United States District Court, W.D. New York
JAMES A. WEST A/K/A WESS, Plaintiff,
GLENN S. GOORD, STEPHAN BERNARDI, THOMAS POOLE, THOMAS EAGEN JANICE HENRICH, LISA LAUBER DAVID NAPOLI, DONALD SELSKY, LUCIEN LECLAIRE, SGT., SGT. PABON, SGT. O'KEEFE, and C.O. L. LAUBER, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States
James West a/k/a James Wess (“Plaintiff'),
commenced this action alleging violations of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act (“Rehabilitation Act”), and
various federal Constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. ECF. No. 29 (“2d Am. Compl.”).
pending before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. ECF No. 102. Having considered the moving
papers, the record evidence and the applicable law, the Court
finds oral argument unnecessary and for the following
reasons, Defendants' summary judgment motion is granted
in part and denied in part.
is an inmate in the New York State Department of Corrections
and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”), and is
currently housed at Five Points Correctional Facility
(“Five Points”). At all times relevant to
Plaintiff's claims, he has been wheelchair-bound and
suffers from a host of medical issues.
Second Amended Complaint alleges: (1) violations of his
Eighth Amendment rights when he was denied adequate wheel
chair maintenance, hand and wrist splints, and a sufficient
supply of proper catheters; (2) denial of his due process
rights under the Fourteenth Amendment during impeachment
proceedings; (3) withholding of reasonable accommodations and
medical equipment under the ADA and Section 504; (4) racial
discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause;
and (5) various retaliatory actions taken by Defendants in
violation of his First Amendment rights. 2d Am. Compl.,
¶¶ 76, 78, 85-86, 102, 104, 119, 121, 136, 146,
180-85, 187. Plaintiff also advances an overarching
conspiracy claim in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§
1985(3) and 1986. Id., ¶ 186.
are or were all employees of DOCCS. Defendants Case, Henrich,
Keefe, Lauber, Napoli, Pabon, and Poole were assigned to Five
Points. All Defendants, with the exception of Deputy
Commissioner of Policy & Compliance Stephan Bernardi, are
sued in their individual capacities only.
Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee
Plaintiff's Involvement and Impeachment
2003, Plaintiff was elected as an IGRC representative. In
connection with his election to serve as an alternate IGRC
representative, Plaintiff received a copy of the Inmate
Grievance Program (“IGP”) Manual, and signed and
agreed to the IGRC Code of Ethics. The Code, applicable to
IGRC staff, inmate representatives, clerks, and its
chairperson, provides that violations thereof may result in
dismissal from participation in the grievance program.
a staff meeting on July 2, 2003, Defendant Henrich, Inmate
Grievance Supervisor, noted that Plaintiff was
“continually disputing the meaning of parts of
Directive 4040 and the training manual.” ECF No. 114-6
(“Def. Ex. I”) at 337. Plaintiff states that he
was “inquiring about the interpretations of Directive
4040.” ECF No. 110 (“West Decl.”), Ex. 4.
In the same memorandum, Henrich noted that “timeliness
was addressed, ” and that Plaintiff was reminded that
he “signed a Code of Ethics . . . what transpires in
the office is to stay in the office.” Id.
Plaintiff disputes that he was “reminded.” ECF
No. 109 (“Pl. Opp'n Stmt.”), ¶ 60.
7, 2003, Plaintiff received an Informal Counseling Memorandum
from Defendant Henrich, which advised Plaintiff of the
confidentiality of the information received in the grievance
office, and stated that Plaintiff could assist inmates with
grievance preparation without incorporating any personal
knowledge of the grievance office. Plaintiff was also
reminded of the time frames required in addressing hearings
10, 2003 memorandum written to Plaintiff's file by
Defendant Henrich stated her observations of Plaintiff's
performance as an IGRC representative. She noted that
Plaintiff “needed to be more careful with the files,
” on the basis that a duplicate hearing had been
conducted without a complete investigation. Def. Ex. I at
340-41. The memorandum further noted that Plaintiff
“continue[d] to read more into a grievance that is
stated . . . attempting to create more work in the IGRC
office.” Id. On multiple occasions,
Plaintiff's vote on a grievance would result in a
23, 2003, the informational notes from Plaintiff's
Informal Counseling Memorandum indicated that Plaintiff and
another individual were disruptive to the IGRC office. The
notes stated that Plaintiff was reminded of the purpose of
the IGRC and the importance of timeliness, and that Plaintiff
was issued a copy of his proposed job duties. Def. Ex. I at
343-45. Plaintiff disputes that any conversation took place
regarding disruptions and responsibilities. Pl. Opp'n
Stmt., ¶ 69. The following day, Defendant Henrich
observed that Plaintiff “attempted to force things out
of control, ” and was “undermining the IGRC . . .
