United States District Court, W.D. New York
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
MARIAN W. PAYSON, Magistrate Judge.
Rogelio Young ("Young"), proceeding pro se, has initiated this action against defendants Todd L. Tryon ("Tryon"), Michael Finnigan ("Finnigan"), Matthew J. Buck ("Buck"), Kurt Lasly ("Lasly"), Sean McMahan ("McMahan"), Marc Smith ("Smith"), Edith Pickens ("Pickens"), and Metro-Barbosa Group in their individual and official capacities. (Docket #1). Young has asserted violations of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) (" Bivens "), and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. (Id. ).
By Order of the Hon. Charles J. Siragusa, United States District Judge, dated July 24, 2012, all pretrial matters in the above-captioned case were referred to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A)-(B), and all dispositive motions were referred to this Court for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B)-(C). (Docket #17). Currently pending before the Court are motions by Tryon, Finnigan, Buck, Lasly, McMahan, and Smith (the "federal defendants") to dismiss Young's complaint. (Docket #21). Also pending before the Court is Valley Metro-Barbosa Group's ("VMBG") motion to dismiss the complaint. (Docket #41). For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the district court grant both motions.
A. Allegations in the Complaint
Young's allegations in the complaint stem from his detention in a federal facility. (Docket #1). Young asserts various claims relating to the conditions of his confinement, his access to the courts, the availability of the grievance process, the adequacy of his medical treatment, and his right to privacy in both his medical and legal affairs. (Id. ).
Young alleges various claims arising out of the conditions of his confinement at the Batavia facility. First, Young complains that the temperature at the detention facility was impermissibly cold. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-7). Specifically, Young asserts that between the end of November 2011 through sometime in March 2012, the temperatures in his cell were "very, very cold." (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3, 5). According to Young, Tryon, Lasly and VMBG failed to provide adequate heat or clothing to detainees during those months. (Id. at ¶ 1). Young contends that despite sleeping with two blankets, two sheets, his issued clothing, and a jacket, he was still cold. (Id. at ¶ 3). In addition, Young alleges that despite his repeated complaints to "unit guards, lieutenants, and ICE officials, " his concerns regarding the lack of heat were ignored. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-7). Young maintains that the lack of proper heating and exposure to the cold caused him "extreme physical discomfort and pain." (Id. at ¶ 20).
Second, Young contends that Tryon and VMBG used the regular housing unit where he was detained as a "Special Housing Unit" to lodge physically and mentally ill detainees together with healthy detainees. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 11, 13; Sec. XIII at ¶ 2). Young asserts that healthy detainees "[take] advantage" of ill detainees and that his complaints to staff members were ignored. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10, 11, 13). Young further alleges that the guards' imposition of "24-hour lock downs" temporarily deprived inmates of access to the telephone, shower, legal materials, and coffee. (Id. at ¶ 9). According to Young, he complained to the "[d]efendants, " but his requests to terminate the use of the unit as a special housing unit were ignored. (Id. at ¶ 13).
Third, Young claims that the housing unit was too loud and that the "constant and excessive high volume noise from early morning to late at night, " in combination with his medical issues, interfered with his sleep. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15, 20). According to Young, despite complaints from him and other detainees to "the unit guards, lieutenants, ICE staff, and anyone who would listen, " Tryon, Lasly and VMBG failed to take steps to control the "zoo-like environment, " and the "constant high level noise" caused him extreme physical discomfort and pain. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-17 & n.2, 20; Sec. XIII ¶ 3).
Fourth, according to Young, Tryon, Smith and VMBG permitted a list of purportedly pro bono attorneys to be displayed at the facility. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-47). According to Young, he contacted each lawyer on the list, and none of the attorneys agreed to take his case pro bono. (Id. ).
Finally, Young contends that the meals provided to detainees were unsanitary because the detainees who served the meals put their hands inside their pants and then touched the food. (Id. at ¶ 28). Young claims that his complaints to unidentified guards, lieutenants, and officials were ignored. (Id. ). Young further alleges that Tryon, Lasly and VMBG are responsible for ensuring that the food was served under sanitary conditions. (Id. at Sec. XIII ¶ 5).
