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Winfield v. Bishop

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 16, 2015

JOAQUIN R. WINFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER BISHOP, et al., Defendants.

DECISION & ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This prisoner civil rights action comes before the Court following a Report-Recommendation filed on November 19, 2014, by United States Magistrate Judge Therèse Wiley Dancks, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(d). Dkt. No. 158 ("Report-Recommendation"). Judge Dancks recommends that Plaintiff Joaquin Winfield's ("Plainitff") Amended Complaint be dismissed with prejudice for failure to comply with the exhaustion requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Report-Rec. at 21; see also Dkt. No. 38 ("Amended Complaint"). Plaintiff timely filed Objections.[1] Dkt. Nos. 160 ("Objections"). Plaintiff has also appealed two prior Text Orders by Judge Dancks. Dkt. Nos. 128 ("First Appeal"); 155 ("Second Appeal"). For the following reasons, the Report-Recommendation is adopted in its entirety, Plaintiff's Appeals are denied, and this action is dismissed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Objections to Report-Recommendation

When a party makes a timely objection to a Report-Recommendation, it is the duty of the Court to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Where, however, an objecting "party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error." Farid v. Bouey, 554 F.Supp.2d 301, 307 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting McAllan v. Von Essen, 517 F.Supp.2d 672, 679 (S.D.N.Y. 2007)) (citations omitted); see also Brown v. Peters, No. 95-CV-1641, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997). "A [district] judge... may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).

B. Appeal of a Magistrate Judge's Decision

The standard of review for reconsideration of a magistrate judge's ruling depends on whether the matter is dispositive or non-dispositive. The issue currently before the Court is nondispositive because the decision would "not dispose of the litigation." McAllan, 2004 WL 2998510, at *1. A district judge may reconsider any magistrate judge decision on a non-dispositive matter if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); FED.R.CIV.P. 72(a). The Supreme Court has stated that "[a] finding is clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948) (quoted in Derthick v. Bassett-Walker Inc., No. 90 Civ. 5427, 1992 WL 249951, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 23, 1992)). A party seeking to overturn a ruling under the clearly erroneous standard bears a "heavy burden." See Com-Tech Assocs. v. Computer Assocs., Int'l, Inc., 753 F.Supp. 1078, 1099 (E.D.N.Y. 1990), aff'd, 938 F.2d 1574 (2d Cir. 1991).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Report-Recommendation

Liberally construed, Plaintiff argues that Judge Dancks erred in holding an evidentiary hearing on the limited issue of whether special circumstances excused Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies, because Plaintiff asserts that he did not fail to exhaust in the first place. See Objs. at 2 ("[T]he Court falsely held [that] [h]ere it is undisputed that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies.'"); see also id. at 5 (asserting that Plaintiff did not need to prove special circumstances under Hemphill v. N.Y., 380 F.3d 680 (2d Cir. 2004), because he had not failed to exhaust administrative remedies).

Plaintiff's argument is wholly conclusory, unsupported by any facts, and was already raised in his Response to Defendants' Motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 86 at 3 n.4. Accordingly, the Court reviews Plaintiff's objection for clear error. See Farid, 554 F.Supp.2d at 307.

Although Plaintiff claims that the Court "falsely" concluded that he failed to exhaust administrative remedies, the record firmly establishes that Plaintiff never filed a written grievance concerning the excessive force claim at issue or otherwise even attempted to follow all the steps of the grievance procedures. See Dkt. No. 92 at 9, 11; see also Dkt. No. 77-8 at 104 (Plaintiff's deposition testimony unambiguously establishing that he did not file a written grievance or attempt to appeal a non-response). Therefore, Judge Dancks committed no clear error in determining that Plaintiff failed to exhaust ...


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