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Otis Michael Bridgeforth v. Center For Disability

August 6, 2012

OTIS MICHAEL BRIDGEFORTH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTER FOR DISABILITY SERVICES, JEFF BURKE; MALISSA GREGORY; AND MALISSA BEDFORD, DEFENDANTS.



DECISION and ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 24, 2009, Plaintiff Otis Michael Bridgeforth ("Plaintiff") commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pro se and in forma pauperis. Dkt. No. 1 ("Complaint"). Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to unlawful discrimination based on his race in connection with the termination of his employment with Defendant Center for Disability Services ("Defendant Center"). See generally id.

Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion for summary judgment and Defendants' Letter Motion requesting that the Court treat the Motion for summary judgment as unopposed. Dkt. Nos. 63 ("Motion"), 67 ("Letter Motion"). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion and Letter Motion are both granted, and Plaintiff's claims are dismissed with prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on or around January 3, 2007 he was wrongfully discharged from his employment with Defendant Center because of his race and was also subjected to racial slurs. See Compl. at 6. Plaintiff had been employed by Defendant Center since November 6, 2006. Dkt. No. 63-3 at 88. Defendants contend that Plaintiff was fired on December 26, 2006 because he had been absent from work without an excuse for three consecutive days. Mot. at 2.

On January 20, 2012, Defendants filed the instant Motion to dismiss, arguing that: (1) Defendants were private actors not acting under color of state law and were therefore not subject to liability under § 1983; (2) any other possible discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Plaintiff might have intended to bring were time barred; and (3) even if the Court were to construe Plaintiff's Complaint liberally as raising Title VII claims and even if the Court were to conclude that such claims were not time barred, Plaintiff would still be unable to show that he was subjected to unlawful discrimination. See generally id. Defendants also filed a Notice to pro se litigant pursuant to Local Rule 56.2, in which Plaintiff was advised of the consequences of his failure to respond to the Motion. Dkt. No. 63-1 ("Notice").

Plaintiff did not respond to the Motion and has made no filings since he filed a Motion to appoint counsel on January 23, 2012 that was subsequently denied. Dkt. Nos. 64, 66. Indeed, even though Plaintiff contacted the Court in February 2012 to report a change of address, and even though Plaintiff was provided with copies of the Motion and other recent documents at the new address, he has still failed to respond to Defendants' Motion. Feb. 15, 2012 Text Entry.

On March 2, 2012, Defendants filed the Instant Letter Motion requesting that -- based on Plaintiff's failure to respond -- the Court treat Defendants' Motion as unopposed. Letter. Mot. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants both Defendants' Motion and Letter Motion.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs a court to grant summary judgment if "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(c). Although "[f]actual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary" will not preclude summary judgment, "summary judgment will not lie if . . . the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); see also Taggart v. Time, Inc., 924 F.2d 43, 46 (2d Cir. 1991).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of identifying those portions of the record that the moving party claims will demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of a material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). However, if the moving party has shown that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate "the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. This requires the non-moving party to do "more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

At the same time, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Grp. of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court's duty in reviewing a motion for summary judgment is "carefully limited" to finding genuine disputes of fact, "not to deciding them." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).

In situations in which a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the Court may not grant summary judgment unless it determines that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., Vermont Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004); D.H. Blair & Co., Inc. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 110 (2d Cir. 2006) ("Even unopposed motions for summary judgment must fail where the undisputed facts fail to show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.") (internal quotation marks omitted).

Finally, "[it] is well established that the submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Triestman v. Fed. Bur. of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). The rule favoring liberal construction of pro se submissions is especially applicable to civil ...


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