United States District Court, N.D. New York
Phillip Seuffert, Pro Se, Dannemore, NY, For Plaintiff.
ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, LAURA SPRAGUE, ESQ., Assistant Attorney General, Albany, NY, For Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DAVID E. PEEBLES, Magistrate Judge.
Pro se plaintiff Phillip Seuffert, a New York State prison inmate, has commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two prison corrections officers alleging infringement of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff claims that Corrections Officer K. Pecore used excessive force against him in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff also asserts an equal protection cause of action under the Fourteenth Amendment based on the allegation that Corrections Officer M. Donovan discriminated against him due to his sexual orientation.
Currently pending before the court is a pre-answer motion brought by defendants Pecore and Donovan seeking the entry of summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, dismissing plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff is a prison inmate currently being held in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). Dkt. No. 1. Although now confined elsewhere, at the times relevant to this action he was incarcerated at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie"), located in West Coxsackie, New York. Id.
On May 26, 2013, plaintiff, a self-identified homosexual, alleges that he was approached by defendant M. Donovan, a corrections officer stationed at Coxsackie, and told "[his] time on this gallery [wa]s limited." Dkt. No. 1 at 6. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Donovan said this to him without any provocation. Id. When Seuffert inquired as to the meaning of the statement, defendant Donovan responded by telling him "no homos[exual]s" are permitted on that gallery. Id. Plaintiff alleges that after this conversation, defendant Donovan issued him a false misbehavior report. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that the report was filed due to defendant Donovan's sexual discrimination against plaintiff, and that plaintiff was unlawfully subjected to disciplinary action based upon his sexual orientation. Id. Plaintiff contends that his attempt to lodge a grievance complaining of defendant Donovan's alleged discrimination was thwarted when the grievance supervisor at the facility refused to file it. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. Defendants counter by alleging that plaintiff never filed such a grievance. Dkt. No. 12-6 at 2.
According to plaintiff, on May 27, 2013, while he was being escorted, within Coxsackie, defendant Pecore assaulted him without provocation, punching him "with a closed fist about his face, neck, and upper body areas." Dkt. No. 1 at 5. Plaintiff alleges that shortly after this first attack, defendant Pecore continued his attack by "knee[ing] plaintiff about the left side of his ribs... grab[bing] plaintiff by his shirt collar and... punch[ing], slap[ping], and elbow[ing] plaintiff about his face, neck, head, and upper body." Id. Plaintiff claims that, as a result of these attacks, he has sustained permanent physical injuries. Id.
Following this incident, plaintiff filed a grievance against defendant Pecore. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. That grievance was ultimately denied, on appeal, by the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC") on October 30, 2013. Dkt. No. 12-7 at 1. According to plaintiff, the CORC's denial was untimely issued. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. On October 21, 2013, nine days before the CORC's decision was rendered, plaintiff commenced this action. See generally Dkt. No. 1.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a complaint and accompanying application to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") on October 21, 2013. See generally Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff's complaint asserts claims arising under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Dkt. No. 1 at 6; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 2. As relief, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Dkt. No. 1 at 7.
Following an initial review of plaintiff's complaint and IFP application, Senior District Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., issued an order on October 30, 2013, granting plaintiff's IFP status, dismissing plaintiff's Title VII claim against defendant Donovan, with prejudice, and permitting plaintiff's remaining claims to proceed. Dkt. No. 4 at 5. On January 2, 2014, in lieu of answering plaintiff's complaint, defendants moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal based on plaintiff's alleged failure to fully exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. See generally Dkt. No. 12-2.
Defendants' motion, which plaintiff has not opposed, is now fully briefed and has been referred to me for the issuance of a report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and the Northern District of New York Local Rule 72.3(c). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
A. Plaintiff's Failure to Oppose Defendants' Motion
Plaintiff has not responded in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to local rule 7.1(b)(3), by failing to oppose defendants' motion, plaintiff has effectively consented to the granting of the relief sought. That rule provides as follows:
Where a properly filed motion is unopposed and the Court determines that the moving party has met its burden to demonstrate entitlement to the relief requested therein, the non-moving party's failure to file or serve any papers as this Rule requires shall be deemed as consent to the granting or denial of the motion, as the case may be, unless good cause is shown.
N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(b)(3).
The pending summary judgment was properly filed by the defendants, and defendants, through their motion papers, have met their burden of demonstrating entitlement to the relief requested with respect to plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim asserted against defendant Pecore. Because defendants have accurately cited proper legal authority supporting the ground upon which their motion is based, and plaintiff has failed to respond in opposition to the motion to dismiss, I find that defendants' motion is facially meritorious regarding this claim. Accordingly, I recommend that defendants' motion to dismiss, regarding plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim, be granted on this basis.
With respect to plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim asserted against defendant Donovan, however, even considering defendants' lightened burden, I find that a dispute of material fact exists regarding whether plaintiff should be excused from his failure to fully exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. Accordingly, because defendants have failed to demonstrate entitlement to the relief requested with respect to plaintiff's discrimination claim, plaintiff's failure to oppose the motion is of no moment.
B. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment motions are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under that provision, the entry of summary judgment is warranted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Sec. Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 82-83 (2d Cir. 2004). A fact is "material" for purposes of this inquiry, if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 553 (2d Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson ). A material fact is genuinely in dispute "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute of material fact to be decided with respect to any essential element of the claim in issue, and the failure to meet this burden warrants denial of the motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 n.4; Sec. Ins. Co., 391 F.3d at 83. In the event this initial burden is met, the opposing party must show, through affidavits or otherwise, that there is a material dispute of fact for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
When deciding a summary judgment motion, a court must resolve any ambiguities, and draw all inferences, in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Jeffreys, 426 F.3d at 553; Wright v. Coughlin, 132 F.3d 133, 137-38 (2d Cir. 1998). The entry of summary judgment is justified only in the event of a finding that no reasonable trier of fact could rule in favor of the non-moving party. Bldg. Trades Employers' Educ. Ass'n v. McGowan, 311 F.3d 501, 507-08 (2d Cir. 2002); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (finding summary judgment appropriate only when "there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the verdict").
C. Exhaustion of Available Administrative Remedies
In support of their motion, defendants argue that plaintiff failed to fully exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to filing this action. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 3. Specifically, defendants submit that plaintiff did not fully exhaust the available administrative remedies with respect to his excessive force claim because the CORC did not issue a final decision regarding that grievance until after plaintiff commenced this action. Id. at 6. Moreover, defendants contend that plaintiff never filed a grievance with respect to his discrimination claim, and therefore did not exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to that cause of action. Id.; Dkt. No. 14 at 2.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), which imposes several restrictions on the ability of prisoners to maintain federal civil rights actions, expressly requires that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84 (2006) ("Exhaustion is... mandatory. Prisoners must now exhaust all available' remedies[.]"); Hargrove v. Riley, No. 04-CV-4587, 2007 WL 389003, at *5-6 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 31, 2007) ("The exhaustion requirement is a mandatory condition precedent to any suit challenging prison conditions, including suits brought under Section 1983."). "[T]he PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
The failure of a prisoner to satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is an affirmative defense that must be raised by a defendant in response to an inmate suit. Jones v. Block, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007). In the event the defendant establishes that the inmate plaintiff failed "to fully complete the administrative review process" prior to commencing the action, the plaintiff's complaint is subject to dismissal. Pettus v. McCoy, No. 04-CV-0471, 2006 WL 2639369, at *1 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 13, 2006) (McAvoy, J.); see also Woodford, 548 U.S. at 93 ("[W]e are persuaded that the PLRA exhaustion requirement requires proper exhaustion."). "Proper exhaustion" requires a plaintiff to procedurally exhaust his claims by "compl[ying] with the system's critical procedural rules." Woodford, 548 U.S. at 95; see also Macias v. Zenk, 495 F.3d 37, 43 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Woodford ).
In accordance with the PLRA, the DOCCS has made a grievance procedure, called the Inmate Grievance Program ("IGP"), available to inmates. It is comprised of three steps that inmates must satisfy when they have a grievance regarding prison conditions. 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 701.5; Mingues v. Nelson, No. 96-CV-5396, 2004 WL 234898, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2004). Embodied in 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 701, the IGP requires that an inmate first file a complaint with the facility's IGP clerk within twenty-one days of the alleged occurrence. 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 701.5(a)(1). If a grievance complaint form is not readily available, a complaint may be submitted on plain paper. Id. A representative of the facility's inmate grievance resolution committee ("IGRC") has up to sixteen days after the grievance is filed to informally resolve the issue. Id. at § 701.5(b)(1). If there is no such informal resolution, then the full IGRC conducts a hearing within sixteen days after receipt of the grievance. Id. at § 701.5(b)(2).
A grievant may then appeal the IGRC's decision to the facility's superintendent within seven days after receipt of the IGRC's written decision. Id. at § 701.5(c). The superintendent must issue a written decision within a certain number of days of receipt of the grievant's appeal. Id. at § 701.5(c)(i), (ii).
The third and final step of the IGP involves an appeal to the CORC, which must be taken within seven days after receipt of the superintendent's written decision. Id. at § 701.5(d)(1)(i). The CORC is required to render a written decision within thirty days of receipt of the appeal. Id. at § 701.5(d)(2)(i).
Accordingly, at each step of the IGP process, a decision must be entered within a specified time period. Significantly, "[a]ny failure by the IGRC or the superintendent to timely respond to a grievance or first-level appeal, respectively, can - and must - be appealed to the next level, including CORC, to complete the grievance process." Murray v. Palmer, No. 03-CV-1010, 2010 WL 1235591, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2010) (Hurd, J., adopting report and recommendation by Lowe, M.J.) (citing, inter alia, 7 N.Y.C.R.R. § 701.6(g)(2)).
Generally, if a plaintiff fails to follow each of the required three steps of the above-described procedure prior to commencing litigation, he has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. See Ruggerio v. Cnty. of Orange, 467 F.3d 170, 176 (2d Cir. 2006) ("[T]he PLRA requires proper exhaustion, which means using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits)." (quotation marks omitted)).
1. Plaintiff's Grievance Regarding His Eighth Amendment Claim Asserted Against Defendant Pecore
In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he filed a grievance at Coxsackie regarding the alleged use of excessive force against him by defendant Pecore. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. In support of their motion, defendants acknowledge the filing of such a grievance, but contend that plaintiff did not fully exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit because the CORC's final decision regarding the grievance was issued on October 30, 2012, nine days after the commencement of this action. Dkt. No. 12-7 at 1.
Defendants are correct that plaintiff failed to fully exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to commencing this action in light of the CORC's decision rendered after plaintiff filed his lawsuit. See Couvertier v. Jackson, No. 12-CV-1282, 2014 WL 2781011, at *4 (N.Y.N.D. June 19, 2014;) (Hurd, J., adopting report and recommendation by Peebles, M.J.) (finding the inmate failed to fully exhaust his administrative remedies when he filed an action with the court before the CORC had rendered a final decision regarding the grievance); Partee v. Grood, No. 06-CV-1552, 2007 WL 2164529, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 25, 2007) ("[A]n inmate/plaintiff's claim is not exhausted until he appeals to the CORC and receives a final decision regarding his grievance."). The fact that complete exhaustion has now occurred does not cure this defect. See Burgos v. Craig, 307 F.Appx. 469, 471 (2d Cir. 2008) ("Assuming arguendo that Plaintiff-Appellant subsequently exhausted his administrative remedies [after filing suit], that is not enough to save his suit, because he is required to have properly exhausted before he sues."); Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516 (2002), (holding that "[s]ubsequent exhaustion after suit is filed... is insufficient" to satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion requirement).
Accordingly, I find that plaintiff did not fully exhaust the available administrative remedies with respect to his Eighth Amendment claim prior to filing this action.
2. Plaintiff's Grievance Regarding His Fourteenth Amendment Claim Asserted Against Defendant Donovan
Although plaintiff contends that he attempted to file a grievance regarding his discrimination claim against defendant Donovan, he alleges it "was received but denied filing by the Grievance Supervisor." Dkt. No. 1 at 2. In their motion, defendants argue that plaintiff never filed a grievance complaining of discrimination while at Coxsackie. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 4. In support of their position, defendants have submitted an affidavit from Ed Tillar, the Grievance Supervisor at Coxsackie, in which he avers that, according to the Coxsackie grievance records, plaintiff never filed "any grievance alleging discriminatory treatment." Dkt. No. 12-6 at 2. Moreover, Tillar states that he has no recollection of refusing a grievance from plaintiff, and, to the extent of his knowledge, all grievances from inmates are accepted and filed unless they are untimely. Id.
Even if the court were to accept as true plaintiff's allegation that Tillar rejected the grievance against defendant Donovan, it is undisputed that plaintiff failed to file an appeal when he did not receive a response from the IGRC. In support of their motion, defendants have submitted an affidavit from Jeffery Hale ("Hale"), the Assistant Director of the DOCCS IGP, in which he states that there is no record of plaintiff filing an appeal to the CORC regarding allegations of discrimination. Dkt. No. 12-5 at 2. Although Tillar's alleged failure to file plaintiff's grievance may, as discussed more below, excuse plaintiff's failure to fully exhaust administrative remedies, it does change the fact that plaintiff did not follow the required grievance procedures. See Murray, 2010 WL 1235591, at *2 & n.4 ("[A]ny failure by the IGRC or the superintendent to timely respond to a grievance or first-level appeal, respectively, can - and must - be appealed to the next level, including CORC, to complete the grievance process." (footnote omitted) (citing authority)); Williams v. Hupkowicz, No. 04-CV-0051, 2007 WL1774876, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. June 18, 2007) ("Even assuming an inmate received no timely official response as contemplated by the regulations to a grievance at any stage in the inmate grievance process, the inmate could nevertheless appeal such grievance to the next level, and the failure to do so constitutes a failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required under the PLRA."). Accordingly, I find that plaintiff did not fully exhaust the available administrative remedies with respect to his discrimination claim asserted against defendant Donovan.