.” Def. Ex. I at 346. For example, Plaintiff was
observed providing inmates with partial information.
25, 2003, Plaintiff received an Inmate Counseling
Notification for poor program/work performance when Plaintiff
was observed reviewing a large group of grievances from a
week prior that had potentially become untimely due to
Plaintiff's improper filing.
August 1, 2003, Plaintiff was issued a Formal Counseling
Memorandum regarding his continued failure to thoroughly
conduct and complete grievance investigations. A subsequent
Formal Counseling Memorandum dated September 3, 2003, noted
that Plaintiff should fully review folders prior to formal
hearings to ensure that all documentation is present in the
grievance file, and to advise if there were incomplete files.
Plaintiff was requested to provide all information available
to provide a complete investigation whether refuting or
substantiating a grievant's claim.
was issued another Formal Counseling Memorandum on September
11, 2003, for inappropriate behavior during a hearing held on
September 9, 2003. During that hearing, Plaintiff provided
incorrect information to a grievant regarding the
confidentiality of his medical health, resulting in the
disclosure of irrelevant medical information.
memoranda dated October 2, 2003 and October 7, 2003,
Defendant Henrich noted Plaintiff's continued issues with
improper coding of grievances and adversarial demeanor.
testified that he told Defendant Case at some point that
“[y]ou have a racial component in the grievance office
. . . and you can either get rid of it, or there's going
to be a problem.” ECF No. 114-5 (“Def. Ex.
H”) at 59. He stated that he asked Defendant Pabon
“why don't you just act like you got balls?”
Id. at 100. Plaintiff further testified that he told
the IGRC defendants that he would “eventually”
sue them for “denying [him] well-established law”
and for discrimination. Id. at 108-09. Finally,
according to Plaintiff, “in a joking sense, ” he
called Defendant Keefe a “sensitive hooker.”
Id. at 116-17.
Henrich and Lauber never voiced any feeling of displeasure
about Plaintiff for filing grievances against the IGRC.
Defendant Lauber testified that she “answered a lot of
grievances, ” and that Plaintiff's filings
“did not stand out in any way.” ECF No. 114-1
(“Def. Ex. D”) at 88.
was served with a Recommendation for Impeachment and hearing
notification on October 21, 2003, in which he was alleged to
have breached IGRC confidentiality, improperly safeguarded
grievance files, and undermined IGRC's operation and
credibility. Def. Ex. I at 69-72, 74-75. In her
recommendation for impeachment, Defendant Henrich stated that
Plaintiff used the inmate grievances process as an
“adversary process, ” contrary to the goals of
the program which were to promote mediation and conflict
resolution. Id. She further alleged that Plaintiff
failed to follow staff direction.
impeachment hearing began on October 28, 2013, during which
testimony was heard from 25 witnesses over the course of
several days. Defendant Napoli served as the hearing officer.
