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Deleon v. Ayers

United States District Court, W.D. New York

September 19, 2019

JASON DELEON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOEL R. AYERS, et al., Defendants.

          DECISION & ORDER REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          JONATHAN W. FELDMAN JUDGE

         Preliminary Statement

         Currently before the Court is pro se plaintiff Jason Deleon's ("plaintiff" or "Deleon") motion to (1) amend his complaint to replace defendants John Doe 1-4 with Anthony Spahalski ("Spahalski"), Jeffrey Harris ("Harris"), Joshua Andrus ("Andrus"), and Shawn Pierson ("Pierson") and (2) amend his complaint to add Matthew Smith ("Smith"), Debra Allen ("Allen"), Brianne Liddick ("Liddick"), Emily Brown ("Brown"), and Hanna Martin ("Martin"), none of whom were previously identified in the complaint or as John Doe defendants. See Mot. to Amend (Docket # 25) . For the reasons explained below, plaintiff's motion to amend is granted with respect to Spahalski, Harris, Andrus, and Pierson and the Court recommends that plaintiff's motion to amend be denied with respect to Smith, Allen, Liddick, Brown, and Martin.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff filed his original complaint against Joel Ayers, John Marshall, Joseph Bradley, Stephen Wenderlich, and five John Does[1] seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl. (Docket # 1) . Plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights were violated by defendants' excessive use of force and that he was denied due process of law and access to the courts while he was incarcerated at Southport Correctional Facility. See Id. The complaint alleged that plaintiff was assaulted by officers on January 23, 2014 and on April 21, 2014. See Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff also contended that Wenderlich allowed Bradley to oversee plaintiff's grievance interview even though he knew Bradley had witnessed plaintiff's beating and that officers subsequently destroyed plaintiff's legal work. Id. at 6.

         In an Order dated June 14, 2017, the Honorable David G. Larimer allowed some claims to proceed to service, but also dismissed some of plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, unless the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. See Docket # 4, at 1. Judge Larimer allowed the excessive use of force claim to proceed to service against Ayers, Marshall, Bradley, and the five John Doe officers, but he dismissed the due process and access to courts claims and all the allegations against Wenderlich for failure to allege personal involvement, unless plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Id. at 3-9.

         On October 16, 2017, plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which set forth similar facts alleged in the original complaint, but with additional details about the incidents involving the legal papers and Wenderlich. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that his legal documents took him many years to acquire, and that their destruction prevented him from adequately making out a claim and barred him from access to the courts. See First Am. Compl. (Docket # 8), at 7. Plaintiff also supplied additional details about the grievance investigation process which were omitted from the initial complaint. In the first amended complaint plaintiff explained that Bradley, who investigated the first assault, encouraged Ayers and Marshall to attack him during his disciplinary hearing and that Wenderlich appointed Bradley to oversee his hearing, in violation of department policy which states that an officer who witnessed or was involved in the incident must not conduct the rehearing. Id. at 8.

         In an Order dated May 15, 2018, Judge Larimer dismissed with prejudice plaintiff's denial of access to courts claim and all claims relating to Wenderlich, finding that they failed to state a claim. See Docket # 9, at 6. However, in addition to the excessive use of force claim that was previously allowed to proceed, Judge Larimer allowed the denial of due process claim to proceed based on the theory that Bradley, who investigated the first assault, encouraged Ayers and Marshall to attack plaintiff during his disciplinary hearing. Id. at 5. The Order also requested that the Attorney General determine the identities of the five John Does within 30 days. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff filed the present second motion to amend on February 4, 2019, this time seeking exclusively to "join other parties." See Docket # 24, at 1. Recognizing that plaintiff had failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 15(a), the Court ordered that plaintiff file a proposed amended complaint by February 20, 2019. See Docket #25, at 1. Plaintiff's second amended complaint was signed on February 19, 2019 and filed on February 25, 2019. The second amended complaint identifies the placeholder John Doe defendants and seeks to add several previously unmentioned defendants. See Docket # 27, at 1-2.

         Discussion

         Under Rule 15(a)(2), leave to amend a pleading should be freely granted, absent a showing of "excessive delay, prejudice to the opposing party, or futility." Friedl v. City of N.Y., 210 F.3d 79, 87 (2d Cir. 2000); accord Lucente v. Int'l Machs. Bus. Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002). "A district court has broad discretion in determining whether to grant leave to amend." Gurary v. Winehouse, 235 F.3d 792, 801 (2d Cir. 2000). Yet it is the "party opposing the motion for leave to amend [that] carries the burden of demonstrating that it will be substantially prejudiced by the amendments." State Farm. Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. CPT Med. Servs., P.C., 246 F.R.D. 143, 148 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).

         An amendment may be futile if it would be barred by the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for plaintiff's § 1983 claims is governed by state law and is, in this case, three years. Frankel v. N.Y. State Office of Children & Family Servs., No. 11 CIV. 7973 DAB RLE, 2013 WL 1803692, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 29, 2013). The conduct plaintiff complains of occurred on or before April 21, 2014, the last recorded date of an incident in plaintiff's complaint. Docket #27, at 5. Plaintiff filed a timely complaint on December 29, 2016, within three years of the alleged misconduct, naming Ayers, Marshall, Bradley, and Wenderlich, as well as five John Does at Southport Correctional Facility. Docket #1, at 7. Plaintiff's second amended complaint seeks to both replace John Does 1-4 in the original complaint with the names of the discovered defendants, as well as add entirely new defendants not previously mentioned. See Docket #24, at 1; see generally Docket # 27. Therefore, to be timely, and thus not futile, plaintiff's allegations against defendants named in the proposed second amended complaint must relate back to his original complaint.

         Under Rule 15(c)(1), w[a]n amendment to a pleading relates back to the ...


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