In addition to the claims concerning the conditions of his confinement, Young contends that Tryon, Lasly, Finnigan, Buck and VMBG interfered with his access to the courts and his ability to utilize the grievance process. Specifically, Young contends that Tryon, Finnigan, Buck and VMBG denied him access to "rules, policies, procedures, and standards for any departments" and that the law library materials did not contain "federal law, Shepard's, or any materials necessitate [sic] the assisting of conducting research to access the courts." (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19; Sec. XIII ¶ 4). In addition, Young asserts that Tryon, Lasly and VMBG permitted a policy of recording inmates' legal phone calls placed to attorneys and to the courts. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-42; Sec. XIII ¶¶ 9, 11). Finally, Young alleges that Tryon and Lasly "knowingly and intentionally" obstructed the detainee grievance process. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-27). According to Young, despite his repeated requests for grievance forms, he was issued only one grievance form. (Id. at ¶ 23).
Young also asserts that his rights to privacy were violated during his detention. First, Young asserts that Tryon, Lasly, McMahon and VMBG violated his privacy rights because he was required to discuss his medical conditions in the presence of prison guards, enabling non-medical personnel to overhear Young's discussions with medical staff. (Id. at ¶¶ 29-30). Young further contends that the guards stationed in the medical area "attempt[ed] to give diagnos[e]s when they ha[d] no medical training, and... later broadcast[ed] to their fellow guards the detainees' medical issues." (Id. at ¶ 31). According to Young, on one occasion, a guard interjected himself into a conversation that Young was having with a medical staff member. (Id. at ¶ 30). Young contends that these invasions of his privacy made him "very uncomfortable discussing his medical issues." (Id. at ¶ 31).
Second, Young contends that Smith violated his rights under the Privacy Act by "openly discuss[ing] his [immigration] case and that of other detainees directly at the unit officers' desk in plain hearing of other detainees in the unit." (Id. at ¶ 36). According to Young, other inmates "as far as [twenty] feet away" could overhear details concerning Young's immigration case. (Id. at ¶ 37). Young alleges that Smith denied his request for a private meeting to discuss his case. (Id. at ¶ 38).
Finally, construing the complaint broadly, it alleges that Tryon and McMahan were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. (Id. at ¶ 35). Young claims that he suffers from sleep apnea, which requires him to use a breathing machine while he is sleeping. (Id. at ¶ 32). Young contends that his breathing machine needed "servicing" and that he told "Defendant Magee" that if the machine were not serviced, "he would have difficulty breathing." (Id. ). According to Young, the written requests that he sent McMahan to speak with him were ignored. (Id. at ¶ 35). Young also asserts that his requests to Tryon "about the medical department" were ignored. (Id. ).
Young has also attached to his complaint various documents entitled "Detainee Request to Facility Employee, " which appear to represent Young's attempts to file grievances concerning the allegations in his complaint. (Docket #1 at 13-21, 24-29). Facility officials apparently responded to some of the requests. (Id. at 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22-23, 29). However, with the exception of Buck who evidently reviewed one request ( id. at 21), none of the individuals who responded to the requests appear to be named as defendants in this action.
B. Federal Defendants' Motion
The federal defendants seek dismissal of Young's claims against them. (Docket #21-1). First, the federal defendants contend that they are entitled to dismissal of all claims asserted against them in their official capacity on the grounds that the court lacks jurisdiction over such claims. (Id. at 8, 20). Second, McMahan contends that he is entitled to dismissal of all claims asserted against him on the grounds that he is immune from suit under 42 U.S.C. § 233(a). (Id. at 7-8, 15).
With respect to Young's conditions of confinement claims, the federal defendants contend that the claims should be dismissed because none of the conditions alleged by Young presented a substantial risk of serious harm. (Id. at 9-11). In addition, Tryon and Lasly contend that Young has failed to adequately allege that they acted with deliberate indifference. (Id. at 11-12).