3. Exceptions to the Exhaustion Rule
Plaintiff's failure to exhaust the available administrative remedies with respect to either his excessive force or his discrimination claim is not necessarily fatal. In a series of decisions rendered since enactment of the PLRA, the Second Circuit has prescribed a three-part test for determining whether dismissal of an inmate plaintiff's complaint is warranted for failure to satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion requirement. See, e.g., Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 686 (2d Cir. 2004); see also Macias, 495 F.3d at 41. Those decisions instruct that, before dismissing an action as a result of a plaintiff's failure to exhaust, a court must first determine whether the administrative remedies were available to the plaintiff at the relevant times. Macias, 495 F.3d at 41; Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686. In the event of a finding that a remedy existed and was available, the court must next examine whether the defendant has forfeited the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion by failing to properly raise or preserve it, or whether, through his own actions preventing the exhaustion of plaintiff's remedies, he should be estopped from asserting failure to exhaust as a defense. Id. In the event the exhaustion defense survives these first two levels of scrutiny, the court must examine whether the plaintiff has plausibly alleged special circumstances to justify his failure to comply with the applicable administrative procedure requirements. Id.
Here, although there is nothing in the record suggesting that the IGP was unavailable to plaintiff, the allegations in plaintiff's complaint require the court to consider whether defendants should be estopped from asserting the exhaustion defense or whether special circumstances exist justifying plaintiff's failure to fully exhaust with respect to his discrimination claim. In his verified complaint, which is signed under penalty of perjury and has the force and effect of an affidavit,  plaintiff alleges that Tillar, the Grievance Supervisor at Coxsackie, rejected his grievance regarding his discrimination allegations against defendant Donovan. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. Even assuming plaintiff's version of the events with respect to this grievance is true, it is well settled that "[a] defendant in a prisoner civil rights action may not be estopped from asserting the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies... based on the actions or inactions of other individuals." See, e.g., Collins v. Caron, No. 10-CV-1527, 2014 WL 296859, at *5-6 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2014) (Suddaby, J.) (citing cases) (emphasis in original). Thus, estoppel does not apply in this case.
Nevertheless, assuming plaintiff's allegations are true, they may be sufficient to constitute special circumstances under Hemphill.  Liberally construing those allegations, plaintiff maintains that Tillar interfered with his ability to file the grievance complaining of defendant Donovan's alleged discrimination. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. The Second Circuit has said that "non-exhaustion is an affirmative defense subject to estoppel in cases where prison officials inhibit an inmate's ability to utilize administrative grievance procedures." Giano, 380 F.3d at 677 (citing Ziemba v. Wezner, 366 F.3d 161, 163 (2d Cir. 2004)). Although courts in this circuit have interpreted this holding to mean that only a named-defendant may be estopped from asserting the exhaustion defense,  other courts have extended the spirit of the holding by applying special circumstances where a non-defendant prison official interferes with an inmate-plaintiff's ability to file a grievance. See, e.g., Murray, 2010 WL 1235591, at *6 (finding an allegation "that an unspecified number of unidentified corrections officers (who are not [named-defendants]) somehow interfered with the delivery of [the plaintiff's] grievance and appeals... could constitute special circumstances justifying an inmate's failure to exhaust his available administrative remedies in certain situations"); Sandin v. Poole, 575 F.Supp.2d 484, 488 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (finding that the plaintiff's allegation that a prison official's "refusal to accept or forward plaintiff's appeals... effectively rendered the grievance process unavailable to [the plaintiff]" and would also constitute special circumstances). Because there is record evidence to support both (1) plaintiff's allegation that Tillar refused his grievance complaining of discrimination and (2) defendants' assertion that Tillar did not reject any of plaintiff's grievances, I find that a dispute of material fact exists precluding the granting of defendants' motion with respect to his discrimination claim. Accordingly, I recommend that the court hold an evidentiary hearing to evaluate the issues of fact and assess the credibility of plaintiff and Tillar. See Messa v. Goord, 652 F.3d 305, 310 (2d Cir. 2011) ("[T]he Seventh Amendment does not guarantee a jury trial on factual disputes regarding administrative exhaustion under the PLRA.").
Finally, before concluding, I pause to take note of defendants' reply. In their letter brief, defendants acknowledge the existence of a letter from plaintiff, dated September 16, 2013, in which he sought permission to file an otherwise untimely grievance complaining of discrimination. Dkt. No. 14 at 2. Defendants did not attach plaintiff's letter to their submission, nor does defendants' letter brief disclose to whom plaintiff's letter was addressed. Id. Instead, defendants' letter brief suggests that plaintiff "attached [his] letter dated September 16, 2013, " but fails to identify where the letter was attached. Id. My review of the record in this case, including plaintiff's complaint, which constitutes plaintiff's sole communication with the court in this matter, does not reveal reference to any letter authored by him. In light of plaintiff's allegation that Tillar, the Grievance Supervisor at Coxsackie, "received but denied filing" his "grievance" regarding his discrimination claim asserted against defendant Donovan, I recognize the possibility that plaintiff's allegation regarding his "grievance" actually alludes to the letter defendants highlight in their reply letter brief. Without a response from plaintiff, however, or the letter itself, I am constrained to conclude that plaintiff's verified complaint constitutes sufficient evidence giving rise to a dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiff, indeed, filed a grievance as he alleges, or, instead, simply requested permission to file a grievance outside the time limitations provided for in the DOCCS regulations.
IV. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATION
Defendants seek dismissal of plaintiff's complaint based on his alleged failure to fully exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit. Although it is undisputed that plaintiff commenced this action prior to fully exhausting administrative remedies with respect to his excessive force claim, a dispute of material fact exists regarding whether special circumstances exist to excuse his failure to fully exhaust administrative remedies regarding his discrimination claim.
Based upon the foregoing, it is hereby respectfully
RECOMMENDED that defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 12) be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as follows:
(1) I recommend the court dismiss plaintiff's excessive force cause of action against defendant Pecore, without prejudice, for failure to fully exhaust administrative remedies, and that defendant Pecore be dismissed from the action;
(2) I recommend the court deny defendants' motion to the extent it seeks dismissal of plaintiff's discrimination claim asserted against defendant Donovan without prejudice to renewal following the close of discovery; and
(3) I recommend that if, following discovery, defendants do not again raise the exhaustion argument by renewed motion, the court hold an evidentiary hearing to resolve the issues of fact surrounding whether plaintiff's failure to fully exhaust the available administrative remedies with respect to his discrimination claim is excused under Hemphill.
NOTICE: Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), the parties may lodge written objections to the foregoing report. Such objections must be filed with the clerk of the court within FOURTEEN days of service of this report. FAILURE TO SO OBJECT TO THIS REPORT WILL PRECLUDE APPELLATE REVIEW. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(a), 6(d), 72; Roldan v. Racette, 984 F.2d 86 (2d Cir. 1993).
It is hereby ORDERED that the clerk of the court serve a copy of this report and recommendation upon the parties in accordance with this court's local rules.
Wayne Hargrove, Ossining, NY, pro se.
Alexander V. Sansone, Troy & Troy, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY, Joseph Carney, Mineola, NY, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
*1 Inmate Wayne Hargrove ("Hargrove" or "plaintiff') brings this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Nassau County Sheriff, Nassau County Correctional Facility ("NCCF") and NCCF's medical staff, (collectively, "defendants"), seeking damages for injuries allegedly caused by defendants while he was incarcerated at NCCF. Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 arguing, inter alia, that Hargrove's claims should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. For the following reasons, defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted.
On August 27, 2004, FN1 Hargrove filed a complaint, alleging that defendants violated his civil rights when they forcibly administered purified protein derivative skin tests ("PPD test") to test for latent tuberculosis ("TB") in April 2002, 2003 and 2004 while he was incarcerated at NCCF. Complaint, Ex. C; Aff. in Opp. at 1-4, Ex. A. Hargrove named Nassau County Sheriff Edward Reilly ("Reilly"), NCCF and Nassau County University Medical StaffFN2 as defendants.FN3 On November 22, 2004, after discovery, County Defendants and NHCC Defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Both defendants properly filed a Local Rule 56.1 Statement and served Hargrove a Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.2.
FN1 Hargrove signed the complaint August 27, 2004. The pro se clerk's office received and filed the complaint on September 20, 2004. Under the prison mail-box rule, a pro se prisoner's complaint is deemed filed when it is delivered to prison authorities. See, e.g., Walker v. Jastremski, 430 F.3d 560, 562 (2d Cir.2005)(deeming pro se prisoner's § 1983 action filed on date complaint was handed to prison officials). There is no evidence in the record as to when Hargrove handed the complaint to prison officials. However, it is clear the operative date is between August 27, 2004 and September 20, 2004. As discussed, infra, both of these dates occur before Hargrove properly exhausted the administrative remedies available to him at NCCF.
FN2 The Nassau County University Medical Staff are employed by the Nassau Health Care Corporation ("NHCC"). Pursuant to the Correctional Center Health Services Agreement between the County of Nassau and NHCC, dated September 24, 1999, NHCC provides medical services for inmates at NCCF. County Defs.'s Not. of Motion, Decl., at 1.
FN3 Reilly and NCCF are represented separately from NHCC. Accordingly, when a distinction is necessary, Reilly and NCCF will be referred to as "County Defendants" and Nassau County University Medical Staff and NHCC will be referred to as "NHCC Defendants."
Tuberculosis Testing at NCCF
Upon entering NCCF, new prisoners must first go through medical intake. Aff. of Kim Edwards, ("Edwards Aff.") ¶ 3. This standard process usually takes seventy-two hours. Edwards Aff. ¶ 4. During medical intake, NCCF tests inmates for TB. Aff. of Getachew Feleke ("Feleke Aff.") ¶ 3. NCCF generally uses a PPD test to detect latent TB. Feleke Aff. ¶ 3. However, if an inmate has previously tested positive for TB, it is NCCF's policy to test for TB using an x-ray instead.FN4 Feleke Aff. ¶ 3. As part of its Infectious Disease Program, NCCF re-tests inmates for TB each year, beginning after they have been housed in that facility for one year. Edwards Aff. ¶ 5.
FN4 According to WebMD, "[a] tuberculin skin test should not be done for people who have a(1) Known TB infection [or a] (2) Positive tuberculin skin test in the past. A second test may cause a more severe reaction to the TB antigens." Jan Nissl, RN, BS, Tuberculin Skin Tests, WEBMD, http://www.webmd.com/hw/lab tests/hw203560.asp (last visited Jan. 31, 2007).
Hargrove's Tuberculosis Testing at NCCF
On March 15, 2002, Hargrove was incarcerated at NCCF. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 1. Before entering the general population, Hargrove was processed through medical intake. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 2. The NCCF Medical Intake Chart for Hargrove, dated March 15, 2002 ("3/15/02 Chart"), shows that Hargrove informed medical staff that he had previously been exposed to tuberculosis. NHCC Defs.' Notice of Mot., Ex. C, at 1; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 2. The 3/15/02 Chart also shows that Hargrove reported testing positive to a prior PPD test and that he had been treated for TB in 2000. NHCC Defs.' Notice of Mot., Ex. C, at 1. Hargrove alleges that he was exposed to and treated for TB in 1997. Hargrove's Aff. in Opp. to Mot. for Summary Judgment, ("Aff. in Opp."), Ex. A at 1-2. Defendants contend that Hargrove was given an x-ray during the medical intake process because of his reported positive PPD test, and that the x-ray was negative, showing no active TB infection. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 2; Edwards Aff. ¶ 3. Without specifying a date, Hargrove generally states that his "request to be x-rayed was denied." Aff. in Opp. at 3.
*2 Pursuant to NCCF's Infectious Disease Program, after being incarcerated in NCCF for a year, Hargrove was scheduled to be re-tested for TB. Edwards Aff. ¶ 5; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 4. On May 24, 2003, Hargrove was given a PPD skin test. Edwards Aff. ¶ 5; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 4. This test was negative. Edwards Aff. ¶ 5; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 4. According to Hargrove, he requested an x-ray instead of a PPD test because of his previous exposure to TB, but was forced to submit to the PPD test. He also alleges that defendants threatened to put him in "keep lock" or "lock up" unless he submitted to the PPD test.FN5 Complaint, Ex. C; Aff. in Opp. at 1-4, Ex. A.
FN5 Hargrove has made contradictory statements about being placed in "keep lock" or "lock up". It is unclear whether he is alleging that defendants threatened to place him in "lock up" unless he submitted to the PPD test or whether he was actually placed in "lock up" until such time that he agreed to submit to the PPD tests. For example, in his complaint, Hargrove states that when he "refused to submit to another [PPD] test, the Correctional Authorities were brought in and placed [him] in lock up." Complaint ¶ 4. In a hearing before Magistrate Judge Bloom on January 31, 2005, Hargrove stated that he took the PPD tests because he was told that he would be placed in "lock up" until he submitted to the test. Hr'g Tr. 6:1-18; 9:5-10:10. In Exhibit B to his complaint, Hargrove alleges both that he was given an unwarranted TB shot and that when he refused the same shot he was placed in "keep lock." Complaint, Ex. B. There is no evidence in the record that Hargrove was ever segregated from the general population while housed at NCCF, outside of the seventy-two hour initial medical intake period. Aff. of Sgt. Neumann ("Neumann Aff.") at 1-2 (referring to prison records showing Hargrove's holding locations which demonstrate that he was never placed in "lock up"); NCCF 56.1 Statement ¶ E. Whether or not Hargrove was actually placed in "lock up" is not a material fact for purposes of this motion; as explained in detail, infra, Hargrove's failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA precludes a consideration of the merits of his Section 1983 claim.
The following year, in June of 2004, Hargrove was scheduled to be retested. Edwards Aff. ¶ 6; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 15. Because of the contradiction between the negative May 2003 PPD test and his reported positive history, NCCF contacted the Infectious Disease Department of the Nassau County Medical Center. Edwards Aff. ¶ 6. It was suggested that Hargrove be given a two-step PPD test, administered fifteen days apart. Feleke Aff. ¶ 4; Edwards Aff. ¶ 6. Hargrove was given these two PPD skin tests in June 2004. Edwards Aff. ¶ 6; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 5. Again, Hargrove alleges that these tests were administered against his will and under threat of being placed in quarantine. Complaint, Exs. A, B; Aff. in Opp., Ex. A.
On December 3, 2004, Hargrove was seen by a physician's assistant. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 6. During this meeting, Hargrove complained of a dry cough and that the site on his forearm where the June 2004 PPD tests had been administered was red and swollen. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 6; 11/28/04 Sick Call Request.
Hargrove's December 18, 2004 chart notes a positive PPD test and an order was placed in the chart that Hargrove not be submitted for future PPD tests. Edwards Aff. ¶ 7; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 8. See also 11/19/2004 Grievance.
Hargrove alleges that the following physical ailments were caused by the PPD tests: chronic coughing, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, lung infection, dizzy spells, blurred vision and a permanent scar on both his forearms. Complaint, Ex. C; Aff. in Opp. at 3-4.
