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Diaz v. MDC Detention Center

United States District Court, E.D. New York

January 17, 2018

ROBERTO DIAZ, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Roberto Diaz, presently incarcerated at the Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), brings this pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is granted. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed against MDC. As discussed below, the action will proceed against defendant Rivera.

         I. Background

         The following facts are drawn from plaintiff's complaint, the allegations of which are assumed to be true for purposes of this order. Plaintiff states that on October 19, 2016, he “faked” that he was going to commit suicide. (Compl., ECF No. 5 at 4).[1] Defendant Rivera, an officer at MDC, sprayed plaintiff in the face with mace. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that he has lost vision in his left eye and has been informed by medical personnel that he may lose his sight in that eye. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks medical treatment and monetary damages.[1]

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a district court “shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Upon review, a district court shall dismiss a prisoner complaint sua sponte 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.” Id. at § 1915A (b); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007).

         At the pleadings stage of the proceeding, the Court must assume the truth of “all well-pleaded, non-conclusory factual allegations” in the complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint must plead sufficient facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         It is axiomatic that pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and the Court is required to read the plaintiff's pro se complaint liberally and interpret it as raising the strongest arguments it suggests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant #1, 537 F.3d 185, 191-93 (2d Cir. 2008).

         III. Discussion

         A. Plaintiff's Bivens Claim

         In Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the Supreme Court recognized an implied private cause of action for damages against federal officers who allegedly violated a citizen's constitutional rights. See Id. at 389. A Bivens action is the federal analog to an action against a state actor under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 254 n.2 (2006) (noting that a Bivens action is the federal analog to claims against state actors brought under § 1983); Tyler v. Dunne, No. 16 CV 2980, 2016 WL 4186971, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 8, 2016) (determining that § 1983 claims against federal actors should be characterized as Bivens claims). Here, because plaintiff names as defendants a federal detention facility and an officer at that federal facility, the Court will liberally construe his complaint as bringing a Bivens claim. Pursuant to Bivens, because plaintiff specifically alleges that defendant Rivera sprayed mace in plaintiff's face, and that as a result plaintiff may lose sight in his left eye (Compl. at p. 4.), plaintiff's complaint may proceed against defendant Rivera in her personal capacity. See, e.g., Elorreage v. Metro. Det. Ctr., No. 12-CV-3344 ARR, 2012 WL 3764428, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 27, 2012) (in pro se action, permitting claims against MDC staff director and a federal officer to proceed under Bivens because plaintiff “levie[d] specific allegations” as to these federal employees).

         Plaintiff is advised, however, that his suit against defendant Rivera is subject to the requirements of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLSRA”). “The PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, [] whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong . . . [and] whether they are pursuing monetary or injunctive relief.” Dunster v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 10-CV-1735 ARR LB, 2011 WL 2360353, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. June 9, 2011) (citing, inter alia, Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001)). “Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense under the PLRA, not a pleading requirement[, and] inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints. However, a district court still may dismiss a complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies if it is clear on the face of the complaint that the plaintiff did not satisfy the PLRA exhaustion requirement.” Williams v. Correction Officer Priatno, 829 F.3d 118, 122 (2d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007); Grullon v. City of New Haven, 720 F.3d 133, 141 (2d Cir. 2013)). The complaint is silent as to whether plaintiff has sought to exhaust his administrative remedies, however, plaintiff has separately submitted documents relating to his pursuit of administrative review of the incident (see ECF No. 6). Thus, the court will not dismiss the complaint based on the PLRA.

         B. Sovereign Immunity

         Plaintiff's claim against the MDC is barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. E.g., Williams v. Metro. Det. Ctr., 418 F.Supp.2d 96, 100 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (“As the MDC is a part of the BOP, a federal agency, [plaintiff's] claims against the MDC and the federal officers in their official capacities are dismissed on the grounds of sovereign immunity.”); Elorreage, 2012 WL 3764428, at *2; see Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (stating that sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit); Robinson v. Overseas Military Sales Corp., 21 F.3d 502, 510 (2d Cir. 1994) (same). Without a waiver of sovereign immunity, federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims against the United States or agencies thereof. See Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 510 U.S. at 475 (noting requirement of waiver). It is the Plaintiff's burden to demonstrate that sovereign immunity has been waived. See Jimenez v. United ...

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