18 F.3d 133 (2nd Cir. 1994), 623, Hernandez v. Coughlin

Docket Nº:623, Docket 92-2292.
Citation:18 F.3d 133
Party Name:John HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Thomas A. COUGHLIN, III, Commissioner, New York Department of Corrections; Joseph Pranzenica, Family Service Coordinator; and Dean Riley, Superintendent Fishkill Correctional Facility, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 03, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 133

18 F.3d 133 (2nd Cir. 1994)

John HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Thomas A. COUGHLIN, III, Commissioner, New York Department

of Corrections; Joseph Pranzenica, Family Service

Coordinator; and Dean Riley, Superintendent Fishkill

Correctional Facility, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 623, Docket 92-2292.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 3, 1994

Argued Nov. 15, 1993.

Page 134

Howard M. Erichson, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, New York, N.Y. (Thomas J. Moloney, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, New York, N.Y., of counsel), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Clement J. Colucci, Assistant Attorney General, New York, N.Y. (Robert Abrams, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, N.Y., of counsel), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: ALTIMARI and WALKER, Circuit Judges, and OWEN, District Judge. [*]

ALTIMARI, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant John Hernandez appeals from a judgment entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Kram, J.), dismissing his complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The complaint presents a claim for deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. In the complaint, Hernandez alleges that defendants-appellees Thomas A. Coughlin, Commissioner New York Department of Corrections, Joseph Pranzenica, Family Service Coordinator, and Dean Riley, Superintendent Fishkill Correctional Facility, ("the Corrections Officials") denied him conjugal visitation rights, in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of due process. On appeal, Hernandez principally contends that the district court erred in dismissing his pro se complaint without considering the Corrections Officials' deprivation of his constitutional right to privacy in marital relations. Hernandez also claims that the district

Page 135

court erred in dismissing the complaint without granting leave to amend the complaint to allege that he was denied participation in a prison program in retaliation for his exercise of constitutionally protected rights.

For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's judgment.

BACKGROUND

Hernandez is an inmate in the New York State Correctional system who was convicted in 1980 in New York state court of robbery in the first degree. He was sentenced to serve eight and one-third to twenty-five years' imprisonment. At sentencing, Hernandez was classified as "Maximum Status," and was assigned to a maximum security facility. Hernandez subsequently served time at Attica, Clinton, Auburn, and Comstock Correctional Facilities, all of which are maximum security prisons. While incarcerated at Attica, Clinton, and Auburn, and while classified as "Maximum Status," Hernandez participated in a program known as the Family Reunion Program ("FRP") established at each of those facilities.

The FRP, which is governed by the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations ("NYCRR"), offers inmates extended private visits with their spouses and families. See N.Y.Comp.Codes R. & Regs. tit. 7, Secs. 220.1-220.6 (1986). Generally, FRP visits take place overnight or over a weekend in a trailer within the prison facility. Hernandez participated in over thirty FRP visits while incarcerated at Attica, Clinton, and Auburn Correctional Facilities.

Hernandez was reclassified as "Medium Status" in 1986. Two years later, he was transferred to the Fishkill Correctional Facility, a medium security prison. Shortly thereafter, Hernandez applied for admission to Fishkill's FRP, filing all required papers and submitting to a medical examination. In January 1989, Hernandez was told that his application would be placed on hold pending medical clearance. He investigated the matter, and was informed that medical clearance had been granted on December 20, 1988. Hernandez wrote to defendant-appellee Pranzenica, the FRP coordinator, and sent him a copy of his medical clearance. Hernandez was subsequently notified on January 18, 1989 that his application for FRP had been denied based on the "nature of the instant offense."

In November 1990, Hernandez commenced an action pro se and proceeded in forma pauperis in the district court against the Corrections Officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, seeking restoration of FRP visitation, damages, and other relief. The complaint alleged that the Corrections Officials denied him conjugal visitation rights in violation of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.

The parties consented, under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 636(c), to conduct all proceedings before Magistrate Judge Kathleen A. Roberts. On December 13, 1991, the Corrections Officials moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Upon Hernandez's request, Magistrate Judge Roberts extended his time to respond to the motion, but Hernandez made no response.

In a Memorandum and Order filed March 4, 1992, Magistrate Judge Roberts granted the Corrections Officials' motion and dismissed the complaint, concluding that Hernandez's claim did not implicate any constitutionally protected interest or any property or liberty interest created by state law. The district court adopted the findings and holdings of Magistrate Judge Roberts, ordered the action discontinued, and entered judgment on March 23, 1992.

Following this decision, on April 23, 1992, Hernandez filed a motion for an extension of time to file a notice of appeal. The district court treated the motion as a timely notice of appeal. Thereafter, on April 29, 1992, Hernandez submitted to the district court a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, attempting to add an allegation that the Corrections Officials retaliated against him for his initial complaint and for sending the court numerous letters written by him and his family to members of Congress, corrections officials, and other state and city officials. The motion was removed from the docket

Page 136

because Hernandez was deemed to have already filed a notice of appeal, thereby transferring jurisdiction to this Court. On July 14, 1992, we dismissed the appeal for failure to comply with the scheduling order. Hernandez moved to reinstate the appeal and for appointment of counsel. The Court granted the motion on May 19, 1993.

Hernandez has since been transferred from Fishkill, and as of September 20, 1993, he is confined at the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility, a medium security prison.

DISCUSSION

We review the grant of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) de novo. See Grimes v. Ohio Edison Co., 992 F.2d 455, 456 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 467, 126 L.Ed.2d 419 (1993). In reviewing a complaint for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Allen v. Westpoint-Pepperell, Inc., 945 F.2d 40, 44 (2d Cir.1991). The complaint may be dismissed only where "...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP