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Baker v. New York State Department of Corrections

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 10, 2018

RALPH BAKER, Plaintiff,

          RALPH BAKER 14-R-1962 Plaintiff, Pro se Woodbourne Correctional Facility


          GLENN T. SUDDABY United States District Judge


         Plaintiff Ralph Baker ("Plaintiff") commenced this action by filing a pro se Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."). Plaintiff, who is presently confined at Woodbourne Correctional Facility ("Woodbourne C.F."), has paid the full filing fee of $400.00. Plaintiff also filed a motion for preliminary injunctive relief. Dkt. No. 2.


         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) (Section 1915A applies to all actions brought by prisoners against government officials even when plaintiff paid the filing fee).

         Additionally, 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)).

         A court 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, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." 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).

         While pro se parties are held to less stringent pleading standards, the Second Circuit has held that "district courts may dismiss a frivolous complaint sua sponte even when the plaintiff has paid the required filing fee." See Fitzgerald v. First E. Seventh St. Tenants Corp., 221 F.3d 362, 364 (2d Cir. 2000). Indeed, "district courts are especially likely to be exposed to frivolous actions and, thus, have [a] need for inherent authority to dismiss such actions quickly in order to preserve scarce judicial resources." Id. A cause of action is properly deemed frivolous "where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).


         Plaintiff 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., No. 93 Civ. 6941, 885 F.Supp. 537, 573 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 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, 521 (1972) (holding that a pro se litigant's complaint is to be held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.").

         Plaintiff commenced this civil rights action arising out of his confinement in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"). Plaintiff names five defendants in the caption and the list of parties: DOCCS; Commissioners of Parole Tina Stanford ("Stanford"), Joseph P. Crangle ("Crangle"), and Marc Coppola ("Coppola"); and Commissioner of Correctional Services Glenn S. Goord ("Goord"). See Compl. at 1-3. Plaintiff's claims are asserted against the individual defendants in their official capacity. See id.

         In September 2014, Plaintiff was convicted of Grand Larceny, Attempted Grand Larceny, and Offering a False Instrument and sentenced to serve an aggregate term of imprisonment of four to twelve years. Compl. at 5; Dkt. No. 2 at 1; Dkt. No. 2-4 at 27. On December 16, 2015, Plaintiff appeared, via video conference, for a Parole Board Hearing ("the Hearing"). Compl. at 4.; Dkt. No. 2-4 at 1. The Parole Board Panel ("the Panel") included Stanford, Crangle, and Coppola. Dkt. No. 2-4 at 1. During the Hearing, the Panel presented questions related to Plaintiff's convictions. Compl. at 4, 5. The Panel denied Plaintiff parole and ruled in favor of continued confinement for twenty-four months. Id. at 5; Dkt. No. 2-4 at 15. The Panel considered the seriousness of Plaintiff's offense, Plaintiff's disciplinary and programming record, Plaintiff's demeanor during the hearing, and Plaintiff's failure to take responsibility for his actions.[2] Dkt. No. 2-4 at 15-16.

         Construed liberally, Plaintiff claims that: (1) Defendants subjected him to an unlawful Parole Board Hearing in violation of his constitutional rights; and (2) his Eighth Amendment rights were violated due to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. See Compl. at 5. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief restraining defendants from "practicing, policy, and procedure of Executive Law § 259-i and 7 NYCRR § 251.2-2."[3] See Id. at 5.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Parole Hearing

         Plaintiff claims that the Panel's decision was "arbitrary and capricious" because the Panel failed to develop a Transitional Accountability Plan ("TAP") as required by Corrections Law § 71-a and failed to consider his COMPAS risk assessment.[4] Dkt. No. 2-4 at 28, 29. Plaintiff also asserts that the Panel erroneously placed emphasis on the severity of his criminal history without ...

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