The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court
On October 21, 2005, Plaintiff Geneo Brown filed a complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants conspired against him and violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections Services ("DOCS").*fn2
Presently before this Court are Plaintiff's and Defendants' dueling Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 49, 60.) For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted and Plaintiff's is denied.
Plaintiff began a hunger strike on November 12, 2005 at Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport") to protest perceived physical and mental abuse.*fn3 (Plaintiff's Motion, p. 8; Docket No. 60.*fn4 ) On November 14, 2005, after Plaintiff had missed nine consecutive meals, Defendant Denise Fuller, a social worker at Southport, met with Plaintiff and inquired about his mental and physical health. (Id.) After the meeting, considering the latest hunger strike and Plaintiff's documented history of making complaints that his food was tampered with, Fuller decided that Plaintiff's mental status should be evaluated in the controlled and observable environment of a Residential Crisis Treatment Program ("RCTP"). (Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 19; Docket No. 50). Because an RCTP is not available at Southport, Fuller recommended that Plaintiff be transferred from Southport to Elmira Correctional Facility ("Elmira"). (Id. ¶ 32).
Plaintiff was moved to Elmira on November 15, 2005 where he was given an Initial Psychiatric Evaluation (Id. ¶ 36). Defendant Superintendent John W. Burge met with Plaintiff in an attempt to dissuade him from continuing the strike. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff was unmoved and expressed his concern that his allegations of physical and mental abuse at Southport were not being addressed. (Id.)
On November 17, 2005, Defendant Dr. Morales Brown, Elmira's staff psychiatrist, believing that Brown's refusal to eat was not the result of psychopathology, removed Plaintiff from the RCTP and admitted him to the infirmary at Elmira. (Id. ¶ 45.)
Over the following weeks, Plaintiff continued his hunger strike and Defendants Brown, Dr. John Alves Russell, and Dr. Venkata Satti all met with Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 54-76.) On December 13, 2005, with hunger strike ceased and his heath rejuvinated, Dr. Alves medically discharged and transferred Plaintiff from Elmira back to Southport. (Id. ¶ 73.) Four days later, Plaintiff met with Dr. Satti, Clinical Director at the Elmira Psychiatric Center, at which time he continued to fret that prison officials were secretly inserting pills into, and generally tampering with, his food. (Id. ¶ 82.) Consequently, Plaintiff's mental health service level was changed to the highest risk level (Id. ¶¶ 84, 85) and in light of this designation, on December 20, 2005, a Treatment Team transferred Plaintiff from Southport to Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn"), where better mental health services were available. (Id. ¶ 87.)
1. Motion for Summary Judgment
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." A fact is "material" only if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). A "genuine" dispute exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. In determining whether a genuine dispute regarding a material fact exists, the evidence and the inferences drawn from the evidence "must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158--59, 90 S. Ct.1598, 1609, 26 L. Ed. 2d 142 (1970) (internal quotations and citation omitted).
"Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of evidence is summary judgment proper." Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). Indeed, "[i]f, as to the issue on which summary judgment is sought, there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the opposing party, summary judgment is improper." Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 82--83 (2d Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). The function of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
When the parties cross-move for summary judgment, "the standard is the same as that for individual motions for summary judgment." Natural Res. Def. Council v. Evans, 254 F. Supp. 2d 434, 438 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). "The court must consider each motion independently of the other and, when evaluating each, the court must consider the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Id. (citing Morales v. Quintel Entm't, Inc., 249 F.3d 115, 121 (2d Cir. 2001)). 2. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Civil liability is imposed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only upon persons who, acting under color of state law, deprive an individual of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On its own, § 1983 does not provide a source of substantive rights, but rather, a method for vindicating federal rights conferred elsewhere in the federal statutes and Constitution. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94,109 S. Ct. 1865, 1870, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 n.3, 99 S. Ct. 2689, 2695, 61 L. Ed. 2d 433 (1979)). ...