Plaintiff's requested inmate witnesses refused to
testify. Another inmate witness was no longer housed at Five
Points, and Plaintiff concedes that the inmate had no
knowledge of the incidents surrounding Plaintiff's
charges. Plaintiff was denied his request to call various
Commissioners and Superintendents who were located in the
DOCCS Central Office on the basis that they were immaterial
and lacked direct knowledge of the issues raised in the
hearing resulted in Plaintiff's removal from his position
as IGRC representative for a three-year period. He signed a
copy of the determination on November 17, 2003, which
indicated that Plaintiff provided “no real defense to
the charges, ” and noted that the evidence showed that
Plaintiff was adversarial and failed to follow staff
direction. Def. Ex. I at 69-70. Specifically, Plaintiff was
in violation of Rules B, E, F, and G of the IGRC Code of
began filing grievances regarding the IGRC in March of 2002
and continued to do so throughout the entire course of his
service as an inmate representative, which ended in the fall
of 2003. On April 18, 2003, he wrote a letter to Defendant
Goord and copied to Defendants Bernardi and Leclaire
regarding multiple violations of Directive #4040, the IGRC
Training Manual, and the DOCCS Employee Manual, as well as
other misconduct. Plaintiff also testified that he had filed
grievances against the IGRC, and notified supervisory staff
of the improprieties of the IGRC. Def. Ex. H at 23. Those
grievances were investigated by members of the IGRC, none of
whom are named Defendants in this case. The matter was upheld
by the Central Office Review Committee.
to the start of Plaintiff's term as an IGRC
representative, African-American, Caucasian, and Latino
inmates had served in the position. At that time, inmate
representatives were permitted access to the entire Five
Points facility to conduct IGRC investigations.
previous rule permitting IGRC representatives to move freely
about the facility to conduct IGRC investigations was
suspended sometime in 2002, before Plaintiff's IGRC term
began in June of 2003. Defendant Lauber testified that she
was not responsible for the rule change, and she believed the
policy change was due to Five Points being a maximum security
facility. As such, allowing unrestricted movement passes
would be difficult, in that inmate representatives would need
to be escorted, and because inmates were not permitted to be
in housing units to which they were not assigned. She could
not recall having personally escorted an inmate to conduct an
IGRC investigation. Likewise, Defendants Case and Pabon
denied ever escorting an inmate to conduct IGRC
on the other hand, claims that Defendants Bernardi, Dennis,
Eagen, Goord, Henrich, Leclaire, and Poole conspired to
prevent him from having access to move freely about the
facility to conduct IGRC business on the basis of his race.
Plaintiff's Medical Care and Accommodation Requests
IGRC office contained a table, desks, and unattached chairs,
used by all IGRC staff and representatives to conduct their
duties. There was no assigned seating in the IGP office.
Although a table was available for Plaintiff to work at, he
contends there was no wheelchair-accessible desk available.
Def. Ex. H at 95. Plaintiff testified that he verbally
requested a wheelchair-accessible desk for the IGP office,
and no action was taken in response. Id. at 94-96.
Defendants Case, Keefe, Lauber, and Pabon could not recall
whether any such request was received.
2002 to 2006, Plaintiff notified staff of issues regarding
his wheelchair. Those complaints were forwarded to the proper
departments, but Plaintiff disputes the sufficiency of the
repairs made to his wheelchair during that time. Def. Ex. H
October 4, 2005, Plaintiff complained about his wheelchair,
and was advised that he could swap his wheelchair with
another, but would be responsible for repairing his current
5, 2006, Plaintiff was offered a new wheelchair, as the old
one was deemed unsafe. Plaintiff refused to accept the new
indicate that on February 20, 2002, Plaintiff was to receive
three catheters per week, along with swab sticks and gloves.
On February 27, 2002, Plaintiff was issued 21 catheters. The
same day, Plaintiff was issued two additional catheters upon
March 6, 2002, through March 20, 2002, Plaintiff was issued
seven catheters per week. Beginning March 27, 2002, Plaintiff
was issued 28 catheters per week.
April 4, 2002, Plaintiff's medical permit was changed to
include the following: four catheters per day (issued
weekly), disposable underpads, surgical lubricant, and
instructions for usage. Beginning June 20, 2002, Plaintiff
was issued four catheters per day on a daily basis. On
December 2, 2002, Plaintiff was issued a 12-day supply of
his alleged injuries, Plaintiff testified that:
They exacerbated my medical problems that I came here under,
in the conditional discharge order for James West . . . .
They were supposed to give me appropriate catheters - a
supply of catheters. They didn't . . . At times, they
gave me catheters that I wasn't supposed to have that
caused me pain and ...