United States District Court, E.D. New York
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Plaintiff, Pro se.
For Defendants: Pablo A. Fernandez and Liora M. Ben-Sorek of the Nassau County District Attorney's Office, Mineola, NY.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
JOSEPH F. BIANCO, United States District Judge.
Pro se plaintiff Oscar Angulo (" Angulo" or " plaintiff" ) brings this action against defendants Nassau County (" the County" ), Michael J. Sposato (" Sposato" ), and numerous mail room employees and corrections officers at the Nassau County Correctional Center (" NCCC" ) (collectively, " defendants" ), alleging violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that defendants violated his First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights through the destruction of various legal documents and his legal mail, which allegedly deprived him of, inter alia, his rights to counsel and a trial by jury. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on the grounds that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), and on the merits. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion in its entirety.
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff claims his rights were violated in two distinct ways: (1) the destruction of legal documents by officers at NCCC ( see Second Amended Complaint (" SAC" ) ¶ ¶ 16--57); and (2) the destruction of incoming legal mail ( see id. ¶ ¶ 59--73).
The Court takes the following facts from defendants' Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts, and the parties' affidavits, depositions, exhibits. Where the Rule 56.1 Statement contains specific citations to the record as support, the Court cites to the Rule 56.1 Statement, rather than the underlying citation to the record. Unless otherwise noted, where the Rule 56.1 statement is cited, that fact is undisputed or plaintiff has not pointed to any contradictory evidence in the record. The
Court construes the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the nonmoving party. See Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47, 50 (2d Cir. 2005).
1. Destruction of Mail
Plaintiff was an inmate at NCCC from January 29 to November 9, 2009, when he was transferred to Downstate Correctional Facility (" DCF" ). (Def. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 1, 41--42.) Before his incarceration, plaintiff hired the firm Cassisi & Cassisi to represent him in an action against the Long Island Railroad (" LIRR" ). ( Id. ¶ 43; see Opp'n, at Background ¶ ¶ III--IV.) During his incarceration at NCCC, plaintiff never received any legal correspondence from his counsel in the matter against the LIRR. (SAC ¶ 15.) He also never attempted to contact the firm until he was transferred to DCF. (Def. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 53--54.)
While at DCF, plaintiff contacted the firm to inquire about the case against the LIRR. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 54.) Frank Cassisi responded in a letter in December 2009 that he had withdrawn as plaintiff's attorney. ( Id. ¶ 55.) Mr. Cassisi also forwarded three unopened pieces of mail that were returned to his office from DCF, as well as copies of previous letters that were sent to plaintiff's home and to NCCC. (December 9, 2009 Letter, Opp'n Ex. A.) The March 5, 2009 letter from an attorney at the firm informed plaintiff that the firm was " unable to undertake representation of [the] case" ; informed plaintiff that the firm had filed a Notice of Claim on his behalf; and advised him that a Summons and Complaint must be filed within one year and ninety days from the date of the accident, which occurred on September 17, 2008. (March 5, 2009 Letter, Opp'n Ex. A.) Plaintiff claims that defendants " willfully and maliciously" confiscated and destroyed the letters, thus causing the LIRR case to be dismissed. (Opp'n, at Background ¶ ¶ XI, XIII.)
2. Destruction of Legal Documents Left in Law Library
In his Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff alleges that, on or about August 12, 2009, he inadvertently left his legal documents, relating to his criminal case, in NCCC's law library. (SAC ¶ ¶ 23--30.) Plaintiff further alleges that he subsequently saw Officer Carmine Pulgrano holding the legal documents in the Control Room, and that Pulgrano proceeded to intentionally rip and shred the documents, while other correction staff employees watched. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 33--38.)
3. Grievance Procedure
The Inmate Handbook explains the rules, regulations, and procedures with which all inmates must comply, and it details NCCC's Grievance Procedure. (Def. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 57--58; see Inmate Handbook, Def. Ex. G.) Plaintiff does not claim that he never received any information about the grievance procedure at NCCC. As relevant here, according to the three-part grievance process, an inmate must file a " ...