United States District Court, N.D. New York
VINCENT A. VARLEY, II, Plaintiff,
WAYNE FARMER, Sergeant, Warren County Jail., Defendant
VINCENT A. VARLEY, II, Pro se, Plaintiff, Troy, NY.
For Defendant: GREGG T. JOHNSON, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, LEMIRE, JOHNSON & HIGGINS, LLC, Malta, NY.
REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER
Randolph F. Treece, United States Magistrate Judge.
On May 13, 2013,  pro se Plaintiff Vincent A. Varley, II, while incarcerated at Warren County Jail (" WCJ"), commenced a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants Correction Officer Dickinson and Sergeant Wayne Farmer violated his constitutional rights. See generally Dkt. No. 1, Compl. On August 22, 2013, the Honorable Lawrence E. Kahn, Senior United States District Judge, performed an initial review of the Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and dismissed certain claims and Defendant Dickinson, thus leaving only two causes of action remaining against Defendant Farmer: 1) wrongful confinement without due process, and 2) a First Amendment retaliation claim. Dkt. No. 12, Mem.-Dec. & Order, dated Aug. 22, 2013. On August 20, 2014, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 48, Mot. for Summ. J. Plaintiff filed his Response in Opposition thereto. Dkt. No. 50, Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n. On September 22, 2014, Defendant submitted his Reply. Dkt. No. 51, Def.'s Reply.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate only where " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party bears the burden to demonstrate through " pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with [ ] affidavits, if any, " that there is no genuine issue of material fact. F.D.I.C. v. Giammettei, 34 F.3d 51, 54 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). " When a party has moved for summary judgment on the basis of asserted facts supported as required by [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e)] and has, in accordance with local court rules, served a concise statement of the material facts as to which it contends there exist no genuine issues to be tried, those facts will be deemed admitted unless properly controverted by the nonmoving party." Glazer v. Formica Corp., 964 F.2d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 1992).
To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, and cannot rest merely on allegations or denials of the facts submitted by the movant. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Scott v. Coughlin, 344 F.3d 282, 287 (2d Cir. 2003) (" Conclusory allegations or denials are ordinarily not sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment when the moving party has set out a documentary case."); Rexnord Holdings, Inc. v. Bidermann, 21 F.3d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir. 1994).
When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Nora Beverages, Inc. v. Perrier Group of Am., Inc., 164 F.3d 736, 742 (2d Cir. 1998). " [T]he trial court's task at the summary judgment motion stage of the litigation is carefully limited to discerning whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to deciding them. Its duty, in short, is confined at this point to issue-finding; it does not extend to issue-resolution." Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994).
Furthermore, where a party is proceeding pro se, the court must " read [his or her] supporting papers liberally, and . . . interpret them to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994); accord Soto v. Walker, 44 F.3d 169, 173 (2d Cir. 1995). Nonetheless, mere conclusory allegations, unsupported by the record, are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Carey v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d Cir. 1991). Summary judgment is appropriate " [w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.
B. Material Facts
On January 3, 2013, while detained at WCJ, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Correctional Officer Dickinson alleging that he was " sexually harassed and abused by" Dickinson during a routine strip search. Dkt. No. 50, Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n, Grievance Form - Part I, dated Jan. 3. 2013. On January 6, 2013, Plaintiff submitted a " Request for Medical Services/Physical Assessment, "  stating that he had " [r]eoccuring nightmares and trouble sleeping due to an excessive strip search [conducted] by [Correctional Officer] Dickinson . . . . Every time [he] sees him [his] hands get all clammy and heart feels like its gonna [sic] pound through [his] chest. [He] get[s] sick to [his] stomach and vomit in [his] mouth [and] wake[s] up from [his] nightmares of [Correctional Officer Dickinson] in cold sweats, shaking and breathing [illegible]." Dkt. No. 48-5, Ex. A, Medical Slip, dated Jan. 6, 2013.
Defendant Farmer is employed by the Warren County Sheriff's Office as a Correction Sergeant assigned to WCJ. Dkt. No. 48-4, Wayne Farmer Decl., dated Aug. 18, 2014, at ¶ 2. Defendant Farmer was on duty when Plaintiff submitted his medical slip. Id. at ¶ 4. Defendant Farmer read Plaintiff's medical slip and questioned Plaintiff about his statements. Id. at ¶ ¶ 5-6. When asked by Defendant Farmer whether he would like to be transferred to protective custody, Plaintiff replied that he is " not scared for [his] safety or in fear of the officers or inmates." Compl. at ¶ ¶ 23-25. After reflecting on the contents of Plaintiff's medical slip, Defendant Farmer placed Plaintiff in protective custody at 9:00 p.m. on January 6, 2013. Dkt. No. 48-3, Ex. F., Vincent A. Varley, II, Dep., dated Dec. 3, 2013, at p. 23; Farmer Decl. at ¶ 7; & Dkt. No. 48-7, Ex. C, Admin. Seg. Order, dated Jan. 6, 2013. He was released on January 7, 2012, at 3:08 p.m. Dkt. No. 48-8, Ex. D, Shift Log Entry, dated Jan. 7, 2013.
On January 7, 2013, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Farmer for placing him in protective custody. Dkt. 48-9, Ex. G, Grievance Form - Part I, dated Jan. 7, 2013. It stated that Farmer " wrongfully and . . . illegally [placed him] in segregation due to punishment of prior grievances. [Farmer] is committing vengeful acts against me. Never once [or] at anytime did I say I was concerned or feared for my safety [.]" Id. In the same grievance form, under the subheading " Action requested by the grievant, " Plaintiff asked for immediate removal from protective custody and that " [Sergeant] Farmer not ever be able to handle" a situation concerning him because " [Farmer] is committing vengeful acts . . . due to prior grievances[.]" Id. On January 12, 2013, the grievance coordinator found that " Inmate Varley [did] not offer evidence to support his claims that Sgt. Farmer was acting wrongfully or illegally by placing him in Protective Custody." Dkt. No. ...