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Aikens v. C.O. Porter

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 11, 2018

ANTHONY AIKENS, Plaintiff,
v.
C.O. PORTER, DSP AWOPETU, THOMAS STICHT, and A. RODRIGUEZ, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          William M. Skretny United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before this Court is an Amended Complaint and Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis by pro se Plaintiff Anthony Aikens, who is a prisoner confined at the Attica Correctional Facility. (Docket Nos. 2 and 3.) Because Plaintiff meets the statutory requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (a), his request to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. The granting of this status triggers the screening provisions in 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B) and 1915A. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. (Docket No. 4.) For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's claims will proceed to service, but his request for a temporary restraining order will be denied.

         II. FACTS

         Plaintiff alleges that on January 11, 2016, at 3:30 p.m., Defendant Porter directed him to retrieve the “disposition ticket” from his cell that explained why Plaintiff had lost recreation privileges. (Amended Complaint, p. 2.) Plaintiff retrieved the “ticket” and proceeded to the Corrections Officers' desk, where he informed Defendant Porter that he had a question to ask. (Id.) Defendant Porter refused to let Plaintiff ask his question and instead said, “You don't ask questions here. I do the asking here.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff then asked to speak to a sergeant. (Id.) In response, Defendant Porter called in a disturbance. (Id.) He then ordered Plaintiff against the wall and searched him. (Id.) After the search, Defendant Porter punched Plaintiff “in his lower spine and right side while Plaintiff was on the wall.” (Id.) Plaintiff then fell to the floor screaming, at which time officers responding to the disturbance call arrived and took Plaintiff to the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”). (Id. at 3.)

         In the SHU, Plaintiff asked to be seen in the medical unit, because he was experiencing “severe pain in his lower back and knumbness [sic] in both legs.” (Id.) His request was denied and he was threatened with being stripped and placed naked on suicide watch, presumably if he did not stop asking to go to the medical unit.[1] (Id.)

         Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning the assault on January 14, 2016, which the Superintendent denied on February 1, 2016. (Id. at p. 22.) Plaintiff then appealed the denial of his grievance on February 25, 2016, but has not received a decision. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff therefore alleges that he has exhausted his administrative remedies. (Id. at pp. 3-6.)

         This incident also resulted in a Tier III disciplinary hearing on January 15, 2016, at which the hearing officer, Defendant Awopetu, asked Plaintiff whether he had witnesses. (Id. at pp. 6, 10.) Plaintiff stated that he had no witnesses at that time. (Id. p. 6) He then proceeded to present his case, arguing that Defendant Porter assaulted him and aggravated a preexisting injury such that he could not sleep. (Id.) Plaintiff also presented medical documents concerning his preexisting injury. (Id.) At the conclusion of Plaintiff's presentation, Defendant Awopetu stated that he needed to adjourn the proceeding so that he could hear from the officer who wrote the “ticket.” (Id.)

         The hearing continued on January 26, 2016. (Id. at 10.) At that time, Plaintiff advised Defendant Awopetu that he now wanted to call witnesses, but did not know their names, only their locations. (Id. at pp. 6, 7.) Defendant Awopetu refused to allow Plaintiff to call his witnesses, because he did not want to further delay the hearing. (Id.) At the conclusion of the hearing that day, Defendant Awopetu found Plaintiff guilty of one of the four charges against him and sentenced him to, inter alia, 180 days in the SHU, with 80 days deferred.[2] (Id. at 10.)

         Plaintiff appealed Defendant Awopetu's decision the same day it was rendered. (Id. at 19.) On February 1, 2016, Defendant Sticht denied Plaintiff's appeal. (Id. at 22.) Plaintiff further appealed to the Commissioner, who, through Defendant Rodriguez, modified Plaintiff's sentence (reducing SHU to 90 days) but otherwise denied the appeal. (Id. at 21.)

         III. DISCUSSION

         Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e)(2)(B) and 1915A (a), the Court is required to conduct an initial screening of this Amended Complaint. In evaluating the Amended Complaint, the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations and must draw all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (per curiam); King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 287 (2d Cir. 1999). While “a court is obliged to construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations, ” McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), even pro se pleadings must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2004).

         To comply with Rule 8, “[s]pecific facts are not necessary, ” and the plaintiff “need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Boykin v. Keycorp, 521 F.3d 202, 213 (2d Cir. 2008) (discussing pleading standard in pro se cases after Twombly: “even after Twombly, dismissal of a pro se claim as insufficiently pleaded is appropriate only in the most unsustainable of cases.”).

         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that the challenged conduct (1) was attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Whalen v. County of Fulton, 126 F.3d 400, 405 (2d Cir. 1997) (citing Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865, 875-76 (2d Cir. 1994)).

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