NCCF's Inmate Grievance Procedure
NCCF has had an inmate grievance program ("IGP") in place since 2001. Aff. of Kenneth Williams, ("Williams Aff."), at 2. NCCF's IGP is carried out in conformance with the New York State Commission of Corrections Minimum Standards and Regulations for Management of County Jails and Penitentiaries ("Minimum Standards"). Id.
The IGP is designed to resolve complaints and grievances that an inmate may have regarding the inmate's care and treatment while incarcerated at NCCF. Williams Aff. at 2. Upon entering NCCF, all inmates receive a copy of the NCCF inmate handbook, which outlines the IGP. Id.
*3 The record does not include an actual copy of NCCF's IGP, but the NCCF's IGP is detailed in the affidavit of NCCF Investigator Kenneth Williams.FN6 The IGP encourages inmates to resolve their grievances informally with the staff member assigned to the inmate housing unit first. Id. If an acceptable resolution cannot be reached, inmates must then proceed through the formal three-step process set out in the IGP. Id. at 3.
FN6 Hargrove does dispute any statements made by Investigator Williams regarding the inmate grievance procedure, time limits or its availability to him. Furthermore, Hargrove does not dispute that he received a handbook outlining the IGP.
The first step requires an inmate to submit his grievance formFN7 to the Inmate Grievance Unit by placing it in a locked box located in each housing area, "within five days of the date of the act or occurrence giving rise to the grievance."FN8 Id. at 2-3. NCCF indexes all grievance forms filed by inmates in a log book and in a computer system. Id. at 1, 3. Once a grievance form is received by the Inmate Grievance Unit, the grievance is investigated and the inmate will receive a written determination of the outcome from the Inmate Grievance Coordinator in Section II of the grievance form.FN9 Id. at 3. The inmate is then given a choice to accept or appeal the decision by checking the desired selection and signing his name in Section III of the grievance form. See, e.g., 11/19/2004 Grievance form. If the inmate is not satisfied with the decision of the Inmate Grievance Coordinator, the inmate may appeal the determination to the Chief Administrative Officer. Williams Aff. at 3. Finally, if the inmate is not satisfied with the Chief Administrative Officer's determination, the inmate may appeal to the New York State Commission of Correction Citizen's Policy and Complaint Review Council ("Council"). Id. at 3. The Council will then render a final determination. Id. at 3.
FN7 The grievance forms contain four sections to be utilized throughout all three steps of the IGP. Section I provides space for the inmate to explain his complaint and the actions he requests as relief. Section II is for the decision of the Inmate Grievance Coordinator. Section III is titled "Acceptance/Appeal of Grievance Coordinator's decision" and contains two mutually exclusive options in which the inmate must choose one or the other: "I have read and accept the Grievance Coordinator's decision, " or "I have read and appeal the Grievance Coordinator's decision." Section IV provides space for the decision of the Chief Administrative Officer.
FN8 Hargrove has not argued that he was unaware of this five-day deadline.
FN9 There is no evidence in the record specifying the how long an inmate has to appeal inaction by the Inmate Grievance Unit.
Authenticity of the Grievance Forms and Other Documents Submitted by Hargrove
In support of his allegations that he continuously informed defendants that he had been exposed to TB and, therefore, should not have been given PPD tests, Hargrove submitted three letters with his complaint, two of which were addressed to the Inmate Grievance Committee and one of which was addressed to "To whom this may concern." Complaint, Exs. A-C. He also submitted five complaint letters written to Sheriff Reilly, seventeen sick call requests and nine grievance forms during discovery and with his Affidavit in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, explaining that some of the medical records and notarized letters were "missing." Aff. in Opp, Ex. A at 2. Defendants call the authenticity of most of these documents into question, contending that Hargrove never submitted any grievance form or complaint letter before he filed his complaint. County Defs.' Mem. of Law at 16-21; County Defs.' 56.1 Statement at ¶¶ B2, C3, D3.
Kenneth Williams, an investigator at NCCF in the Inmate Grievance Unit, testified that he reviewed all of the grievance forms, complaint letters and sick call requests annexed to Hargrove's Complaint and to Hargrove's Affidavit in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Williams Aff. at 2. Williams testified that he examined the grievance records at NCCF and searched "for any grievances by plaintiff/inmate Hargrove" and found "only two."FN10 Williams Aff. at 1. The first grievance, dated November 19, 2004, complained that the medical staff continued "forcing [Hargrove] to take a T.B. shot while [he] keep[s] telling them that [he] has been exposed to T.B." 11/19/2004 Grievance; Williams Aff. at 1. In response to this grievance, Hargrove's "positive" TB status was noted in his medical records and an order was placed in Hargrove's medical chart, stating that Hargrove not be subjected to future PPD tests. 11/19/2004 Grievance, Section II; Williams Aff. at 1; NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶ 8; Edwards Aff. ¶ 7. In Section III of the 11/19/2004 Grievance, Hargrove acknowledged that he had read the Grievance Coordinator's decision, and that he chose to accept the decision instead of appealing it. 11/19/2004 Grievance. The other grievance received by the Grievance Unit, dated May 11, 2005, complained of an unrelated matter. 5/11/2005 Grievance (complaining of back problems and requesting the return of his medical shoes); Williams Aff. at 1. Thus, Williams concluded that, beside the 11/19/2004 and 5/11/2005 Grievance Forms, none of the other documents were "received by the grievance unit, and, given the locked box system, the grievance-forms were never submitted by plaintiff/inmate." Williams Aff. at 2.
FN10 It is NCCF's procedure to forward to the attention of the Grievance Unit all official grievance forms and complaint letters-even ones not specifically addressed to the Grievance Unit. Williams Aff. at 3.
*4 A visual examination of the grievance forms Hargrove submitted in support of his claims suggests forgery. Five of the nine grievance forms were requests to stop PPD testing. See April 19, 2002 grievance; April 28, 2002 grievance; April 20, 2003 grievance; April 28, 2003 grievance; November 19, 2004 grievance. The remaining grievance forms concerned Hargrove's requests for medical shoes. See March 18, 2002 grievance; July 6, 2002 grievance; February 20, 2003 grievance; May 11, 2005 grievance. Of the grievance forms complaining of unwanted PPD tests, the April 28, 2002 grievance form is a patent photocopy of the April 19, 2002 grievance form, and the April 28, 2003 grievance form is a patent photocopy copy of the April 20, 2003 grievance form, with only the handwritten dates changed. The only potentially authentic grievance forms relating to Hargrove's complaint about the PPD testing are dated April 19, 2002, April 20, 2003, and November 19, 2004. Of these grievance forms, only the November 19, 2004 has been authenticated by NCCF personnel. See generally Williams Aff. at 1-4.
Turning to the complaint letters addressed to Reilly, many contain notary stamps cut from the bottom of unrelated documents and photocopied onto the bottom of the complaint letters. See County Defs.' Mem. of Law at 18-21. C.O. Thomas McDevitt and C.O. Paul Klein, both of whom perform notary services for prisoners at NCCF, have submitted sworn affidavits, stating that they kept individual Notary Log Books covering all dates relevant to this litigation. Aff. of C.O. Klein, ("Klein Aff."), at 1; Aff. of C.O. McDevitt, ("McDevitt Aff."), at 1. McDevitt's Notary Log Book shows that he notarized only one document for Hargrove. This document, dated May 13, 2002, was a motion related to Hargrove's criminal trial. McDevitt Aff. at 1-2. Hargrove signed the Notary Log Book acknowledging receipt of that notarized motion. McDevitt Aff. at 2. McDevitt states that he never notarized any other documents for Hargrove. McDevitt Aff. at 2. However, McDevitt's stamp and signature dated May 13, 2002 (the date of the legitimate notarization) appear on Hargrove's letter to Sheriff Reilly dated May 10, 2002. County Defs.' Not. of Motion, Ex. A.
These facts repeat themselves in regard to the documents bearing the notary stamp and signature of Klein. Klein had performed several legitimate notarizations for Hargrove in connection to Hargrove's criminal trial. Klein Aff. at 1-2. Hargrove signed Klein's Notary Log Book acknowledging receipt of those notarized documents. Klein Aff. at 2. However, Klein states that he never notarized any of Hargrove's letters addressed to Sheriff Reilly that bear Klein's stamp and signature. Klein Aff. at 2. On all of the documents that Hargrove submitted bearing Klein's stamp and signature, the dates and signatures of Klein match identically to the dates on which he had performed legitimate notarizations for Hargrove in connection with his criminal trial. Defendants argue it is clear that the documents bearing the stamps and signatures of McDevitt and Klein were not actually notarized by these notaries. County Defs.' Mem. of Law at 17-22.
*5 Hargrove does not deny these allegations. Instead, he resubmits the documents that McDevitt and Klein testify they did not notarize with his Affidavit in Opposition and insists that the documents "refute[ ] the assertions put forth by the defendants." Aff. in Opp. at 2.
Summary Judgment Standard
A motion for summary judgment is granted when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A court ruling on a summary judgment motion must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Williams v. Metropolitan Detention Center, 418 F.Supp.2d 96, 100 (E.D.N.Y.2005). Defendants, the moving party in this action, bear the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Baisch v. Gallina, 346 F.3d 366, 371 (2d Cir.2003).
As Hargrove is proceeding pro se, his complaint must be reviewed carefully and liberally, and be interpreted to "raise the strongest argument it suggests, " Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir.2001), particularly when civil rights violations are alleged, see, e.g., McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir.2004). Plaintiffs complaint does not specify the legal theories upon which it relies, but, in construing his complaint to raise its strongest arguments, it will be interpreted to raise claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See, e.g., Dufort v. Burgos, No. 04-CV-4940, 2005 WL 2660384, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 18, 2005) (liberally construing plaintiffs complaint, which failed to specify the legal theory or theories upon which it rested, as, inter alia, a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 100 (same).
Prison Litigation Reform Act
a. Purpose of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
The PLRA was intended to "reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoner suits." Woodford v. Ngo, ___ U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 2387 (2006) (quoting Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)). It seeks to eliminate unwarranted interference with the administration of prisons by federal courts, and thus "affor[d] corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.'" Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2387 (quoting Porter, 534 U.S. at 525). See also Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001). Formal grievance procedures allow prison officials to reconsider their policies, implement the necessary corrections and discipline prison officials who fail to follow existing policy. See Ruggiero v. County of Orange, 467 F.3d 170, 177-78 (2d Cir.2006).
b. The Exhaustion Requirement
The PLRA's "invigorated" exhaustion provision, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), provides the mechanism to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of prisoners' suits by requiring that prison officials have the opportunity to address prisoner complaints through internal processes before allowing a case to proceed in federal court. Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2382 (citing Porter, 534 U.S. at 524). Section 1997e(a) provides that:
*6 [n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
The exhaustion requirement is a mandatory condition precedent to any suit challenging prison conditions, including suits brought under Section 1983. Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2383; Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 174; Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 100-01. The exhaustion provision is applicable to suits seeking relief, such as money damages, that may not be available in prison administrative proceedings, as long as other forms of relief are obtainable through administrative channels. Giano v. Goord, 380 F.3d 670, 675 (2d Cir.2004); see also Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2382-83 ("[A] prisoner must now exhaust administrative remedies even where the relief sought-monetary damages-cannot be granted by the administrative process.") (citing Booth, 532 U.S. at 734).
In June 2006, the Supreme Court held that the PLRA requires "proper exhaustion" before a case may proceed in federal court. Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2387. "Proper exhaustion" requires a prisoner to use "all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits).'" Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 176 (citing Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2385 (emphasis in original)). Although the level of detail necessary to properly exhaust a prison's grievance process will vary from system to system, Jones v. Bock, 127 S.Ct. 910, 2007 WL 135890, at *12 (Jan. 22, 2007), "proper exhaustion" under the PLRA "demands compliance with [that] agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules.'" Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 176 (quoting Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2386). Thus, the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is not satisfied by "untimely or otherwise procedurally defective attempts to secure administrative remedies." Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 176 (citing Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2382).
Exhaustion Analysis: Hargrove did not Exhaust the Administrative Remedies Made Available by NCCF prior to Bringing Suit
Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA applies to Hargrove's complaint; Hargrove was and continues to be confined in a correctional facility, see Berry v. Kerik, 366 F.3d 85, 87 (2d Cir.2004), and Hargrove's claim is about a "prison condition" within the meaning of the PLRA, see Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 101. See also Sloane v. W. Mazzuca, No. 04-CV-8266, 2006 WL 3096031, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 31, 2006) (recognizing PLRA's application to complaint alleging retaliation by prison officials for plaintiffs refusal to consent to a PPD test). Accordingly, the merits of Hargrove's Section 1983 claims can only be addressed if it is first determined that Hargrove properly exhausted each claim under Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA before filing his complaint in federal court.
*7 Hargrove has submitted both forgedFN11 and authentic grievance forms in opposing defendants' motions for summary judgment. Excluding, for the moment, the forged documents, NCCF's records reflect that Hargrove did not submit his first grievance until after he filed the instant complaint. Williams Aff. at 1. Hargrove's first grievance complaining of unwanted PPD testing is dated November 19, 2004, Williams Aff. at 1, two to three months after Hargrove filed his complaint. Additionally, this first grievance, dated November 19, 2004, was submitted five months after the last PPD test was administered to him in June 2004. NHCC Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶¶ 5, 6. This five-month period far exceeds the five-day window provided by NCCF's IGP. Since Hargrove failed to comply with the IGP's deadlines, he did not properly exhaust the available administrative remedies. Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 176 ("untimely or otherwise procedurally defective attempts to secure administrative remedies do not satisfy the PLRA's exhaustion requirement.'") (quoting Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2382).
FN11 Based on an examination of the documents themselves, as well as the uncontradicted testimony of the notaries performing services for prisoners at NCCF, see generally Klein Aff.; McDevitt Aff., and of the investigator in the Inmate Grievance Unit, see generally Williams Aff., it appears that many of the documents submitted by Hargrove are forgeries. However, in order to view the facts in the light most favorable to Hargrove, and so as to avoid making findings of fact in a summary judgment motion, for the purposes of the exhaustion analysis, all of the documents will be considered to be authentic. However, for purposes of the sanctions analysis, the documents will be explored and the consequences of Hargrove's misrepresentations will be addressed.
