Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jose Rodriguez v. Estate of Curtis Drown

September 30, 2011

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ESTATE OF CURTIS DROWN, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se prisoner civil rights action filed by Jose Rodriguez ("Plaintiff") against the Estate of Curtis Drown ("Defendant"),*fn1 are (1) Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (Dkt. No. 12), (2) United States Magistrate Judge George H. Lowe's Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's motion be granted (Dkt. No. 25), and (3) Plaintiff's Objection to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 26). For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety; Defendant's motion is granted; and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed in its entirety, his Fourteenth Amendment claim being dismissed with prejudice, and his Eighth Amendment and state law claims being dismissed without prejudice, i.e., with leave to refile in the event he can overcome the "favorable termination" rule established by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997).

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on September 30, 2010. (Dkt. No. 1.) Generally, construed with the utmost of liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following claims against Defendant: (1) a claim that, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, between April 29, 2009, and May 2, 2009, Defendant violated Plaintiff's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by [a] conducting a prison disciplinary hearing in which Defendant deliberately ignored the exculpatory eye-witness testimony of a correctional officer (Corrections Officer L. Bailey) and "other documents supporting Plaintiff's innocence" of disciplinary charges arising from the death of another inmate, [b] rendering a determination of guilt that was not supported by "substantial evidence," and [c] sentencing him to confinement in a Special Housing Unit for a period of a hundred and forty-four months; (2) a claim Defendant violated Plaintiff's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighteenth Amendment by "maliciously and sadistically" subjecting Plaintiff to the above-described unsupported disciplinary conviction and sentence; and (3) a claim that, through his above-described wrongdoing, Defendant committed various (unspecified) "state law tort[s]," which caused Plaintiff various (unspecified) "emotional injuries" and the "loss of [unspecified] personal property." (See generally Dkt. No. 1 [Plf.'s Compl.]). Familiarity with the factual allegations supporting these claims in Plaintiff's Complaint is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. (Id.)

B. Defendant's Motion

On December 30, 2010, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 12.) Generally, Defendant's motion asserts the following three arguments: (1) Plaintiff's due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment should be dismissed because he has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that Defendant's disciplinary decision was not based on at least "some evidence," which is the correct standard governing such due process claims; (2) because Plaintiff's identical due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment was actually litigated by him and necessarily decided by the Third Department on September 23, 2010, in Rodriguez v. Fisher, 908 N.Y.S.2d 271 (N.Y. App. Div., 3d Dept., 2010), it is barred as a matter of law by the doctrine of collateral estoppel; and (3) each of Plaintiff's claims is precluded, as a matter of law, by the "favorable termination" rule established by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), because the subsequent criminal proceeding against Plaintiff did not terminate in his favor (nor has his criminal conviction been invalidated). (Dkt. No. 12, Attach. 1, at 6-9 [attaching pages "4" through "7" of Def.'s Memo. of Law].)

On March 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendant's motion. (Dkt. No. 13.) Generally, construed with the utmost special liberality, Plaintiff's response asserts the following three arguments: (1) Plaintiff has stated a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment because he has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that Defendant's disciplinary decision was not based on any evidence, as reflected in the hearing record (e.g., during the disciplinary hearing, insufficient evidence was developed to justify Plaintiff's conviction of the weapons-possession charge and creating-a-disturbance charge, which were added on April 28, 2009); (2) the Third Department's decision on September 23, 2010, in Rodriguez v. Fisher, 908 N.Y.S.2d 271 (N.Y. App. Div., 3d Dept., 2010), does not collaterally estop Plaintiff from filing his due process claim in this action, because the issues raised in this case were not actually litigated, and necessarily decided, in the prior case (and because his Uniform Sentence and Commitment and criminal sentencing minutes may not be considered under the circumstances); and (3) none of Plaintiff's claims is precluded, as a matter of law, by the "favorable termination" rule established by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), because the only reason the subsequent criminal proceeding against him did not terminate in his favor is that an improper confession (obtained from Plaintiff without a prior Miranda warning) was erroneously admitted into evidence.(Id.)

On March 15, 2011, Defendant filed a letter asserting, in pertinent part, as follows: "Plaintiff does not rebut either the factual assertions or legal arguments proffered by Mr. Drown and raises no issues requiring a reply. Accordingly, we will rely on the arguments made in our motion papers and will not file a reply." (Dkt. No. 14.)

C. Magistrate Judge Lowe's Report-Recommendation

On September 1, 2011, Magistrate Judge Lowe issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's motion be granted. (Dkt. No. 25.) More specifically, Magistrate Judge Lowe recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed in its entirety, his Fourteenth Amendment claim being dismissed with prejudice, and his Eighth Amendment and state law claims being dismissed without prejudice, i.e., with leave to refile in the event he can overcome the "favorable termination" rule established by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997). (Dkt. No. 25, at 9-17.) In recommending that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim should be dismissed, Magistrate Judge Lowe did not limit his analysis to that portion of Plaintiff's due process claim that alleged that Defendant's disciplinary decision was not supported by any evidence; he also addressed the remainder of Plaintiff's due process claim (including the procedure through which the hearing was conducted). (Id. at 13-16.) Finally, because Magistrate Judge Lowe found that sufficient grounds existed on which to base a dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims, he declined to address Defendant's alternative argument that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel. (Id. at n. 6.) Familiarity with the grounds of Magistrate Judge Lowe's Report-Recommendation is assumed in this Decision and Order.

On September 12, 2011, Plaintiff submitted his Objections to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 26.) Generally, Plaintiff's Objections--which seek to attack "Defendants' Recommendation"--do not squarely address any particular recommendations issued by Magistrate Judge Lowe. (Id.) However, construing Plaintiff's Objections with the utmost of special liberality, Plaintiffs' Objections assert the following three arguments: (1) Plaintiff has stated a due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment because he has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that Defendant's disciplinary decision was not based on any evidence as reflected in the hearing record (e.g., during the disciplinary hearing, insufficient evidence was developed to justify Plaintiff's conviction of the weapons-possession charge and creating-a-disturbance charge, which were added on April 28, 2009) (see Dkt. No. 26, at ¶¶ 6-19); (2) the Third Department's decision on September 23, 2010, in Rodriguez v. Fisher, 908 N.Y.S.2d 271 (N.Y. App. Div., 3d Dept., 2010), does not collaterally estop Plaintiff from filing his due process claim in this action, because the issues raised in this case are not the same as the issues raised in the prior case (see Dkt. No. 26, at ¶ 4, 11, & 9, "Conclusion" Paragraph); and (3) none of Plaintiff's claims is precluded, as a matter of law, by the "favorable termination" rule established by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641 (1997), because the only reason the subsequent criminal proceeding against him did not terminate in his favor is that Plaintiff's improper confession was replied upon (see Dkt. No. 26, at 9, "Conclusion" Paragraph).

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.