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Junior Collins v. Lieutenant Ferguson

June 23, 2011


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


Plaintiff, Junior Collins, 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 2008 and 2009, while plaintiff was confined at Five Points Correctional Facility. Plaintiff has sued four defendants, each of whom was a DOCS employee at the time of the relevant events. All of the defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against them, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


Plaintiff alleges the following facts, which are accepted as true for purposes of defendants' motion. On October 5, 2008, plaintiff was placed in administrative keeplock for violation of a DOCS rule. Complaint ¶ 9. On October 14, 2008, plaintiff was found guilty of violating that rule, and was sentenced to twelve months' confinement in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") and loss of certain privileges and good time. Complaint ¶ 10.

On December 18, 2008, plaintiff's SHU sentence was modified from twelve to six months. Complaint ¶ 11 and Ex. A. On October 15, 2009, plaintiff was advised by the director of the DOCS Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program (who is not a defendant) that his "superintendent's hearing ... ha[d] been reviewed and adminstratively reversed ... ." Complaint ¶ 11 and Ex. B.

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that defendant Correction Officer ("C.O.") Cordway violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by Cordway's "false disciplinary infraction and placement of plaintiff in administrative keeplock." Complaint ¶ 12. He also alleges that defendant Lieutenant Ferguson "violated plaintiff's rights under due process clause by being biased and partial throughout plaintiff's hearing, denying plaintiff [sic] right to assistance, denying plaintiff the right to fully cross-examine his adverse witnessed, [sic] his placement of plaintiff in administrative keeplock and special housing unit." Complaint ¶ 13.

Plaintiff further alleges that defendant C.O. Williams testified at his disciplinary hearing and "ended up testifying to more lies than Officer Cordway ... ." Complaint ¶ 20. Finally, he alleges that defendant DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer was personally involved in the alleged deprivations of plaintiff's rights by virtue of his failure to remedy the constitutional violations. Complaint ¶ 22.

Plaintiff alleges that he "was placed in unsanitary cells with dried feces all over the cell's walls and remained without his meals for more than 24 hours," although he attributes this to a "State Official unknown to plaintiff." He further alleges that he "was denied his right to medical attention for his prostate medical condition even though plaintiff requested medical attention from State Officials," and that he "was also denied regular access to his medication by State Officials unknown to plaintiff." Complaint ¶ 15.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants' actions denied him his constitutional rights to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He seeks damages in the total amount of $507,000. Complaint at 8.


I. Claims against Defendants in their Official Capacities

Plaintiff has indicated in the complaint that he is suing defendants in both their individual and official capacities. See Complaint ¶ 3 and at 8. The law is well established, however, that claims for damages against state employees in their official capacities are deemed to be claims against the state itself, and are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); Dube v. State Univ. of New York, 900 F.2d 587, 594--95 (2d Cir. 1990); Colon v. Zydell, 635 F.Supp.2d 264, 267 (W.D.N.Y. 2009). Since plaintiff seeks only monetary relief, his claims against defendants in their official capacities are dismissed.

II. Eighth Amendment Claims

Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims are based on the conditions of his confinement in SHU, and the alleged denial of medical treatment while he was in SHU. By plaintiff's own admission, however, he does not know who was responsible for those alleged violations of his rights. Since there are no allegations that these defendants were responsible for those matters, this claim must be dismissed. See Randolph v. Simmons, 757 F.Supp.2d 233, 237 (W.D.N.Y. 2010) (dismissing prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim on ground that, even if conditions of prisoner's ...

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