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Pilgrim v. Doe

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 29, 2014

JOHN DOE et al., Defendants.

Prince Pilgrim, Pro Se, Woodbourne Correctional Facility, Woodbourne, NY, for the Plaintiff.

JOSHUA E. MCMAHON, KRISTEN M. QUARESIMO, Assistant Attorneys General, HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, New York State Attorney General, Albany, NY, for the Defendants.


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se Prince Pilgrim commenced this action against defendants Ted Meskunas, Institutional Steward; an unidentified John Doe defendant; and Mr. Drown, Commission Hearing Officer, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, among other things, retaliation and due process violations. ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After Meskunas was dismissed from this action, (Dkt. No. 8), and it became apparent that Drown was, in fact, deceased, Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles sua sponte ordered the substitution of the Estate of Curtis Drown, (Dkt. No. 35).

On September 11, 2013, the Estate filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), (5), and (6). (Dkt. No. 41.) In an August 12, 2014 Report, Recommendation, and Order (R&R), Judge Peebles recommended that the Estate's motion to dismiss be denied. (Dkt. No. 49.) Pending are the Estate's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 50.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in its entirety.

II. Background[1]

Given that the Estate's objections primarily relate to the procedural history of this case, it is necessary to provide a more in-depth explanation of how this litigation has progressed to date. To begin, Pilgrim's complaint was filed on November 10, 2011, ( see generally Compl.), and, as noted above, one named defendant, Meskunas, was dismissed from this action after this court's initial review of the complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, (Dkt. No. 8). After the summons was issued, it was discovered that the other named defendant, Drown, had passed away prior to Pilgrim's commencement of the action, and, therefore, the summons was never served upon him. (Dkt. No. 13.)

In light of the discovery that Drown was deceased, and the fact that the only other remaining defendant could not be identified, Judge Peebles issued a text order, on October 30, 2012, directing Pilgrim to file a status report on or before November 20, 2012 indicating whether he intended to proceed with the action. Pilgrim never responded. Faced with this peculiar procedural posture, on November 30, 2012, Judge Peebles issued a text order sua sponte joining Thomas LaValley, Superintendent of Clinton Correctional Facility, to the action solely to assist Pilgrim in identifying the Doe defendant.

The docket reflects no mention of Drown for the next four months. Then, during an April 17, 2013 conference, Judge Peebles, among other things, discussed with Pilgrim "the options he has available to ascertain the identity of [Drown's] Estate." On May 31, Pilgrim filed a motion to compel, and, in the cover letter, stated that he was "unable to execute the requirements of FRCP Rule 25 (sic)" because he could not ascertain the necessary information regarding Drown's Estate, if any, and further requested the court's assistance in obtaining this information. (Dkt. No. 28, Attach. 1.) In response, Judge Peebles issued an order directing defendants' counsel to determine whether DOCCS possessed information concerning Drown's estate, and, if so, further directing defendants' counsel to provide that information to Pilgrim. (Dkt. No. 31.) Defendants' counsel then obtained and furnished the relevant information regarding the Estate, and Judge Peebles, on July 12, 2013, sua sponte ordered the substitution of the Estate, and directed the clerk to issue a summons to the Estate. (Dkt. No. 35.)

A summons was issued to the Estate, (Dkt. No. 36), and the Attorney General's office filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the Estate, (Dkt. No. 37). In lieu of an answer, the Estate moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Pilgrim failed to state a claim, and that personal jurisdiction was lacking. (Dkt. No. 41.) In his R&R, Judge Peebles recommended that the motion to dismiss be denied. (Dkt. No. 49.)

III. Standard of Review

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

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