Furthermore, even if the falsified grievance forms Hargrove submitted in support of his claim are considered authentic, they are still untimely. The diagnostic TB tests (whether x-ray or PPD tests) were given to Hargrove on March 15, 2002, May 24, 2003 and in June of 2004, but the grievance forms Hargrove submitted complaining of unwanted PPD tests are dated April 19, 2002, April 28, 2002, April 20, 2003, April 28, 2003 and November 19, 2004. None of these grievances were filed "within five days of the of the date of the act or occurrence giving rise to the grievance." Williams Aff. at 3. There is no evidence in the record suggesting that NCCF's IGP allows for a tolling of the five-day time limit in which to file a grievance.FN12
FN12 Even if the submitted grievances had been filed within the proscribed time period, they only show that Hargrove's grievances reached an Inmate Grievance Coordinator, the first formal step of NCCF's three-step administrative grievance process; Hargrove never appealed to the Chief Administrative Officer. By failing to take the next available step in NCCF's IGP, Hargrove failed to satisfy the mandatory exhaustion requirement. See, e.g., Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 101, 102 (dismissing pro se complaint where plaintiff could only show he exhausted two of the four-step process mandated by prison's administrative process).
While the letters to Reilly and sick call requests show that Hargrove attempted to bring his complaints about the PPD testing to the attention of the prison staff, see, e.g., Aff. in Opp., Exs. A-D, NCCF's IGP requires use of formal grievance forms. Thus, writing complaint letters and submitting sick call requests did not properly exhaust NCCF's available administrative remedies. See, e.g., Hernandez v. Coffey, No. 99-CV-11615, 2006 WL 2109465, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 26, 2006) (holding letters did not satisfy plaintiffs exhaustion obligation); Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 101 (holding that because plaintiffs efforts to convey his medical condition through letters and conversations with the warden and medical staff did "not include the required steps of the PLRA's administrative remedy process, " plaintiff failed to exhaust); Mills v. Garvin, No. 99-CV-6032, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3333, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 2, 2001) ("letter writing is not the equivalent of an exhaustion of administrative remedies under the PLRA").
As Hargrove failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies, this action is precluded by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) unless Hargrove can establish excuse for his failure to exhaust.
No Grounds to Excuse Plaintiff's Failure to Exhaust
*8 Exhaustion is an affirmative defense that defendants have the duty to raise. Jones, 2007 WL 135890, at 8-11; Sloane, 2006 WL 3096031, at *4; Williams, 418 F.Supp.2d at 101. Once argued by the defendants, a plaintiff has an opportunity to show why the exhaustion requirement should be excused or why his failure to exhaust is justified. See Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 175; Collins v. Goord, 438 F.Supp.2d 399, 411 (S.D.N.Y.2006) ("[T]he Second Circuit has cautioned that while the PLRA's exhaustion requirement is mandatory, ' certain caveats apply.'")(internal citations omitted). Thus, before concluding that a prisoner failed to exhaust available administrative remedies as required by Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA, the following three factors must be considered: (1) whether administrative remedies were actually available to the prisoner; (2) whether defendants have either waived the defense of failure to exhaust or acted in such a way as to estop them from raising the defense; and (3) whether special circumstances, such as a reasonable misunderstanding of the grievance procedures, exist justifying the prisoner's failure to comply with the exhaustion requirement. Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 175 (citing Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 686 (2d Cir.2004)).FN13
FN13 Courts in the Second Circuit have questioned what effect, if any, the Supreme Court's recent decision in Woodford requiring "proper exhaustion" may have on the three-step Hemphill inquiry. The Second Circuit has yet to address this issue. See Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 175-76 (declining to "determine what effect Woodford has on our case law in this area... because [plaintiff] could not have prevailed even under our pre-Woodford case law). To date, district courts have acknowledged the tension, but resolved to apply Hemphill to exhaustion claims until instructed otherwise by the Second Circuit. See, e.g., Larkins v. Selsky, 04-CV-5900, 2006 WL 3548959, at *9, n. 4 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 6, 2006) (applying the current law of the Second Circuit to exhaustion claims); Sloane, 2006 WL 3096031, at *5 ("Until such time as the Court of Appeals considers the impact of Woodford, if any, on its prior rulings, this Court must follow the law of the Second Circuit. The Court will therefore apply the current law of this circuit to the exhaustion claims."); Collins v. Goord, 438 F.Supp.2d at 411 n. 13 (acknowledging that Woodford and Hemphill may be in tension, but deciding exhaustion claims under Hemphill inquiry); Hernandez v. Coffey, No. 99-CV-11615, 2006 WL 2109465, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 26, 2006) (same). Here, Hargrove does not prevail under Hemphill; therefore, there is no occasion to address the potential effect Woodford may have had in his case.
a. Whether administrative remedies were "available" to Hargrove
The first step in the Hemphill inquiry requires a court to determine whether administrative remedies were available to the prisoner. Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686. The test for assessing availability is an "objective one: that is, would a similarly situated individual of ordinary firmness have deemed them available." Id. at 688 (internal quotation marks omitted). In making this determination, "courts should be careful to look at the applicable set of grievance procedures." Abney v. McGinnis, 380 F.3d 663, 668 (2d Cir.2004). Exhaustion may be considered unavailable in situations where plaintiff is unaware of the grievance procedures or did not understand it, Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 179, or where defendants' behavior prevents plaintiff from seeking administrative remedies, FN14 Hemphill v. State of New York, 380 F.3d 680, 686 (2d Cir.2004).
FN14 Case law does not clearly distinguish between situations in which defendants' behavior renders administrative remedies "unavailable" to the plaintiff and cases in which defendants are estopped from asserting non-exhaustion as an affirmative defense because of their behavior. As such, there will be some overlap in the analyses.
Here, Hargrove has not claimed that NCCF's administrative grievance procedure was unavailable to him. In fact, Hargrove demonstrated his access to and knowledge of NCCF's IGP by filing proper grievances on November 19, 2004 and on May 10, 2005. Hargrove did not dispute any part of Investigator Williams's affidavit detailing the IGP and its availability to inmates since 2001. Specifically, Hargrove did not dispute, upon entering the facility, that he received a copy of the inmate handbook outlining the IGP. He has not claimed that he is unfamiliar with or unaware of NCCF's IGP. Hargrove has not alleged that prison officials failed to advance his grievancesFN15 or that they threatened him or took any other action which effectively rendered the administrative process unavailable.
FN15 Although not specifically alleged, interpreting the evidence to "raise the strongest argument, " Hargrove may be arguing that NCCF's IGP was not available to him because the Grievance Coordinator failed to respond to his grievances. In the single grievance regarding PPD tests that defendants concede is authentic, Hargrove writes, "[n]ow for the third time your office refused to answer my grievances so please look into this matter because the T.B. shot is [sic] effecting my health." 11/19/04 Grievance. This language implies that Hargrove filed grievances in the past and received no response from the Inmate Grievance Coordinator. Furthermore, Hargrove wrote on one of the submitted copies of the November 19, 2004 grievance that "[t]his is the only accepte[sic] that Plaintiff got back from all grievances and letters that the Plaintiff sent to Sheriff Riley and his medical staffs about his staff making [sic] take T.B. test for 3 year[s]." County Defs.' Not. of Motion, Ex. A, 11/19/2004 grievance.
First, it must be reiterated that filing of the initial grievances was untimely. However, even assuming arguendo that the original grievances had been timely filed, district courts in the Second Circuit have held that the "lack of a response from the [Inmate Grievance Review Committee] does not excuse an inmate's obligation to exhaust his remedies through available appeals."
Hernandez v. Coffey, 2006 WL 2109465, at *3-5. See also Hemphill, 380 F.3d. at 686 ("Threats or other intimidation by prison officials may well deter a prisoner of ordinary firmness' from filing an internal grievance, but not from appealing directly to individuals in positions of greater authority within the prison system"); Acosta v. Corr. Officer Dawkins, No. 04-CV-6678, 2005 WL 1668627, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 14, 2005) (inmate required to appeal lack of response to exhaust administrative remedies); Mendoza v. Goord, No. 00-CV-0146, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22573, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2002) ("If, as a result of a negligent error by prison officials-or even their deliberate attempt to sabotage a prisoner's grievance-the prisoner [does not receive a response] on his complaint, he is not thereby forestalled from appealing"). Hargrove did not assert or offer evidence suggesting that he appealed the unresponsiveness or that those appeals were not advanced.
*9 Additionally, Hargrove's transfer from NCCF to Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing") in July 2005 did not excuse his previous failure to properly exhaust. See, e.g., Sims v. Blot, No. 00-CV-2524, 2003 WL 21738766, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 25, 2003) (determining that failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not excused by transfer to another facility); Santiago v. Meinsen, 89 F.Supp.2d 435, 440-41 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (determining that plaintiff should not be "rewarded" for failing to participate in grievance procedure before being transferred). Hargrove had ample opportunity to properly file his grievances and to appeal their results as required by NCCF's procedures while he was imprisoned at NCCF. The last PPD test Hargrove complains of was given in 2004; therefore, Hargrove had until June or July of 2004 to timely file his grievance in accordance with NCCF's IGP. Hargrove was not transferred to Sing Sing until July 2005. County Defs.' Mem. of Law at 2. Thus, Hargrove's transfer cannot excuse his previous failure to properly exhaust.
The second step of the inquiry asks whether defendants are estopped from raising exhaustion as a defense. Specifically, "whether the defendants may have forfeited the affirmative defense of non-exhaustion by failing to raise or preserve it, or whether the defendants' own actions inhibiting the inmate's exhaustion of remedies may estop one or more of the defendants from raising the plaintiffs failure to exhaust as a defense." Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 686 (internal citations omitted).
Here, Hargrove has not made any statements that would permit a finding that defendants should be estopped from raising the affirmative defense of exhaustion or that defendants waived the right to raise the defense. Defendants first raised the PLRA's exhaustion requirement as an affirmative defense in their respective answers. See County Defs.' Am. Answer at 3; NHCC Defs.' Answer at 1. County Defendants raised it again in their motion for summary judgment. See County Defs.' Mem of Law at 15-23. Thus, defendants are not estopped from raising the affirmative defense now. See, e.g., Sloane, 2006 WL 3096031, at *8 (exhaustion defense not waived where defendants first raised it in their motion to dismiss).
Additionally, defendants have not threatened Hargrove or engaged in other conduct preventing him from exhausting the available administrative remedies. Cf. Ziemba v. Wezner, 366 F.3d 161, 162 (2d Cir.2004) (holding defendants were estopped from asserting non-exhaustion because of prison officials' beatings, threats and other conduct inhibiting the inmate from filing proper grievances); Feliciano v. Goord, No. 97-CV-263, 1998 WL 436358, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 27, 1998) (holding defendants were estopped from asserting non-exhaustion where prison officials refused to provide inmate with grievance forms, assured him that the incidents would be investigated by staff as a prerequisite to filing a grievance, and provided prisoner with no information about results of investigation). Hargrove has not argued otherwise. See Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 178 (holding defendants were not estopped from asserting a failure to exhaust defense where plaintiff pointed to no affirmative act by prison officials that would have prevented him from pursing administrative remedies); Sloane, 2006 WL 3096031, at *8 (finding no estoppel where plaintiff did not argue that defendants prevented him from pursuing the available administrative remedies); Hernandez, 2006 WL 2109465, at *4 (finding no estoppel where plaintiff did not argue that any threats or intimidation prevented him from pursuing his appeals). Thus, for the same reasons that administrative remedies were not deemed unavailable to Hargrove, defendants are not estopped from raising a failure to exhaust defense.
c. Special circumstances
*10 Even where administrative remedies are available and the defendants are not estopped from arguing exhaustion, the court must "consider whether special circumstances' have been plausibly alleged that justify the prisoner's failure to comply with administrative procedural requirements.'" Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 688 (quoting Giano, 380 F.3d at 676). For example, plaintiff's reasonable interpretation of regulations differing from prison official's interpretation has been held to constitute a "special circumstance." Giano, 380 F.3d at 676-77. No special circumstances have been alleged that would excuse Hargrove from availing himself of administrative remedies. See Sloane, 2006 WL 3096031, at *8; Freeman v. Goord, No. 02-CV-9033, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23873, at * 9-10 (S.D.N.Y.2004) (granting motion to dismiss where "there is no evidence in the record... of any special circumstances' in this action.")
Hargrove's Failure to Exhaust, in Addition to his Fraud on the Court, Warrants Dismissal with Prejudice
Hargrove has not sufficiently rebutted the defendants' assertion of failure to exhaust, and a liberal reading of his submissions does not reveal any grounds to excuse that failure.
Because Hargrove filed a complaint in federal court before filing a grievance, permitting his unexhausted and unexcused claim to proceed would undercut one of the goals of the exhaustion doctrine by allowing NCCF to be haled into federal court without the "opportunity to correct its own mistakes with respect to the programs it administers." Woodford, 126 S.Ct. at 2385. See also Ruggiero, 467 F.3d at 178 (citing Porter, 534 U.S. at 525). Thus, his complaint must be dismissed.
In general, dismissal without prejudice is appropriate where plaintiff has failed to exhaust but the time permitted for pursuing administrative remedies has not expired. Berry v. Kerik, 366 F.3d 85, 87 (2d Cir.2004). Dismissal with prejudice is appropriate where "administrative remedies have become unavailable after the prisoner had ample opportunity to use them and no special circumstances justified failure to exhaust." Berry, 366 F.3d at 88. Here, Hargrove's administrative remedies were available to him during his entire period of confinement at NCCF. He remained incarcerated in NCCF throughout the time period in which he alleges the PPD tests were given. He could have exhausted remedies for his grievances at any time. Therefore, Hargrove had ample opportunity to seek administrative remedies but failed to do so. Because there is no evidence in the record that administrative remedies are still available to Hargrove, as the five-day time period had run, and because Hargrove has alleged no special circumstances justifying his failure to exhaust, his complaint is accordingly dismissed with prejudice. Berry, 366 F.3d at 88 (upholding dismissal with prejudice where plaintiff had no justification for his failure to pursue administrative remedies while they were available.)
*11 Additionally, defendants' have moved for sanctions based on Hargrove's alleged submission of falsified evidence. If a party commits a fraud on the court, the court has the inherent power to do whatever is reasonably necessary to deter abuse of the judicial process. Shangold v. The Walt Disney Co., No. 03-CV-9522, 2006 WL 71672, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. January 12, 2006) (citing Chambers v. MASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991)). Fraud upon the court has been defined as "fraud which seriously affects the integrity of the normal process of adjudication." Gleason v. Jandrucko, 860 F.2d 556, 559 (2d Cir.1988); McMunn v. Mem? Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 191 F.Supp.2d 440, 445 (S.D.N.Y.2002). In order for a court to grant sanctions based upon fraud, it must be established by clear and convincing evidence that a party has "sentiently set in motion some unconscionable scheme calculated to interfere with the judicial system's ability impartially to adjudicate a matter by... unfairly hampering the presentation of the opposing party's claim or defense." McMunn, 191 F.Supp.2d at 455 (quoting Aoude v. Mobil Oil Corp., 892 F.2d 1115, 1119 (1st Cir.1989).
