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Bowie v. Woodruff

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 20, 2019

EDMUND BOWIE, Plaintiff,

          EDMUND BOWIE Plaintiff, pro se

          HON. LETITIA JAMES Attorney General for the State of New York Attorney for Defendants

          MATTHEW P. REED, ESQ. Assistant Attorney General



         Plaintiff pro se Edmund Bowie ("Bowie" or "Plaintiff"), an inmate who was, at all relevant times, in the custody of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Sergeant Gary Woodruff ("Sgt. Woodruff") and Correctional Officer Kyle Brooks ("C.O. Brooks") for violations of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."). Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissal of Bowie's complaint pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. No. 29. Bowie did not oppose the motion. For the following reasons, it is recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Failure to Respond

         Before discussing the background of this case, the Court addresses Bowie's failure to respond or oppose the motion. The Second Circuit requires that a pro se litigant defending against a summary judgment motion be notified as to the nature and consequences of summary judgment. Vital v. Interfaith Med. Ctr., 168 F.3d 615, 620-21 (2d Cir.1999); see also Local Rule 56.2 (Notice to Pro Se Litigants of the Consequences of Failing to Respond to a Summary Judgment Motion). Here, Bowie was notified of the consequences of failing to respond to a summary judgment motion by Defendants and the Court. Dkt. No. 29 at 3; Dkt. No. 30. Given this notice, Bowie was adequately apprised of the pendency of Defendants' motion and the consequences of failing to respond. On May 21, 2019, Bowie filed a Notice of Change of Address and requested an extension of time to file his response to the motion. Dkt. Nos. 31 and 32. The Court granted the extension and directed Bowie to provide a response on or before June 21, 2019. Dkt. No. 33. Despite the extension, Bowie has not submitted opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         "The fact that there has been no response to a summary judgment motion does not . . . mean that the motion is to be granted automatically." Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir. 1996). The Court has broad discretion to decide whether to overlook the parties' failures and perform an independent review of the record. Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 73 (2d Cir. 2001); see also Jackson v. Fed. Exp., 766 F.3d 189, 194 (2d Cir. 2014) (noting that "the court may rely on other evidence in the record even if uncited" in determining the undisputed material facts). If the district court chooses to conduct such an independent review of the record, any verified complaint filed by the plaintiff should be treated as an affidavit in opposing a motion for summary judgment. Patterson v. County of Oneida, 375 F.3d 206, 219 (2d Cir.2004).

         Here, because the Complaint is verified, [2] the Court will accept the pleading as an affidavit to the extent that the statements are based on Bowie's personal knowledge or are supported by the record. See Berry v. Marchinkowski, 137 F.Supp.3d 495, 530 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (collecting cases to support the proposition that a court may consider unsworn assertions on a motion for summary judgment where they are based on the plaintiff's personal knowledge and in light of special solicitude).

         Due to Bowie's pro se status, the Court has opted to review the entire summary judgment record to ascertain the undisputed material facts. Consequently, the facts set forth in Defendants' Rule 7.1 Statement of Material Facts[3] are accepted as true as to those facts that are not disputed by the facts set forth in the Complaint. N.D.N.Y. L.R. 7.1(a)(3) ("The Court shall deem admitted any properly supported facts set forth in the Statement of Facts that the opposing party does not specifically controvert.") (emphasis omitted).

         B. Facts[4]

         At the time of the incidents described in the Complaint, Bowie was an inmate in the custody of DOCCS and confined at Great Meadow Correctional Facility ("Great Meadow C.F."). See generally, Dkt. No. 1.

         Bowie claims that he was involved in a physical altercation with Sgt. Woodruff and C.O. Brooks on June 10, 2017. Dkt. No. 1 at 2-3. Bowie alleges that Sgt. Woodruff and C.O. Brooks used excessive force and failed to intervene to protect him from the use of force, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Id. at 4.

         On June 23, 2017, Bowie filed an Inmate Grievance Complaint (Grievance No. 62268-17) related to the June 10, 2017 incident. Dkt. No. 29-3 at 3, 6. Bow ie alleged:

I was involved in a altercation in the big yard on (6-10-17) at which time I was handcuffed and taken to the facility infirmary. While in the infirmary check up room, Sergeant John Doe asked me questions which I answered. He said I was not trueful [sic] and proceed[ed] to slap me in the back of the head. He asked me some more questions[, ] again I answered. He once again told me I was a liar [and] told Officer John Doe to hold me against the wall while another officer punched me in the ribs 4 or 5 times breaking 2 of my ribs which resulted in me going to Albany Med.

Dkt. No. 29-3 at 6.

         On July 10, 2017, the Grievance Clerk received the grievance. Dkt. No. 29-3 at 3. Due to the nature of the grievance, the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee ("IGRC") forwarded the grievance directly to the facility Superintendent for review. Id.

         On August 9, 2017, the Superintendent issued a decision stating that the grievance was investigated and denied. Dkt. No. 29-3 at 7. On August 21, 2017, Bowie signed the Appeal Statement indicating that he wished to appeal the Superintendent's decision to the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC"). Id. On August 23, 2017, the Grievance Clerk received and ...

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