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Dash v. L. Conners

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 26, 2017

RAMON A. DASH, Plaintiff,
v.
HEARING OFFICER L. CONNERS, and CORRECTIONAL OFFICER M. RUSINEK, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States District Court.

         INTRODUCTION

         Pro se Plaintiff Ramon Dash has filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8), which the Court now screens pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Plaintiff has also moved for service and for the appointment of counsel. ECF Nos. 11, 12. Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated while he was confined at Attica Correctional Facility when Defendants wrongfully disciplined him for possessing a weapon which was found in his cell after a fight, as more clearly detailed in his Amended Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         DISCUSSION

         28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(a) require the Court to screen this Amended Complaint. In evaluating the Amended Complaint, the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003). While “a court is obliged to construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations, ” McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), even pleadings submitted pro se must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2004).

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that the challenged conduct (1) was attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Whalen v. County of Fulton, 126 F.3d 400, 405 (2d. Cir. 1997). Based on its evaluation of the Amended Complaint, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b) because they fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I. Procedural History

         In his original Complaint (ECF No. 1), Plaintiff alleged that he was improperly punished as a result of what he characterized as a false charge and a wrongful conviction at his prison disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff stated that he had been moved to a cell at Attica Correctional Facility where a weapon was found after he had been housed in that cell for twenty days. Plaintiff denied knowing of or possessing the weapon. On January 7, 2014, after Plaintiff was involved in a fight with another inmate, Defendant Rusinek conducted a search of Plaintiff's cell, revealing a weapon hidden inside a light fixture. ECF No. 1 at 3. Defendant Conners conducted the resulting disciplinary hearing and, despite Plaintiff's denials, he was found to have possessed the weapon. At his disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff argued that the cell was never properly inspected before Plaintiff moved in. Plaintiff was convicted, he appealed, and an administrative appellate review reversed the result of the hearing. The finding was expunged from his record, and his good time credits were restored. Plaintiff had served 120 days in the Special Housing Unit when the administrative review overturned the result of the disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff stated that while he was in the Special Housing unit, he attempted suicide three times and is now receiving mental health treatment.

         By Decision and Order dated September 20, 2016 (ECF No. 7), Plaintiff was advised that the allegations of his Complaint were insufficient in two respects. First, Plaintiff's due process claims based upon conclusory allegations of bias by the hearing officer were insufficient to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Second, Plaintiff was advised that his allegation that Corrections Officer Rusinek reached the wrong conclusion regarding the weapon which was concededly found in Plaintiff's cell, and his allegation that hearing officer Connors reached the wrong conclusion regarding Plaintiff's possession of the weapon, also failed to establish a constitutional violation which would sustain an action under § 1983. “The prison inmate has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongly accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.” Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 951 (2d Cir. 1986).

         In that Order, Plaintiff was advised that, because his time in Special Housing Unit was between 101 and 305 days, it was necessary for him to establish that his confinement was more onerous than typical SHU conditions to create a liberty interest which would trigger due process requirements. “A period of confinement under typical SHU conditions lasting longer than 305 days, for example, triggers a protected liberty interest, whereas a period of confinement lasting between 101 and 305 days may trigger a protected liberty interest, depending on the specific conditions of confinement.” Gonzalez v. Hasty, 802 F.3d 212, 223 (2d Cir. 2015). Plaintiff was given the opportunity to amend his Complaint to show that he was denied due process at the disciplinary hearing, and to allege that the conditions of his 120 days of SHU confinement were more onerous that normal, such that they triggered a protected liberty interest.

         II. The Amended Complaint

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff largely repeats his original allegations. He states that he was falsely accused, and without a proper inspection prior to Plaintiff being placed in the cell, the proof at the disciplinary hearing that the weapon was his was insufficient. Plaintiff accuses Defendant Rucinek of writing a “false tier III misbehavior report, ” but concedes that the Defendant did find a weapon in Plaintiff's cell. Again, he faults the Defendants for not carrying out a proper inspection when Plaintiff was moved into that cell. ECF No. 8 at 3.

         Similarly, Plaintiff continues to fault Defendant Connors because “Connors had refused to listen to the Plaintiff's version of the true facts”, and “wrongfully found the Plaintiff guilty.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff objects that “the individual Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to find out if in fact the Plaintiff's cell was ever inspected” before charging him with possessing the weapon found there. Id. at 6. Plaintiff alleges in conclusory fashion that Defendants acted willfully and with the specific intent to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Id. Plaintiff specifically faults Defendant Connors for telling Plaintiff that the cell inspection sheets, which Plaintiff argued was missing from his hearing, were not in use at Attica. Id.

         III. ...


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