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Dorsey v. Sullivan

United States District Court, Second Circuit

September 3, 2013

JAMES DORSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
VALERIE SULLIVAN, ROBERT F. RAYMOND, and STATE OF NEW YORK, Defendants.

JAMES DORSEY, Pro Se Rochester, New York,

ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, STATE OF NEW YORK KIM S. MURPHY, Assistant Attorney General, of Counsel Buffalo, New York, Attorney for Defendants.

DECISION and ORDER

LESLIE G. FOSCHIO, Magistrate Judge.

JURISDICTION

On July 6, 2011, the parties to this action consented pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) to proceed before the undersigned. The matter is presently before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 50), filed May 15, 2012.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff James Dorsey ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, commenced this action on September 15, 2010, while incarcerated at Bare Hills Correctional Facility ("Bare Hills"), in Malone, New York, although the events relevant to this action occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Livingston Correctional Facility ("Livingston" or "the correctional facility") in Sonyea, New York. Defendants to this action include the State of New York ("the State"), Livingston Deputy Superintendent for Programs Valerie Sullivan ("Sullivan"), and New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") ADA Coordinator (Central Office) Robert F. Raymond ("Raymond"). Plaintiff alleges Defendants discriminated against him based on Plaintiff's disability, total or partial amputation of all ten fingers, by denying Plaintiff's request that all door knobs within the correctional facility be replaced with level arm door openers and emergency push bards, in violation of Plaintiff's rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("Title II"), and Rehabilitation Act ("Rehab Act") § 504, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("§ 504"). Plaintiff seeks as relief monetary damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, and a statewide injunction prohibiting DOCCS employees who are not specifically trained as such from serving as ADA Coordinator or from making any medical assessments.

On May 15, 2012, Defendants moved for summary judgment (Doc. No. 50) ("Defendants' Motion"), filing in support a Statement of Undisputed Facts (Doc. No. 51) ("Defendants' Statement of Facts"), Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 52) ("Defendants' Memorandum"), the Declaration of Valerie Sullivan (Doc. No. 53), with attached exhibits A through H ("Sullivan Declaration Exh(s). __"), and the Declaration of Robert F. Raymond (Doc. No. 54) ("Raymond Declaration"), with attached exhibits A through D ("Raymond Declaration Exh(s). __"). On May 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed Plaintiff's Declaration Opposing Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 56) ("Plaintiff's Declaration"), with attached exhibits A through L ("Plaintiff's Exh(s). __"), a Statement of Disputed Facts (Doc. No. 57) ("Plaintiff's Statement of Facts"), the Memorandum of Law Opposing Defendants' Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 58) ("Plaintiff's Memorandum"), and the Affidavit of James Dorsey (Doc. No. 59) ("Plaintiff's Affidavit"). On June 20, 2012, Defendants filed in further support of summary judgment the Declaration of Assistant Attorney General Kim S. Murphy (Doc. No. 60) ("Murphy Declaration"). Oral argument was deemed unnecessary.

Based on the following, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

FACTS[1]

All ten fingers of Plaintiff James Dorsey ("Dorsey"), have been either completely or partly amputated as a result of an injury sustained more than twenty years ago, prior to Plaintiff's term of incarceration with New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), which commenced on May 5, 2006. DOCCS maintains a policy to provide reasonable accommodations to inmates in accordance with established procedures. In particular, DOCCS Directive No. 2614 ("Directive No. 2614"), [2] provides, relevant to this case, that in compliance with Title II of the ADA, DOCCS

is required to make reasonable accommodations' or modifications to existing policies and procedures to allow qualified inmate with disabilities the same opportunity as non-disabled inmates, unless to do so would be an undue burden to [DOCCS], cause a fundamental alteration to a program, or compromise the safety or security of the facility.

Directive No. 2416, § I. Policy.

On December 21, 2007, Plaintiff was sent to Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie"), for evaluation of Plaintiff's disability by a specialist to determine what accommodations could assist Plaintiff's ability to function in the correctional facility. At Coxsackie, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. George Forrest ("Dr. Forrest"), [3] who recommended use of level arm door openers.

Plaintiff was transferred to Livingston Correctional Facility ("Livingston" or "the correctional facility"), where he was housed from August 19, 2008 until September 4, 2009. While incarcerated at Livingston, Plaintiff submitted six requests for reasonable accommodation of his disability, five of which were granted including strap-on sand weights for Plaintiff to use when exercising, a specially altered bag in which to carry the weights, a push button lamp instead of a standard lamp, a jacket that fastened with Velcro instead of the standard zipper, and a prosthetic glove-like device, made out of a multi-purpose non-skid material called Dycem, specially-designed to assist Plaintiff's in his activities of daily living by improving Plaintiff's ability to grip objects ("Dycem gloves"). The only reasonable accommodation request that was denied was made by Plaintiff on October 7, 2008, requesting all door knobs at Livingston be replaced with level arm door openers and all fire exits be equipped with level arm door openers and "panic bars" (push bar) openers ("door opener request").[4] Sullivan Declaration Exh. H at Bates No. 000510. Plaintiff's door opener request was denied on October 21, 2008 by Defendant Valerie Sullivan who, as Deputy Superintendent of Programs at Livingston, is responsible for handling inmate requests for accommodations of disabilities. Id. Sullivan's explanation for the denial included that doors accessible to Plaintiff are either controlled by corrections officers or can be manipulated by Plaintiff, and secure doors are both controlled by and must be opened by security personnel. Id.

Sullivan maintains Plaintiff's door opener request was denied as "unnecessary and unfeasible." Sullivan Declaration ¶ 9. According to Sullivan, most of the correctional facility's doors are controlled by security staff, rather than inmates, and Plaintiff, with the assistance of his Dycem gloves or the assistance of another inmate or DOCCS staff, should be able to manipulate the handles to those doors that are accessible to inmates. Id. Sullivan further maintains altering the correctional facility's structure by replacing all standard door knobs with the level door openers ...


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