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Hayes v. Dubois

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 22, 2018

RALPHIE HAYES, Plaintiff,
v.
ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF CARL E. DUBOIS, LT. PENNY, SGT. L. MORENO #040, SGT. ZEPPLIN #062, SGT. K. KISZKA #134, COLONEL KENNETH DECKER, ERT OFFICER CARD WELL, and N.Y.S COMMISION OF CORRECTION COMMISSIONER THOMAS J. LOUGHREN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          BRICCETTI, J.

         Plaintiff Ralphie Hayes, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging defendants at Orange County Jail ("OCJ") subjected him to an illegal body search in violation of his constitutional rights.

         Before the Court is defendants' unopposed motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. #17).

         For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED. However, plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint, with the limitations explained below.

         The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         BACKGROUND

         For the purpose of deciding the pending motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs favor, as summarized below. The following facts are taken from the complaint and the documents attached thereto or incorporated by reference therein.[1]

         On February 1, 2017, while plaintiff was an inmate at OCJ, the inmates in plaintiffs housing unit were subjected to strip searches. In conducting plaintiffs strip search, ERT Officer Cardwell instructed plaintiff to "grab [his] butto[cks] and spread them apart." (Compl. at 3).[2]Plaintiff initially refused to do so, and told Cardwell he was violating plaintiffs rights. Cardwell allegedly "forced" plaintiff to comply. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges Sergeants Moreno and Zepplin authorized the search, and Lieutenant Penny was the shift commander at the time. Plaintiff also alleges seven other officers were in the housing unit when plaintiff was searched.

         On February 5, 2017, plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the search. On February 10, Sergeant Kiszka denied plaintiffs grievance, noting the search was "within facility policy and procedure." (Compl. Ex. A). Plaintiff appealed the decision and Colonel Decker denied that appeal. Plaintiff again appealed. On April 13, 2017, the New York State Commission of Correction notified Sheriff Dubois of its review and final disposition of plaintiff s grievance, sustaining the prior denials.

         Plaintiff claims "all parties involved conspire[d]." (Compl. at 3).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court evaluates the sufficiency of the operative complaint under the "two-pronged approach" articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). First, plaintiffs legal conclusions and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," are not entitled to the assumption of truth and are thus not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; Havden v. Paterson, 594 F.3d 150, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). Second, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the allegations in the complaint must meet a standard of "plausibility." Id. at 678; Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 564 (2007). A claim is facially plausible "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. at 678. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

         The Court must liberally construe submissions of pro se litigants, and interpret them "to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest." Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Applying the pleading rules permissively is particularly appropriate when, as here, a pro se plaintiff alleges civil rights violations. See Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008). "Even in a pro se case, however . . . threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Nor may the Court "invent factual allegations" plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.

         II. Plaintiffs Constitutional Claims

         Defendants argue plaintiff has failed adequately to plead a violation of his constitutional rights.

         The Court agrees.

         A. Eighth Amendment Claim

         First, plaintiff appears to assert the body search violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.[3]

         Under the Eighth Amendment, conditions of confinement "must not involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). To state a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation, "an inmate must allege: (1) objectively, the deprivation the inmate suffered was 'sufficiently serious that he was denied the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities,' and (2) subjectively, the defendant official acted with 'a sufficiently culpable state of mind . . ., such as deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety.'" Walker v. Schult. 717 F.3d 119, 125 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Gaston v. Coughlin. 249 F.3d 156, 164 (2d Cir. 2001)) (alterations original).

         There is no "static test" to determine a sufficiently serious deprivation under the objective prong. Blissett v. Coughlin. 66 F.3d 531, 537 (2d Cir. 1995). Rather, satisfaction of the objective prong is "context specific." Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, ...


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