After carefully reviewing the allegedly fraudulent documents, it must be concluded that Hargrove consciously falsified these documents. See, e.g., Shangold, 2006 WL 71672, at *1, *3 (finding clear and convincing evidence of fraud where plaintiffs fabricated a timeline and plot outlines to advance their claims); McMunn, 191 F.Supp.2d at 446 (finding clear and convincing evidence of fraud where plaintiff edited audio tapes and represented that they were unedited during discovery). The notaries performing services for prisoners at NCCF testify that they never notarized many of the documents supplied by Hargrove. See Klein Aff.; McDevitt Aff. Furthermore, a visual examination of the documents themselves makes it clear that many of the documents submitted by Hargrove are forgeries.
In considering what sanction to impose, courts consider the following five factors: (i) whether the misconduct was the product of intentional bad faith; (ii) whether and to what extent the misconduct prejudiced the plaintiffs; (iii) whether there was a pattern of misbehavior rather than an isolated instance; (iv) whether and when the misconduct was corrected; and (v) whether further misconduct is likely to occur in the future. Scholastic, Inc. v. Stouffer, 221 F.Supp.2d 425, 444 (S.D.N.Y.2002) (citing McMunn, 191 F.Supp.2d at 461).
Here, Hargrove's deception was not an isolated instance; he fabricated the dates on many grievance forms, in addition to improperly duplicating notary stamps on complaint letters to make them look authentic. Klein Aff. at 2; McDevitt Aff. at 2; County Defs.' 56.1 Statement ¶¶ C3, D3. He submitted these forgeries to defendants during discovery and again as exhibits to his Affidavit in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. A severe sanction is warranted as Hargrove's forgeries were intentional, he never corrected them once their authenticity was challenged and he continues to insist on their veracity. Aff. in Opp. at 1-4. Given that there is clear and convincing evidence that Hargrove has continuously and consciously perpetrated a fraud on the court through his submission of fraudulent documents and sworn affirmations of those documents' authenticity, dismissal with prejudice is especially appropriate. See, e.g., Shangold, 2006 WL 71672, at *5 (dismissing with prejudice where plaintiffs fabricated evidence to advance their claims); Scholastic, 221 F.Supp.2d at 439-444 (dismissing with prejudice where plaintiff produced seven pieces of falsified evidence); McMunn, 191 F.Supp.2d at 445 (dismissing with prejudice where plaintiff "lie[d] to the court and his adversary intentionally, repeatedly, and about issues that are central to the truth-finding process").
*12 Because Hargrove did not satisfy the exhaustion requirement under the PLRA, defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted. Further, considering the fraud Hargrove perpetrated on the court, the claims are dismissed against all defendants with prejudice. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case.
James Pettus, Comstock, NY, pro se.
Charles J. Quackenbush, New York State Attorney General, The Capitol Albany, NY, for Defendants.
DECISION and ORDER
THOMAS J. McAVOY, Senior District Judge.
*1 Plaintiff commenced the instant action asserting various violations of his constitutional rights arising out of his placement at the Southport Correctional Facility. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was improperly sent to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at a maximum security facility and that being in SHU has put his life in jeopardy. Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
FN1 The following facts are taken from Defendants' statement of material facts submitted pursuant to N.D.N.Y.L.R. 7.1(a)(3). These facts are deemed admitted because they are supported by the record evidence and Plaintiff failed to submit an opposing statement of material facts as required by Rule 7.1(a)(3). Plaintiff was specifically advised by Defendants of his obligation to file an opposing statement of material facts and to otherwise properly respond to the motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Plaintiff signed the instant Complaint on April 7, 2004. On his Complaint form, Plaintiff indicated that there is a grievance procedure available to him and that he availed himself of the grievance procedure by filing a complaint with the IGRCFN2, followed by an appeal to the superintendent of the facility, and then to the Central Office Review Committee in Albany. The Complaint indicates that Plaintiff is "waiting for response from Albany." The Complaint was filed on April 27, 2004.
FN2 Inmate Grievance Review Committee.
On April 12, 2004, prior to the filing of the instant Complaint, Plaintiff filed a grievance relating to the issues presented in this case. On April 19, 2004, the IGRC recommended that Plaintiffs grievance be denied. Plaintiff then appealed that decision to the facility Superintendent. In the meantime, on April 27, Plaintiff commenced the instant litigation. On May 3, 2004, after Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case, the Superintendent denied Plaintiffs grievance. On May 5, 2004, Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Central Office Review Committee in Albany. On June 23, 2004, the Central Office Review Committee denied Plaintiffs appeal. Plaintiff did not file any other grievances in connection with the matters raised in this lawsuit.
Defendants now move to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiff commenced the instant action before fully exhausting his available administrative remedies.
The sole issue presented is whether Plaintiff was required to complete the administrative process before commencing this litigation. This issue has already been addressed by the Second Circuit in Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116 (2d Cir.2001). The issue in that case was "whether plaintiff's complaint should have been dismissed despite his having exhausted at least some claims during the pendency of his lawsuit." Id. at 121. The Second Circuit held that "exhausting administrative remedies after a complaint is filed will not save a case from dismissal." Id.
In this case, Defendants have established from a legally sufficient source that an administrative remedy is available and applicable. Mojias v. Johnson, 351 F.3d 606, 610 (2d Cir.2003); see also 7. N.Y.C.R.R. § 701.1, et seq. Plaintiff's Complaint concerns his placement in SHU at a maximum security facility. These are matters that fall within the grievance procedure available to NYSDOCS inmates and are required to be exhausted under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any applicable exception to the exhaustion requirement. Because Plaintiff commenced the instant litigation prior to fully completing the administrative review process, the instant Complaint must be dismissed without prejudice. Neal, 267 F.3d 116.
*2 For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and the Complaint is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. The Clerk of the Court shall close the file in this matter.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
*1 This § 1983 action was originally commenced by the plaintiff, FN1 a prisoner in New York State custody, and his wife claiming their civil rights were violated during the wife's visit with plaintiff at the correctional facility. Discovery in this matter has concluded. Previously, all claims asserted by plaintiff's wife were dismissed for failure to prosecute. Additionally, defendants' summary judgment motion was denied with respect to plaintiff's claims of excessive force, FN2 and summary judgment was granted dismissing all of plaintiff's other claims. Defendants now seek to dismiss the remaining excessive force claims on the grounds they are barred by the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), as plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.
FN1 Plaintiff and his wife were proceeding pro se when they filed the complaint and amended complaint. Thereafter, plaintiff obtained legal representation.
FN2 In the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges he was beaten, kicked and punched. (Am. Compl. § 6). In his original complaint, he had also claimed that he was whipped." (Compl. at 7, 8). Plaintiff testified at his deposition that he was slapped once in the face, punched about four or five times in the lower back, and a correctional officer then laid on top of him. (Mingues Dep. at 78-81). The incident, which took approximately thirty to forty seconds, caused plaintiff to suffer from back pain for an unspecified period of time. ( Id. at 81, 86).
Subdivision (a) of § 1997e provides, "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." This provision became effective on April 26, 1996. Blisset v. Casey, 147 F.3d 218, 219 (2d Cir.1998). The PLRA's exhaustion requirement does not apply retroactively to actions pending when the Act was signed into law. Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 291 (2d Cir.2003).
There is no dispute that plaintiff did not avail himself of the existing and available prison grievance procedure. Plaintiff, however, argues he was not required to exhaust his administrative remedies because, as alleged in his amended complaint, "petitioners (sic) had already filed in April 10-12 of 1996, " prior to the PLRA's April 26, 1996 enactment date.FN3 (Am.Compl. § 2). In order to determine the date that the instant action was commenced, the date of the filing of the amended complaint relates back to the filing date of the original complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c). The original complaint was signed and dated by plaintiff's wife on May 8, 1996; it was stamped received by the Pro Se Office on May 10, 1996; and plaintiff's signature is dated May 13, 1996.FN4
FN3 The amended complaint reads as follows:
That the original complaint filed under and pursuant to Title 42 section 1983 and 1985 was made and submitted before this court in April of 1996, before the application of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act of 1996 was signed into law. The Act was signed into law April 26, 1996 and petitioners had already filed in April 10-12 of 1996. (Am.Compl. § 2).
FN4 Plaintiff's wife application for in forma pauperis relief was signed and dated May 8, 1996, and it is stamped as received by the Pro Se Office on May 10, 1996. Plaintiff's signature, on his initial application for appointment of counsel, is dated May 13, 1996, and it is stamped as received by the Pro Se Office on May 10, 1996. Attached to plaintiff's application, is his signed Affirmation of Service, also dated May 13, 1996, wherein plaintiff declared under penalty of perjury that he served his application upon the Pro Se Office. Plaintiff alleges that "between April 17, 1996 until October 7, 1996, " all visitation was suspended between him and his wife and that their "only form of communications was correspondence." (Am.Compl. § 7).
The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Pitman for a Report and Recommendation ("Report"). Although the magistrate judge found that the three earliest possible dates that the evidence demonstrates the complaint could have been filed, i.e., May 8th, 10th, and 13th of 1996, were all beyond the PLRA enactment date, he nevertheless recommended that the motion to dismiss be denied based on plaintiff's allegation in the amended complaint that he filed the original complaint April 10-12 of 1996, prior to the April 26, 1996 enactment date. The magistrate judge found that, "[i]n light of the express allegation in the before April 26, 1996 and the absence of a clear record to the contrary, the requirement that disputed factual issues Amended Complaint that plaintiff commenced the action be resolved in plaintiff's favor for purposes of this motion requires that the motion be denied." (Report at 12-13).
*2 Defendants object to the Report's conclusion that there is a material issue of fact regarding the date the action was filed. Plaintiff's attorney did not file any objections.FN5 The Court must make a de novo determination as to those portions of the Report to which there are objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). It is not required that the Court conduct a de novo hearing on the matter. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980). Rather, it is sufficient that the Court "arrive at its own, independent conclusion" regarding those portions to which the objections were made. Nelson v. Smith, 618 F.Supp. 1186, 1189-90 (S.D.N.Y.1985) (quoting Hernandez v. Estelle, 711 F.2d 619, 620 (5th Cir.1983)). Accordingly, the Court, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, must determine the extent, if any, it should rely upon the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 676. The Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations set forth within the Report. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). Where there are no objections, the Court may accept the Report provided there is no clear error on the face of the record. Nelson v. Smith, 618 F.Supp. at 1189; see also Heisler v. Kralik, 981 F.Supp. 830, 840 (S.D.N.Y.1997), aff'd sub nom. Heisler v. Rockland County, 164 F.3d 618 (2d Cir.1998).
FN5 Plaintiff himself filed objections which was not adopted by his counsel. Plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's finding that an issue exists as to when plaintiff filed the complaint because plaintiff asserts he gave it to prison officials to be mailed in April. Additionally, plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's suggestion that the defendants convert their motion to one for summary judgment asserting the same theory as set forth in the present motion. Since this Court finds that the instant motion is meritorious, the propriety of plaintiff personally submitting his own objections need not be address as those objections are moot.
Upon a de novo review, the Report's recommendation that the motion be denied is rejected by the Court. Section 1997e (a) requires that inmates exhaust all available administrative remedies prior to the commencement of a § 1983 action concerning prison conditions, and failure to do so warrants dismissal of the action. Porter v. Nussel, 534 U.S. 516, 122 S.Ct. 983, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002); Scott, 344 F.3d at 290. The exhaustion of one's administrative remedies, however, is not a jurisdictional requirement under the PLRA. Richardson v. Goord, 347 F.3d 431 (2d Cir.2003). A defendant may assert a FN6. In response to then Chief Judge Thomas P. non-exhaustion claim as an affirmative defense. Jenkins v. Griesa's 1996 order dismissing this action, Haubert, 179 F.3d 19, 28-29 (2d Cir.1999). Since it is an plaintiff filed an Application for affirmative defense, defendants bear the burden of proof Reconsideration, dated October 28, 1996, in this regard. See, McCoy v. Goord, 255 F.Supp.2d 233, wherein he claims that "on April 12, 1996 this 248 (S.D.N.Y.2003); Arnold v. Goetz, 245 F.Supp.2d 527, petitioner filed a 1983 civil suit..." (Pl.'s Mot. 534-35 (S.D.N.Y.2003); Reyes v. Punzal , 206 F.Supp.2d for Recons. at 1). 431, 433 (W.D.N.Y.2002). A motion to dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), is an appropriate vehicle to be used by a defendant where the failure to exhaust is clear *3 Plaintiff fails to allege any factual basis in support of from the face of the complaint as well as any written his claim that he filed the initial complaint between April instrument attached as an exhibit and any statements or 10-12, 1996. The Court is not required to accept this documents incorporated by reference into the complaint. statement as a well-pleaded factual allegation in light of See, Scott v. Gardner, 287 F.Supp.2d 477, 485 the existing record which clearly demonstrates that such an (S.D.N.Y.2003) (citation omitted); McCoy, 255 F.Supp.2d allegation is not only factually unsupported by the clear at 249. evidence, but is factually impossible. Generally, an
In the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges, in a conclusory manner, that he filed the original complaint before the effective date of the PLRA, sometime between April 10th and April 12th of 1996.FN6 On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inference in plaintiff's favor. Resnick v. Swartz, 303 F.3d 147, 150-51 (2d Cir.2002) (citation omitted); Bolt Elec., Inc. v. City of New York, 53 F.3d 465, 469 (2d Cir.1995). Dismissal is only warranted where it appears without doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts supporting his claims that would entitle him to relief. Harris v. City of New York, 186 F.3d 243, 247 (2d Cir.1999). The court's consideration is not limiting solely to the factual allegations set forth in the amended complaint. Rather, the court may also consider documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated in it by reference, matters of which judicial notice may be taken, or to documents either in plaintiff's possession or of which he has knowledge of and relied on in bringing the action. Brass v. American Film Technologies, Inc., 987 F.2d 142, 150 (2d Cir.1993) (citation omitted). The court is not bound to accept as true a conclusory allegation where the pleadings are devoid of any specific facts or circumstances supporting such an assertion. DeJesus v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., Inc., 87 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir.1996). Nor must the court "ignore any facts alleged in the complaint that undermine the plaintiff's claim." Roots Partnership v. Lands' End, Inc., 965 F.2d 1411, 1416 (7th Cir.1992) (citation omitted).
