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Mims v. Yehl

United States District Court, W.D. New York

September 22, 2014

DUANE MIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
C. YEHL, CAPTAIN, and LUCILLE SCHINDLER, C.O., Defendants. DUANE MIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
C. YEHL, CORRECTIONS CAPTAIN, and LUCILLE SCHINDLER, C.O., Defendants. DUANE MIMS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN FISCHER, COMMISSIONER, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

FRANK P. GERACI, Jr., District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Duane Mims has brought three related suits under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that Defendants, who were or are employees of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), violated his constitutional rights. The Complaints all stem from an incident that occurred on or about August 10, 2012, where Plaintiff alleges that two of the named Defendants utilized excessive force against him, and afterwards, Plaintiff was sentenced to 36 months of disciplinary confinement, which he contends is unconstitutionally long. Because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before commencing these actions, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted, and these cases are dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

On May 2, 2013, Plaintiff commenced two separate actions in the Northern District of New York: Mims v. Yehl, N.D.N.Y. Case No. 13-CV-508 ( "Mims I" ), and Mims v. Fischer, N.D.N.Y. Case No. 13-CV-509 ( "Mims II" ).

In Mims I, Plaintiff alleged that on August 10, 2012, while he was an inmate at Gowanda Correctional Facility, he was assaulted by the two Defendants in that case, identified as Captain C. Yehl and Corrections Officer Lucille Schindler. Plaintiff was charged with misbehavior, and was afforded a disciplinary hearing where Defendant Yehl was the hearing officer. Defendant Yehl found Plaintiff guilty, and sentenced him to 36 months in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), along with the loss of certain privileges. Plaintiff further alleged that Defendant Yehl violated his due process rights, and that his sentence of 36 months in the SHU was unconstitutionally long.

In Mims II, Plaintiff alleged that African-American and Latino inmates were being targeted by the Commissioner of DOCCS for long term isolation, and that 3, 000 such individuals are serving over one year in solitary confinement. The only named Defendant in that case was Brian Fischer, who at the time was the Commissioner of DOCCS. Plaintiff further alleges that any disciplinary sentence of over one year constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Although not specifically stated, the implication is that Plaintiff was challenging his own 36 month disciplinary sentence, as well as the disciplinary sentences imposed upon some 3, 000 individuals. Plaintiff requested relief in the form of having any disciplinary sentence of 24 months and over reduced to 12 months, and also requested "$3, 000.00 for each inmate."

On August 5, 2013, Plaintiff commenced Mims v. Yehl, W.D.N.Y. Case No. 13-CV-6405 ( "Mims III" ) in the Western District of New York, and that action was assigned to this Court. Mims III names the same Defendants as Mims I, and both Mims I and Mims III allege the same underlying facts regarding the August 10, 2012 incident and the subsequent disciplinary hearing. In commencing Mims III, Plaintiff utilized this district's form complaint, and despite having commenced Mims I and Mims II in the Northern District just three months prior, he falsely indicated on his Complaint in Mims III that he had not "filed any other lawsuits in any state and federal court relating to [his] imprisonment." The next section of the form complaint directs the Plaintiff to provide details regarding any previously filed lawsuits, and the Plaintiff wrote "N/A" in each of the spaces where he should have identified the details of his other lawsuits.

On October 9, 2013, United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York Mae D'Agostino found common issues of fact in Mims I and Mims II, ordered the consolidation of those cases, and ordered that all filings in the now-consolidated cases be docketed under Mims I. Judge D'Agostino further dismissed any claims in Mims II that purported to be brought as a class action on behalf of other inmates, and allowed Plaintiff's claims in Mims II to proceed only as they pertained to his own situation.

On January 10, 2014, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in Mims I and Mims II, arguing that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to commencing those lawsuits. Alternatively, Defendants moved to transfer venue in Mims I and Mims II from the Northern District of New York to the Western District of New York, as the underlying facts took place within the Western District. On January 27, 2014, Defendants filed a similar Motion for Summary Judgment in Mims III, which also argued that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to commencing that lawsuit. The Defendants further requested that the Court defer ruling on the motion in Mims III until the Northern District of New York ruled on the pending Motion for Summary Judgment and/or Motion to Transfer Venue in Mims I and Mims II.

By Decision and Order dated May 19, 2014, United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of New York Andrew Baxter granted the Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue, and ordered Mims I and Mims II transferred to the Western District of New York. Magistrate Judge Baxter further ordered that the Summary Judgment Motion would remain pending, and would be transferred to the Western District of New York for disposition. Upon receipt of that order, the Clerk of the Court for the Western District of New York docketed Mims I as W.D.N.Y. Case No. 14-CV-6304, and docketed Mims II as W.D.N.Y. Case No. 14-CV-6305.

As a result, this Court currently has three cases before it brought by Plaintiff: the consolidated Mims I and Mims II cases, although they each have their own docket number, and Mims III. Pending before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in each of these three actions, which all seek dismissal of these cases on the basis that the Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before commencing suit. See Mims I, Dkt. #49, Mims III, Dkt. #23. Plaintiff has responded to the motions, and the Court deems oral argument to be unnecessary. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted, and these cases are dismissed with prejudice.

DISCUSSION

The standard for ruling on a summary judgment motion is well known. A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the movant shows 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(a). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). In order to establish a material issue of fact, the non-movant need only provide "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute" such that a "jury or judge [is required] to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968)). Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments). If, after considering the evidence in ...


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