United States District Court, N.D. New York
WALKER Plaintiff, pro se
DECISION AND ORDER
Glenn T. Suddaby Chief U.S. District Judge.
Clerk has sent to the Court for review a pro se civil rights
complaint filed by plaintiff Tyrone Walker
("Plaintiff") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983"), asserting claims arising out of
his confinement in the custody of the New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
("DOCCS"). Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl.").
Plaintiff, who has not paid the statutory filing fee, seeks
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Dkt. No. 2 ("IFP
Application"). Plaintiff also filed a motion for
preliminary injunctive relief. Dkt. No. 4.
U.S.C. § 1915 permits an indigent litigant to commence
an action in a federal court without prepayment of the filing
fee that would ordinarily be charged." Cash v.
Bernstein, No. 09-CV-1922, 2010 WL 5185047, at *1
(S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2010). Upon review of Plaintiff's IFP
Application, the Court finds that Plaintiff has demonstrated
sufficient economic need and filed the inmate authorization
form required in the Northern District of New York.
Plaintiff's IFP application (Dkt. No. 2) is
found that Plaintiff meets the financial criteria for
commencing this action in forma pauperis, and because
Plaintiff seeks relief from an officer or employee of a
governmental entity, the Court must consider the sufficiency
of the allegations set forth in the Complaint in light of 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. Section 1915(e) of
Title 28 of the United States Code directs that, when a
plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, "the court
shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines
that - . . . (B) the action . . . (I) is frivolous or
malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant
who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review any
"complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of
a governmental entity" and must "identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of
the complaint, if the complaint . . . is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b);
see also Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir.
1999) (per curiam) (noting that Section 1915A applies to all
actions brought by prisoners against government officials
even when plaintiff paid the filing fee).
when reviewing a complaint, the Court may also look to the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading which sets forth
a claim for relief shall contain, inter alia,
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of Rule 8 "is to give fair
notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the
adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer,
prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the
doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Hudson v.
Artuz, No. 95 CIV. 4768, 1998 WL 832708, at *1 (S.D.N.Y.
Nov. 30, 1998) (quoting Powell v. Marine Midland
Bank, No. 95-CV-0063 (TJM), 162 F.R.D. 15, 16 (N.D.N.Y.
June 23, 1995) (other citations omitted)).
should not dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has stated
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." 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."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While
the court should construe the factual allegations in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, "the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in
a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions."
Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). Rule 8 "demands more than an unadorned,
Id. Thus, a pleading that contains only allegations
which "are so vague as to fail to give the defendants
adequate notice of the claims against them" is subject
to dismissal. Sheehy v. Brown, 335 Fed.Appx. 102,
104 (2d Cir. 2009).
SUMMARY OF THE COMPLAINT
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
establishes a cause of action for " 'the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws' of the United States."
German v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 885 F.Supp.
537, 573 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Wilder v. Virginia Hosp.
Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983)) (footnote omitted); see also Myers v.
Wollowitz, No. 6:95-CV-0272 (TJM/RWS), 1995 WL 236245,
at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 1995) (stating that "§
1983 is the vehicle by which individuals may seek redress for
alleged violations of their constitutional rights."
(citation omitted)). "Section 1983 itself creates no
substantive rights, [but] . . . only a procedure for redress
for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere."
Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515, 519 (2d Cir. 1993)
(citation omitted). The Court will construe the allegations
in the Complaint with the utmost leniency. See,
e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
(1972) (holding that a pro se litigant's complaint is to
be held "to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.").
26, 1994, Plaintiff was committed to DOCCS' custody after
being convicted of attempted robbery and criminal possession
of a weapon. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 5. On January 17, 2014,
Plaintiff received an Administrative Segregation
Recommendation from Clinton Correctional Facility
("Clinton C.F.") issued by S.B. Duncan
("Duncan") and approved by Superintendent
LaValley. Id. at 5-6. The recommendation
was based upon Plaintiff's "penchant for serious
violence both in the correctional setting and in the
community." Id. Specifically, Duncan cited to
the following: (1) a 2000 assault on staff members at Green
Haven Correctional Facility; (2) twenty-four misbehavior
reports; and (3) a documented history of escape plots and
threats to witnesses, staff and other inmates. Id.
At the time the recommendation was prepared, Plaintiff was
confined in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at
Upstate Correctional Facility ("Upstate C.F.").
Dkt. No. 1-1 at 5-6. The recommendation indicated that a
hearing would be conducted within fourteen days and that
Plaintiff would remain in the SHU pending the hearing.
