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Cameron v. State of New York

January 26, 2012

CAMERON STRASSER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, COMMISSIONER BRIAN FISCHER, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER ROBAR, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER SMITH, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER FLUMAN, NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, STATE INSPECTOR GENERAL JOSEPH FISCH, INVESTIGATOR GENERAL A. MISERCOLA, NEW YORK STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND SUPERINTENDENT HARRY J. CORBITT, ALL IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Cameron Strasser, a New York State prison inmate, commenced this civil rights action due to Defendants' allegedly unlawful conduct during the course of his confinement. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that, while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"),*fn1 a prison guard sexually assaulted him. Plaintiff further alleged that prison employees harassed him after he reported the incident by, among other things, issuing an unwarranted misbehavior report against him. This misbehavior report and the ensuing disciplinary hearing resulted in a lengthy sentence of disciplinary confinement and the loss of two years of good-time credits.

Plaintiff's complaint sets forth five causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging (1) the excessive use of force; (2) Eighth Amendment violations stemming from the excessive use of force and his subsequent disciplinary confinement; (3) procedural due process violations and unlawful retaliation arising out of his disciplinary confinement; (4) substantive due process violations; and (5) Monell liability against the various state defendants.

On June 4, 2010, Defendants filed a pre-answer motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety.*fn2 In a Report and Recommendation dated December 17, 2010, Magistrate Judge Peebles recommended that the Court grant in part and deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 33, Report and Recommendation, at 38. Magistrate Judge Peebles recommended that the Court (1) limit Plaintiff's first and fourth causes of action to claims surrounding Plaintiff's allegation of sexual abuse against Defendant Robar, (2) dismiss Plaintiff's second cause of action as duplicative, (3) conditionally dismiss Plaintiff's third cause of action,*fn3 (4) dismiss all claims against Defendants New York State, DOCS, the New York State Office of the Inspector General ("OIG"), the New York State Police Department, and all claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacities,*fn4 and (5) dismiss Defendant Correctional Officer Fluman from this action.

As to Plaintiff's first, second, and fourth causes of action, Defendants asserted that Plaintiff failed to exhaust all available administrative remedies as the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA") requires. Magistrate Judge Peebles recommended that the Court deny Defendants' motion on this ground because "special circumstances" existed that defeated Defendants' exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies defense. Defendants objected to this particular recommendation only; Plaintiff did not file any objections. See Dkt. No. 34.

Currently before the Court are Magistrate Judge Peebles' December 17, 2010 Report and Recommendation and Defendants' objections thereto.

II. BACKGROUND*fn5

At all relevant times, Plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Franklin Correctional Facility, followed by the Bare Hill Correctional Facility, and finally at the Southport Correctional Facility. Plaintiff alleges that on June 9, 2009, Defendant Correctional Officer Robar ("Defendant Robar"), a corrections officer at the Franklin Correctional Facility, sexually assaulted him. Plaintiff reported the incident the next day to his teacher, and the OIG and the New York State Police commenced an investigation into the matter. Following this investigation, Plaintiff was accused of fabricating the assault; and, as a result, a Tier III disciplinary hearing was conducted against Plaintiff. Plaintiff was ultimately found guilty and was sentenced to thirty months of disciplinary Special Housing Unit ("SHU") confinement and a recommended two-year loss of good-time credits. This Tier III hearing determination was affirmed on appeal on September 9, 2009, and Plaintiff's subsequent request for reconsideration was denied.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review

Summary judgment is warranted when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court must view all facts, draw all inferences, and resolve all ambiguities in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quotation omitted). The burden is initially on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted).

"When a specific objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to a de novo review." Trombley v. Oneill, No. 8:11-CV-0569, 2011 WL 5881781, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 23, 2011) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2); 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(C)). "To be 'specific,' the objection must, with particularity, 'identify [1] the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which it has an objection and [2] the basis for the objection.'" Id. (quotation and footnote omitted). Where no objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the court reviews that portion for "clear error." See id. (citations omitted). After completing the appropriate review, "the Court may 'accept, reject, or ...


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