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Ahlers v. Nowicki

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 25, 2014

KARL AHLERS, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERY NOWICKI, Chief of SOTP, CNYPC, BARBARA MILLER, Director of Administrative Services, CNYPC, CYNTHIA COMSTOCK, Nurse Administrator, SOTP, CNYPC, Defendants.

KARL AHLERS, Central New York Psychiatric Center, Marcy, NY, Plaintiff, Pro Se.

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

REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER

RANDOLPH F. TREECE, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Karl Ahlers brings this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights as a result of a room search conducted by staff members of the Central New York Psychiatric Center (CNYPC), where Plaintiff is involuntarily civilly committed. See Dkt. No. 1, Compl. Defendants now move for Summary Judgment. See Dkt. No. 18. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. See Dkt. No. 20. For the reasons stated below, we recommend that the Defendants' Motion be GRANTED.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate only where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden to demonstrate through "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with [ ] affidavits, if any, " that there is no genuine issue of material fact. F.D.I.C. v. Giammettei, 34 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). "When a party has moved for summary judgment on the basis of asserted facts supported as required by [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)] and has, in accordance with local court rules, served a concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends there exist no genuine issues to be tried, those facts will be deemed admitted unless properly controverted by the nonmoving party." Glazer v. Formica Corp., 964 F.2d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 1992).

To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, and cannot rest merely on allegations or denials of the facts submitted by the movant. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 287 (2d Cir. 2003) ("Conclusory allegations or denials are ordinarily not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment when the moving party has set out a documentary case."); Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994). To that end, sworn statements are "more than mere conclusory allegations subject to disregard... they are specific and detailed allegations of fact, made under penalty of perjury, and should be treated as evidence in deciding a summary judgment motion" and the credibility of such statements is better left to a trier of fact. Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d at 289 (citing Flaherty v. Coughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1983) and Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995)).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Group of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). "[T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). Furthermore, where a party is proceeding pro se, the court must "read [his or her] supporting papers liberally, and... interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994), accord, Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995). Nonetheless, mere conclusory allegations, unsupported by the record, are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary of Facts

Except where noted, the following facts are undisputed.

At all times relevant to the Complaint, Plaintiff was an involuntarily civilly committed resident at CNYPC. Dkt. No. 18-2, Defs.' Statement of Material Fact Pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) ("hereinafter 7.1 Statement"), at ¶ 1. On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, members of CNYPC's security team, searched Ahler's assigned room at CNYPC. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 8, & 12. As a result of the search, security staff found and removed from Ahler's room "2 screws missing fluorescent light/screws loose on desk, 3 ketchup, 3 Lorna Doones [cookies], 1 gallon size plastic bags [sic], 1 quart plastic bag, 1 sandwich bag, 3 mayonnaise relish packets." Id. at ¶¶ 13 & 14. In violation of CNYPC's policy, Plaintiff's possessions were not returned to their original state after the search. His bedding was thrown on the floor and walked on by staff. Compl. at ¶¶ 5(g) & (s). As a result, Plaintiff had to sleep on dirty sheets, or without sheets. Id. at ¶ 5(h). Prior to the search, Plaintiff had verbally complained to CNYPC's business office regarding his phone bill. Dkt. No. 18-6, Karl Ahlers Dep., dated Mar. 12, 2013, at pp. 63-66.

B. Fourth Amendment

Plaintiff alleges that, without any probable cause or other suitable justification, Defendant Comstock supervised an unconstitutional search of his room, and that Defendants Miller and Nowicki are liable for this ...


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