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Houston v. Covey

United States District Court, W.D. New York

August 29, 2017

MICHAEL COVEY, et al., Defendants.




         Pro se Plaintiff Tyrone Houston (“Plaintiff”), an inmate confined at the Five Points Correctional Facility, has commenced this action against Defendants (who are prison officials) seeking relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) based upon numerous alleged violations of his civil rights during his confinement at this facility. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF No. 2), which was initially granted by the Court (ECF No. 4).

         Defendants later filed a Motion to revoke Plaintiff's IFP status pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).[1] ECF No. 15. The Court agreed that Plaintiff's IFP status was subject to revocation and dismissed the original Complaint without prejudice to refile with payment of the filing fee. ECF No. 19. Plaintiff subsequently filed the $400.00 filing fee and the original Complaint was reinstated. ECF Nos. 21, 25). Defendants answered the original Complaint on December 15, 2015. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 48) and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 65).

         Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is currently before the Court for review pursuant to the 28 U.S.C. § 1915A criteria, which is discussed below.


         I. The allegations

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following causes of action against Defendants: (1) retaliation by filing false misbehavior reports, imposing various sanctions, the denial of an unbiased disciplinary hearing officer, threating to file false possession of contraband charges, and subjecting Plaintiff to unlawful cell searches and random drug tests because he filed complaints against certain prison officials; (2) destruction of Plaintiff's property, including a television and radio set and his legal papers; (3) denial of the right to access to courts; (4) sexual assault by Defendant L. Cady; (5) deliberate indifference to serious dental condition by Plaintiff's dentist, Defendant Mewar; and (6) filing false information in Plaintiff's educational records. Plaintiff is seeking an award of compensatory and punitive damages and reasonable attorney fees.

         In their memorandum of law submitted in opposition to the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 56), Defendants asserted, inter alia, that: (1) claims concerning false misbehavior reports and false allegations against Plaintiff do not state constitutional deprivations; (2) an inmate does not have the right to be free from urine testing; (3) sanctions imposed against Plaintiff, including keeplock, were not atypical, and Plaintiff does not have a right to a recorded disciplinary hearing; (4) inmates have no right to a grievance, a particular result, or a properly processed grievance; (5) Plaintiff's retaliation claims are stated in wholly conclusory terms and without factual allegations; (6) Plaintiff's property damage, altered educational records, missed law library visit, cell search, and reading of his legal papers claims are not cognizable under § 1983; and (7) the sexual assault claim against Defendant Cady does not allege a valid constitutional cause of action.

         II. Standard of Review

         Section 1915 “provide[s] an efficient means by which a court can screen for and dismiss legally insufficient claims.” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (citing Shakur v. Selsky, 391 F.3d 106, 112 (2d Cir. 2004)). Section 1915A provides that the Court shall dismiss a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity if, at any time, the Court determines that the action (1) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or (2) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). To state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must establish: (1) the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and its laws; (2) by a person acting under the color of state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Section 1983 itself creates no substantive rights; it provides only a procedure for redress for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere.” Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993).

         A. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         As an initial matter, the Court finds that to the extent that Plaintiff is seeking money damages against Defendant prison officials in their official capacities, these claims must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). The Eleventh Amendment divests the Court of subject matter jurisdiction over any claims for monetary damages against a New York State official acting in his or her official capacity unless the state has consented to the suit, or waived this immunity, or Congress has abrogated it. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985); Woods v. Rondout Valley Cent. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 466 F.3d 232, 236 (2d Cir. 2006) (Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to “state agents and state instrumentalities that are, effectively, arms of a state.”) (quoting Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997)).

         B. ...

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