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Dolan v. Fishkill Correctional Facility Superintendent

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 2, 2017

RORY DOLAN, Plaintiff,
Fishkill Correctional Facility Superintendent WILLIAM J. CONNOLLY; Cayuga Correctional Facility Superintendent DAVID A. STALLONE; Fishkill Correctional Facility Plant Superintendent ROGER MAINES; Fishkill Correctional Facility Lieutenant M. CALLENDER; and Fishkill Correctional Facility Senior Correction Counselor CARL GOOD, Defendants.


          GEORGE B. DANIELS, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Rory Dolan brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five prison officials at the Fishkill and Cayuga Correctional Facilities, where Plaintiff was previously incarcerated. (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 59.) Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. He also asserted causes of action for violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶¶ 91-110.)

         The Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 62.) Before this Court is Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein's January 18, 2017 Report and Recommendation ("Report, " (ECF No. 78)), recommending that Defendants' motion be granted as to Plaintiffs claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and as to Plaintiffs retaliation claims against Defendants Good and Stallone, but denied as to Plaintiffs retaliation claims against Defendants Connolly, Maines, and Callender.[1] (Report at 1.) This Court adopts that recommendation.


         This Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations" set forth within a magistrate judge's report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court must review de novo the portions of a magistrate judge's report to which a party properly objects. Id. Portions of a magistrate judge's report to which no or merely perfunctory objections have been made are reviewed for clear error. See Edwards v. Fischer, 414 F.Supp.2d 342, 346-47 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). Clear error is present only when "upon review of the entire record, [the court is] left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." Brown v. Cunningham, No. 14-CV-3515, 2015 WL 3536615, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. June 4, 2015) (quoting United States v. Snow, 462 F.3d 55, 72 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         Magistrate Judge Gorenstein advised the parties that failure to file timely objections to the Report would constitute a waiver of those objections on appeal. (Report at 25.) Defendants filed timely objections to the Report. (Defs.' Objections to the R. &. R. ("Defs.' Objs."), (ECF No. 81).)[2] There is no clear error on the face of the record as to those portions of the report to which no objections were made. This Court has considered the issues raised in the Defendants' objections and reviews de novo the objected-to portions of the Report.

         "A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in a complaint." Trs. of Upstate N.Y. Eng'rs Pension Fund v. Ivy Asset Mgmt., 131 F.Supp.3d 103, 119 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "accept[s] all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw[s] all reasonable inferences" in favor of the plaintiff. Holmes v. Grubman, 568 F.3d 329, 335 (2d Cir. 2009) (quoting Burch v. Pioneer Credit Recovery, Inc., 551 F.3d 122, 124 (2d Cir. 2008)). A court is "not, however, 'bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions.'" Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008)). In order to survive such a motion, a complaint must plead "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).


         Neither party objected to the Report's recommendations that Plaintiffs claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments be dismissed. (Report at 20-24.) Having found no clear error as to those claims, this Court adopts the Report's recommendations. As the Report notes, while Dolan argued in his opposition memorandum of law that his "prolonged, unlawful confinement in the Special Housing Unit" violated the Eighth Amendment, the Complaint omits any description of Dolan's conditions of confinement. (Id. at 21-22.) Absent such allegations, the Complaint does not meet the standard for an Eighth Amendment claim based on prison conditions. See, e.g., Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

         As to the two Fourteenth Amendment claims asserted in Plaintiffs memorandum of law- that Dolan's confinement in a Special Housing Unit itself violated the Fourteenth Amendment, and that his confinement for 12 days after his release date violated substantive due process- Magistrate Judge Gorenstein correctly determined that neither claim adequately states a due process violation.[3] (Id. at 23-24.) Further, Judge Gorenstein properly deemed Plaintiff to have abandoned his claim that Defendant Connolly assigned an unqualified hearing officer, Defendant Maines, to preside over his hearing.[4] (Id. at 22-23.)


         The Report properly focused on whether the Complaint adequately states retaliation claims against Defendants Connolly and Good.[5] "To state a claim for First Amendment retaliation, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that '(1) his speech or conduct was protected by the First Amendment; (2) the defendant took an adverse action against him; and (3) there was a causal connection between this adverse action and the protected speech."' Stajic v. City of N. Y., No. 1:16-CV-1258-GHW, 2016 WL 5717573, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2016) (citing Matthews v. City of N.Y., 779 F.3d 167, 172 (2d Cir. 2015)). In cases involving prisoner retaliation claims, "[o]nly retaliatory conduct that would deter a similarly situated individual of ordinary firmness from exercising his or her constitutional rights constitutes an adverse action for a claim of retaliation." Vincent v. Sitnewski, 117 F.Supp.3d 329, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Dawes v. Walker, 239 F.3d 489, 493 (2d Cir. 2001)). Further, "[i]t is well settled that, in order to establish a defendant's individual liability in a suit brought under § 1983, a plaintiff must show, inter alia, the defendant's personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation." Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720F.3dl33, 138 (2d Cir. 2013).

         As the Report found, the protected speech element of the retaliation analysis has been met in this case. See Dolan v. Connolly, 794 F.3d 290, 295 (2d Cir. 2015) ("voicing grievances on behalf of a prison population as a member of an inmate grievance body, such as the ILC" is protected conduct) (citing Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 80 (2d Cir. 1996)). Further, because the Defendants have not argued that there was a lack of causation between Plaintiffs conduct and the alleged retaliation by Connolly and Good, the Report properly focused on the "adverse action" and "personal involvement" aspects of the retaliation claim.

         The Report determined that the Complaint adequately stated a First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Connolly but not against Defendant Good. This Court adopts the ...

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