UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
February 28, 2012
KENNETH CARL GROVES, SR., PLAINTIFF,
BRETT DAVIS, SECURE CARE TREATMENT AID; DAVID W. SILL, SECURE CARE TREATMENT AID; THOMAS NICOLETTE, RN, WARD NURSE; CHARMAINE BILL, TREATMENT TEAM LEADER; JILL E. CARVER, SOCIAL WORKER, PRIMARY THERAPIST; EDWIN DEBROIZE, PSYCHOLOGIST ASSIST; JEFF NOWICKI, CHIEF OF MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT SERV.; TERRI MAXYMILLIAN, PH.D., DIR. OF MENTAL HEALTH SERV.; SGT. SWEET, SECURITY SERVICES, CNYPC; MICHAEL HOGAN, COMM'R, DEP'T OF MENTAL HEALTH, DEFENDANTS.
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 civil rights action filed by Kenneth Carl Groves, Sr. ("Plaintiff"), against numerous employees of New York State or the Central New York Psychiatric Center ("Defendants"), are Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, his motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and his motion for appointment of counsel. (Dkt. Nos. 2, 3, 4.)*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted; his motion for a preliminary injunction is denied; his motion for appointment of counsel is denied; Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference to his mental health needs against Defendants Bill, Carver and DeBroize are sua sponte dismissed with prejudice; Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, and Hogan arising from their alleged personal involvement in the August 8, 2011 assault are sua sponte dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend in this action in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 15; Sgt. Sweet is sua sponte dismissed without prejudice as a Defendant in this action; the Clerk is directed to issue summonses, and the U.S. Marshal is directed to effect service of process on Defendants Davis, Sill, and Nicolette.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
On November 7, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action pro se by filing a civil rights Complaint, together with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 2.)*fn2 Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that the following constitutional violations against him occurred during his confinement at Central New York Psychiatric Center ("CNYPC"): (1) Defendants Davis and Sill used excessive force against him under the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments; (2) Defendant Nicolette knew of and failed to take action to protect Plaintiff from the assault under the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments; (3) Defendants Bill, Carver, and DeBroize were deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs under the Eighth and/or Fourteenth Amendments; and (4) Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, Bosco, and Hogan failed to "adequately train the staff under their supervision" and to take appropriate action in response to the incident. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) For a more detailed description of Plaintiff's claims, and the factual allegations giving rise to those claims, the reader is referred to Part III.B of this Decision and Order.
II. MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Because Plaintiff sets forth sufficient economic need, the Court finds that Plaintiff may properly commence this action in forma pauperis.(Dkt. No. 2.)
III. SUA SPONTE REVIEW OF PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
In light of the foregoing, the Court must now review the sufficiency of the allegations that Plaintiff has set forth in his Complaint in light of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). This is because Section 1915(e)(2)(B) directs that, when a plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "(2) . . . the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that--. . . (B) the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).*fn3
A. Governing Legal Standard
It has long been understood that a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), can be based on one or both of two grounds:
(1) a challenge to the "sufficiency of the pleading" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2); or (2) a challenge to the legal cognizability of the claim. Jackson v. Onondaga Cnty., 549 F. Supp.2d 204, 211, nn. 15-16 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (McAvoy, J., adopting Report-Recommendation on de novo review).
Because such dismissals are often based on the first ground, a few words regarding that ground are appropriate. Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) [emphasis added]. In the Court's view, this tension between permitting a "short and plain statement" and requiring that the statement "show" an entitlement to relief is often at the heart of misunderstandings that occur regarding the pleading standard established by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
On the one hand, the Supreme Court has long characterized the "short and plain" pleading standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) as "simplified" and "liberal." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.20 (citing Supreme Court case). On the other hand, the Supreme Court has held that, by requiring the above-described "showing," the pleading standard under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that the pleading contain a statement that "give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.17 (citing Supreme Court cases) (emphasis added).
