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Justice v. Hulihan

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 4, 2013

JOHN D. JUSTICE, Plaintiff,
WILLIAM HULIHAN et al., Defendants.

John D. Justice, Pro Se, 87-B-0385, Comstock, NY, for the Plaintiff.

CATHY Y. SHEEHAN, Assistant Attorney General, HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, Albany, NY, for the Defendants.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se John D. Justice commenced this action against defendants William Hulihan (hereinafter "Hulihan"), Charles Tapia, R. Wiggins, Christopher Holmer, Eric Chandler, the Town of Marcy, Hon. Donald S. Buttenschon, Scott D. McNamara, Robert L. Bauer, Michael Hulihan, Richard Roy, and Brian Fischer pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Justice's eight enumerated claims pertain to: interference with the right to petition government for the redress of grievances, equal protection, deliberate indifference to potential harm, and violations of due process. ( Id. at 30-32, 36.) He expressly seeks a declaration that defendants violated his civil rights, and compensatory damages. ( Id. at 32-34, 36.)

Following initial review of the complaint, this court dismissed all but two of Justice's causes of action: an Eighth Amendment claim that corrections officers were deliberately indifferent and failed to protect Justice from an assault by a fellow inmate, and a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim that evidence was intentionally withheld from Justice during a disciplinary hearing. (Dkt. No. 8 at 15-16, 20-21, 22.) The remaining defendants-Hulihan, Tapia, Wiggins, and Fischer-interposed an answer, (Dkt. No. 16), and subsequently moved for summary judgment, (Dkt. No. 41). In a Report-Recommendation and Order (R&R) dated July 16, 2013, Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles recommended that defendants' motion be granted and Justice's complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 47.) Justice subsequently filed objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 48.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted with respect to the claims against Tapia and Hulihan, and rejected with respect to the claims against Wiggins and Fischer.

II. Background

Justice is an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 14.) During the relevant time period, Justice was incarcerated in the Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State"). ( Id. ¶ 6.) At Mid-State, Justice served on the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee. ( Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) Beginning in early July 2008, Justice became aware of rumors that the Mid-State administration was unhappy with his participation on the grievance committee, and he became concerned that the administration was "going to either set [him] up with a weapon or a drug charge, just to get [him] out of the jail." (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 2 at 52.)

After hearing of these rumors, Justice discussed his concerns with Tapia, the supervisor of the inmate grievance program at Mid-State, and also wrote a letter to District Judge Richard J. Arcara of the Western District of New York. ( Id. at 52-55.) Justice sent a copy of that letter to Tapia, Hulihan, the superintendent of Mid-State, and Fischer, the commissioner of DOCCS. ( Id. at 55-56.) The letter to Judge Arcara explained the reports Justice had heard regarding the administration's dissatisfaction with his presence on the grievance committee, and expressed his concern that the administration would have him "set-up" by way of "a weapon planted...on [his] person, or in [his] living area in [his] housing unit[, o]r with a fictitious drug charge." ( Id. at 87.)

On July 26, 2008, Justice was allegedly assaulted by Sean McAleese, a fellow inmate at Mid-State. (Compl. at 15; Defs.' SMF ¶ 14.) During the altercation, Justice allegedly suffered a facial injury which required medical attention. (Compl. at 17-18; Defs.' SMF ¶ 17.)

As a result of the incident, both Justice and inmate McAleese were accused of violating prison rules and issued misbehavior reports. (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 3 ¶ 11.) Following a disciplinary hearing, Justice was disciplined for failing to report his injury. (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 2 at 43-44.) Justice alleges that, in preparation for this disciplinary hearing, he requested a copy of the Unusual Incident Report ("UI Report") in order to prepare his defense at the hearing. (Compl. at 35.) Justice was allegedly told by the hearing office that such a report did not exist, and therefore could not be provided to him. ( Id. ) Justice was subsequently found guilty of the offense, which was affirmed on administrative appeal. ( Id. ) Almost six months after the appeal, the New York State Attorney General's Office produced the UI Report to Justice, and Justice alleges that the report was therefore in existence at the time of his disciplinary hearing. ( Id. )

Justice commenced this action in April 2011. (Compl.) In October 2012, defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing Justice's complaint. (Dkt. No. 41.)

III. Standard of Review

Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already ...

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