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Leon Smith v. Dr. Michael Hogan

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


September 26, 2011

LEON SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. MICHAEL HOGAN, COMM'R OMH; DR. DONALD SAWYER, EXEC. DIR., CNYPC; DR. TERRI MAXYMILLIAN, DIR., CNYPC; MR. JEFF NOWICKI, ASSIST. DIR., CNYPC; MS. CHARMAINE BILL, RN, TREATMENT TEAM LEADER; MS. SHAKUNTHALA MUDIGONDA, SOC. WORKER, CNYPC; MR. CLARK CHONA, SOC. WORKER, CNYPC; MR. ERIC BYERS, SOC. WORKER, CNYPC; AND MR. KIRPAL SINGH, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST ASSIST., CNYPC, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se prisoner civil rights action filed by Leon Smith ("Plaintiff") against the nine above-captioned Defendants, are the following: (1) a motion for summary judgment filed by each of the nine above-captioned Defendants except Defendants Chona and Singh, who have not yet been served with process (Dkt. No. 46); and (2) United States Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece's Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion be granted, that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Chona and Singh be sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and that the entire action be closed (Dkt. No. 50). For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety; Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety; Plaintiff's claims against the two non-moving Defendants--Chona and Singh--are sua sponte dismissed; and Plaintiff's entire Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on March 3, 2009. (Dkt. No. 1.) On July 29, 2009, he was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. No. 5.)

Generally, construed with the utmost of liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint claims that, while he was committed at Central New York Psychiatric Center ("CNYPC") in Marcy, New York, Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments by wrongfully denying his request to attend his sister's funeral. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) Familiarity with the factual allegations supporting these claims in Plaintiff's Complaint is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

On September 29, 2010, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 46.) Generally, in support of their motion, Defendants argues as follows: (1) Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting, or adduce admissible record evidence establishing, that Defendants have violated his rights under either the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment, because there is no constitutional right to funeral visits; and (2) even if there is a constitutional right to funeral visits, Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting, or adduce admissible record evidence establishing, that Defendants acted with a sufficiently culpable mental state in depriving Plaintiff of that right (i.e., recklessness or intent), because negligence is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 46.)

Plaintiff did not submit a response to Defendants' motion, despite having received (1) an adequate notice of the consequences of failing to do so (see, e.g., Dkt. No. 1 [Defs.' Notice of Motion]; Dkt. No. 46, Attach. 1 [District's Form Notice]; Dkt. No. 49, at 1-3, & n.1 [Report-Recommendation repeating notice in detail]),*fn1 and (2) a three-and-a-half month extension of the deadline by which to submit a response (see Dkt. No. 49).

On August 2, 2011, Magistrate Judge Treece issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' unopposed motion be granted for reasons similar to those offered by Defendants, that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Chona and Singh be sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), and that the entire action be closed. (Dkt. No. 50.) Familiarity with the grounds of Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation is assumed in this Decision and Order, which (again) is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (Id.)

Plaintiff failed to file an Objection to Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation, and the time in which to do so has expired.

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review

When specific objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court makes a "de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).*fn2 When only general objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, or where the objecting party merely reiterates the same arguments made in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court reviews the report-recommendation for clear error or manifest injustice. See Brown v. Peters, 95-CV-1641, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997) (Pooler, J.) [collecting cases], aff'd without opinion, 175 F.3d 1007 (2d Cir. 1999).*fn3

Similarly, when a party makes no objection to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court reviews that portion for clear error or manifest injustice. See Batista v. Walker, 94-CV-2826, 1995 WL 453299, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 1995) (Sotomayor, J.) [citations omitted]; Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition [citations omitted]. After conducing the appropriate review, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

B. Legal Standard Governing Unopposed Motions for Summary Judgment Magistrate Judge Treece correctly recited the legal standard governing an unopposed motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 50.) As a result, this standard is incorporated by reference in this Decision and Order.

III. ANALYSIS

After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, including Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects. (Dkt. No. 50.) Magistrate Judge Treece employed the proper standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. (Id.) As a result, the Court accepts and adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein.

The Court would add only two points. First, Magistrate Judge Treece's thorough Report-Recommendation would survive even a de novo review.Second, the Court's authority to sua sponte dismiss, in this action in which Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Chona and Singh for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) derives from 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Treece's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 50) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 46) is GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Chona and Singh are sua sponte DISMISSED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED in its entirety.


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