The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Proceeding pro se, plaintiff Martin Marrero ("Marrero" or "Plaintiff"), an inmate in the custody of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, filed the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights.
Unless otherwise noted, the following are the undisputed facts viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
Marrero, at all relevant times, was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("NYSDOCCS") and incarcerated at Wende Correctional Facility ("Wende"). Northrup and Sindoni were employed by NYSDOCCS, as an Inmate Grievance Program ("IGP") Supervisor and a Correctional Sergeant at Wende, respectively.
The Wende IGP is operated in accordance with NYSDOCCS Directive #4040, and its intent is to provide each inmate with "an orderly, fair, simple and expeditious method for resolving grievances, pursuant to section 139 of the [New York] Correction Law, and allegations of discriminatory treatment, pursuant to 7 N.Y.C.R.R. Part 7694." 7 N.Y. Comp. Code R. & Regs. § 701.1 Each facility has an Inmate Grievance Review Committee ("IGRC"), a five-member body consisting of two inmates with voting rights, two voting staff members, and a non-voting chairperson. 7 N.Y. Comp. Code R. & Regs. § 701.4.
Marrero was elected to the position of IGRC representative in September 2007, and he commenced his term on October 4, 2007. Immediately, Marrero recalls, he and Defendants began to have conflicts. Marrero states that he challenged Defendants because he believed they were not properly running the IGP and were disregarding certain statutory mandates. For instance, Marrero contends that Sindoni would try to intimidate inmates into "signing off" on their complaints in order to close the matters. When he questioned Defendants' conduct in regards to how they handled grievances, Plaintiff states, Defendants became angry, verbally berated him, accused him of undermining the system, and threatened to "lock him up" (i.e., write up a misbehavior report against Marrero and have him put in keeplock).
An overview of the chronology of events relevant to Marrero's claims
of retaliation follows. On October 9, 2007, Plaintiff wrote a letter
to Superintendent Robert Kirkpatrick ("Kirkpatrick")
regarding his disagreements with Northrup and Sindoni about their
handling of grievances and their harassment of him. D.169.*fn1
October 10, 2007, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Karen Bellamy ("Bellamy"), Director of IGP reiterating his disagreements with Northrup and Sindoni about how they handled grievances and their harassment of him.
In the meantime, Ryan English ("English") of the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC") was reviewing grievances as part of his job duties. Based upon certain improprieties he observed in the grievances, English wrote an email to Northrup on October 10, 2007, at 12:39 p.m., which stated in pertinent part as follows:
A few IGRC responses that I have seen (from the Inmate Rep.'s) have what appear to be personal observations and slight sarcasm. . . . [P]lease advise the Rep.'s that recommendations are to be objective, not opinionated, free of sarcasm and professional. . . . Opinions should not be injected into the recommendation.
D.148. Based upon English's email to her, Northrup issued a Counseling Memo to Plaintiff on October 11, 2007, stating that he was undermining the IGP by stating assumptions and opinions rather than investigated facts, and thereby creating conflicts between inmate population and staff. D.146.
On October 14, 2007, frustrated that he had not had a response from Kirkpatrick, Plaintiff wrote a follow-up letter to him. D.167.
On October 15, 2007, an incident occurred between Northrup and Plaintiff which Northrup characterizes as Plaintiff being insubordinate and Plaintiff characterizes as Northrup erupting into a "screaming tirade", Complaint, ¶ 30, for no reason. Northrup issued a second counseling memo that day, noting that Marrero was violating the IGRC code of ethics by refusing to answer a direct question posed by her and by being sarcastic when he finally answered. D.77.
Plaintiff in turn filed an official grievance against Northrup on October 15, 2007, alleging that she was disrespectful. D.1. On October 16, 2007, Plaintiff filed another grievance against Northrup claiming that she predetermined responses to inmate grievances and attempted to coerce him into agreeing with her as to how grievances should be disposed. D.29. Plaintiff filed a third grievance on October 16, 2007, against Northrup claiming that she predetermined responses to inmate grievances and improperly required the IGRC to dismiss grievances. D.40.*fn2
After Northrup reported the behaviors for which she had written-up Marrero to English at CORC, English recommended that Northrup commence impeachment proceedings against Marrero on October 17, 2007, based upon his being adversarial, attempting to ...