UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
July 21, 2011
PATRICK PROCTOR, PLAINTIFF,
LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, JR., DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Pro se plaintiff Patrick Proctor, an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his due process rights by Lucien LeClaire, Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). (See Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 19.) LeClaire filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (See Dkt. No. 20.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed February 17, 2011, Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles recommended that LeClaire's motion to dismiss be granted.*fn1 (Dkt. No. 26.) Pending are Proctor's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 28.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in its entirety.
Patrick Proctor is currently confined in administrative segregation, and alleges he has received only "sham, perfunctory and meaningless periodic reviews in order to indefinitely confine him to Administrative Segregation." (Am. Compl. at 31, Dkt. No. 19.) Proctor was initially confined to administrative segregation for a term of nine years in the disciplinary special housing unit (SHU).*fn3 (See id. at ¶ 8.) Upon completion of this SHU term, Proctor received on December 9, 2003, an administrative segregation recommendation, which alleged approximately fourteen instances of misconduct and recommended that he remain in administrative segregation. (See id. at ¶ 9.) An administrative hearing was held and, on December 24, 2003, Corrections Captain Charles F. Kelly, Jr. accepted the recommendation that Proctor remain in administrative segregation. (Id. at ¶ 10.)
New York regulations require that an inmate placed in administrative segregation have his circumstances reviewed in sixty-day intervals. See 7 N.Y. COMP. CODES R. & REGS. § 301.4(d). Proctor asserts that, since the time of his confinement, his periodic reviews were not meaningfully conducted.*fn4 (See Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 13-14, Dkt. No. 19.) Accordingly, Proctor sought various avenues for complaint. Proctor submitted a supplemental administrative appeal on March 24, 2004, which was ultimately forwarded to defendant LeClaire. (See id. at ¶ 15.) In addition, Proctor wrote to LeClaire regarding his sixty-day reviews, and to the superintendent at Great Meadows Correctional Facility requesting that the letters be taken into consideration in his reviews. (See id. at ¶¶ 17, 21, 23, 25, 33, 54, 67.) On September 25, 2007, Proctor wrote to DOCS Commissioner Brian Fischer, and thereafter received a response from LeClaire, which stated that "[a]ll pertinent information, including your letter, will be included as part of the review process during the next meeting of the Ad Seg Review Committee." (Id. at ¶¶ 60-61.) In addition to writing letters to DOCS officials, Proctor filed grievances on July 27, 2007, May 20, 2009, and July 29, 2009. (See id. at¶¶ 56, 81, 84.) Proctor's first grievance was dismissed and the second and third were unsuccessfully pursued through the DOCS Central Office Review Committee. (See id.)
Proctor commenced this action on October 2, 2009, and subsequently filed an amended complaint. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1; Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 19.) On May 18, 2010, LeClaire moved to dismiss Proctor's amended complaint pursuant to FED R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), asserting that: (1) the complaint fails to allege LeClaire's personal involvement in the due process deprivations alleged; (2) Proctor's claims are barred by claim preclusion based upon the court's decision in the earlier proceeding regarding his periodic review claims; and (3) Proctor's claims are barred, in whole or in part, by the governing statute of limitations. (See Dkt. No. 7.)
III. Standard of Review
Before entering final judgment, this court routinely reviews all report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party has objected to specific elements of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole,No. 04-cv-484, 2006 WL 149049, at *6-7 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, or only a vague or general objection has been filed, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of a magistrate judge for clear error. See id.
A. Personal Involvement
In the R&R, Judge Peebles concluded that Proctor's "amended complaint, when liberally construed and after drawing all inferences in his favor, sufficiently alleges defendant LeClaire's participation in the violations asserted." (R&R at 14, Dkt. No. 26.) Absent any specific objections to this conclusion, the court has reviewed it for clear error and finds none. Accordingly, the court adopts Judge Peebles's recommendation that LeClaire's motion be denied as to personal involvement.
B. Statute of Limitations
Judge Peebles also concluded that Proctor's claims were not barred by the applicable statute of limitations. (See id. at 26.) LeClaire does not object to Judge Peebles's finding that the statute of limitations on Proctor's claim was tolled by the continuing violation doctrine. The court has reviewed this portion of the R&R for clear error, finds none, and adopts the recommendation that this aspect of the motion be denied.
C. Claim Preclusion
Judge Peebles ultimately recommended that Proctor's due process claim be dismissed as barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion. (See id. at 23.) Claim preclusion arises when a prior final judgment forestalls further litigation on the same claim. See Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008). And as set forth in the R&R, before the doctrine of claim preclusion forecloses a cause of action, "it must be shown that there was a final judgment on the merits in a previous proceeding, involving the same parties or their privies, and arising out of the same transaction or connected series of transactions." (R&R at 18-19, Dkt. No. 26 (citing Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Simon, 310 F.3d 280, 286-87 (2d Cir. 2002); Faye v. S. Colonie Cent. Sch. Dist., 802 F.2d 21, 28 (2d Cir. 1986), overruled on other grounds, Taylor v. Vt. Dep't of Educ., 313 F.3d 768 (2d Cir. 2002)).)