The Supreme Court has explained that such fair notice has the important purpose of "enabl[ing] the adverse party to answer and prepare for trial" and "facilitat[ing] a proper decision on the merits" by the court. Jackson, 549 F. Supp.2d at 212, n.18 (citing Supreme Court cases); Rusyniak v. Gensini, 629 F. Supp.2d 203, 213 & n.32 (N.D.N.Y. 2009) (Suddaby, J.) (citing Second Circuit cases). For this reason, as one commentator has correctly observed, the "liberal" notice pleading standard "has its limits." 2 Moore's Federal Practice § 12.34[b] at 12-61 (3d ed. 2003). For example, numerous Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions exist holding that a pleading has failed to meet the "liberal" notice pleading standard. Rusyniak, 629 F. Supp.2d at 213, n.22 (citing Supreme Court and Second Circuit cases); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-52 (2009).
Most notably, in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Supreme Court reversed an appellate decision holding that a complaint had stated an actionable antitrust claim under 15 U.S.C. § 1. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955 (2007). In doing so, the Court "retire[d]" the famous statement by the Court in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957), that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Twombly, 127 S. Ct. at 1968-69. Rather than turn on the conceivability of an actionable claim, the Court clarified, the "fair notice" standard turns on the plausibility of an actionable claim. Id. at 1965-74. The Court explained that, while this does not mean that a pleading need "set out in detail the facts upon which [the claim is based]," it does mean that the pleading must contain at least "some factual allegation[s]." Id. at 1965. More specifically, the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level [to a plausible level]," assuming (of course) that all the allegations in the complaint are true. Id.
As for the nature of what is "plausible," the Supreme Court explained that "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. . . . [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not show[n]--that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 1950 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]. However, while the plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," id., it "does not impose a probability requirement." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Because of this requirement of factual allegations plausibly suggesting an entitlement to relief, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by merely conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. Similarly, a pleading that only "tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" will not suffice. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal citations and alterations omitted). Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. (citations omitted).
This pleading standard applies even to pro se litigants. While the
special leniency afforded to pro se civil rights litigants somewhat
loosens the procedural rules governing the form of pleadings (as the
Second Circuit has observed), it does not completely relieve a pro
plaintiff of the duty to satisfy the pleading standards set forth in
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 10 and 12.*fn4 Rather, as both the
Supreme Court and Second Circuit have repeatedly recognized, the
requirements set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, 10 and 12 are procedural
rules that even pro se civil rights plaintiffs must follow.*fn5
Stated more simply, when a plaintiff is proceeding pro se,
"all normal rules of pleading are not absolutely suspended." Jackson,
549 F. Supp.2d at 214, n.28 [citations omitted].*fn6
B. Analysis of Plaintiff's Complaint
The Court prefaces its analysis of Plaintiff's Complaint by noting that, although Plaintiff is a civilly committed sex offender and no longer a prisoner, the Court will look to cases addressing prisoner's rights in analyzing Plaintiff's claims, because "confinement of civilly committed patients is similar to that of prisoners." Holly v. Anderson, 04-CV-1489, 2008 WL 1773093, at *7 (D. Minn. Apr. 15, 2008); see also Morgan v. Rabun, 128 F.3d 694, 697 (8th Cir. 1997) ("The governmental interests in running a state mental hospital are similar in material aspects to that of running a prison."). Thus, whereas claims of excessive force by convicted criminals are analyzed under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, because Plaintiff is a civilly committed sex offender and no longer a prisoner, his substantive rights to be free from unsafe conditions of confinement arise under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982), the Court stated "[i]f it is cruel and unusual punishment to hold convicted criminals in unsafe conditions, it must be unconstitutional [under the Due Process Clause] to confine the involuntarily committed-who may not be punished at all-in unsafe conditions." Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 315-16. As have numerous other courts which have considered the issue, this Court has found that "the standard for analyzing a civil detainee's Fourteenth Amendment [conditions of confinement] claim is the same as the Eighth Amendment standard." Groves v. Patterson, 09-CV-1002, Memorandum-Decision and Order at *15-16 (N.D.N.Y. filed Nov. 18, 2009).*fn7
1. Excessive Force Claims Against Defendants Davis, Still and Nicolette
Plaintiff alleges that on August 8, 2011, Defendant Davis entered Plaintiff's dorm room at CNYPC and "viciously attacked and brutally assaulted and battered" him. (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) During the course of this assault, Defendant Sill is alleged to have entered Plaintiff's room and "jump[ed] on the plaintiff's legs holding and pinning them as Defendant Davis [continued to beat Plaintiff]." (Id.) As alleged in the Complaint, although Defendant Nicolette knew in advance that this assault was planned, he "remained in the Nurses Station" and "did nothing to interceed [sic] or stop the brutal attack on the plaintiff." (Id. at 5.)
