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Jean-Laurent v. C.O. Lawrence

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 16, 2015

C.O. LAWRENCE, et al., Defendants.


J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Phillip Jean-Laurent ("Plaintiff") brings this action alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff's remaining claim asserts that Defendants Sergeant Joseph Seymour ("Seymour"), two unidentified sergeants designated as Sgt. John Doe #1 and Sgt. Jane Doe #1[1] (collectively with Seymour, the "Sergeant Defendants"), and Superintendent Ada Perez ("Perez"; collectively with the Sergeant Defendants, "Defendants") violated his constitutional right of access to courts by failing to provide him with certain legal materials in a timely manner. Defendants now move for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Facts[2]

Plaintiff was incarcerated in the New York state prison system from July 25, 2005, through September 10, 2010. (Dkt. No. 74 ("Def. 56.1 Stmt.") ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 84 ("Pl. 56.1 Response") ¶ 1.) At the end of July 2008, Plaintiff was an inmate at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility ("Cape Vincent"). (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 6.) On July 29, 2008, Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with another inmate. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 6, 11; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶¶ 6, 11; Dkt. No. 70 ("Harben Decl.") Ex. B ("Jean-Laurent Depo.") at 62.) In a prison disciplinary hearing on August 1, 2008, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to charges arising from the fight. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6; Jean-Laurent Depo. at 74-75.) As punishment, Plaintiff was given six months in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), a recommended loss of three months of "good time, " and six months of lost privileges, and was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $45. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 7; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 7.) Plaintiff asserts that his guilty plea to the disciplinary charges was involuntary because he was misled into believing that the other participant in the fight would also be disciplined. (Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 6; Jean-Laurent Depo. at 62-64.)

On August 26, 2008, Plaintiff was transferred to Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State"), and then, on December 23, 2008, to Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate"). (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 17; Dkt. No. 72 ("Perez Decl.") Ex. A.) On December 30, 2008, Plaintiff was temporarily transferred from Downstate to a New York City facility on Rikers Island so that he could attend court proceedings in New York City. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18-19; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶¶ 18-19.) Plaintiff returned to Downstate on January 12, 2009. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 20; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 20.)

On January 15, 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance in which he requested access to certain legal materials that were not transferred with him to Downstate or to Rikers.[3] (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 21; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 21; Perez Decl. Ex. D.) In the grievance, Plaintiff explained that he was involved in several state and federal litigations and risked adverse consequences in those litigations if he could not access his legal materials. (Perez Decl. Ex. D.)

On February 4, 2009, Plaintiff received some of the legal materials he sought. (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 24; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 24; Perez Decl. Ex. C.) Defendant Perez, the Superintendent of Downstate, responded to Plaintiff's grievance regarding the legal materials on February 19, 2009, and asserted her understanding that by that point Plaintiff had received all of his legal materials. (Perez Decl. Ex. C.) Plaintiff appealed from this decision on February 27, 2009, and stated that some of his legal materials still had not been provided to him at Downstate. ( Id. ) Ultimately, Plaintiff gained full access to his legal materials once he was transferred to Livingston Correctional Facility ("Livingston") on March 5, 2009. (Dkt. No. 85 ("Pl. Br.") Ex. Q ¶ 10.)

On April 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Article 78 petition in New York state court.[4] (Def. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 34; Pl. 56.1 Response ¶ 34.) The Article 78 petition concerned the punishment Plaintiff had received as a result of his Tier III[5] prison disciplinary hearing, which Plaintiff claimed to be "unduly harsh." (Pl. Br. Ex. I.) On July 8, 2009, the Honorable Dennis S. Cohen, Acting Supreme Court Justice, denied the petition, ruling that

[t]he statute of limitations in this case was four months and that time period has lapsed. The Tier III administrative appeal was affirmed on October 1, 2008. Petitioner received notice of this determination on October 6, 2008, while at Mid-State Correctional Facility. Petitioner filed this article 78 application on April 16, 2009.

( Id. (citation omitted).) Plaintiff's motion to reargue was denied on October 13, 2009, again on grounds of untimely filing. (Pl. Br. Ex. K.)

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed this suit on February 28, 2012. (Dkt. No. 2.) On June 13, 2012, Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. (Dkt. No. 14.) In an opinion filed March 19, 2013, the Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Jean-Laurent v. Lawrence, No. 12 Civ. 1502 (JPO) (SN), 2013 WL 1129813 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2013). The opinion dismissed Plaintiff's claims against state officials in their official capacities on grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. at *4. The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's inadequate clothing claim, as well as Plaintiff's privacy and religious freedom claims, on grounds of qualified immunity. Id. at *6-9. Plaintiff's access to courts claim against Perez and the Sergeant Defendants was permitted to proceed. Id. at *4-6. On March 28, 2014, the Court denied Defendants' motion for reconsideration concerning the access to courts claim, ruling that Plaintiff had pleaded a nonfrivolous underlying claim. Jean-Laurent v. Lawrence, No. 12 Civ. 1502 (JPO) (SN), 2014 WL 1282309 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 28, 2014).

Following discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on July 30, 2014. (Dkt. No. 68.) After several extensions of time, Plaintiff opposed the motion on October 21, 2014. (Dkt. No. 85.) ...

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