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William Crenshaw v. John Sciandra

February 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge


Plaintiff, William Crenshaw, appearing pro se, commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), alleges that his constitutional rights have been violated in a number of respects in connection with certain incidents that occurred in 2009, while plaintiff was confined at Wyoming Correctional Facility. Plaintiff has sued seven defendants, each of whom was a DOCS employee at the time of the relevant events. All of the defendants, with the exception of defendant John Sciandra, have moved for summary judgment dismissing the claims against them, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.


On December 17, 2009, plaintiff filed a grievance against Correction Officer John Sciandra, complaining that Sciandra "continuously turns the T.V. to hockey for two hours at a time." Dkt. #15 at 9. Plaintiff alleges that afterwards, Sciandra began "threatening [his] life by telling other inmates to get rid of [plaintiff] in the dorm," because of plaintiff's complaints about the television. Complaint at 6, ¶ 1. Plaintiff also alleges that on January 11, 2010, he wrote another grievance against Sciandra, concerning these same matters, after Sciandra had turned off a basketball game that plaintiff had been watching, and put on a hockey game instead.

Plaintiff's December 17 grievance was denied by Wyoming Superintendent David Unger. On appeal to the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC"), CORC Director Karen Bellamy upheld Unger's decision. Dkt. #15 Ex. A. As to plaintiff's second purported grievance, Bellamy informed him by letter dated January 29, 2010 that plaintiff had improperly submitted the grievance in the form of a letter to DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer, and that the grievance was therefore being returned to him. Dkt. #23 at 3.

It appears that plaintiff, who had since been transferred to a different facility, sent additional correspondence to DOCS officials concerning his grievances. The details of what became of these grievances, or purported grievances, is not particularly important here, however, because it is clear that the grievances were not granted, and because plaintiff's claims in the instant case center primarily on plaintiff's claims concerning the disciplinary charges against him.

On January 15, 2010, Sciandra issued a misbehavior report against plaintiff, charging him with a number of infractions, including harassment, refusing a direct order, and refusing a search or frisk. Dkt. #15 Ex. B, at 19. On that same day, defendant A. Annunziata also issued a misbehavior report against plaintiff, charging him with loss of state property, specifically a razor. Id. at 23.

A disciplinary hearing was held on January 21 and 22, 2010, before hearing officer Diane Wachowiak, concerning the charges that had been filed against plaintiff by defendants Sciandra and Annunziata. Plaintiff was found guilty on all the charges, and sentenced to 120 days of confinement in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"). It appears from plaintiff's disciplinary record, however, that he only served 94 days in SHU. See Dkt. #15 Ex. E, at 66.*fn1

Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on April 9, 2010. He asserts claims for "retaliation, and conspiracy to retaliate, deliberate indifference and due process," under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Besides Sciandra, the defendants include: C.O. Annunziata; hearing officer Wachowiak; Superintendent Unger; IGP Director Bellamy, Albert Prack; who at the time of the relevant events was the acting director of the Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program; and Mark Stevens, a DOCS employee who had been assigned to assist plaintiff in connection with his disciplinary hearing.


I. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment will be granted if the record demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the materials facts ... . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986).

Where, as here, the parties opposing summary judgment are proceeding pro se, the Court must "read the pleadings ... liberally and interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Corcoran v. New York Power Auth., 202 F.3d 530, 536 (2d Cir. 1999). Nevertheless, "proceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve [an opposing party] from the usual requirements of summary judgment." Fitzpatrick v. New York Cornell Hosp., No. 00 Civ. 8594, 2003 WL 102853 at *5 (S.D.N.Y.2003). Those requirements include the obligation not to rest upon mere conclusory allegations or denials, but instead to set forth "concrete particulars" showing that a trial is needed. ...

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