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Mashama Hill v. Daniel Stewart

April 12, 2012

MASHAMA HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DANIEL STEWART, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Hugh B. Scott

Order

Before the Court is plaintiff's second (cf. Docket Nos. 19, 26) motion to compel discovery from the remaining, non-state, Niagara County defendants in this action and for sanctions (Docket No. 44*fn1 ). Responses to this motion initially were due by February 24, 2012 (Docket No. 46), but this was extended to March 9, 2012, at the request of defendants for additional time (Docket No. 49), with replies due March 21, 2012, and the motion deemed submitted (without oral argument) on March 22, 2012 (Docket No. 48).

BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights action by a pro se plaintiff alleging deprivation of his rights while he was in punitive segregation in the Niagara County Jail. The defendants can be divided into two groups, the State defendants are Daniel Stewart, the former Chairman of the New York State Commission of Correction, and Thomas Beilein, current Chairman of the New York State Commission of Correction and former Niagara County Sheriff (collectively the "State defendants"); and the Niagara County defendants, Sam Muscarella, acting Niagara County Sheriff; Niagara County Jail major John Saxton; Niagara County Jail Captain Duane Vandetta, and Beilein (for allegations as the Sheriff) (Docket No. 1, Compl.) (Muscarella, Saxton, Vandetta, and Beilein in his former capacity as Niagara County Sheriff will be collectively referred to as the "Niagara County defendants"). Plaintiff alleges claims against Beilein in both his county and state official capacities (see Docket No. 13, Defs. Memo. at 2 n.1).

In March and July 2007, plaintiff was issued written misbehavior reports and found guilty of those charges for a series of misconduct actions and violations of Niagara County Jail rules and was sentenced to the punitive segregation unit time (id. at 1, "Statement of Facts"). This occurred again in August 2008 (id.). While serving punitive segregation unit time, plaintiff filed grievances contesting the 2007 and 2008 disciplinary hearings that led to his sentence (id. at 1-2). He also grieved the conditions while in punitive segregation unit time, claiming, for example, that inmates there were denied access to music, a general library, pictures, proper nutrition, medical examinations and evaluations, and any items from visitors (id. at 2). These grievances were denied and plaintiff appealed the denials to the Commission of Correction which also denied them (id.). The Commission did find that the facility inappropriately took $2.75 from plaintiff's inmate account deposited by his visitors, and inappropriately denied him books and magazines furnished by visitors (id. at 3).

Plaintiff alleges that he was deprived of his rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments by being deprived of due process, equal protection of the laws, and being subjected to double jeopardy (id. at 4, "Cause of Action"). Beilein as Niagara County Sheriff and Muscarella (as Acting Sheriff) were responsible for jail administration for the Niagara County Jail, with Saxton responsible for overseeing and managing jail administration, while Vandetta had oversight over the jail grievance process (id.). Plaintiff claims that defendants deprived him of his rights by "deliberately failing to correct the following conditions" while in the punitive segregation unit: denying plaintiff music and outside communications outlets, denying photographs, denying general library services, and denying proper nutrition (id. at 4-5).

He next claims that defendants violated state regulations in the manner in which these hearings were conducted. First, he contends that the disciplinary hearings did not have a recording mechanism for hearings, that he was deprived the right to personally question a witness, and that he was denied the right to receive a signed disciplinary proceeding disposition. He claims that he was subject to being twice put in jeopardy for the same incident. Plaintiff also claims that the disciplinary hearing process denied him his right to privacy, since the disciplinary proceeding occurred in front of plaintiff's cell within earshot of other inmates. (Id.)

As for his detention in punitive segregation, plaintiff also claims that he was deprived of $2.75 in his inmate account and denied books, magazines, and periodicals from visitors (id.). He alleges that he had "substantial weight loss form lack of proper nutrition while housed" in the Niagara County Jail punitive segregation unit (id. at 5-6), that he suffered constant mental anguish, mood changes, depression, and ambivalence as a result of being deprived of music, pictures, and access to the general library, and the loss of $25 from the facility's money machine (id. at 6). Plaintiff seeks unspecified amounts of compensatory damages, punitive damages, and declaratory relief that defendants stop taking funds deposited by visitors in inmates' accounts and defendants be ordered to allow books and other reading material be allowed into the facility (presumably into the punitive segregation unit) from visitors (id. at 6-7).

The Niagara County defendants, including Beilein (as former Sheriff), answered on January 31, 2011 (Docket No. 9). The Court issued a Scheduling Order (Docket No. 11).

Beilein represented by the New York Attorney General later moved (with Stewart) to dismiss claims against him as a New York State official for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim (Docket No. 13). They also sought a stay of proceedings during the pendency of this motion to dismiss (id.); this was denied. They first argue that plaintiff failed to establish their personal involvement to make them liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (id. at 5-8). The State defendants assert that plaintiff's due process rights were not violated and they claim immunity under the Eleventh Amendment (id. at 8-9, 9-10). This Court recommended granting the State defendants' motion (Docket No. 31) and plaintiff filed his Objections to that Report & Recommendation (Docket No. 32). These Objections were rejected by Chief Judge Skretny (Docket No. 43, Order of Jan. 24, 2012), dismissing claims against some of the state defendants.

Meanwhile, the Niagara County defendants exchanged discovery with plaintiff (Docket Nos. 15, 16) and plaintiff moved to compel discovery from them (Docket No. 26; cf. Docket No. 19, plaintiff's first attempt at filing motion). This Court denied that motion (Docket No. 36).

Plaintiff's Second Motion to Compel

Plaintiff sent a notice to this Court that the Niagara County defendants had failed to respond to his discovery (Docket No. 45, Notice dated Dec. 23, 2011, filed Jan. 19, 2012). Plaintiff has been moved several times since being in the Niagara County jail and even during the course of this action. He alleges that on December 28, 2011, the United States Marshal took plaintiff into custody and moved him from the Allegany County Jail, seizing his property (Docket No. 44, Motion at 2). This second motion (including the reply "motion," Docket No. 52) renew earlier discovery requests responded to by defendants but lost during plaintiff's moves. He claims that the Niagara County defendants had not responded to his earlier discovery demands, including requests to take depositions (Docket No. 44, Pl. Motion, at 1-2). Since the Niagara County defendants failed to respond, he seeks sanctions (id. at 2). He also includes not previously sought, arguing that with the grant of additional time allowed plaintiff to seek additional discovery (see Docket No. 50, Pl. Notice at 3-4). Neither party, however, has produced the additional discovery now sought.

The Niagara County defendants respond that they have responded to plaintiff's discovery demands more than once and did so again in response to his motion (Docket No. 51, Defs. Atty. Decl. ΒΆ 2, Exs. A (defendants' response to request for discovery, dated Mar. 9, 2012, with document), B (response to Plaintiff's Interrogatories, also dated Mar. 9, 2012)). Defendants offered to produce other materials for in camera inspection prior to ...


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