FN6 In response to then Chief Judge Thomas P. Griesa's 1996 order dismissing this action, plaintiff filed an Application for Reconsideration, dated October 28, 1996, wherein he claims that "on April 12, 1996 this petitioner filed a 1983 civil suit..." (Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. at 1).
*3 Plaintiff fails to allege any factual basis in support of his claim that he filed the initial complaint between April 10-12, 1996. The Court is not required to accept this statement as a well-pleaded factual allegation in light of the existing record which clearly demonstrates that such an allegation is not only factually unsupported by the clear evidence, but is factually impossible. Generally, an amended complaint supersedes the original complaint, and renders it of no legal effect. In re. Crysen/Montenay Energy Co., 226 F.3d 160, 162 (2d Cir.2000). In plaintiffs amended complaint, he states that he is submitting the amended complaint in support of his original complaint. Hence, the original complaint is incorporated by reference in the amended complaint, and may be considered by the Court. Even if the initial complaint was not so incorporated, given the circumstances of this case, the Court would nevertheless consider it as it relates to the original date of filing. An examination of the initial complaint itself, on its face, unequivocally demonstrates that plaintiff's subsequent allegation in his amended complaint that he filed the complaint between April 10th and 12th of 1996 is patently false.
The original complaint refers to plaintiff's prison disciplinary hearing arising out of the same incident forming the basis of the present lawsuit. Generally, the disciplinary charges against plaintiff were in connection with an alleged conspiracy by him and his wife to commit grand larceny against inmate Robert Cornell. That hearing began on April 16, 1996, and concluded on April 19, 1996. (Defs.' Notice of Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. N, Transcript of Disciplinary Hr'g, conducted on April 16, 18-19, 1996). Specifically, in the original complaint, plaintiff refers to the testimony given by this fellow inmate.FN7 (Compl. at 8). That inmate testified on April 19th. (Hr'g. Tr. at 53-54, 57). Thus, plaintiff's claim that he filed the complaint between April 10-12, 1996, is absolutely impossible as the initial complaint refers to events occurring after that time period. Merely because plaintiff boldly alleges in his amended complaint that he filed the original complaint between April 10th and 12th does not require this Court to turn a blind eye to plaintiff's prior pleadings demonstrating the absurdity of his claim.FN8 See, Silva Run Worlwide Ltd. v. Gaming Lottery Corp., 2001 WL 396521, *1 (S.D.N.Y. April 19, 2001) (citations omitted) (A court should not "accept allegations that are contradicted or undermined by other more specific allegations in the complaint or by written materials properly before the court.").
FN7 In the complaint, plaintiff alleges "that at his S.H.U. hearing petitioner called as a witness Robert Cornell who stated that this petitioner Mingues nor his wife (co-petitioner) Narvaez ever took any money from him. (Compl. at 8).
FN8 At his deposition, plaintiff testified that he filed the initial complaint "[approximately around June of 1996." (Mingues Dep. at 37-38).
Lawsuits by inmates represented by counsel are commenced when the complaint is filed with the court. See, Fed.R.Civ.P. 3, 5(e). For pro se litigants, who are not imprisoned and have been granted in forum pauperis relief, their complaints are deemed filed when received by the Pro Se Office. See, Toliver v. County of Sullivan, 841 F.2d 41 (2d Cir.1998). The complaint of a pro se prisoner, however, is deemed filed when he or she gives the complaint to prisoner officials to be mailed. Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270, 108 S.Ct. 2379, 101 L.Ed.2d 245 (1988); Dory v. Ryan, 999 F.2d 679, 682 (2d Cir.1993), modified on other grounds, 25 F.3d 81 (2d Cir.1994). The "prison mailbox" rule is designed to combat inmate litigants' dependence on the prison facility's mail system and their lack of counsel so as to assure the timely filing of their legal papers with the court. Noble v. Kelly, 246 F.3d 93, 97 (2d Cir.2001) (citations omitted). Given the difficulty in determining when a prisoner relinquishes control of the complaint to prison personnel, the date the plaintiff signed the original complaint is presumed to be the date plaintiff gave the complaint to prison officials to be mailed. See e.g., Forster v. Bigger, 2003 WL 22299326, *2 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.7, 2003); Hosendove v. Myers, 2003 WL 22216809, *2 (D.Conn. Sept.19, 2003); Hayes v. N.Y.S. D.O.C. Officers, 1998 WL 901730, *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec.28, 1998); Torres v. Irvin, 33 F.Supp.2d 257, 270 (S.D.N.Y.1998) (cases cited therein).
*4 In response to the Report and Recommendation, plaintiff asserts that, in April, the original complaint "was placed in the facility mail box." (Pl.'s Objection to Report at 1). However, it is uncontested that plaintiff's wife signed the complaint on May 8th; it was received by the Pro Se Office on May 10 th; and plaintiff's signature is dated May 13th. There is no explanation offered that could reasonably support and account for the existence of these May dates on a complaint which plaintiff falsely claims to have deposited to be mailed during the period of April 10th and April 12th. Had plaintiff mailed the complaint directly to the court prior to April 26th, it would have been impossible for the plaintiff's wife to have signed the document two days prior to the date that the Pro Se Office stamped it received on May 10th.FN9 Moreover, absent evidence to the contrary, applying the mailbox rule would presume that plaintiff gave his complaint to prison officials on May 13, 1996, the date he signed it. See, Johnson v. Coombe, 156 F.Supp.2d 273, 277 (S.D.N.Y.2001) (quoting Torres, 33 F.Supp.2d at 270). Even if the Court gave plaintiff the benefit of the date plaintiff's wife signed the complaint, i.e., the earliest date reflected on the filed complaint, it was still after the effective date of the PLRA. Hence, plaintiff is legally obligated to have pursued his prison grievance procedures prior to filing the instant action. The plaintiff has offered no explanation for the initial complaint's reference to events that occurred after the date he claims he filed it, the two May dates on which he and his former co-plaintiff wife signed the complaint, or the May date stamped received by the Pro Se Office. As the magistrate Judge observed:
FN9 The benefit of the mailbox rule does not apply where the plaintiff delivers the complaint to someone outside the prison system to forward to the court. Knickerbocker v. Artuz, 271 F.3d 35, 37 (2d Cir.2001).
Apart from the allegation that certain events giving rise to the claims occurred on April 9, 1996, the Original Complaint contains no mention of dates in April, 1996. Mingues no where explains the contradiction between the signature dates on the Original Complaint and the allegations contained in Amended Complaint. (Report at 12).
New York state law provides a three tier grievance procedure applicable to plaintiffs claims of excessive force. See, N.Y. Correct. Law § 139 (McKinnney's 2003); N.Y. Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, § 701.7 (2003); Mendoz v. Goord, 2002 WL 31654855 (S.D.N.Y.Nov.21, 2002); Rodriguez v. Hahn, 209 F.Supp.2d 344 (S.D.N.Y.2002). Plaintiff has not denied knowledge of the grievance procedure at his institution, nor claimed that anything or anyone caused him not to file a grievance and completely pursue it through the administrative process.FN10 The magistrate judge's determination that the defendants' Rule 12(b) motion should be denied because of an "absence of a clear record" contrary to plaintiffs express allegation in the amended complaint that he commenced the action before April 26, 1996 is erroneous. The Court could have sua sponte dismiss this action as the record is unmistakably clear that an appropriate administrative procedure was available to him, that he was required to exhaust his administrative remedies, and that he failed to do so as required by the PLRA. See, Mojias v. Johnson, 351 F.3d 606 (2003); Snider v. Melindez, 199 F.3d 108, 112-13 (2d Cir.1999). In this case, plaintiff has been afforded notice and given an opportunity to respond to the exhaustion issue and his failure remains clear.
FN10 In the original complaint, plaintiff stated he did not file a grievance, pursuant to the state's prisoner grievance procedure, "because this matter can not be dealt with by interdepartmental grievances." (Compl. at 2-3). In plaintiff's attorney's memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss, counsel contends that plaintiff is not required to file a grievance because the state's prison system provides extremely limited administrative remedies and money damages, which plaintiff seeks, are not available.
*5 Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation is not adopted; and it is further
ORDERED that the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is granted.
James Murray, Malone, NY, pro se.
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General of the State of New York, James Seaman, Esq., Asst. Attorney General, of Counsel, Albany, NY, for Defendants.
DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.
*1 Plaintiff, James Murray, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In a 51 page Report Recommendation dated February 11, 2008, the Honorable George H. Lowe, United States Magistrate Judge, recommended that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part (i.e., to the extent that it requests the dismissal with prejudice of plaintiff's claims against defendant Paolano and Nesmith); and denied in part (i.e., to the extent that it requests dismissal of plaintiff's claims against the remaining defendants on the grounds of plaintiff's failure to exhaust available administrative remedies) for the reasons stated in the Report Recommendation. Lengthy objections to the Report Recommendation have been filed by the plaintiff.
Based upon a de novo review of the portions of the Report-Recommendation to which the plaintiff has objected, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted. See 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1).
Accordingly, it is
1. D efendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part;
2. Plaintiff's complaint against defendants Paolano and Nesmith is DISMISSED with prejudice;
3. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED, to the extent that their request for dismissal of plaintiff's assault claims under the Eighth Amendment against the remaining defendants on the grounds of plaintiff's failure to exhaust available administrative remedies as stated in the Report-Recommendation.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
ORDER and REPORT-RECOMMENDATION
GEORGE H. LOWE, United States Magistrate Judge.
This pro se prisoner civil rights action, commenced pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, has been referred to me for Report and Recommendation by the Honorable David N. Hurd, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c). Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 78.) For the reasons that follow, I recommend that Defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part.
A. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
In his Second Amended Complaint, James Murray ("Plaintiff") alleges that nine correctional officials and health care providers employed by the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") at Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow C.F.") violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment on August 17, 2000, when (1) Defendants Palmers, Griffin, Terry, and Englese assaulted him without provocation while he was incapacitated by mechanical restraints, (2) Defendants Edwards, Bump, and Smith witnessed, but did not stop, the assault, and (3) Defendants Paolano and Nesmith failed to examine and treat him following the assault despite his complaints of having a broken wrist. (Dkt. No. 10, 1H 6-7 [Plf.'s Second Am. Compl.].)
B. Defendants' Counterclaim
*2 In their Answer to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, three of the nine Defendants (Palmer, Griffin and Terry) assert a counterclaim against Defendant for personal injuries they sustained as a result of Plaintiffs assault and battery upon them during the physical struggle that ensued between them and Plaintiff due to his threatening and violent behavior on August 17, 2000, at Great Meadow C.F. (Dkt. No. 35, Part 1, 23-30 [Defs.' Answer & Counterclaim].)
I note that the docket in this action inaccurately indicates that this Counterclaim is asserted also on behalf of Defendants Englese, Edwards, Bump, Smith, Paolano, and "Nejwith" (later identified as "Nesmith"). ( See Caption of Docket Sheet.) As a result, at the end of this Report-Recommendation, I direct the Clerk's Office to correct the docket sheet to remove the names of those individuals as "counter claimants" on the docket.
I note also that, while such counterclaims are unusual in prisoner civil rights cases (due to the fact that prisoners are often "judgment proof" since they are without funds), Plaintiff paid the $150 filing fee in this action (Dkt. No. 1), and, in his Second Amended Complaint, he alleges that he received a settlement payment in another prisoner civil rights actions in 2002. (Dkt. No. 10, *\ 10 [Plf.'s Second Am. Compl.].) Further investigation reveals that the settlement resulted in a payment of $20, 000 to Plaintiff. See Murray v. Westchester County Jail, 98-CV-0959 (S.D.N.Y.) (settled for $20, 000 in 2002).
II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION AND PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE
A. Defendants' Motion
In their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed for four reasons: (1) Plaintiff has failed to adduce any evidence establishing that Defendant Paolano, a supervisor, was personally involved in any of the constitutional violations alleged; (2) Plaintiff has failed to adduce any evidence establishing that Defendant Nesmith was deliberately indifferent to any of Plaintiff's serious medical needs; (3) at the very least, Defendant Nesmith is protected from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity, as a matter of law; and (4) Plaintiff has failed to adduce any evidence establishing that he exhausted his available administrative remedies with respect to his assault claim, before filing that claim in federal court. (Dkt. No. 78, Part 13, at 2, 4-13 [Defs.' Mem. of Law].)
In addition, Defendants argue that, during his deposition in this action, Plaintiff asserted, for the first time, a claim that the medical staff at Great Meadow C.F. violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to honor non-life-sustaining medical prescriptions written at a former facility. ( Id. at 3.) As a threshold matter, Defendants argue, this claim should be dismissed since Plaintiff never included the claim in his Second Amended Complaint, nor did Plaintiff ever file a motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. ( Id. ) In any event, Defendants argue, even if the Court were to reach the merits of this claim, the Court should dismiss the claim because Plaintiff has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting, or adduce evidence establishing, that Defendants were personally involved in the creation or implementation of DOCS' prescription-review policy, nor has Plaintiff provided such allegations or evidence indicating the policy is even unconstitutional. ( Id. )
*3 Defendants' motion is accompanied by a Statement of Material Facts, submitted in accordance with Local Rule 7.1(a)(3) ("Rule 7.1 Statement"). (Dkt. No. 78, Part 12.) Each of the 40 paragraphs contained in Defendants' Rule 7.1 Statement is supported by an accurate citation to the record evidence. ( Id. ) It is worth mentioning that the record evidence consists of (1) the affirmations of Defendants Nesmith and Paolano, and exhibits thereto, (2) the affirmation of the Inmate Grievance Program Director for DOCS, and exhibits thereto, (3) affirmation of the Legal Liaison between Great Meadow C.F. and the New York State Attorney General's Office during the time in question, and exhibits thereto, and (4) a 155-page excerpt from Plaintiffs deposition transcript. (Dkt. No. 78.)
B. Plaintiff's Response
After being specifically notified of the consequences of failing to properly respond to Defendants' motion ( see Dkt. No. 78, Part 1), and after being granted three extensions of the deadline by which to do so ( see Dkt. Nos. 79, 80, 83), Plaintiff submitted a barrage of documents: (1) 49 pages of exhibits, which are attached to neither an affidavit nor a memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 84); (2) 113 pages of exhibits, attached to a 25-page affidavit (Dkt. No. 85); (3) 21 pages of exhibits, attached to a 12-page supplemental affidavit (Dkt. No. 86); and (4) a 29-page memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 86); and a 13-page supplemental memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 88).
