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Benjamin v. Superintendent of Collins Corr. Fac.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 15, 2013



MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

While an inmate in custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community ("DOCCS") at Collins Correctional Facility ("Collins"), pro se plaintiff James Benjamin ("Plaintiff") instituted this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his original complaint (Dkt #1), Plaintiff claimed that the defendant, the Superintendent of Collins Correctional Facility, "representing a cabal of Jim Crow, " violated Plaintiff's rights when he "approv[ed]... the distortion of the Time Allowance Committee (TAC) at Gouverneur Correctional Facility", see Complaint, "Page Two of Seven"; "reviewed and approved hastening [his] demise via impromptu - Policies - such Policies discontinued effective medical prescriptions for [his] controlling [his] diabetes and etc., " and "implicitly rewarded a Stockholm-Syndrome-inmate's and a bigotted [sic]-staff-person's spitting in [his] face and screaming a disparaging and abusive racial name", see id., "Page Three of Seven". Plaintiff stated that he "challenge[d] [his] confinement." Id., "Page One of Seven".

On initial screening, the Court dismissed several claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A in an Order dated February 14, 2011 (Dkt #4). In particular, Plaintiff's claims challenging his confinement and alleging denial of due process in connection with his TAC hearing were found to be barred by Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477 (1994). The Court noted that Plaintiff was unable to maintain a § 1983 action raising these claims unless the determinations regarding his confinement were successfully overturned by writ of habeas corpus or otherwise. See Dkt #4 at 4-5. These claims accordingly were dismissed without prejudice. The Court warned Plaintiff that should he attempt to re-institute the claims challenging the TAC's good-time credit calculation without first overturning the previous determinations, he could be subject to sanctions for abusive litigation tactics. Id. at 6.

With regard to Plaintiff's claims alleging constitutional violations based on certain conditions of his confinement (denial of adequate medical care and racial harassment), the Court found that they were subject to dismissal with leave to replead. In particular, Plaintiff had failed to adequately plead personal involvement by the named defendants. Namely, Plaintiff was attempting to hold the Superintendent of Collins liable for actions that occurred at Gouverneur Correctional Facility in 2002. Id. at 5. Moreover, Plaintiff failed to allege who was responsible for these actions, when they occurred, or where they occurred. Nor did Plaintiff allege facts showing that the Superintendent of Collins could be held responsible for actions committed by medical staff and correctional staff. Id.

The Court elected to permit Plaintiff to file an amended complaint raising his conditions of confinement claims, provided that he included the necessary allegations regarding "who, specifically, violated his rights, and how, when and where, specifically, they violated his rights." Dkt #4 at 6.

Prior to the Court issuing its February 14, 2011 Order, Plaintiff was released from incarceration, having reached his maximum expiration date on February 3, 2011. Although Plaintiff timely updated his address with the Court, the February 14th Order mistakenly was sent to Plaintiff's previous DOCCS address.

After Plaintiff eventually received a copy of Dkt #4, Plaintiff responded on March 7, 2011, with an amended complaint that repled the claims related to the TAC's determination on the basis that habeas corpus was not an effective remedy since he was no longer in custody. Plaintiff did not replead his other claims.

In an Order (Dkt #6) dated August 5, 2011, the Court (Skretny, D.J.) considered whether Plaintiff's most recent pleading should be considered a request for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) or a supplemental complaint. The Court noted Plaintiff's claims challenging his confinement and alleging denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment were subject to dismissal without prejudice on the basis that, while in custody, his "sole federal remedy [was] a writ of habeas corpus." Preiser v. Rodriguez , 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Because Plaintiff since had been released from custody after completing his sentence, habeas corpus was not available as a remedy, and Heck v. Humphrey, supra , was no longer a bar to his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Therefore, the Court deemed his most recent submission an appropriately filed amended complaint.

Plaintiff also asserted that the Court had misperceived his claim as a challenge to the TAC's calculation. Plaintiff's claim appeared to be that in 2002, the TAC withheld good time credit without either a Tier III disciplinary finding and disregarded a Certificate of Earned Eligibility ("CCE") issued in 1996. As a result, Plaintiff was confined past his conditional release date in violation of his due process and equal protection rights. He asserted that the TAC's constitutionally flawed decision was "reviewed, approved, evaluated, ratified and rubber-stamped by the Superintendents in every facility in which he was confined thereafter." The Court did not express an opinion as to whether Plaintiff could maintain a claim with regard to the November 2002 TAC decision itself, which appeared to be outside of the three-year statute of limitations. However, the Court found, there was "no obvious bar to his bringing a claim against any Superintendent who was apprised of the alleged constitutional violation and failed to review the situation to determine if [he] was indeed entitled to release." Dkt #6 at 3. Because Plaintiff had failed to name any individual superintendent or to explain whether or how he brought this alleged constitutional violation to their attention, Plaintiff was permitted to again amend his complaint so as to state the names of those superintendents who were personally involved in the deprivation about which he complained, and how they were personally involved. Id. at 3-4.

On or about September 6, 2011, Plaintiff filed a request for a six-month extension of time in which to file a second amended complaint, alleging that he was confined in a medical facility without his legal materials, and therefore was unable to comply with the Court's scheduling order. The Court (Feldman, M.J.) denied the request, finding that six months was too lengthy a time-period, given the nature of the information requested by Judge Skretny (i.e., the names of the defendants involved in the alleged violations and the extent of their involvement). See Dkt #8. Plaintiff was given 45 days in which to file his second amended complaint.

On December 1, 2011, Judge Feldman's order sent to Plaintiff was returned to the Court as undeliverable. On February 21, 2012, Plaintiff updated his address with the Court.

On March 5, 2012, Plaintiff requested an extension of time so that he could "gather/recount the names of the Facility Superintendents who rubber stamped their respective Grievance Committees abrogating my Earned Eligibility Certificate, trashing my Liberty Interest and violating Correction Law Section 805." Dkt #11.

On March 26, 2012, Plaintiff sent the Court a letter indicating that the "Cabal includes Superintendents and Grievance Committees at Auburn, Cayuga, Collins, Elmira, Livingston, Midstate, and Orleans" who, "[u]nder the pretext of law, ... rubber-[sic] the Gouverneur Correctional Facilities [sic] abrogating my Conditional ...

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