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John Hatzfeld v. Glenn S. Goord; Lester Wright; Frank Headly; Mark Rabideau

November 16, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lyle E. Strom, Senior Judge United States District Court


This matter is before the Court upon defendants' motion for summary judgment (Filing No. 114). Plaintiff objects to defendants' motion. Upon review of the motion, the supporting and opposing briefs, and the relevant law, the Court finds that defendants' motion should be granted.


This action was brought pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by John Hatzfeld, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), who at the time of filing his complaint, was housed in the Auburn Correctional Facility, 135 State Street, Auburn, New York, 13024 (Filing No. 1 at 1). Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Id. The defendants in this action are Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner of New York State DOCS; Lester Wright, Deputy Commissioner/Chief Medical Officer for New York State DOCS; Frank R. Headly, Deputy Commissioner of New York State DOCS; Mark Rabideau, Deputy Superintendent of Auburn Correctional Facility; D. McClendon, RSAT/ASAT Coordinator at Auburn Correctional Facility; W. Robinson, Nurse Administrator at Auburn Correctional Facility; S. Ahsan, Medical Director At Auburn Correctional Facility; and Anthony Graceffo, Medical Doctor at Auburn Correctional Facility.

In April of 2000, plaintiff was notified that he had tested positive for Hepatitis C Virus ("HCV"), an infectious disease affecting the liver, while in custody of the DOCS. Id. at 4. Defendant Graceffo, a physician at Auburn Correctional Facility, began monitoring plaintiff's blood for the HCV, for a period of at least six months to two years, before pursuing any further course of treatment. Id. at 5. Dr. Graceffo scheduled blood tests every three to four months. Id. at 5.

Plaintiff was notified that he would be required to complete the Resident Substance Abuse Treatment and Alcohol Substance Abuse Treatment ("RSAT/ASAT") Program as a condition of any medical treatment for his HCV. Id. at 6. Plaintiff objected to participating in RSAT/ASAT because he is an atheist and rejected the religious aspect of the program. Id.

On September 30, 2002, after regular blood monitoring by Dr. Graceffo, a liver biopsy was performed on plaintiff at University Hospital in Syracuse. Id. Plaintiff's gastroenterologist, Dr. Holtzapple, concluded that plaintiff met the requirements for HCV therapy, and recommended that plaintiff begin receiving a course of treatment including pegylated interferon therapy and ribaviron. Id.

Defendants claim that in October 2002, DOCS substantially revised its approach to alcohol and substance abuse treatment in correctional facilities -- most notably by removing all arguably religious content from program requirements (including but not limited to any references to God, spirituality, religion, and Twelve Step meeting requirements). See D. Bradford Dec., Filing No. 114-4 at para. 8. Plaintiff, however, disagrees with this contention. See Filing No. 116 at pg. 2.

On December 26, 2002, defendant Graceffo informed plaintiff of the results of the liver biopsy and requested that plaintiff participate in the revised RSAT/ASAT program as an element of treatment (Filing No. 1 at 6). Plaintiff refused to participate because of his belief that the program still had a religious component, and claims he was not informed the program was so revised to remove all religious content. Id.; Filing No. 116 at 2.

On December 27, 2002, plaintiff wrote letters to defendants Robinson, Dr. Wright, and Dr. Ahsan to address his concerns with Dr. Graceffo's refusal to treat him absent participation in RSAT/ASAT (Filing No. 1 at 6-7). These three defendants responded to plaintiff's letters, informing him that it was DOCS' policy for HCV patients to participate in RSAT/ASAT prior to medical treatment. Id. at 7. Plaintiff contacted defendant McClendon, the RSAT/ASAT Coordinator, who also reiterated to plaintiff that it was a DOCS' policy requirement for HCV patients to participate in the RSAT/ASAT program prior to treatment. Id.

On January 15, 2003, plaintiff filed a grievance about the RSAT/ASAT requirement for HCV treatment. The grievance was reviewed by defendant Rabideau, who subsequently denied the grievance. Id. at 8. On February 25, 2003, plaintiff appealed the decision to the Central Office Review Committee, but was never given a response. Id. at 9. Plaintiff filed this Inmate Civil Rights Complaint on February 12, 2004. Id. at 1.

By an order dated September 23, 2005, plaintiff's application for an injunction prohibiting DOCS from conditioning his HCV treatment upon his participation in the RSAT/ASAT program was granted. See Filing No. 57 at 10-11. On February 28, 2007, defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings was denied in part, and granted in part as to former defendant John Burge, and as to plaintiff's claims against all defendants in their official capacities. See Filing Nos. 72 and 73. Also, plaintiff's Fifth Amendment claims were dismissed, and some of plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims were deemed more properly addressed as Eighth Amendment violations. See Filing Nos. 72 and 73.

On March 12, 2008, plaintiff filed another Inmate Civil Rights Complaint. This complaint was based upon a renewed, second request for treatment that plaintiff made on June 30, 2005, and Dr. Graceffo's continued refusal to treat plaintiff unless plaintiff either enrolled in or completed RSAT/ASAT. See Hatzfeld II, 9:08-cv-00283, Filing No. 1. Hatzfeld II and this case were consolidated for all purposes. See Filing No. 98; Hatzfeld II, Filing No. 38. On January 14, 2011, summary judgment was granted in favor of all defendants in Hatzfeld II, and plaintiff's complaint was dismissed. See Hatzfeld II, Filing Nos. 54, 58 and 59. Defendants' request for leave to move for summary judgment in this case was granted on January 25, 2011 (Filing No. 109).

Although plaintiff's two lawsuits were filed against different sets of defendants (except for Dr. Graceffo and former defendant Burge who are named defendants in both cases), this case and Hatzfeld II address similar issues. The Court adopts the legal and factual findings of the Hatzfeld II Report-Recommendation and Order on the Hatzfeld II defendants' motion for summary ...

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