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Anthony Medina, Michael Doxen, and Keven Shortell v. David F. Napoli

October 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Curtin United States District Judge

This case has been transferred to the docket of the undersigned. Plaintiffs Anthony Medina, Michael Doxen, and Keven Shortell seek declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against several individuals employed by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS")*fn1 based on events alleged to have occurred while plaintiffs were incarcerated at the Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport CF"). Item 1. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure dismissing the complaint in its entirety for failure to exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to bringing this action. Item 93. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.


This action was originally commenced on July 20, 2007, by the filing of a pro se "Class Action" complaint by eleven named plaintiffs "and all others similarly situated," claiming that their constitutional rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were violated during their incarceration in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at Southport CF when they were deprived of food; subjected to painful mechanical restraints; denied recreation and other privileges; assaulted by corrections officers; and subjected to fabricated misbehavior reports, prejudiced disciplinary proceedings, and other unconstitutional mistreatment by prison officials, all in retaliation for filing inmate grievances. See Item 1. After several plaintiffs failed to request permission to proceed in forma pauperis or provide certifications and authorization requests, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and after several other plaintiffs expressed to the court their lack of interest in pursuing this lawsuit, the court issued a series of orders terminating those plaintiffs as parties leaving only Medina, Doxen, and Shortell as plaintiffs. See Items10, 32, 35, 43, 45, 47. The court subsequently denied, without prejudice, plaintiffs' motion for class certification on the ground that at least some of the claims in the complaint were unique to the remaining individual plaintiffs and had no class-wide implication. Item 49.

Plaintiff Medina then moved for leave to amend the complaint to add three additional plaintiffs and 350 additional defendants, and to assert claims for compensatory and punitive damages. The court granted the motion to allow the incorporation of two additional factual allegations regarding conduct on the part of existing defendants, and naming one additional defendant (bringing the total number of defendants to twenty-five); denied the motion in all other respects; and directed the Clerk of the Court to amend the caption to name only the three plaintiffs remaining in this action-Medina, Doxen, and Shortell. Item 80.

Discovery in the case, which included the examination before trial of plaintiffs Medina and Doxen (plaintiff Shortell was not deposed), closed in December 2009.

Defendants then moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 on several grounds, including failure to exhaust all available administrative remedies with respect to the claims in the complaint unique to the three remaining plaintiffs.


I. Summary Judgment

Rule 56 provides that, "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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(a). Although the language of this Rule has been amended in recent years, the well-settled standards for considering a motion for summary judgment remain unchanged. See, e.g., Faulkner v. Arista Records LLC, 797 F. Supp. 2d 299, 311 n. 7 (S.D.N.Y. 2011). Under those standards, the party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Rockland Exposition, Inc. v. Great American Assur. Co., 746 F. Supp. 2d 528, 532 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), aff'd, 445 F.App'x 387 (2d Cir. 2011). A "genuine issue" exists "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). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law .." Id.

Once the court determines that the moving party has met its burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere conclusory allegations or denials, but must set forth "concrete particulars showing that a trial is needed . . .." R.G. Group, Inc. v. Horn & Hardart Co., 751 F.2d 69, 77 (2d Cir. 1984) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (quoted in Kaminski v. Anderson, 792 F. Supp. 2d 657, 662 (W.D.N.Y. 2011)). In considering whether these respective burdens have been met, the court "is not to weigh the evidence but is instead required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party, and to eschew credibility assessments." Amnesty Am. v. Town of W. Hartford, 361 F.3d 113, 122 (2d Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

The court recognizes its duty to "extend extra consideration" to pro se plaintiffs and that "pro se parties are to be given special latitude on summary judgment motions." Bennett v. Goord, 2006 WL 2794421, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. August 1, 2006) (quoting Salahuddin v. Coughlin, 999 F. Supp. 526, 535 (S.D.N.Y. 1998)), aff'd, 2008 WL 5083122 (2d Cir. 2008); see also McPherson v. Coombe, 174 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 1999) (pro se party's pleadings should be read liberally and interpreted "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest"). "Nevertheless, proceeding pro se does not otherwise relieve a litigant from the usual requirements of summary judgment, and a pro se party's 'bald assertion,' unsupported by evidence, is not sufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Cole v. Artuz, 1999 WL 983876, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. October 28, 1999) (citing cases).

In this case, only plaintiff Medina has responded to defendants' summary judgment motion. He did so by way of a sworn affidavit filed August 10, 2010 (Item 102), seeking relief on his own behalf pursuant to Rule 56(d),*fn2 which provides:

If a non-movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to ...

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