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Justice v. R. Wiggins

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 30, 2014

JOHN D. JUSTICE, Plaintiff,
R. WIGGINS et al., Defendants.

John D. Justice, Pro Se, Comstock, NY, For the Plaintiff.

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


GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff pro se John D. Justice commenced this action against defendants William Hulihan, Charles Tapia, R. Wiggins, Christopher Holmer, Eric Chandler, the Town of Marcy, Hon. Donald S. Buttenschon, Scott D. McNamara, Robert L. Bauer, Michael Hulihan, Richard Roy, and Brian Fischer pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Following initial review of the complaint, this court dismissed all but two of Justice's causes of action: an Eighth Amendment claim that corrections officers were deliberately indifferent and failed to protect Justice from an assault by a fellow inmate, and a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim that evidence was intentionally withheld from Justice during a disciplinary hearing. (Dkt. No. 8 at 15-16, 20-21, 22.) Two additional defendants were dismissed on summary judgment, (Dkt. No. 49 at 12-13), leaving only claims against Wiggins and Fischer. Wiggins has since filed his own motion for summary judgment.[1] (Dkt. No. 50.) In an Amended Report and Recommendation[2] (R&R) dated July 31, 2014, Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles recommended that Wiggins' motion be granted and the claim against him be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 55.) Justice subsequently filed objections to the R&R.[3] (Dkt. Nos. 54, 56.) For the reasons that follow, the R&R is adopted in its entirety, and Wiggins' motion for summary judgment is granted.

II. Background[4]

Justice is an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 14 ¶ 1.) During the relevant time period, Justice was incarcerated in the Mid-State Correctional Facility. ( Id. ¶ 6.)

As relevant to this motion, on July 26, 2008, Wiggins was a corrections officer who worked on the 2-H housing unit. (Def.'s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 50, Attach. 2.) On that date, Justice was assaulted by Sean McAleese, a fellow inmate at Mid-State. (Compl. at 15; Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 14 ¶ 14.) During the altercation, Justice suffered a facial injury which required medical attention. (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 14 ¶ 17.)

As a result of the incident, both Justice and McAleese were accused of violating prison rules and issued misbehavior reports. (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 3 ¶ 11.) Following a disciplinary hearing, Justice was disciplined for failing to report his injury. (Dkt. No. 41, Attach. 2 at 43-44.) Justice alleges that Wiggins "authorized... McAleese to assault" him. (Compl. at 17.) At his disciplinary hearing, Justice testified that "[i]nmates had come to tell [him] that [other inmates] were given the green light to get at [him], " and that it was Wiggins who "gave... the green light" for the assault. (Dkt. No. 23, Attach. 1 at 27.) Wiggins denies that he ever gave such authorization. (Def.'s SMF ¶ 2.)

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 considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.

IV. Discussion

Justice's claim against Wiggins arises from Wiggins' alleged authorization of the assault on Justice. (Compl. at 17.) In his R&R, Judge Peebles recommended that summary judgment be granted in favor of Wiggins because Justice has failed to submit any admissible record evidence in support of his allegation that Wiggins authorized inmate McAleese to assault Justice. (Dkt. No. 55 at 9-10.) As noted by Judge Peebles, the only evidence submitted by Justice with respect to this claim is his own testimony from his disciplinary hearing, where he testified that another inmate told him that he heard Wiggins authorize the assault on Justice, which plainly constitutes inadmissible hearsay. ( Id. at 9-10; Dkt. No. 23, Attach. 1 at 27-28, 35); see Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. v. Esprit de Corp., 769 F.2d 919, 924 (2d Cir. 1985) ("[A party] cannot rely on inadmissible hearsay in opposing a motion for summary judgment.").

Although Judge Peebles noted Justice's argument that he should be granted an opportunity to conduct further discovery, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), Judge Peebles recommended that this request be denied because discovery in this case closed in June 2012, after several extensions, and thus Justice had ample time to conduct discovery. (Dkt. No. 55 at 11-13.) In addition, Justice has failed to demonstrate that he has made any prior attempts to obtain an affidavit, which he now seeks, from the inmate who allegedly heard Wiggins authorize the assault. ( Id. at 13-16.) Lastly, Judge Peebles recommended that, even if the court were to construe Justice's request as an application to reopen discovery, that request should likewise be denied, because Justice was provided with ample time while ...

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