United States District Court, S.D. New York
Appearances: Howard R. Birnbach Great Neck, New York Counsel
N. Schulman Assistant Attorney General Counsel for Defendants
OPINION & ORDER
the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For
the reasons stated below, the motion is GRANTED.
Melvin Davis, an African-American man, has been employed by
the New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision (“DOCCS”) since 2008 as a correction
officer (“CO”) at Fishkill Correctional Facility
(“Fishkill”). (P's 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 1,
5.)DOCCS is an agency of the State of New York
that administers the State's correctional facilities,
including Fishkill. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant COs
Keith Canfield and James McAnney were at all relevant times
employed by DOCCS at Fishkill - McAnney since 1989 and
Canfield since 1998. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.)
summer of 2013, Plaintiff had been assigned for at least four
years to Housing Unit A-West, as the only CO for the
overnight shift from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. (Id.
¶¶ 8, 14.) During the summer of 2013, Canfield and
McAnney were also both assigned to Housing Unit A-West, as
the only two COs for the morning shift from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30
p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10, 14.) Canfield and
McAnney would relieve Plaintiff from his shift each day.
(Id. ¶ 14.) Canfield and McAnney did not
outrank Plaintiff, and had no supervisory control over him.
(Id. ¶ 11.)
met McAnney around April 2013, when McAnney first transferred
to Housing Unit A-West. (See Id. ¶ 12.) Prior
to the incident in question, Plaintiff did not have any
problems with McAnney, who “seemed to be a nice
guy.” (Id. ¶ 13.) Prior to the incident,
Plaintiff had known Canfield for about four and a half years,
(id. ¶ 14), and had never filed a complaint
against Canfield during that time, (id. ¶ 15).
5, 2013, McAnney and Canfield were in Housing Unit
A-West's “back room, ” which is a room behind
the officer's station that contains lockers for some of
the COs and a table where COs often eat meals. (Id.
¶ 16.) McAnney was eating his lunch at the table.
(Id.) Plaintiff was not present. (Id.)
McAnney had brought cookies to work in a clear sandwich bag
that was reusable by virtue of plastic ridges at the opening
that, when pressed or zipped together, sealed the bag.
(Id. ¶ 17.) As Canfield was on a diet, McAnney
teased him by offering him cookies, which Canfield declined.
(Id. ¶ 18.) Shortly thereafter, McAnney was
called out of the room, but left the cookie bag.
(Id. ¶ 19.)
practical joke, Canfield poked a hole below the bag's
zipper and poked a piece of pre-cut packing twine through the
hole. (Id.) Canfield tied the twine in a knot around
the bag's zipper and looped the twine over a pipe in the
ceiling, which left the bag containing the cookies hanging
from the ceiling pipe. (Id.) McAnney returned to the
room and asked for his cookies, at which point Canfield told
him to find them. (Id. ¶ 20.) After looking for
the cookie bag, McAnney saw it hanging from the ceiling pipe
and climbed a chair to reach and grab it. (Id.)
McAnney ripped the bag apart, taking with him the part of the
bag containing the cookies and leaving a remnant of the bag
and its zipper attached by the twine to the ceiling pipe.
days later, on July 14, 2013, Plaintiff was working his usual
shift. (Id. ¶ 21.) At approximately 5:45 a.m.,
Plaintiff was in the back room. (Id.) While reaching
for a box of pretzels he kept on top of one of the lockers,
Plaintiff noticed the bag and twine remnant hanging from the
ceiling pipe. (Id.) Plaintiff testified at his
deposition that when he observed the baggie tied to the
ceiling, it was twenty to twenty-four inches long and
“had baggy arms on it” as well as “a
head.” (Id.) Plaintiff also testified that
this angered him because “the first thing I thought of
was somebody being lynched or something.”
(Id.) Plaintiff removed the bag remnant and twine
from the ceiling pipe, (id. ¶ 22; Doc. 40 Ex. C
(“P's Dep.”), at 108), and placed it in his
pocket, (see P's 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 22,
thereafter, McAnney arrived at the unit to relieve Plaintiff
from his shift, (P's 56.1 Resp. ¶ 23), but Canfield
had the day off, (id. ¶ 34). Without knowing
who had been involved, (id. ¶ 24), Plaintiff
gave McAnney the bag remnant and twine and asked him what it
was, (see Id. ¶¶ 23, 24, 26; P's Dep.
108). McAnney informed Plaintiff that Canfield had tied the
bag of cookies to the ceiling pipe to play a prank on
McAnney. (P's 56.1 Resp. ¶ 25; Doc. 39
(“McAnney Decl.”) ¶ 9.) McAnney placed the
bag remnant and twine in the trash. (P's 56.1 Resp.
¶ 27.) Plaintiff never discussed the incident with
Canfield. (Id. ¶ 37.)
then went to complain to Lieutenant Witold Suski, the watch
commander, who asked Plaintiff to draft a memorandum about
the incident. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff wrote the
requested memo and left the facility. (Id. ¶
32.) Lt. Suski asked Sergeant Shawn Barto to investigate the
matter. (Id. ¶ 28.) Sgt. Barto then went to the
back room of Housing Unit A-West to retrieve the bag remnant
and twine. (Id. ¶ 29.) There, Sgt. Barto told
McAnney that Plaintiff had made a complaint about the bag
remnant and twine. (Id.) McAnney retrieved the
object from the trash and gave it to Sgt. Barto.
(Id.) At Lt. Suski's direction, Sgt. Barto took
pictures of the bag remnant and twine. (Id. ¶
30.) Sgt. Barto asked McAnney to draft a memorandum
responding to Plaintiff's complaint, which McAnney wrote
on July 14, 2013. (Id. ¶ 33.) In a memorandum
to Lt. Suski, Sgt. Barto concluded that the incident was
“just a harmless prank played on one officer [CO
McAnney] by another [CO Canfield] with no malicious
intent.” (Id. ¶ 35 (alterations in
original); Doc. 40 Ex. F, at 33.) When Canfield came back to
work the next day, July 15, 2013, he was also asked to write
a memorandum in response to Plaintiff's complaint.
(P's 56.1 Resp. ¶ 36.)
McAnney nor Canfield have ever made any race-based remarks or
comments to or about Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶
38, 39.) In fact, no one at Fishkill has ever made any racist
or discriminatory remarks to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶
51.) After July 14, 2013, Plaintiff never had any further
problems with McAnney or Canfield. (Id. ¶ 40.)
Apart from the July 14, 2013 complaint, Plaintiff never
submitted a complaint about discrimination to DOCCS.
(Id. ¶ 50.) Nor has Plaintiff submitted any
labor grievances. (Id.)
April 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”),
alleging that Defendants had violated his civil rights by
constructing a dummy in a noose and hanging it from a ceiling
pipe in the back room. (Id. ¶ 41.) McAnney and
Canfield were asked by DOCCS to write memoranda in response
to Plaintiff's EEOC complaint, which they did on August
18, 2014. (Id. ¶ 42.)
November 4, 2014, at around 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff found a toy
black rat with a noose tied around it on the outside
staircase leading to his apartment. (Id. ¶ 43.)
Plaintiff reported the toy rat and noose to his landlord and
his psychologist, but not to the police or to anyone at
DOCCS. (Id. ¶ 44.) In fact, Plaintiff never
discussed the toy rat and noose with anyone at work or
otherwise reported it to DOCCS. (Id. ¶ 45;
P's Dep. 95, 96.) Plaintiff did not know who placed the
toy rat and noose on the outside staircase of his apartment.
(P's 56.1 Resp. ¶ 46.) McAnney and Canfield both
state that they were not directly or indirectly involved ...