To validly assert a violation of the Eighth Amendment through the use of excessive force, an inmate must allege the following: (1) subjectively, that the defendants acted wantonly and in bad faith; and (2) objectively, that the defendants' actions violated "contemporary standards of decency." Blyden v. Mancusi, 186 F.3d 252, 262-63 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 ).
Here, construing the factual allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint with special leniency, the Court finds that Plaintiff appears to have alleged facts plausibly suggesting that he was subjected to excessive force by Defendants Davis and Sill. In addition, by alleging that Defendants Davis, Sill and Nicolette discussed the assault in advance of it occurring, and that Nicolette was in the vicinity of Plaintiff's room and had an opportunity to intervene to prevent it, the Complaint sufficiently alleges that Defendant Nicolette was personally involved and/or failed to protect Plaintiff from the assault. See Bhuiyan v. Wright, 06-CV-0409, 2009 WL 3123484, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2009) (Scullin, J.) ("The fact that defendant Davis was not in the room, but was acting as a 'lookout' so that no one came into the room while plaintiff was being beaten, would not absolve him from liability for the assault. An officer's failure to intervene during another officer's use of excessive force can itself constitute an Eighth Amendment violation unless the assault is "sudden and brief," and the defendant had no real opportunity to prevent it."); Jeffreys v. Rossi, 275 F. Supp.2d 463, 474 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (holding that an officer may be personally involved in the use of excessive force if he either directly participates in the assault or if he was present during the assault, yet failed to intervene on behalf of the victim, even though the officer had a reasonable opportunity to do so).
As a result, a response to these claims is required from Defendants David, Sill, and Nicolette. In so ruling, the Court expresses no opinion as to whether Plaintiff's claims can withstand a properly filed motion to dismiss or for summary judgment.
2. Deliberate Indifference Claims Against Defendants Bill, Carver and DeBroize
Plaintiff alleges that on August 9, 2011, the day after the alleged assault, he attempted to "discuss the incident and what transpired" with Defendants Bill and Carver. (Dkt. No. 1 at 5.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Bill told him, "I don't want to discuss this Mr. Groves, we're too busy for your foolishness and the matter is being investigated." (Id.) Plaintiff's effort to explain that he was frightened by the incident was rebuffed by Defendant Bill, who told Plaintiff to "grow up." (Id. at 5-6.) The following day, Plaintiff attempted to discuss the incident with Defendant Carver, his primary therapist, again without success. A further attempt at discussion later that day was met with Defendant Carver "stating to the plaintiff in a snotty tone 'grow the hell up!'" (Id. at 6.) On August 10, 2011, Plaintiff attempted to discuss the incident "and his current fears and feelings," during his Monday afternoon "Process Group," which is facilitated by Defendant DeBroize. As alleged, Defendant DeBroize told Plaintiff and the other group members that the matter was under investigation "so no one could discuss the incident with anyone." (Id. at 6.)
