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Clarence L. Artis, Jr v. Adam M. Valls

September 25, 2012

CLARENCE L. ARTIS, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADAM M. VALLS, BROOME CNTY. JAIL; C.O. PATRICIA KLEINSMITH; C.O. CONNERS; LT. HILL; JEFFREY KATEN, A/K/A BIGGS; WILLIAM BROWN, A/K/A JOHN DOE; MARK W. SMOLINSKY; SHERIFF HARDER; JOSEPH JELLICK, BROOME CNTY. JAIL; AND LT. JOHN DOE, BROOME CNTY. JAIL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this pro se prisoner civil rights action filed by Clarence L. Artis, Jr. ("Plaintiff") against the ten above-captioned county correctional employees ("Defendants"), are the following: (1) Defendants' motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims; (2) United States Magistrate Judge Therese W. Dancks' Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part, such that all of Plaintiff's claims are dismissed, except for his excessive-force claims against Defendants Valls and Jellick regarding the incident of March 15, 2010; (3) Plaintiff's objection to the Report-Recommendation; and (4) Defendants' objection the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. Nos. 46, 49, 54, 55, 56.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety; Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part; and all of Plaintiff's claims are dismissed, except for his excessive-force claims against Defendants Valls and Jellick pertaining to the incident of March 15, 2010.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on April 12, 2010. (Dkt. No. 1.) Construed with the utmost of liberality, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that he was subjected to excessive force and falsely charged with assault at the Broome County Correctional Facility ("BCCF") in four separate incidents occurring during the period of June 2008 to March 2010. (See generally id.)

More specifically, Plaintiff asserts the following five claims: (1) a claim that, on June 6, 2008, six correctional officers, including Defendants Hill and Katen, subjected him to excessive force in violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments;*fn1 (2) a claim that, on April 29, 2009, Defendants Kleinsmith and Jellick falsely accused Plaintiff of inciting an assault on another inmate at BCCF, and Defendants Harder and Smolinsky falsely accused him of assaulting a known gang member and "supported and co-signed" the indictment against Plaintiff, subjecting him to malicious prosecution, false arrest, and/or a false misbehavior report, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and either the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments (and possibly the First Amendment); (3) a claim that, as a result of the false accusations by Defendants Kleinsmith and Jellick arising from the incident of April 29, 2009, Defendant Brown wrongly found Plaintiff guilty of assault and sanctioned him to 45 days in the SHU, in violation of either the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment; (4) a claim that, on July 24, 2009, after Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from an attack by inmate Jacob Rogers, Defendants wrongfully found Plaintiff guilty of fighting in violation of the Eighth Amendment and either the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments; and (5) a claim that, on March 15, 2010, Plaintiff was subjected to excessive force by Defendants Valls and Jellick in violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments. (Id.)

In addition, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that his visitation rights were restricted on two, separate, unidentified occasions in violation of the First Amendment, and that Defendants defamed Plaintiff by wrongfully accused him of being a rapist. (Id.)

For a more detailed recitation of Plaintiff's claims and supporting factual allegations, the Court refers the reader to the Complaint in its entirety, as well as Magistrate Judge Dancks' Report-Recommendation, which accurately summarize those allegations. (Id.; see also Dkt. No. 146 at Part I [Background].)

B. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

On April 1, 2011, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 46.) Generally, in support of their motion, Defendants assert the following eight arguments.*fn2 (See generally Dkt. No. 46.) First, based on the four corners of the Complaint, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Harder and Smolinksy should be dismissed due to their lack of personal involvement in the constitutional violations alleged. Second, based on the record evidence, Plaintiff's claims do not rise to the level of constitutional violations. Third, based on the record evidence, Defendants are protected from liability as a matter of law by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Fourth, based on the record evidence, Plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Fifth, based on the record evidence, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Jellick and Kleinsmith should be dismissed from the action because those Defendants had probable cause to prosecute Plaintiff. Sixth, based on the four corners of his Complaint, and in the alternative based on the record evidence, Plaintiff has failed to state or establish a claim for defamation. Seventh, based on the four corners of his Complaint, Plaintiff has failed to state any claims against Defendants Connors and Brown. Eighth, based on the four corners of his Complaint, Plaintiff is not entitled to punitive damages against the Broome County or the individual Defendants in their official capacities. (Id.)

C. Magistrate Judge Dancks' Report-Recommendation

On July 31, 2012, Magistrate Judge Dancks issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (Dkt. No. 54.) More specifically, regarding the incident of June 6, 2008, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Id. at 11-14.) Regarding the incident of April 29, 2009, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that, although Plaintiff properly exhausted his administrative remedies, Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on all five of Plaintiff's claims arising out of the incident of April 29, 2009: (1) his claim of malicious prosecution against Defendant Kleinsmith (id. at 16-19); (2) his claim of false arrest against Defendant Kleinsmith (id.); (3) his claim of malicious prosecution against Defendants Harder and Smolinsky (id. at 19-21); (4) his claim of false arrest against Defendants Harder and Smolinsky (id.); and (5) his claim that Defendant Jellick issued him a false misbehavior report (id. at 21-23). Regarding the incident of July 24, 2009, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Id. at 23-24.) Regarding the incident of March 15, 2010, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that (1) Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies was justified by special circumstances (id. at 24-26), and (2) the record evidence demonstrates that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Defendants Valls and Jellick applied force maliciously and sadistically against Plaintiff to cause him harm (id. at 26-29.) Regarding Plaintiff's claim that Defendants violated his First Amendment by restricting his visitation rights, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (Id. at 29.)

Regarding Plaintiff's claim against Defendants for defamation, Magistrate Judge Dancks concluded that Plaintiff's Complaint failed to state a claim because it contained only a cursory allegation of defamation. (Id. at 29-30.) Finally, Magistrate Judge Dancks recommended that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Conners and Brown be dismissed from this action because Plaintiff's Complaint failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that either ...


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