The federal defendants also contend that Young's access to the courts claims should be dismissed in their entirety. First, with respect to Young's claims regarding the adequacy of the law library, the federal defendants maintain that the claims should be dismissed because Young has failed to allege that he suffered any injury as a result of the purported deficiencies. (Id. at 13). In addition, the federal defendants contend that Young's claim that his phone calls with attorneys were monitored and recorded should be dismissed on the grounds that Young has failed to allege personal involvement of any of the individual defendants. (Id. at 18-19).
Tryon contends that Young's claim that he improperly allowed the pro bono list of attorneys to be displayed at the facility should be dismissed because Young has failed to allege sufficient facts to assert a claim for supervisory liability with respect to Tryon. (Id. at 19-20). With respect to Young's claims that Tryon, Buck and Finnigan denied him access to facility policies and procedures, the federal defendants contend the claim should be dismissed on two independent bases. First, they maintain that the complaint does not adequately allege that his access to facility policies and procedures was denied. (Id. at 13). In addition, the federal defendants contend that Young does not have a constitutional right to access to the facility policies and procedures. (Id. at 13-14).
Similarly, with respect to Young's claims against Lasly and Tryon for interference with the grievance process, they contend that the claim should be dismissed because Young does not have a constitutional right to a prison grievance procedure. (Id. at 20). Second, Tryon contends that the claim against him should also be dismissed because Young has failed to adequately state a claim for supervisory liability against him. (Id. ).
The federal defendants contend that Young's claims regarding violations of his privacy should be dismissed. First, they contend that Young has failed to state a claim pursuant to the Privacy Act because he has failed to allege that the information released was "contained within a system of record." (Id. at 18). In addition, they contend that the claim should be dismissed on the grounds that a Privacy Act claim may not be asserted against individual officers. (Id. ). Finally, they maintain that Young lacks standing to assert a claim under the Privacy Act because he is not a United States citizen or a lawfully admitted alien, although they have not provided an affidavit or other proper basis from which Young's citizenship status may be ascertained. (Id. ). Further, according to the federal defendants, to the extent Young is asserting a violation of constitutional rights, Young does not have a constitutionally protected privacy interest with respect to either his medical condition or his immigration case. (Id. at 16-18).
Finally, the federal defendants assert that Young has failed to allege sufficient facts to state a deliberate indifference claim against them. (Id. at 14-16). McMahan claims that he is entitled to immunity from suit on this claim. (Id. ). Tryon asserts that Young has failed to allege that he was involved in Young's medical decisions or that he was deliberately indifferent to any serious medical needs that caused Young "actual or imminent substantial harm." (Id. ).
Young has not filed any opposition to the federal defendants' motion. ( See Docket #28).
C. VMBG's Motion to Dismiss
VMBG seeks dismissal of Young's complaint on the grounds that it fails to state a claim. (Docket #41). According to VMBG, it is a private entity not subject to Bivens claims. (Docket #41-1 at 4-6). In addition, VMBG contends that Young has failed to allege that it acted as an agency of the federal government. (Id. at 7-8). VBMG further contends that it is entitled to dismissal of Young's Privacy Act claim on the grounds that Young's allegations are too vague to permit the Court to determine what information was purportedly disclosed or that he sustained any actual damages. (Id. at 8-10). In addition, VMBG contends that Young has failed to allege that he is either a United States citizen or a lawfully admitted permanent resident alien, a requirement for suit under the Privacy Act. (Id. at 6). Finally, VMBG asserts that it is entitled to dismissal of any constitutional privacy claim because the Privacy Act precludes such a claim. (Id. at 9).
Young opposes VMBG's motion on the grounds that he is a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United States. (Docket #45). VMBG replies that even if Young's assertion that he is a lawfully admitted permanent resident of the United State were accepted as true, Young still has not adequately pled the remaining elements of a Privacy Act cause of action. (Docket #48).
"A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the party's claim for relief." Zucco v. Auto Zone, Inc., 800 F.Supp.2d 473, 475 (W.D.N.Y. 2011). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the ...