Generally in his Memorandum of Law and Supplemental Memorandum of Law, Plaintiff responds to the legal arguments advanced by Defendants. ( See Dkt. No. 86, Plf.'s Memo. of Law [responding to Defs.' exhaustion argument]; Dkt. No. 88, at 7-13 [Plf.'s Supp. Memo. of Law, responding to Defs.' arguments regarding the personal involvement of Defendant Paolano, the lack of evidence supporting a deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Nesmith, the applicability of the qualified immunity defense with regard to Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Nesmith, and the sufficiency and timing of Plaintiff's prescription-review claim against Defendant Paolano].) Those responses are described below in Part IV of this Report-Recommendation.
However, unfortunately, not among the numerous documents that Plaintiff has provided is a proper response to Defendants' Rule 7.1 Statement. ( See Dkt. No. 85, Part 2, at 45-52 [Ex. N to Plf.'s Affid.].) Specifically, Plaintiff's Rule 7.1 Response (which is buried in a pile of exhibits) fails, with very few exceptions, to "set forth... specific citation[s] to the record, " as required by Local Rule 7.1(a)(3). ( Id. ) I note that the notary's "sworn to" stamp at the end of the Rule 7.1. Statement does not transform Plaintiffs Rule 7.1 Response into record evidence so as to render that Response compliant with Local Rule 7.1. First, Local Rule 7.1 expressly states, "The record for purposes of the Statement of Material Facts includes the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions and affidavits." N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3). In this way, the District's Local Rule, like similar local rules of other districts, contemplates citations to a record that is independent of a Rule 7.1 Response. See, e.g., Vaden v. GAP, Inc., 06-CV-0142, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22736, at *3-5, 2007 WL 954256 (M.D.Tenn. March 26, 2007) (finding non-movant's verified response to movant's statement of material facts to be deficient because it did cite to affidavit or declaration, nor did it establish that non-movant had actual knowledge of matters to which he attested); Waterhouse v. District of Columbia, 124 F.Supp.2d 1, 4-5 (D.D.C.2000) (criticizing party's "Verified Statement of Material Facts, " as being deficient in citations to independent record evidence, lacking "firsthand knowledge, " and being purely "self-serving" in nature). Moreover, many of Plaintiffs statements in his Rule 7.1 Response are either argumentative in nature or lacking in specificity and personal knowledge, so as to disqualify those statements from having the effect of sworn testimony for purposes of a summary judgment motion. See, infra, notes 10-12 of this Report-Recommendation.
III. GOVERNING LEGAL STANDARD
*4 Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, summary judgment is warranted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, FN1 the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party.FN2
FN1 A fact is "material" only if it would have some effect on the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
FN2 Schwapp v. Town of Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir.1997) [citation omitted]; Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir.1990) [citation omitted].
However, when the moving party has met its initial burden of establishing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FN3 The nonmoving party must do more than "rest upon the mere allegations... of the [plaintiffs] pleading" or "simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." FN4 Rather, "[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." FN5
FN3 Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) ("When a motion for summary judgment is made [by a defendant] and supported as provided in this rule, the [plaintiff] may not rest upon the mere allegations... of the [plaintiffs] pleading, but the [plaintiffs] response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the [plaintiff] does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the [plaintiff]."); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).
FN4 Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) ("When a motion for summary judgment is made [by a defendant] and supported as provided in this rule, the [plaintiff] may not rest upon the mere allegations... of the [plaintiffs] pleading...."); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 585-86; see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
FN5 Ross v. McGinnis, 00-CV-0275, 2004 WL 1125177, at *8 (W.D.N.Y. Mar.29, 2004) [internal quotations omitted] [emphasis added].
What this burden-shifting standard means when a plaintiff has failed to properly respond to a defendant's Rule 7.1 Statement of Material Facts is that the facts as set forth in that Rule 7.1 Statement will be accepted as true FN6 to the extent that (1) those facts are supported by the evidence in the record, FN7 and (2) the non-moving party, if he is proceeding pro se, has been specifically advised of the potential consequences of failing to respond to the movant's motion for summary judgment.FN8
FN6 See N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3) ( "Any facts set forth in the Statement of Material Facts shall be deemed admitted unless specifically controverted by the opposing party." ) [emphasis in original].
FN7 See Vermont Teddy Bear Co., Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 243 (2d Cir.2004) ("[I]n determining whether the moving party has met [its] burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue for trial, the district court may not rely solely on the statement of undisputed facts contained in the moving party's Rule 56.1 Statement. It must be satisfied that the citation to evidence in the record supports the assertion.") [internal quotation marks and citations omitted].
FN8 See Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir.1996); cf. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 56.2 (imposing on movant duty to provide such notice to pro se opponent).
Implied in the above-stated standard is the fact that a district court has no duty to perform an independent review of the record to find proof of a factual dispute, even if the non-movant is proceeding pro se. FN9 In the event the district court chooses to conduct such an independent review of the record, any affidavit submitted by the non-movant, in order to be sufficient to create a factual issue for purposes of a summary judgment motion, must, among other things, not be conclusory.FN10 (An affidavit is conclusory if, for example, its assertions lack any supporting evidence or are too general.)FN11 Finally, even where an affidavit is nonconclusory, it may be insufficient to create a factual issue where it is (1) "largely unsubstantiated by any other direct evidence" and (2) "so replete with inconsistencies and improbabilities that no reasonable juror would undertake the suspension of disbelief necessary to credit the allegations made in the complaint."FN12
FN9 See Amnesty Am. v. Town of W. Hartford, 288 F.3d 467, 470 (2d Cir.2002) ("We agree with those circuits that have held that Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 does not impose an obligation on a district court to perform an independent review of the record to find proof of a factual dispute.") [citations omitted]; accord, Lee v. Alfonso, No. 04-1921, 2004 U.S.App. LEXIS 21432, 2004 WL 2309715 (2d Cir. Oct. 14, 2004), aff'g, 97-CV-1741, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20746, at *12-13 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 10, 2004) (Scullin, J.) (granting motion for summary judgment); Fox v. Amtrak, 04-CV-1144, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9147, at *1-4, 2006 WL 395269 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2006) (McAvoy, J.) (granting motion for summary judgment); Govan v. Campbell, 289 F.Supp.2d 289, 295 (N.D.N.Y. Oct.29, 2003) (Sharpe, M.J.) (granting motion for summary judgment); Prestopnik v. Whelan, 253 F.Supp.2d 369, 371-372 (N.D.N.Y.2003) (Hurd, J.).
FN10 See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (requiring that non-movant "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial"); Patterson, 375 F.3d at 219 (2d. Cir.2004) ("Nor is a genuine issue created merely by the presentation of assertions [in an affidavit] that are conclusory.") [citations omitted]; Applegate v. Top Assoc., 425 F.2d 92, 97 (2d Cir.1970) (stating that the purpose of Rule 56[e] is to "prevent the exchange of affidavits on a motion for summary judgment from degenerating into mere elaboration of conclusory pleadings").
FN11 See, e.g., Bickersta v. Vassar Oil, 196 F.3d 435, 452 (2d Cir.1998) (McAvoy, C.J., sitting by designation) ("Statements [for example, those made in affidavits, deposition testimony or trial testimony] that are devoid of any specifics, but replete with conclusions, are insufficient to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.") [citations omitted]; West-Fair Elec. Contractors v. Aetna Cas. & Sur., 78 F.3d 61, 63 (2d Cir.1996) (rejecting affidavit's conclusory statements that, in essence, asserted merely that there was a dispute between the parties over the amount owed to the plaintiff under a contract); Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 997 (2d Cir.1985) (plaintiffs allegation that she "heard disparaging remarks about Jews, but, of course, don't ask me to pinpoint people, times or places.... It's all around us" was conclusory and thus insufficient to satisfy the requirements of Rule 56[e]); Applegate, 425 F.2d at 97 ("[Plaintiff] has provided the court [through his affidavit] with the characters and plot line for a novel of intrigue rather than the concrete particulars which would entitle him to a trial.").
FN12 See, e.g., Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 554-55 (2d Cir.2005) (affirming grant of summary judgment to defendants in part because plaintiffs testimony about an alleged assault by police officers was "largely unsubstantiated by any other direct evidence" and was "so replete with inconsistencies and improbabilities that no reasonable juror would undertake the suspension of disbelief necessary to credit the allegations made in the complaint") [citations and internal quotations omitted]; Argus, Inc. v. Eastman Kodak Co., 801 F.2d 38, 45 (2d Cir.1986) (affirming grant of summary judgment to defendants in part because plaintiffs' deposition testimony regarding an alleged defect in a camera product line was, although specific, "unsupported by documentary or other concrete evidence" and thus "simply not enough to create a genuine issue of fact in light of the evidence to the contrary"); Allah v. Greiner, 03-CV-3789, 2006 WL 357824, at *3-4 & n. 7, 14, 16, 21 (S.D.N.Y. Feb.15, 2006) (prisoner's verified complaint, which recounted specific statements by defendants that they were violating his rights, was conclusory and discredited by the evidence, and therefore insufficient to create issue of fact with regard to all but one of prisoner's claims, although verified complaint was sufficient to create issue of fact with regard to prisoner's claim of retaliation against one defendant because retaliatory act occurred on same day as plaintiffs grievance against that defendant, whose testimony was internally inconsistent and in conflict with other evidence); Olle v. Columbia Univ., 332 F.Supp.2d 599, 612 (S.D.N.Y.2004) (plaintiffs deposition testimony was insufficient evidence to oppose defendants' motion for summary judgment where that testimony recounted specific allegedly sexist remarks that "were either unsupported by admissible evidence or benign"), aff'd, 136 F.Appx. 383 (2d Cir.2005) (unreported decision, cited not as precedential authority but merely to show the case's subsequent history, in accordance with Second Circuit Local Rule § 0.23).
A. Whether Plaintiff Has Adduced Evidence Establishing that Defendant Paolano Was Personally Involved in the Constitutional Violations Alleged
"[P]ersonal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983.'" Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir.1994) (quoting Moffitt v. Town of Brookfield, 950 F.2d 880, 885 [2d Cir.1991]).FN13 In order to prevail on a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against an individual, a plaintiff must show some tangible connection between the alleged unlawful conduct and the defendant.FN14 If the defendant is a supervisory official, such as a correctional facility superintendent or a facility health services director, a mere "linkage" to the unlawful conduct through "the prison chain of command" (i.e., under the doctrine of respondeat superior ) is insufficient to show his or her personal involvement in that unlawful conduct.FN15 In other words, supervisory officials may not be held liable merely because they held a position of authority.FN16 Rather, supervisory personnel may be considered "personally involved" only if they (1) directly participated in the violation, (2) failed to remedy that violation after learning of it through a report or appeal, (3) created, or allowed to continue, a policy or custom under which the violation occurred, (4) had been grossly negligent in managing subordinates who caused the violation, or (5) exhibited deliberate indifference to the rights of inmates by failing to act on information indicating that the violation was occurring.FN17
FN13 Accord, McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir.1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087, 98 S.Ct. 1282, 55 L.Ed.2d 792 (1978); Gill v. Mooney, 824 F.2d 192, 196 (2d Cir.1987).
FN14 Bass v. Jackson, 790 F.2d 260, 263 (2d Cir.1986).
FN15 Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325, 102 S.Ct. 445, 70 L.Ed.2d 509 (1981); Richardson v. Goord, 347 F.3d 431, 435 (2d Cir.2003); Wright, 21 F.3d at 501; Ayers v. Coughlin, 780 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir.1985).
FN16 Black v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 72, 74 (2d Cir.1996).
FN17 Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir.1995) (adding fifth prong); Wright, 21 F.3d at 501 (adding fifth prong); Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323-324 (2d Cir.1986) (setting forth four prongs).
*5 Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not adduced evidence establishing that Defendant Paolano, the Great Meadow C.F. Health Services Director during the time in question, was personally involved in the constitutional violations alleged. (Dkt. No. 78, Part 13, at 2 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].) In support of this argument, Defendants point to the record evidence establishing that, during the time in which Plaintiff was incarcerated at Great Meadow C.F. (i. e., from early August of 2000 to late November of 2000), Defendant Paolano never treated Plaintiff for any medical condition, much less a broken wrist on August 17, 2000. ( Id .; see also Dkt. No. 78, Part 4, ¶¶ 7-8 [Paolano Affid.]; Dkt. No. 78, Part 5 [Ex. A to Paolano Affid.]; Dkt. No. 78, Part 11, at 32-33 [Plf.'s Depo.].)
Plaintiff responds that (1) Defendant Paolano was personally involved since he "treated" Plaintiff on August 17, 2000, by virtue of his supervisory position as the Great Meadow C.F.'s Health Services Director, and (2) Defendant Paolano has the "final say" regarding what medications inmates shall be permitted to retain when they transfer into Great Meadow C.F. (Dkt. No. 88, at 7-8 [Plf.'s Supp. Memo. of Law].) In support of this argument, Plaintiff cites a paragraph of his Supplemental Affidavit, and an administrative decision, for the proposition that Defendant Paolano, as the Great Meadow C.F. Health Services Director, had the "sole responsibility for providing treatment to the inmates under [the Facility's] care." ( Id .; see also Dkt. No. 86, Suppl. Affid., ¶ 5 & Ex. 14.)
1. Whether Defendant Paolano Was Personally Involved in Plaintiff's Treatment on August 17, 2000
With respect to Plaintiffs first point (regarding Defendant Paolano's asserted "treatment" of Plaintiff on August 17, 2000), the problem with Plaintiffs argument is that the uncontrovered record evidence establishes that, as Defendants' assert, Defendant Paolano did not, in fact, treat Plaintiff on August 17, 2000 (or at any time when Plaintiff was incarcerated at Great Meadow C.F.). This was the fact asserted by Defendants in Paragraphs 38 of their Rule 7.1 Statement. ( See Dkt. No. 78, Part 12, ¶ 38 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement].) Defendants supported this factual assertion with record evidence. ( Id. [providing accurate record citations]; see also Dkt. No. 78, Part 12, ¶¶ 37-38 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement, indicating that it was Defendant Nesmith, not Defendant Paolano, who treated Plaintiff on 8/17/00].) Plaintiff has failed to specifically controvert this factual assertion, despite having been given an adequate opportunity to conduct discovery, and having been specifically notified of the consequences of failing to properly respond to Defendants' motion ( see Dkt. No. 78, Part 1), and having been granted three extensions of the deadline by which to do so ( see Dkt. Nos. 79, 80, 83). Specifically, Plaintiff fails to cite any record evidence in support of his denial of Defendants' referenced factual assertion. ( See Dkt. No. 85, Part 2, at 50 [Ex. N to Plf.'s Affid.].) As a result, under the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, Plaintiff has effectively "admitted" Defendants' referenced factual assertions. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3).
