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Keitt v. NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 19, 2015

DEVIN KEITT, Plaintiff,
v.
NYS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND COMMUNITY SUPERVISION, et al., Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

RICHARD J. ARCARA, District Judge.

The instant case, involving various civil rights claims by pro se plaintiff arising from his incarceration at Elmira Correctional Facility, was referred to Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy for supervision of all pre-trial proceeding pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) and plaintiff crossmoved for partial summary judgment. On January 6, 2015, Magistrate Judge McCarthy issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that defendants' motion be granted in part and denied in part, and that plaintiff's cross-motion be denied. Both plaintiff and defendant filed objections to the Report and Recommendation.[1] Responses to the respective objections were filed by plaintiff and defendants, and the Court deemed the matter submitted without oral argument. For the following reasons, and for the reasons set forth in the Report and Recommendation, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion to dismiss, and to deny plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

Background and Prior Proceedings

Plaintiff initially commenced this action in the Southern District of New York. After being granted in forma pauperis status, plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on July 8, 2010. The gravamen of plaintiff's complaint is that he has suffered from dyslexia all of his life and that he was denied accommodation for this condition while incarcerated at the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). While pending in the Southern District of New York, defendants moved for partial dismissal of the complaint, and for transfer of the remaining claims to the Western District of New York. Plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. The Southern District of New York granted defendants' motion to dismiss in part, and transferred, to this District, the remaining claims arising from plaintiff's incarceration at Elmira Correctional Facility.[2]

The causes of action transferred to this Court included claims pursuant to Sections 1983, 1985 and 1986 of Title 42 of the United States Code, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. Following other motions and proceedings before the Magistrate Judge, and a text order by Magistrate Judge McCarthy which clarified the identity of defendants, defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).[3] Defendants argue, primarily, that all of plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel. Defendants point to the fact that approximately four months after the instant case was filed, plaintiff commenced a similar action in the Northern District of New York, Keitt v. Annetts, et al., 10-cv-157. There, the Northern District of New York granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis that a rational factfinder would not find that plaintiff's alleged dyslexia was an impairment substantially limiting a major life activity. Defendants now argue that, in light of the Northern District of New York's finding that plaintiff was not disabled as a result of his dyslexia, plaintiff is collaterally estopped from litigating, in this action, that he suffers from dyslexia. Because all of plaintiff's claims are based upon failure to accommodate his dyslexia, such a finding would serve as a bar to plaintiff's entire action. In the alternative, defendants argue that plaintiff's claims are facially insufficient and must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Plaintiff then cross-moved for partial summary judgment.

Report and Recommendation

The Magistrate Judge notes that plaintiff does not identify which claims he seeks summary judgment on but instead focuses on opposing defendants' motion to dismiss. Magistrate Judge McCarthy recommends dismissal of plaintiff's cross-motion for partial summary judgment, and treats the "motion" as plaintiff's response to defendants' motion to dismiss.[4]

With respect to defendants' motion to dismiss, Magistrate Judge McCarthy finds that plaintiff is not collaterally estopped from bringing the instant action because plaintiff did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his claim of dyslexia before the Northern District of New York. The Magistrate Judge then proceeds to analyze the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the Amended Complaint, and recommends the following: (1) dismissal of all claims pursuant to Sections 1985 and 1986; (2) dismissal of all Section 1983 claims involving Fifth and Eighth Amendment violations; (3) dismissal of claims involving denial of access to the courts in violation of the First Amendment; (4) dismissal of retaliation claims in violation of the First Amendment against defendant Reynolds; (5) denial of Fourteenth Amendment due process claims arising from plaintiff's May 2010 disciplinary hearing; (6) dismissal of Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against defendant Livermore arising from alleged violations of New York Correction Law §136; (7) dismissal of Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Claims; (8) dismissal of all claims against New York State and the individual defendants in their official capacities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act; and (9) dismissal of plaintiff's reasonable accommodation claim arising from the alleged denial of access to courts. Magistrate Judge McCarthy recommends that defendants' motion to dismiss be denied in all other respects.

Plaintiff's Objections

Plaintiff appears to object to Magistrate Judge McCarthy's Report and Recommendation in so far as it recommends dismissal of plaintiff's claims alleging denial of access to the courts. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this Court must make a de novo determination of those dispositive portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants' failure to accommodate his dyslexia resulted in a denial of his access to the courts. The Magistrate Judge found that plaintiff's access to court claims failed because plaintiff did not identify any specific lawsuit or claim which was hindered or compromised by defendants' conduct. In his objections, plaintiff points to a number of his prior lawsuits and argues that defendants' failure to provide him adequate assistance in making legal claims resulted in his inability to perfect a number of appeals. However, as noted by defendants, plaintiff was not incarcerated at Elmira Correctional Facility at the time these decisions were rendered, and therefore none of the defendants named herein could have denied plaintiff the opportunity to appeal those decisions.

For these reasons, and for the reasons set forth by Magistrate Judge McCarthy in his Report and Recommendation, the Court adopts the recommendation to dismiss plaintiff's reasonable accommodation and First Amendment claims arising from the alleged denial of access to courts.

Defendants' Objections

Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's finding that plaintiff's claims are not barred by collateral estoppel. Defendants argue that the Magistrate Judge erroneously found that since there was an issue of fact as to whether plaintiff was denied access to a report supporting his diagnosis of dyslexia, plaintiff is not collaterally ...


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