In the prior action, the issue of sixty-day reviews was not raised in Proctor's complaint. (See Proctor v. Kelly, No. 9:05-cv-692, Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Rather, the issue was first raised and resolved at the summary judgment stage.*fn5 Thus, with respect to the issue of claim preclusion, Judge Peebles recommended dismissal because the claim should have been, and was, raised in the previous action. (See R&R at 19, Dkt. No. 26.) Proctor's due process claim concerning his periodic reviews is the same claim he advanced inthe prior action. (See id. at 20.) In fact, Proctor's amended complaint contends that LeClaire's discriminatory policy or practice concerning his reviews began on or about February 23, 2004, (see Am. Compl. ¶¶ at 13-14), and that since April 2008, each review has employed this discriminatory policy, (see id. at ¶ 77). Proctor's first claim involved the initial administrative segregation determination, and his second claim developed to include the periodic reviews based on the same "'facts derive[d] ultimately from the same origin or motivation.'" (See R&R at 20-21, Dkt. No. 26 (quoting Waldman v. Vill. of Kiryas Joel, 207 F.3d 105, 111-12 (2d Cir. 2000)).) As Judge Peebles noted, "this lawsuit would have formed a convenient trial unit with the previous action since both involve substantially the same occurrences regarding [Proctor's] periodic reviews of his administrative confinement." (R&R at 21, Dkt. No. 26 (citing Interoceanica Corp. v. Sound Pilots, Inc., 107 F.3d 86 (2d Cir. 1997)).) Both actions involve facts that occurred as a "single transaction or series of related transactions." Waldman, 207 F.3d at 112 (citation omitted). Accordingly, treating the facts of both actions as a single transaction would "conform to the parties' expectations," Interoceanica, 107 F.3d at 90, which supports Judge Peebles's reasoning that the doctrine of claim preclusion bars Proctor's claim.
Proctor makes multiple objections to the preclusion of his claim. (See Objections at 3-25, Dkt. No. 28.) First, he contends that because nine period reviews have occurred since his prior action was dismissed,his claim remains viable. (See id. at 4.) Second, he asserts that although reviews began on February 23, 2004, he was unaware of them until 2009. (See id. at 8.) Third, he alleges that the facts have not remained the same, but rather are constantly evolving and changing. (See id. at 9.) And fourth, he alleges that he did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate this claim before because he was pro se. (See id. at 18-19.) The court rejects these objections, because as Judge Peebles's observed:
[A]llowing [Proctor's] claims to proceed in this action would contravene the paramount policy considerations underlying the doctrine of res judicata ... [and] each sixty-day interval when [Proctor's] administrative confinement is reviewed could give rise to a new claim ... even though there has been no change in the underlying facts and circumstances. (R&R at 21-22, Dkt. No. 26 (italics omitted).) Accordingly, Proctor's due process claim is dismissed.
D. Issue Preclusion
In the R&R, Judge Peebles also recommended that Proctor's due process claim be dismissed under the doctrine of issue preclusion. (See id. at 24.) Proctor specifically objects to this recommendation, arguing that the requirements of issue preclusion have not been satisfied, and that the R&R is "fostering Constitutional violations." (Objections at 25, Dkt. No. 28.) The court agrees with Judge Peebles that Proctor's due process claim was already addressed on the merits and is therefore barred by issue preclusion. (R&R at 24, Dkt. No. 26 ("Issue preclusion bars [a] party that has had a full and fair opportunity to litigate an issue of fact from relitigating the same issue once it has been decided against that party ...." (citing McKithen v. Brown, 481 F.3d 89, 105 (2d Cir. 2007))).) Accordingly, Proctor's due process claim is also subject to dismissal on the basis of issue preclusion.
E. Leave to Amend
Finally, Proctor requests leave to amend his complaint and asserts that he has "many additional violations [he] can add to [his claim] in a supplemental complaint." (See Objectionsat 12, Dkt. No. 28.) Rule 15(a) provides that where a party seeks to amend his pleading before trial, "[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a)(2). "A motion to amend should be denied only for such reasons as undue delay, bad faith, futility of the amendment, and perhaps most important, the resulting prejudice to the opposing party." Richardson Greenshields Sec., Inc. v. Lau, 825 F.2d 647, 653 n.6 (2d Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "An amendment to a pleading will be futile if a proposed claim could not withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead, 282 F.3d 83, 88 (2d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Upon review of Proctor's complaint, the court finds that leave to amend would be futile and denies the request. However, the court notes that notwithstanding the dismissal of this action, Proctor may, if he so chooses, assert any additional claims in a later action. As Judge Peebles noted, this dismissal does not say "that a future action or series of future occurrences involving [Proctor's] administrative segregation review could not at some point suffice to create a new, viable section 1983 action." (R&R at 22, Dkt. No. 26 (citing Waldman, 207 F.3d at 113).)
WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, it is hereby ORDERED that Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles's Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 26) is ADOPTED; and it is further
ORDERED that LeClaire's motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and the complaint is DISMISSED; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk close this case and provide a copy of this Memorandum-Decision and Order to the parties.
IT IS SO ORDERED.