. This verbal warning was documented by Defendant Rhoomes in the Mid-Orange Law Library Warnings/Ticket Log. The plaintiff denies that he was issued a warning or that there was a basis for the warning.

The day after the incident, the plaintiff filed a grievance against Rhoomes, in which he alleged that she deprived him of access to the library's resources by permitting other inmates to take books to their housing areas for multiple days at a time. This grievance was referred to Jones, who was the Deputy Superintendent of Programs at Mid-Orange. After reviewing the grievance, Jones met with Rhoomes, and the grievance was "informally resolved" on March 29, 2007, after the book was located and set aside for the plaintiff's use. The plaintiff asserts that Jones told him that Rhoomes would not retaliate against him for filing his March 26 grievance. Jones neither admits not denies this allegation.

Also on March 29, 2007, the plaintiff returned to the law library to photocopy legal papers. He gave the papers to Rhoomes to photocopy, as was customary at Mid-Orange. He then asked her for the missing book. Rhoomes brought the plaintiff to the book clerk's desk to sign out the book. Shortly thereafter, Rhoomes allegedly heard the slamming of books and the plaintiff speaking in a loud voice to the book clerk. She told the plaintiff that he was causing a disturbance, and issued him another verbal warning.

The plaintiff denies that he was disruptive or that he received a verbal warning on March 29. Instead, he claims that it was Rhoomes who acted inappropriately, and he filed second grievance for what he perceived as retaliation for his earlier grievance about the missing book. According to the plaintiff, Rhoomes harassed him and failed to safeguard the papers he gave her to copy, exposing them to potential loss or destruction by other inmates in the library. Rhoomes denies that she mishandled the defendant's papers.

On March 30, 2007, the plaintiff again returned to the library. Rhoomes was in the back of the library near the photocopier, speaking to Andino, another correction officer. According to Rhoomes, the plaintiff interrupted the conversation and yelled, "you got my copies." Rhoomes allegedly directed the plaintiff to stop yelling, but the plaintiff ignored her. The plaintiff allegedly became "belligerent and irate," and Andino asked him to step outside of the library and speak with her privately. Rhoomes followed them out of the library and reminded the plaintiff that she had already spoken to him twice about his disruptive behavior. Rhoomes then returned to her desk and called the area supervisor. When the supervisor arrived, according to his declaration, he attempted to intervene, but the plaintiff was "argumentative," and "visibly aggravated, upset, and angry." He instructed the plaintiff to return to his cell to calm down. The plaintiff was then given his original legal papers and their photocopies before leaving the library, although he claims that certain pages were missing.

Based on the events of March 30, 2007 and the two previous verbal warnings, Rhoomes issued the plaintiff a misbehavior report, charging him with creating a disturbance, violating a direct order, and interfering with an employee. Andino signed the report as a witness to the incident, and the supervising officer signed it based on his conversations with Rhoomes and Andino. The plaintiff denies all of the allegations in the misbehavior report, and claims that he never raised his voice in the library or was otherwise disruptive.

The plaintiff also filed a third grievance, in which he claimed that Rhoomes harassed him and lost or destroyed three of the 71 pages of legal papers he had left for photocopying, again in ...

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