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Grays v. Elmira Correctional Facility

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 26, 2017

JERRY GRAYS, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff Jerry Grays ("Plaintiff) filed this action on May 17, 2013. (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 10, 2015, alleging that his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated after he was assaulted by various correctional officers and denied medical treatment while incarcerated at the Elmira Correctional Facility. (Dkt. 33). The case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder, Jr., for disposition of all non-dispositive motions, and to hear and report on dispositive motions for the consideration of this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). (See Dkt. 67). On March 8, 2016, Defendants Amy Sechrist ("Sechrist") and Brenda Zelko ("Zelko") filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 41). Zelko has since been terminated from this action, (Dkt. 47), leaving Sechrist ("Defendant") as the sole movant before the Court on this motion. Magistrate Judge Schroeder filed a report and recommendation ("R&R") on April 3, 2017, recommending that this Court grant the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. 68). Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R, (Dkt. 73), and Defendant filed a response (Dkt. 75).

         For the reasons set forth below, this Court agrees with the R&R's recommendation. Therefore, this Court hereby adopts the R&R and the motion to dismiss is granted. However, the Court clarifies that the First Amendment retaliation claim is dismissed without prejudice, and Plaintiff will be granted leave to amend his complaint to further specify his claim for retaliation in accordance with this Decision and Order.


         The factual background of this case is set forth in detail in the R&R. (See Dkt. 68 at 2-4). Familiarity with the R&R is assumed for purposes of this Decision and Order.


         I. Standard of Review

         A district court reviews any specific objections to a report and recommendation under a de novo standard. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) ("A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made."). To trigger the de novo review standard, objections must "specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings and recommendations to which objection is made and the basis for each objection." L.R. Civ. P. 72(b); see, e.g., Molefe v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 602 F.Supp.2d 485, 487 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). In the absence of a specific objection, the district court reviews for clear error or manifest injustice. Singh v. N.Y. State Dep't of Taxation & Fin., 865 F.Supp.2d 344, 348 (W.D.N.Y. 2011). Following review of the report and recommendation, the district judge "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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." Rochester Drug Co-op., Inc. v. Biogen Idec U.S., 130 F.Supp.3d 764, 769 (W.D.N.Y. 2015). "In defending against a motion to dismiss, 'a plaintiffs obligation . . . requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Oldfield v. Vill. of Dansville, 583 F.Supp.2d 440, 442 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         In evaluating the complaint, a court must accept as true all of the plaintiffs factual allegations, and must draw all inferences in the plaintiffs favor. Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003). "Further, when the plaintiff proceeds pro se, as in this case, a court is obliged to construe his pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations." McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004). 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 quotations and citation omitted). Moreover, "a pro se litigant should be afforded every reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that he has a valid claim." Satchell v. Dilworth, 745 F.2d 781, 785 (2d Cir. 1984).

         II. First Amendment Retaliation Claims

         Title 42 of the United States Code Section 1983 "imposes civil liability upon persons who, acting under color of state law, deprive an individual of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." Johnson-Schmitt v. Robinson, 990 F.Supp.2d 331, 339-40 (W.D.N.Y. 2013). "Section 1983 'is not itself a source of substantive rights.' It merely provides 'a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred. . . .'" Patterson v. Cty. of Oneida, N.Y., 375 F.3d 206, 225 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 (1979)).

         A. Ve ...

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