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Geneo Brown v. Department of Correctional Services of New York State

March 2, 2013

GENEO BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES OF NEW YORK STATE, NYS OFFICE OF MENTAL HEALTH, BRIAN FISCHER, COMMISSIONER, LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, DEP. COM. OF CORR., DAVID NAPOLI, SUPERINTENDENT SOUTHPORT C.F., MARSHAL TRABOUT, R.M.D., MARILYN BRIDGE, DSA OF SOUTHPORT C.F., DR. JOSEPH HALUSKA, J. ANTONSEN, DEP. SUPT. OF HEALTH SERVICES, HENDERSON, N.A., DAVID CHAPMAN, CORR. SGT., C.O. GILBOY, CORR. OFFICER DEBURGOMASTER, ESCROW, HEARING OFFICER, J. COLVIN, D.S.S., DONALD SELSKY, COMM. DESIGNEE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Geneo Brown, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, commenced this action pursuant to, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that while he was incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility, Defendants subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment, retaliated against him for filing grievances in violation of his First Amendment rights, and deprived him of his due process rights in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pending before this Court are the Summary Judgment Motions of Plaintiff and Defendants. This Court finds the matter fully briefed and oral argument unnecessary. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion should be denied in its entirety, and Defendants' cross-motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

At all time relevant to his complaint, Plaintiff was an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Services ("DOCCS") incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility. (Complaint, Docket No. 1, at 1-2). He commenced this action in November 2009, asserting four causes of action alleging that he was deprived of his constitutional rights in violation of, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, and that Defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. (Id.) Following an initial screening, Plaintiff's claims that: (1) Defendants filed false misbehavior reports; (2) sought monetary damages from Defendants in their official capacity; (3) were asserted against Defendants DOCCS and New York State Office of Mental Health ("OMH") for violations of §§ 1985-1986; and (4) alleged violations of the First Amendment's free exercise clause and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLIUPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, were dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b). (March 25, 2010 Decision and Order at 18, Docket No. 3.)

In October 2010, Plaintiff moved to amend the Complaint by adding four additional causes of action. (Docket No. 33.) Defendants opposed the motion. (Docket No. 40.) In a June 2, 2011 Decision and Order, Judge Foschio granted Plaintiff leave to add an allegation that he was deprived of due process by the procedures used in a Time Allowance Committee proceeding in violation of § 1983. (Docket No. 69.) Plaintiff was denied leave to add a sixth claim asserting state common law tort claims; a seventh claim alleging that Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of race and religion in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and an eighth claim that Defendants conspired to force feed him and to discriminate against him "based on his status as an African-American Jewish qualified person with a disability" in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986. (June 2, 2011 Decision and Order at 15-26.) A full recitation of the relevant facts is included in the June 2011 Decision and Order, and familiarity with this and prior orders is assumed.

III. DISCUSSION

"A motion for summary judgment may properly be granted . . . only where there is no genuine issue of material fact to be tried, and the facts as to which there is no such issue warrant the entry of judgment for the moving party as a matter of law." Kaytor v. Elec. Boat Corp., 609 F.3d 537, 545 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)). A court's function on a summary judgment motion "is not to resolve disputed questions of fact but only to determine whether, as to any material issue, a genuine factual dispute exists." Kaytor, 609 F.3d at 545. "A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine 'if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.' " Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248), cert denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003). A court must also "construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp., 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003).

Further, "[i]t 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. Federal Bur. of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)(emphasis in original) (quoting Pabon v. Wright, 459 F.3d 241, 248 (2d Cir. 2006)). "A pro se plaintiff, however, cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment by simply relying on the allegations of his complaint; he must present admissible evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in his favor." Belpasso v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 400 Fed. Appx. 600, 601 (2d Cir. 2010); see Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 485 (2d Cir. 1996) (summary judgment properly entered against pro se plaintiff who failed to oppose motion with admissible evidence after receiving plainly worded warning of the consequences of such failure). "[T]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

Plaintiff's remaining claims seek damages for alleged violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This section imposes civil liability upon persons who, acting under color of state law, deprive an individual of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983.Section 1983 does not itself provide a source of substantive rights, but instead provides the mechanism by which a plaintiff may seek vindication of federal rights conferred elsewhere. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989). Here, Plaintiff's claims are grounded in the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

A. Excessive Force and Failure to Intervene

Plaintiff's first cause of action asserts claims that he was subjected to excessive force by correctional officers in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights on several separate occasions. "A claim of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment has two components-one subjective, focusing on the defendant's motive for his conduct, and the other objective, focusing on the conduct's effect." Wright v Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 268 (2d Cir. 2009). The core judicial inquiry to be made is not the extent of the injury, if any, but " 'whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.' " Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 130 S. Ct. 1175, 1178, 175 L.Ed.2d 995 (2010) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7, 112 S. Ct. 995, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156 (1992)); see Wright, 554 F.3d at 268-69. Where "a prisoner's allegations and evidentiary proffers could reasonably, if credited, allow a rational factfinder to find that corrections officers used force maliciously and sadistically," summary judgment is improper "even where the plaintiff's evidence of injury was slight and the proof of excessive force was weak." Wright, 554 F.3d at 269.

Nonetheless, not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action," and de minimis uses of physical force do not fall within the scope of the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9; Wright, 554 F.3d at 268. The objective component therefore focuses on whether "the alleged wrongdoing was objectively harmful enough to establish a constitutional violation." Wright, 554 F.3d at 268 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff first alleges that on November 9, 2007, upon his arrival at Southport Correctional, he was "physically assaulted and restrained in the Draft Room Area" by Defendants Chapman, Deburgomaster, Gilboy, and an unknown officer. (Pl's Aff. St. Undisputed Facts, ¶ 1, Docket No. 115; Pl's Aff. in Opp'n ¶ 4, Docket No. 142.) In support of their motion, Defendants Chapman, DeBurgomaster, and Gilroy each assert that, after Plaintiff's waist chains were removed from him upon his arrival at Southport, Plaintiff "violently lunge[d]" at C.O. DeBurgomaster. (Decl. of Daniel Chapman ¶ 5, Docket No. 124; Decl. of Mark DeBurgomaster ¶ 5, Docket No. 126; Decl. of Timothy Gilroy ¶ 6, Docket No. 129; Def's St. Undisputed Facts ¶ 4, Docket No. 120.) Plaintiff was then "brought to the floor and placed in full restraints by Sergeant Chapman and Corrections Officers Gilboy and DeBurgomaster." (Def's St. Undisputed Facts ¶ 5; see Chapman Decl. ¶ 5; DeBurgomaster Decl. ¶ 5; Gilroy Decl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff denies these assertions, and states that these defendants "maliciously and sadistically attacked Plaintiff while he was confined in a secured (locked) holding pen without justification." (Pl's St. Opposing Facts ¶ 7, Docket No. 141.) Plaintiff also relies on the testimony of three inmate witnesses who testified on his behalf at a related disciplinary hearing. (Id. (citing Decl. of James Esgrow Ex. A (hearing testimony), Docket No. 127.) Thus, although Plaintiff's resulting injuries consisted of "skin ...

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