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Abdur-Raheem v. Caffery

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 17, 2015

T. CAFFERY and ALBERT PRACK, Defendants.


J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

Jalil Abdur-Raheem ("Abdur-Raheem"), proceeding pro se while incarcerated at a correctional facility in New York, alleges that Defendants Terry Caffery ("Caffery") and Albert Prack ("Prack") (collectively, "Defendants") deprived him of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, Abdur-Raheem alleges violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[1]

In January 2011, Abdur-Raheem was a prisoner at New York State's Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven"), and worked as a porter in the Family Reunion Program ("FRP"), where his duties included cleaning the FRP trailers. (Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."), Ex. A ("N.Y.S. Decision").) Defendant Caffery was a Tier III hearing officer at Green Haven. (Compl. at 5.) Defendant Prack was the Director of Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program for the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). ( Id. Ex. B.)

On January 27, 2011, Abdur-Raheem cleaned the trailer where one of his own FRP visits was to be held and brought a few personal items into the trailer. (Compl. at 5; N.Y.S. Decision.) Soon thereafter, a corrections officer who worked in the FRP office noticed that two cartridges of film were missing from the office, and, after a search, discovered one cartridge hidden between the mattresses of the bed in the trailer in which Abdur-Raheem was to have his FRP visit. (N.Y.S. Decision.) Abdur-Raheem was immediately placed in the Special Housing Unit, or "SHU." (Compl. at 5.)

Abdur-Raheem was charged in a prison misbehavior report with smuggling, stealing, and violating FRP guidelines. (N.Y.S. Decision.) On February 14, 2011, he was found guilty of the charges following a Tier III disciplinary hearing before Defendant Caffery. ( Id.; Compl. at 5; Compl. Ex. B.) Caffery sentenced Abdur-Raheem to six months in the S.H.U. The punishment included loss of packages, commissary, and phone privileges for the full six-month period. (Compl. at 5.) It appears from the complaint that Abdur-Raheem may have been released early on April 4, 2011. ( Id. ) In any event, Caffery's determination was affirmed on administrative appeal. (N.Y.S. Decision.)

Abdur-Raheem subsequently initiated a proceeding in New York state court pursuant to CPLR Article 78, contending that his right to call witnesses had been infringed at the Tier III hearing when Caffery failed to make a personal inquiry concerning the reason Abdur-Raheem's witness refused to testify. (N.Y.S. Decision.) The witness, a fellow inmate, was the other porter in the FRP program who had access to the FRP trailers. ( Id. ) He had initially agreed to testify, but later refused. ( Id. ) At the hearing, Caffery informed Abdur-Raheem of the inmate's refusal to testify and indicated that two officers had spoken to the inmate about his refusal. ( Id. ) In addition, Caffery gave Abdur-Raheem a copy of the inmate refusal form, which indicated that the requested witness did not "have knowledge of any photos" and "did not want to be involve[d]." ( Id. )

On September 13, 2012, the Appellate Division, Third Department annulled the disciplinary determination. ( Id. )[2] The court held that under New York law, Caffery was required to conduct a "personal inquiry" into the witness's reason for refusing to testify "unless a genuine reason for the refusal [was] apparent from the record and [Caffery] made a sufficient inquiry into the facts surrounding the refusal to ascertain its authenticity." ( Id. ) The court held, first, that the witness's desire not to be involved, as indicated on the inmate refusal form, was not a legitimate basis for an inmate's refusal to testify, and second, that "[e]ven if the refusal form were construed to contain a justifiable reason based upon a lack of knowledge, " there was no evidence that Caffery had spoken with the officers who obtained the refusal form to establish this reason as authentic. ( Id. ) Therefore, Caffery's obligation to conduct a personal inquiry was not excused by the refusal form. ( Id. ) The court concluded that Abdur-Raheem "was denied his regulatory right to call witnesses, " and the matter was "remitted for a new hearing." ( Id. )

On September 20, 2012, Prack sent a letter to Abdur-Raheem advising him "on behalf of the Commissioner" that his prison disciplinary determination had been "reviewed and administratively reversed, " and that rehearing was "not warranted." (Compl. Ex. B.)

Abdur-Raheem sues Caffery and Prack in their official and individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Caffery violated his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights when he failed to personally inquire as to why the witness refused to testify, and that Prack "unconstitutionally left [him] confined to S.H.U. from Jan[uary] 27, 2011, until April 4, 2011." (Compl. at 5.) He seeks damages of $150 for each day in SHU, $.32 per hour for the wages he lost as a result of being held in SHU, and punitive damages of $2, 500. ( Id. at 5-6.)[3] Caffery and Prack move to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

B. Procedural History

The complaint was filed on July 8, 2013. (Dkt. No. 1.) On September 24, 2013, the Court sua sponte dismissed Abdur-Raheem's official-capacity claims against the Defendants on the ground that, as state agents, Caffery and Prack have Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit for damages in their official capacities.[4] (Dkt. No. 7.) On March 12, 2014, Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. (Dkt. No. 18.) Abdur-Raheem subsequently received two extensions of time to respond to the Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. Nos. 22 & 25), after which he applied for the appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 29). The Court denied his application, but sua sponte granted him a third extension of time within which to respond to the Motion to Dismiss, to December 20, 2014. (Dkt. No. 30.) Abdur-Raheem failed to meet this deadline, ...

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