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Smith v. State

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 10, 2018

JUA SMITH, Plaintiff,
NEW YORK STATE, et al., Defendants.


          Lawrence E. Kahn U.S. District Judge


         Pro se plaintiff Jua Smith commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc. Dkt. No. 1 (“Complaint”). After reviewing the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court dismissed several of Plaintiff's claims and named defendants in a Memorandum-Decision and Order filed on October 20, 2017. Dkt. No. 9 (“October 2017 Order”). Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the October 2017 Order. Dkt. Nos. 13 (“Motion”), 19 (“Memorandum”). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff commenced this action in May 2017. Compl. At that time, Plaintiff also filed a motion to appoint counsel, an application to proceed in forma pauperis, and a motion for a preliminary injunction. Dkt. Nos. 2 (“Counsel Motion”), 3 (“IFP Application”), 4 (“Preliminary Injunction Motion”). The Court granted Plaintiff's IFP Application, and, pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B), partially dismissed the Complaint. Oct. 2017 Order at 38-42. The Court also denied the Counsel Motion and directed Defendants to respond to the Preliminary Injunction Motion. Id.

         On October 30, 2017, the Court received Plaintiff's Motion, as well as a letter partially correcting the Motion. Mot; Dkt. No. 14 (“Correction”).[1] Plaintiff subsequently filed a notice of interlocutory appeal, Dkt. No. 15 (“Appeal”), which he later requested to withdraw, Dkt. No. 17 (“Motion to Withdraw”). On November 17, 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit stayed the Appeal pending resolution of the Motion. Dkt. No. 21 (“Stay”).

         In his Motion, Plaintiff seeks partial relief from the October 2017 Order. He asks the Court to reconsider its initial review to construe the Complaint to assert state law claims for negligence and “denial of considerate and respectful care” against defendants Martuscello, Smith, Miller, Baldwin, and Rizzi, and a state law due process claim against Martuscello and Smith. Mem. at 4. Plaintiff also argues that the Court erroneously dismissed the following claims: (1) his First Amendment right of access to the courts claim; (2) the First and Fourteenth Amendment and RLUIPA claims challenging the state court force feed order; and (3) Plaintiff's substantive due process, equal protection, and RLUIPA claims against defendants Taillieur, Peters, Nepveu, McCarthy, Hotvet, DiFiore, New York State, the New York State Judiciary, the New York Attorney General, and the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (“DOCCS”). Mem. at 5-21.


         “A court may justifiably reconsider its previous ruling if: (1) there is an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) new evidence not previously available comes to light; or (3) it becomes necessary to remedy a clear error of law or to prevent manifest injustice.” Delaney v. Selsky, 899 F.Supp. 923, 925 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Doe v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 709 F.2d 782, 789 (2d Cir. 1983)). The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is strict, and “should not be granted where the moving party seeks solely to relitigate an issue already decided.” Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). Courts generally deny motions for reconsideration unless “the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked-matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court.” Id. Thus, a motion for reconsideration is not a means for “presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a ‘second bite at the apple.'” Sequa Corp. v. GBJ Corp., 156 F.3d 136, 144 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing United States v. Local 1804-1, 831 F.Supp. 167, 169 (S.D.N.Y.1993)).


         Plaintiff does not suggest that there has been an intervening change in the controlling law, nor has he presented previously unavailable evidence. Therefore, the only basis for reconsideration is to remedy a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. After thoroughly reviewing Plaintiff's Motion and affording it due consideration in light of his status as a pro se litigant, the Court concludes that he has justified partially modifying the October 2017 Order.

         A. Claims for Relief Under New York Law

         Plaintiff contends that the Court erred in not construing the Complaint to have asserted state law claims for negligence, “denial of considerate and respectful care, ” and violation of New York State due process. Mem. at 4. His negligence claim against Martuscello, Smith, Miller, Baldwin, and Rizzi is based on his allegation that these defendants “repeatedly” force fed plaintiff using “a too-large n.g. tube, without aenesthetic [sic], which caused bleeding and swelling in addition to great pain and suffering.” Compl. at 148. Plaintiff appears to plead negligence as an alternative to his First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment claims, not as an independent claim. To the extent that these defendants did not intentionally injure him during the force feeding, he alleges, their conduct was negligent. Id. at 148-49 (“Even if the above-described actions regarding the force feeding were unintentional they constitute . . . negligence . . . under New York law.”). Plaintiff has not identified any authority indicating that New York recognizes a cause of action for “denial of considerate and respectful care, ” and the Court is aware of none. Thus, the Court does not construe Plaintiff's claim regarding “denial of considerate and respectful care” to be an independent state law claim. It appears to be duplicative of Plaintiff's negligence claim.

         Although claims of negligence are not cognizable under § 1983, Arroyo v. City of New York, No. 99-CV-1458, 2003 WL 22211500, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976)), a court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over such a pendent state law cause of action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, e.g., O'Diah v. Mawhir, No. 08-CV-322, 2010 WL 6230937, at *7 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 14, 2010), adopted by, 2011 WL 933846 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2011). The Court did not directly address Plaintiff's alternative negligence theory in the October 2017 Order. Because Plaintiff's negligence claim arises out of the same facts upon which his federal ...

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