Id. at 6.
February 26, 2014, Officer Bullis ("Bullis"), the
Administrative Segregation Hearing Officer, accepted the
recommendation. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 9. Plaintiff appealed the
decision to the Commissioner of DOCCS arguing that the
hearing officer was biased, refused to allow Plaintiff to
call witness, and failed to rely upon "some
evidence." Id. at 9-14.
March 12, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to defendant Counselor
Melissa A. Cook ("Cook") claiming that there was no
reason to place him in administrative segregation. Dkt. No.
1-1 at 18. Plaintiff stated that he posed no threat and had
not committed any act of violence in over thirteen years.
March 13, 2014, a Sixty Day Administrative Segregation
Review/Hearing was held. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 37. The three member
facility committee, including Cook and defendant
Superintendent Donald G. Uhler ("Uhler"),
recommended that Plaintiff remain in administrative
segregation and refused to award Plaintiff any
"incentives" pursuant to the Pilot Incentive
Program for inmates in segregation. Id. at 8. On
April 10, 2014, defendant Deputy Commissioner Joseph Bellnier
("Bellnier") reviewed and approved the decision.
5, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to Bellnier asking to be released
from administrative segregation or for "better
accommodations." Compl. at 4; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 37-42.
Plaintiff also objected to the March 2014 review claiming
that it was inaccurate and exaggerated his history. Dkt. No.
1-1 at 37-42.
29, 2014, Albert Prack ("Prack"), the Director of
the SHU, reversed the February 2014 decision and remanded the
matter for a new hearing. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 31. Plaintiff was
required to remain in the SHU pending a rehearing. Compl. at
3. On June 11, 2014, the rehearing was held at Upstate C.F.
with Eric Gutwein ("Gutwein")
presiding.Compl. at 3; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 16-17. The
hearing officer found "substantial evidence" that
Plaintiff "executed a savage assault on staff" and
had "numerous institutional violations over the
years" which "demonstrate a grave risk to the
institutional safety." Dkt. No. 1-1 at 17. Accordingly,
administrative segregation was imposed. Id.
August 2014, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the
conditions of his confinement in the SHU. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 33.
Plaintiff claimed that he was being treated like inmates on
"SHU status." Id. Plaintiff asked for a
television, commissary privileges, phone calls, and the
ability to listen to pre-recorded Jumuah services.
Id. On August 19, 2014, the Inmate Grievance
Resolution Committee ("IGRC") issued a response
denying the grievance reasoning that Plaintiff was receiving
privileges in accordance with DOCCS' Directive #4933.
Id. at 34.
August 20, 2014, a Sixty-Day Administrative Segregation
Review/Hearing was held. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 49-54. On August 29,
2014, the facility committee found that continued confinement
was appropriate. Id. Pursuant to the Incentive
Program, Plaintiff was permitted one additional visit per
week, one personal pair of sneakers, shorts, and pants, and
one phone call, not to exceed ten minutes, per month.
Id. at 50, 54. On October 8, 2014, Bellnier
concurred with the recommendation in favor of Plaintiff's
continued placement in administrative segregation.
August 22, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to the Deputy Superintendent
of Security, identified as "Bell, " and asked to be
removed from administrative segregation. Dkt. No. 1-1 at
43-48. Plaintiff complained about his conditions of
confinement and maintained that Cook would not allow him to
use the telephone, despite the prior recommendation.
March 2, 2015, a Sixty Day Administrative Segregation
Review/Hearing was held. Dkt. NO. 1-1 at 25-27. The facility
committee opined that release from administrative segregation
was "not warranted." Id. Plaintiff was
permitted one additional visit per week, one personal pair of
sneakers, shorts, and sweat pants, and one phone call per
week, not to exceed fifteen minutes. Id. at 28. On
March 19, 2015, Bellnier approved the recommendations.
April 12, 2016, Plaintiff sent a letter to the Administrative
Segregation Review Committee ("ASRC") claiming that
the reviews were "a farce." Dkt. No. 1-1 at 62-65.
Plaintiff argued that defendant Paul P. Woodruff
("Woodruff") "made it clear" that he
would not be released from administrative segregation for two
to three years. Id. Plaintiff objected to Cook's
role in the review process and asked for certain
accommodations. Id. To wit, Plaintiff asked that the
plexiglass shield over his cell door be removed, to
participate in Jumuah Service via listening to pre-recorded
sermons, and for an alternative to soy given his
predisposition for colon cancer. Id. at 64-65.
