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Hill v. Griffin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 28, 2015

MICHAEL HILL, 90B0732, Plaintiff,
PATRICK GRIFFIN, et al., Defendants.




Pro se Plaintiff Michael Hill ("Plaintiff"), an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), alleges various violations of his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at the Southport Correctional Facility ("Southport"). Defendants, who are employees of DOCCS, seek judgment on the pleadings as to Plaintiff's amended complaint. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that Defendants violated his rights in various ways while he was incarcerated at Southport. Plaintiff describes himself as a "Black African/American Hebrew-Isrealite [sic], " and claims that he has been deprived of his constitutional rights based on his race and religion. (Dkt. 19 at ¶ 23). According to Plaintiff, funds have been improperly extracted from his inmate account, he has been charged an inflated price for postage, a "Jewish religious legal study guide" was improperly confiscated from him and labeled contraband, his mail has been interfered with, he has been prevented from filing and pursuing grievances, and he has been denied medical information. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-30, 44, 48, 54-1[1], 56, 60, 62).

Plaintiff's amended complaint purports to assert the following causes of action[2]: (1) conspiracy pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 26); (2) "harassment" in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments ( id. at ¶ 54-1); (3) "deliberate failure to supervise and discipline" ( id. at ¶ 55-1); (4) "denial of access to the courts" ( id. at ¶ 60-1); (5) retaliation/equal protection violations ( id. at ¶ 36); (6) denial of medical treatment ( id. at 44); (7) "interference & deliberate mail deprivations" ( id. at ¶ 48); and (8) retaliation in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments ( id. at ¶ 54). Defendants seek dismissal of all of Plaintiff's claims. (Dkt. 43-1).

Plaintiff commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 28, 2011, alleging various violations of his rights by the Defendants. (Dkt. 1). Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on May 23, 2011. (Dkt. 6). In response, Plaintiff moved to amend the complaint on June 2, 2011. (Dkt. 12). On January 11, 2012, the Honorable Charles J. Siragusa, United States District Judge, entered a Decision and Order granting in part and denying in part both the motion to dismiss and the motion for leave to amend. (Dkt. 18). Judge Siragusa's Decision and Order provided that Plaintiff could file an amended complaint prior to February 29, 2012. (Id. at 9). Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on January 23, 2012 (Dkt. 19), and Defendants answered the amended complaint on July 25, 2012 (Dkt. 21).

On May 17, 2013, Defendants filed the instant motion, which, although designated on the docket and in the notice of motion as a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, purports in various places to be brought pursuant to both Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. ( See Dkt. 43, 43-1). Plaintiff filed his opposition to the motion on May 29, 2013. (Dkt. 47). This case was transferred to the undersigned on December 4, 2014. (Dkt. 69). On January 27, 2015, this Court entered a Decision and Order that: (1) denied Defendants' motion to the extent it sought summary judgment; (2) construed the portion of Defendants' motion seeking dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) as a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c); (3) permitted Plaintiff to file an additional submission in opposition to Defendants' motion on or before February 27, 2015; and (4) reserved decision on the remainder of Defendants' motion pending Plaintiff's submission. (Dkt. 74). Plaintiff filed a supplemental submission on February 6, 2015. (Dkt. 75).


I. Legal Standard

A motion for judgment on the pleadings made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) is assessed using "the same... standard applicable to dismissals pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Johnson v. Rowley, 569 F.3d 40, 43 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted). In considering a motion to dismiss, a court generally may only consider "facts stated in the complaint or documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference." Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc., 421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 2005). A court should consider the motion "accepting all factual allegations in the complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.'" Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 188 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007)). To withstand dismissal, a plaintiff must set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." 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 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Turkmen v. Ashcroft, 589 F.3d 542, 546 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)); see also Nielsen v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014) ("The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement. A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of the facts alleged is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, "at a bare minimum, the operative standard requires the plaintiff to provide the grounds upon which his claim rests through factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56-57 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In addition, "[i]t is well settled that pro se litigants generally are entitled to a liberal construction of their pleadings, which should be read to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Green v. United States, 260 F.3d 78, 83 (2d Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 687 (2d Cir. 2004) ("It is well-established that when [a] plaintiff proceeds pro se ... a court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations.'") (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004)). Moreover, "a pro se litigant should be afforded every opportunity to ...

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