To state a claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical and/or mental health need under the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must first allege facts plausibly suggesting that prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). "[T]he plaintiff must allege conduct that is 'repugnant to the conscience of mankind' or 'incompatible with the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.'" Ross v. Kelly, 784 F.Supp. 35, 44 (W.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 970 F.2d 896 (2d Cir.1992) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 102, 105--06). The "deliberate indifference standard embodies both an objective and a subjective prong," both of which the plaintiff must establish. Hathaway v. Coughlin, 37 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1154 (1995). "First, the alleged deprivation must be, in objective terms, 'sufficiently serious.'" Id. (citations omitted). Second, the defendant "must act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Id.
With regard to the first element, generally, to be sufficiently serious for purposes of the Constitution, a medical condition must be "a condition of urgency, one that may produce death, degeneration, or extreme pain." Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 607 (2d Cir. 1990) (Pratt, J. dissenting) [citations omitted], accord, Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66; Chance v. Armstrong, 143 F.3d 698, 702 (2d Cir. 1998).).*fn8 Under the subjective component, a plaintiff must also allege facts plausibly suggesting that the defendant acted with "a sufficiently culpable state of mind."
Hathaway, 37 F.3d at 66. The requisite culpable mental state is similar to that of criminal recklessness. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 301--03 (1991). A physician's negligence in treating or failing to treat a prisoner's medical condition does not implicate the Eighth Amendment and is not properly the subject of a Section 1983 action. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; Chance, 143 F.3d at 703.*fn9
Here, even when construed with the utmost special liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting that Defendants Bill, Carver, and DeBroize acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious mental health condition when they declined to discuss the incident of August 8, 2011. There is nothing in the Complaint that even remotely suggests that the requested conversations were integral to Plaintiff's treatment as a convicted sex offender involuntarily committed to CNYPC, or that Defendants' refusal to discuss the incident with Plaintiff when he requested to do so caused Plaintiff to suffer any harm or worsening of his condition. In addition, Plaintiff does not allege that any of these Defendants acted with the requisite culpable state of mind.
Moreover, the statements made by Defendants Bill and Carver that he should "grow up," even if construed as verbal harassment, do not give rise to a cognizable claim that may be pursued under Section 1983. Allegations of verbal harassment are insufficient to support a Section 1983 claim. Johnson v. Eggersdorf, 8 F. App'x 140, 143 (2d Cir. 2001); see also Purcell v. Coughlin, 790 F.2d 263, 265 (2d Cir. 1986) ("[A]llegations of verbal harassment are insufficient to base a § 1983 claim if no specific injury is alleged.").
For these reasons, Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claims against Defendants Bill, Carver, and DeBroize are dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Moreover, because the Court cannot imagine how Plaintiff might correct this claim through better pleading, he is not granted leave to attempt to do so in an amended pleading.*fn10
Rather, this claim is hereby dismissed with prejudice.
3. Failure to Supervise Claims Against Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, and Hogan
To prevail on a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a defendant must be personally involved in the plaintiff's constitutional deprivation. McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir. 1977). Generally, for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, supervisory personnel may be considered "personally involved" only if they (1) directly participated in the violation, (2) failed to remedy that violation after learning of it through a report or appeal, (3) created, or allowed to continue, a policy or custom under which the violation occurred, (4) had been grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the violation, or (5) exhibited deliberate indifference to the rights of inmates by failing to act on information indicating that the violation was occurring.*fn11
Holding a position in a hierarchical chain of command, without more, is insufficient to support a showing of personal involvement. McKinnon, 568 F.2d at 934. Rather, a plaintiff must demonstrate "'a tangible connection between the acts of the defendant and the injuries suffered.'" Austin v. Pappas, 04-CV-7263, 2008 WL 857528, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2008) (quoting Bass v. Jackson, 790 F.2d 260, 263 [2d Cir. 1986]) (other citation omitted). An official's failure to respond to grievance letters from inmates, however, "does not establish supervisory liability." Watson v. McGinnis, 964 F. Supp. 127, 130 (S.D.N.Y. 1997).*fn12
Moreover, "the law is clear that inmates do not enjoy a constitutional right to an investigation of any kind by government officials." Pine v. Seally, 9-CV-1198, 2011 WL 856426, at *9 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 4, 2011).*fn13
In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges in wholly conclusory terms that Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, and Hogan failed to "adequately train the staff under their supervision and fail[ed] to act within the scope and training of the position and job title they hold." (Dkt. No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff alleges that he submitted a letter of complaint to Defendant Hogan and wrote to Defendant Nowicki on several occasions expressing concern his complaint had not been responded to, only to be advised that in September, 2011 that an investigation was ongoing. (Id. at 6-7.) Plaintiff does not allege that any of these Defendants personally participated in the alleged assault on August 8, 2011.