2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance requesting to return to the
general population. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 56. During interviews,
Woodruff and Cook told Plaintiff that he would not be
released from the SHU. Id. Plaintiff complained that
the review process was "perfunctory and rote."
Compl. at 4. The IGRC denied Plaintiff's grievance and
Plaintiff appealed. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 57. Sandra Danforth
("Danforth"), the Acting Superintendent at Upstate
C.F., issued a decision concurring with the
IGRC. Id. at 58. Plaintiff appealed
Danforth's decision to the Central Office Review
Committee ("CORC") noting that "Woodruff is
not giving me meaningful reviews[.]" Id. CORC
upheld the Danforth's decision. Id. at 60.
4, 2016, Plaintiff sent a letter to Uhler and the ASRC
claiming that he did not receive his March 2016 review. Dkt.
No. 1-1 at 66-71. Plaintiff complained that the reviews were
a "sham" and that Woodruff had no intention of
allowing Plaintiff to leave the SHU. Id.
August 17, 2016, a Sixty Day Administrative Segregation
Review/Hearing was held. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 72. The three member
committee, including Cook and defendant Deputy Superintendent
of Programs Joanne Fitchette ("Fitchette"),
reviewed Plaintiff's status and determined that continued
confinement was appropriate. Id. As part of the
Incentive Program, Plaintiff was provided "out of cell
time" once per month, the opportunity to purchase food
at the commissary, one additional visit per month, personal
items. and one thirty-minute phone call per week.
Id. at 75. On February 10, 2017, these decisions
were approved by the Deputy Commissioner. Id.
January 30, 2017, a Sixty Day Administrative Segregation
Review/Hearing was held. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 177-179. On February
9, 2017, a three member committee, including Fitchette, found
that continued segregation was appropriate. Id.
Pursuant to the Incentive Program, Plaintiff was provided
"out of cell time" once per month, the opportunity
to purchase food at the commissary, one additional visit per
week, and one thirty-minute phone call per month.
Id. at 179. On July 31, 2017, the recommendations
and incentives were approved.Id. at 177-179.
April 20, 2017, Woodruff issued a memorandum to
administrative segregation inmates rescinding the Pilot
Incentive Program. Compl. at 4; Dkt. No. 1-1 at 77. On April
21, 2017, Plaintiff wrote to Woodruff asking him to reinstate
the Pilot Program. Id. at 79-80.
22, 2017, Plaintiff wrote to Bellnier complaining that his
August 2016 review was the last review that he received. Dkt.
No. 1-1 at 82. Plaintiff complained that the review was not
signed by Bellnier until February 10, 2017 and was not
forwarded to Plaintiff until February 17, 2017. Compl. at 4;
Dkt. No. 1-1 at 82-83. Plaintiff reiterated his objections to
the review process and the decision to discontinue the Pilot
Incentive Program. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 82-83.
the Complaint liberally, Plaintiff asserts the following: (1)
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims related to
Plaintiff's initial placement in administrative
segregation; (2) Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims
related to the June 2014 rehearing; (3) Fourteenth Amendment
Due Process claims related to Plaintiff's continued
confinement in administrative segregation; (4) Fourteenth
Amendment Due Process claims related to the Pilot Incentive
Program; (5) Fourteenth Amendment Substantive Due Process
claims; (6) Eighth Amendment claims related to
Plaintiff's conditions of confinement in the SHU; (7)
Eighth Amendment claims related to Plaintiff's medical
needs; and (8) Eighth Amendment claim against Cook related to
threats. See Compl., generally.
Official Capacity Claims Pursuant to Section 1983
Eleventh Amendment has long been construed as barring a
citizen from bringing a suit against his or her own state in
federal court, under the fundamental principle of
"sovereign immunity." U.S. Const. amend. XI
("The Judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced
or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of
another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign
State."); see also Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe
of Idaho,521 U.S. 261, 267 (1997); Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman,465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984);
Hans v. Louisiana,134 U.S. 1, 10-21 (1890).
Eleventh Amendment immunity is lost only if Congress
unequivocally abrogates states' immunity or a state
expressly consents to suit. Gollomp v. Spitzer, 568
F.3d 355, 365-66 (2d Cir. 2009). It is well-settled that
Congress did not abrogate states' immunity through
Section 1983, see Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332,
343-45 (1979), and that New York State has not waived its
immunity from suit on the type of claims asserted in
plaintiff's complaint. See generally Trotman v.
Palisades Interstate Park Comm'n, 557 F.2d 35, 38-40
(2d Cir. 1977); se ...