*6 The Court has no duty to perform an independent review of the record to find proof disputing this established fact. See, supra, Part III and note 9 of this Report-Recommendation. Moreover, I decline to exercise my discretion, and I recommend that the Court decline to exercise its discretion, to perform an independent review of the record to find such proof for several reasons, any one of which is sufficient reason to make such a decision: (1) as an exercise of discretion, in order to preserve judicial resources in light of the Court's heavy caseload; (2) the fact that Plaintiff has already been afforded considerable leniency in this action, including numerous deadline extensions and liberal constructions; and (3) the fact that Plaintiff is fully knowledgeable about the requirements of a non-movant on a summary judgment motion, due to Defendants' notification of those requirements, and due to Plaintiffs extraordinary litigation experience.
With regard to this last reason, I note that federal courts normally treat the papers filed by pro se civil rights litigants with special solicitude. This is because, generally, pro se litigants are unfamiliar with legal terminology and the litigation process, and because the civil rights claims they assert are of a very serious nature. However, "[t]here are circumstances where an overly litigious inmate, who is quite familiar with the legal system and with pleading requirements, may not be afforded [the] special solicitude" that is normally afforded pro se litigants.FN18 Generally, the rationale for diminishing special solicitude (at least in the Second Circuit) is that the pro se litigant's extreme litigiousness demonstrates his experience, the lack of which is the reason for extending special solicitude to a pro se litigant in the first place.FN19 The Second Circuit has diminished this special solicitude, and/or indicated the acceptability of such a diminishment, on several occasions.FN20 Similarly, I decide to do so, here, and I recommend the Court do the same.
FN18 Koehl v. Greene, 06-CV-0478, 2007 WL 2846905, at *3 & n. 17 (N.D.N.Y. Sept.26, 2007) (Kahn, J., adopting Report-Recommendation) [citations omitted].
FN19 Koehl, 2007 WL 2846905, at *3 & n. 18 [citations omitted].
FN20 See, e.g., Johnson v. Eggersdorf, 8 F.Appx. 140, 143 (2d Cir.2001) (unpublished opinion), aff'g, 97-CV-0938, Decision and Order (N.D.N.Y. filed May 28, 1999) (Kahn, J.), adopting, Report-Recommendation, at 1, n. 1 (N.D.N.Y. filed Apr. 28, 1999) (Smith, M.J.); Johnson v. C. Gummerson, 201 F.3d 431, at *2 (2d Cir.1999) (unpublished opinion), aff'g, 97-CV-1727, Decision and Order (N.D.N.Y. filed June 11, 1999) (McAvoy, J.), adopting, Report-Recommendation (N.D.N.Y. filed April 28, 1999) (Smith, M.J.); Davidson v. Flynn, 32 F.3d 27, 31 (2d Cir.1994); see also Raitport v. Chem. Bank, 74 F.R.D. 128, 133 (S.D.N.Y.1977)[citing Ackert v. Bryan, No. 27240 (2d Cir. June 21, 1963) (Kaufman, J., concurring).
Plaintiff is no stranger to the court system. A review of the Federal Judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records ("PACER") System reveals that Plaintiff has filed at least 15 other federal district court actions, FN21 and at least three federal court appeals.FN22 Furthermore, a review of the New York State Unified Court System's website reveals that he has filed at least 20 state court actions, FN23 and at least two state court appeals.FN24 Among these many actions he has had at least one victory, resulting in the payment of $20, 000 to him in settlement proceeds.FN25
FN21 See Murray v. New York, 96-CV-3413 (S.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Westchester County Jail, 98-CV-0959 (S.D.N.Y.); Murray v. McGinnis, 99-CV-1908 (W.D.N.Y.); Murray v. McGinnis, 99-CV-2945 (S.D.N.Y.); Murray v. McGinnis, 00-CV-3510 (S.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Jacobs, 04-CV-6231 (W.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Bushey, 04-CV-0805 (N.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Goord, 05-CV-1113 (N.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Wissman, 05-CV-1186 (N.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Goord, 05-CV-1579 (N.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Doe, 06-CV-0205 (S.D.N.Y.); Murray v. O'Herron, 06-CV-0793 (W.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Goord, 06-CV-1445 (N.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Fisher, 07-CV-0306 (W.D.N.Y.); Murray v. Escrow, 07-CV-0353 (W.D.N.Y.).
FN22 See Murray v. McGinnis, No. 01-2533 (2d Cir.); Murray v. McGinnis, No. 01-2536 (2d Cir.); Murray v. McGinnis, No. 01-2632 (2d Cir.).
FN23 See Murray v. Goord, Index No. 011568/1996 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Westchester County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002383/1997 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002131/1998 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002307/1998 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002879/1998 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002683/2004 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002044/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. McGinnis, Index No. 002099/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Sullivan, Index No. 002217/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002421/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002495/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002496/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Goord, Index No. 002888/2006 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. LeClaire, Index No. 002008/2007 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. LeClaire, Index No. 002009/2007 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. LeClaire, Index No. 002010/2007 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. LeClaire, Index No. 002011/2007 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. Fisher, Index No. 002762/2007 (N.Y. Sup.Ct., Chemung County); Murray v. New York, Claim No. Claim No. 108304, Motion No. 67679 (N.Y.Ct.Cl.); Murray v. New York, Motion No. M-67997 (N.Y.Ct.Cl.).
FN24 See Murray v. Goord, No. 84875, 709 N.Y. S.2d 662 (N.Y.S.App.Div., 3d Dept.2000); Murray v. Goord, No. 83252, 694 N.Y.S.2d 797 (N.Y.S.App.Div., 3d Dept.1999).
FN25 See Murray v. Westchester County Jail, 98-CV-0959 (S.D.N.Y.) (settled for $20, 000 in 2002).
I will add only that, even if I were inclined to conduct such an independent review of the record, the record evidence that Plaintiff cites regarding this issue in his Supplemental Memorandum of Law does not create such a question of fact. ( See Dkt. No. 88, at 7-8 [Plf.'s Supp. Memo. of Law, citing Dkt. No. 86, Suppl. Affid., ¶ 5 & Ex. 14].) It appears entirely likely that Defendant Paolano had the ultimate responsibility for providing medical treatment to the inmates at Great Meadow C.F.FN26 However, this duty arose solely because of his supervisory position, i.e., as the Facility Health Services Director. It is precisely this sort of supervisory duty that does not result in liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as explained above.
FN26 To the extent that Plaintiff relies on this evidence to support the proposition that Defendant Paolano had the "sole" responsibility for such health care, that reliance is misplaced. Setting aside the loose nature of the administrative decision's use of the word "sole, " and the different context in which that word was used (regarding the review of Plaintiffs grievance about having had his prescription discontinued), the administrative decision's rationale for its decision holds no preclusive effect in this Court. I note that this argument by Plaintiff, which is creative and which implicitly relies on principles of estoppel, demonstrates his facility with the law due to his extraordinary litigation experience.
*7 As for the other ways through which a supervisory official may be deemed "personally involved" in a constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff does not even argue (or allege facts plausibly suggesting)FN27 that Defendant Paolano failed to remedy the alleged deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs on August 17, 2000, after learning of that deliberate indifference through a report or appeal. Nor does Plaintiff argue (or allege facts plausibly suggesting) that Defendant Paolano created, or allowed to continue, a policy or custom under which the alleged deliberate indifference on August 17, 2000, occurred. Nor does Plaintiff argue (or allege facts plausibly suggesting) that Defendant Paolano had been grossly negligent in managing subordinates (such as Defendant Nesmith) who caused the alleged deliberate indifference. Nor does Plaintiff argue (or allege facts plausibly suggesting) that Defendant Paolano exhibited deliberate indifference to the rights of Plaintiff by failing to act on information indicating that Defendant Nesmith was violating Plaintiff's constitutional rights.
FN27 See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (holding that, for a plaintiffs complaint to state a claim upon which relief might be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 and 12, his "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level [to a plausible level], " or, in other words, there must be "plausible grounds to infer [actionable conduct]"), accord, lqbal v. Hasty, 490 F.3d 143, 157-58 (2d Cir.2007) ("[W]e believe the [Supreme] Court [in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly ] is... requiring a flexible plausibility standard, ' which obliges a pleader to amplify a claim with some factual allegations in those contexts where such amplification is needed to render the claim plausible. ") [emphasis in original].
In the alternative, I reach the same conclusion (that Plaintiffs claim against Defendant Paolano arising from the events of August 17, 2000, lacks merit) on the ground that there was no constitutional violation committed by Defendant Nesmith on August 17, 2000, in which Defendant Paolano could have been personally involved, for the reasons discussed below in Part IV.B. of this Report-Recommendation.
2. Whether Defendant Paolano Was Personally Involved in the Review of Plaintiff's Prescriptions in Early August of 2000
With respect to Plaintiff's second point (regarding Defendant Paolano's asserted "final say" regarding what medications inmates shall be permitted to retain when they transfer into Great Meadow C.F.), there are three problems with this argument.
First, the argument regards a claim that is not properly before this Court for the reasons explained below in Part IV.E. of this Report-Recommendation.
Second, as Defendants argue, even if the Court were to reach the merits of this claim, it should rule that Plaintiff has failed to adduce evidence establishing that Defendant Paolano was personally involved in the creation or implementation of DOCS' prescription-review policy. It is an uncontrovered fact, for purposes of Defendants' motion, that (1) the decision to temporarily deprive Plaintiff of his previously prescribed pain medication (i.e., pending the review of that medication by a physician at Great Meadow C.F.) upon his arrival at Great Meadow C.F. was made by an "intake nurse, " not by Defendant Paolano, (2) the nurse's decision was made pursuant to a policy instituted by DOCS, not by Defendant Paolano, and (3) Defendant Paolano did not have the authority to alter that policy. These were the facts asserted by Defendants in Paragraphs 6 through 9 of their Rule 7.1 Statement. ( See Dkt. No. 78, Part 12, ¶¶ 6-9 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement].) Defendants supported these factual assertions with record evidence. ( Id. [providing accurate record citations].) Plaintiff expressly admits two of these factual assertions, and fails to support his denial of the remaining factual assertions with citations to record evidence that actually controverts the facts asserted. (Dkt. No. 85, Part 2, at 46-47 [Ex. N to Plf.'s Affid.].)
*8 For example, in support of his denial of Defendants' factual assertion that "[t]his policy is not unique to Great Meadow, but applies to DOCS facilities generally, " Plaintiff says that, at an unidentified point in time, "Downstate CF honored doctors proscribed [sic] treatment and filled by prescriptions from Southport Correctional Facility.... Also I've been transferred to other prisons such as Auburn [C.F.] in which they honored doctors prescribe[d] orders." ( Id. ) I will set aside the fact that Defendants' factual assertion is not that the policy applies to every single DOCS facility but that it applies to them as a general matter. I will also set aside the fact that Plaintiffs assertion is not supported by a citation to independent record evidence. The main problem with this assertion is that it is not specific as to what year or years he had these experiences, nor does it even say that his prescriptions were immediately honored without a review by a physician at the new facility.
The other piece of "evidence" Plaintiff cites in support of this denial is "Superintendent George B. Duncan's 9/22/00 decision of Appeal to him regarding [Plaintiffs Grievance No.] GM-30651-00." ( Id. ) The problem is that the referenced determination states merely that Defendant Paolano, as the Great Meadow C.F. Health Services Director, had the "sole responsibility for providing treatment to the inmates under [the Facility's] care, and has the final say regarding all medical prescriptions." (Dkt. No. 86, at 14 [Ex. 14 to Plf.'s Suppl. Affid.].) For the sake of much-needed brevity, I will set aside the issue of whether an IGP Program Director's broadly stated rationale for an appellate determination with respect to a prisoner's grievance can ever constitute evidence sufficient to create proof of a genuine issue of fact for purposes of a summary judgment motion. The main problem with this "evidence" is that there is absolutely nothing inconsistent between (1) a DOCS policy to temporarily deprive prisoners of non-life-sustaining prescription medications upon their arrival at a correctional facility, pending the review of those medical prescriptions by a physician at the facility, and (2) a DOCS policy to give Facility Health Service Directors the "final say" regarding the review of those medical prescriptions.
Because Plaintiff has failed to support his denial of these factual assertions with citations to record evidence that actually controverts the facts asserted, I will consider the facts asserted by Defendants as true. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3). Under the circumstances, I decline, and I recommend the Court decline, to perform an independent review of the record to find proof disputing this established fact for the several reasons described above in Part IV.A.1. of this Report-Recommendation.
Third, Plaintiff has failed to adduce evidence establishing that the policy in question is even unconstitutional. I note that, in his Supplemental Memorandum of Law, Plaintiff argues that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs is... shown by the fact that prisoners are denied access to a doctor and physical examination upon arrival at [Great Meadow] C.F. to determine the need for pain medications which aren't life sustaining...." (Dkt. No. 88, at 10 [Plf.'s Supp. Memo. of Law].) As a threshold matter, Plaintiffs argument is misplaced to the extent he is arguing about the medical care other prisoners may not have received upon their arrival at Great Meadow C.F. since this is not a class-action. More importantly, to the extent he is arguing about any medical care that he (allegedly) did not receive upon his arrival at Great Meadow C.F., he cites no record evidence in support of such an assertion. ( Id. ) Indeed, he does not even cite any record evidence establishing that, upon his arrival at Great Meadow C.F. in early 2000, either (1) he asked a Defendant in this action for such medical care, or (2) he was suffering from a serious medical need for purposes of the Eighth Amendment. ( Id. )
*9 If Plaintiff is complaining that Defendant Paolano is liable for recklessly causing a physician at Great Meadow C.F. to excessively delay a review Plaintiff's pain medication upon his arrival at Great Meadow C.F., then Plaintiff should have asserted that allegation (and some basic facts supporting it) in a pleading in this action so that Defendants could have taken adequate discovery on it, and so that the Court could squarely review the merits of it. (Dkt. No. 78, Part 11, at 53 [Plf.'s Depo.].)
For all of these reasons, I recommend that Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Paolano be ...