Here, even when construed with the utmost special liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege facts plausibly suggesting any personal involvement by these Defendants in the alleged used of excessive force on August 8, 2011. As a result, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, and Hogan arising from this incident are sua sponte dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This dismissal is without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to file an Amended Complaint that corrects the above-described pleading defects, and states a viable claim against these Defendants. The Court notes that, at this early stage of the case, Plaintiff has the right--without leave of the Court--to file an Amended Complaint within the time limits established by Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B). However, if he seeks to file an Amended Complaint after those time limits, he must file a motion for leave to file an Amended Complaint in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). In either event, Plaintiff is advised that any Amended Complaint must be a complete pleading that will replace and supersede the original Complaint in its entirety, and that may not incorporate by reference any portion of the original Complaint. See N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(4).
Finally, although Plaintiff names Sgt. Sweet as a Defendant in the caption of the complaint and in the listing of the parties, he has not set forth in the Complaint any allegations of fact regarding the conduct of this Defendant complained of. (See generally Dkt. No. 1.) As a result, the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and Sgt. Sweet is dismissed from this action without prejudice to Plaintiff's right to file an Amended Complaint as set forth above.
IV. MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary remedy that should not be granted as a routine matter." Patton v. Dole, 806 F.2d 24, 28 (2d Cir. 1986). In most cases, to warrant the issuance of a preliminary injunction, a movant must show (a) irreparable harm and (b) either (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of the claim or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits, and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in favor of the moving party. D.D. ex rel. V.D. v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 465 F.3d 503, 510 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation omitted). "The purpose of issuing a preliminary injunction is to 'preserve the status quo and prevent irreparable harm until the court has an opportunity to rule on the . . . merits.'" Candelaria v. Baker, 00-CV- 912, 2006 WL 618576, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 10, 2006) (quoting Devose v. Herrington, 42 F.3d 470, 471 [8th Cir. 1994]). Preliminary injunctive relief "'should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.'" Moore v. Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc., 409 F.3d 506, 510 (2d Cir. 2005) (quoting Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 ). "Where there is an adequate remedy at law, such as an award of money damages, injunctions are unavailable except in extraordinary circumstances."
Moore, 409 F.3d at 510 (citing Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 381 (1992). The same standards govern consideration of an application for a temporary restraining order. Perri v. Bloomberg, 06-CV-0403, 2008 WL 2944642, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Jul. 31, 2008) [citation omitted]. The district court has broad discretion in determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction. Moore, 409 F.3d at 511.
"The Second Circuit has defined 'irreparable harm' as 'certain and imminent harm for which a monetary award does not adequately compensate,' noting that 'only harm shown to be non-compensable in terms of money damages provides the basis for awarding injunctive relief.'" Perri, 2008 WL 2944642, at * 2 (citing Wisdom Import Sales Co., L.L.C. v. Labatt Brewing Co., Ltd., 339 F.3d 101, 113-14 [2d Cir. 2003]); see also Kamerling v. Massanari, 295 F.3d 206, 214 (2d Cir. 2002) ("To establish irreparable harm, a party seeking preliminary injunctive relief must show that there is a continuing harm which cannot be adequately redressed by final relief on the merits and for which money damages cannot provide adequate compensation.") (internal quotation omitted). Speculative, remote or future injury is not the province of injunctive relief. Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111-12 (1983); see also Hooks v. Howard, 07-CV-0724, 2008 WL 2705371, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Jul. 3, 2008) (citation omitted) ("Irreparable harm must be shown to be imminent, not remote or speculative, and the injury must be such that it cannot be fully remedied by monetary damages.").
Plaintiff has submitted a document entitled "Order to Show Cause for Preliminary Injunction and Tempor[ary] Restraining Order." (Dkt. No. 3.) Construed liberally, Plaintiff's submission seeks a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief enjoining Defendants from "submitting and filing false and untrue statements and reports" regarding the August 11, 2011 incident, and to "stop all retaliatory actions against the plaintiff . . . ." (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff also seeks an "Order of Seperation [sic]" directing that Defendants Davis, Sill, Nicolette, Bill, Carver and DeBroize be "restrained from being within 100 feet from the plaintiff in any form or matter." (Id. at 2.)
The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's motion papers thoroughly and considered the claims asserted therein in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, as a pro se litigant. Based upon that review, the Court finds that the harm Plaintiff alleges is purely speculative and, therefore, not "irreparable." Plaintiff's motion is supported only by a recitation of the alleged assault in August, 2011. (Id. at 1-4.) Plaintiff has not supported the claims of ongoing misconduct set forth in his motion papers with any factual allegations, such as the dates on which the misconduct occurred, the nature of the injuries he claims to have suffered, the identities of the persons responsible for the conduct he seeks to enjoin, or the relationship between those actions and the claims asserted in his Complaint. Simply stated, Plaintiff's alleged fear of future wrongdoing by the Defendants is not sufficient to warrant the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunctive relief.
The Court further notes that the requested injunctive relief cannot be granted unless there is also proof that Plaintiff has a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of his claim, or evidence that establishes sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of his claim and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward him. See Covino v. Patrissi, 967 F.2d 73, 77 (2d Cir. 1992). Plaintiff has failed to submit proof or evidence that meets this standard. Plaintiff's allegations, standing alone, are not sufficient to entitle him to preliminary injunctive relief. See Ivy Mar Co. v. C.R. Seasons Ltd., 907 F. Supp. 547, 561 (E.D.N.Y. 1995) ("[B]are allegations, without more, are insufficient for the issuance of a preliminary injunction."); Hancock v. Essential Resources, Inc., 792 F. Supp. 924, 928 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) ("Preliminary injunctive relief cannot rest on mere hypotheticals."). Without evidence to support his claims that he is in danger from the actions of anyone at CNYPC, the Court will not credit Plaintiff's conclusory allegations that he will be retaliated against or harmed in the future.
Plaintiff has failed to establish either of the two requisite elements discussed above. As a result, Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order and/or injunctive relief is denied.
V. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL
Courts cannot utilize a bright-line test in determining whether counsel should be appointed on behalf of an indigent party. Hendricks v. Coughlin, 114 F.3d 390, 392-93 (2d Cir. 1997). Instead, a number of factors must be carefully considered by the court in ruling upon such a motion:
[T]he district judge should first determine whether the indigent's position seems likely to be of substance. If the claim meets this threshold requirement, the court should then consider the indigent's ability to investigate the crucial facts, whether conflicting evidence implicating the need for cross examination will be the major proof presented to the fact finder, the indigent's ability to present the case, the complexity of the legal issues and any special reason in that case why appointment of counsel would be more likely to lead to a just determination.
Terminate Control Corp. v. Horowitz, 28 F.3d 1335, 1341 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Hodge v. Police Officers, 802 F.2d 58, 61 [2d Cir. 1986]). This is not to say that all, or indeed any, of these factors are controlling in a particular case.*fn14 Rather, each case must be decided on its own facts. Velasquez v. O'Keefe, 899 F. Supp. 972, 974 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (McAvoy, C.J.) (citing Hodge, 802 F.2d at 61).
Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the relevant factors weigh decidedly against granting Plaintiff's motion at this time. For example, the Court finds as follows: (1) the case does not present novel or complex issues; (2) it appears to the Court as though, to date, Plaintiff has been able to effectively litigate this action; (3) while it is possible that there will be conflicting evidence implicating the need for cross-examination at the time of the trial, as is the case in many actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by pro se litigants, "this factor alone is not determinative of a motion for appointment of counsel," Velasquez, 899 F. Supp. at 974; (4) if this case survives any dispositive motions filed by Defendants, it is highly probable that this Court will appoint trial counsel at the final pretrial conference; (5) this Court is unaware of any special reasons why appointment of counsel at this time would be more likely to lead to a just determination of this litigation; and (6) Plaintiff's motion for counsel is not accompanied by documentation that substantiates his efforts to obtain counsel from the public and private sector.
For these reasons, Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of counsel is denied without prejudice. After the Defendants have responded to the allegations in the Complaint which survive sua sponte review, and the parties have undertaken discovery, Plaintiff may file a second motion for the appointment of counsel, at which time the Court may be better able to determine whether such appointment is warranted in this case. Plaintiff is advised that any second motion for appointment of counsel must be accompanied by documentation that substantiates his efforts to obtain counsel from the public and private sector.
ACCORDINGLY, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Dkt. No. 2) is GRANTED;*fn15 and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief (Dkt. No. 3) is DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 4) is DENIED without prejudice; and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference against Defendants Bill, Carver and DeBroize are sua sponte DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6); and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Bill, Carver, DeBroize, Nowicki, Maxymillian, and Hogan arising from their alleged personal involvement in the August 8, 2011 incident are sua sponte DISMISSED without prejudice and with leave to amend in this action in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(as described above in Part III.B.3. of this Decision and Order), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); and it is further
ORDERED that Defendant Sweet is sua sponte DISMISSED without prejudice and with leave to be reinstated as a Defendant in this action in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 15, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is otherwise accepted for filing (i.e., as to the claims against Defendants Davis, Sill, and Nicolette arising from the August 8, 2011 incident); and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiff provide a summons, USM-285 form and a copy of the complaint for Defendant Davis, Sill and Nicollette for service, and upon receipt from Plaintiff of the documents required for service of process, the Clerk shall (1) issue summonses and forward them, along with copies of the Complaint to the United States Marshal for service upon the remaining Defendants, and (2) forward a copy of the summons and Complaint by mail to the Office of the New York State Attorney General, together with a copy of this Decision and Order; and it is further
ORDERED that, after service of process on Defendants, a response to the Complaint shall be filed by the Defendants or their counsel as provided for in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; and it is further
ORDERED that all pleadings, motions and other documents relating to this action be filed with the Clerk of the United States District Court, Northern District of New York, 7th Floor, Federal Building, 100 S. Clinton St., Syracuse, New York 13261-7367. Any paper sent by a party to the Court or the Clerk must be accompanied by a certificate showing that a true and correct copy of it was mailed to all opposing parties or their counsel. Any document received by the Clerk or the Court which does not include a certificate of service showing that a copy was served upon all opposing parties or their attorneys will be stricken from the docket. Plaintiff must comply with any requests by the Clerk's Office for any documents that are necessary to maintain this action. All parties must comply with Local Rule 7.1 of the Northern District of New York in filing motions. Plaintiff is also required to promptly notify, in writing, the Clerk's Office and all parties or their counsel of any change in Plaintiff's address; his failure to so may result in the dismissal of this action. All motions will be decided on submitted papers without oral argument unless otherwise ordered by the Court.