Brown v. Artus

Decision Date11 August 2009
Docket NumberNo. 9:07-CV-480 (LEK/DEP).,9:07-CV-480 (LEK/DEP).
Citation647 F.Supp.2d 190
PartiesNathan BROWN, Plaintiff, v. Dale ARTUS, Superintendent, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of New York

Nathan Brown, Dannemora, NY, pro se.

Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Attorney General, Christina Roberts-Ryba, Esq., Justin C. Levin, Esq. Assistant Attorneys General, of Counsel, Albany, NY, for Defendants.

ORDER

LAWRENCE E. KAHN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court following a Report-Recommendation filed on July 15, 2009 by the Honorable David E. Peebles, United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and L.R. 72.3 of the Northern District of New York. Report-Rec. (Dkt. No. 77). After ten days from the service thereof, the Clerk has sent the entire file to the undersigned, including the supplemental Reply filed by Plaintiff Nathan Brown on July 22, 2009 (Dkt. No. 78) and the Objections by Defendants Dale Artus and R.J. Minogue, filed on July 29, 2009 (Dkt. No. 80).

It is the duty of this Court to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). "A [district] judge . . . may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id. This Court has considered the objections and has undertaken a de novo review of the record and has determined that the Report-Recommendation should be approved for the reasons stated therein.1

Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED, that the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 77) is APPROVED and ADOPTED in its ENTIRETY; and it is further

ORDERED, that Defendants Artus and Minogue's Motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. No. 67) is GRANTED in part; Plaintiff's first cause of action, alleging unlawful retaliation in violation of the First Amendment, is DISMISSED as against Defendant Artus; the Motion is otherwise DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED, that Plaintiff's Motion for sanctions (Dkt. No. 72) is DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED, that the Clerk serve a copy of this Order on all parties.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

DAVID E. PEEBLES, United States Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Nathan Brown, a New York State prison inmate who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging deprivation of his civil rights. In his complaint plaintiff asserts claims of retaliation and cruel and unusual punishment arising from his incarceration, based upon events alleged to have occurred on March 26, 2007, naming as defendants several employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), including the superintendent and former deputy superintendent of the prison facility in which he was housed at the relevant times, and requests both monetary and declaratory relief.

Currently before the court is a motion by defendants Dale Artus and R.J. Minogue for partial summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims against them. In their motion, those defendants maintain that the record fails to support plaintiff's claims of retaliation against them or demonstrate their personal involvement in the conduct giving rise to Brown's Eighth Amendment violation, and, in any event, that they are protected from suit based upon qualified immunity. Plaintiff has opposed defendants' motion, and additionally has cross-moved for sanctions stemming from an alleged violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part, but otherwise denied, and that plaintiff's motion for sanctions be denied.

I. BACKGROUND1

Plaintiff is a prison inmate entrusted to the care and custody of the DOCS. At the time of the events detailed in his amended complaint, plaintiff was designated to the Clinton Correctional Facility ("Clinton"), located in Dannemora, New York. Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 45) ¶ 2. Plaintiff's incarceration results from a 1990 murder conviction, for which he was sentenced to a term twenty-five years to life. Levin Decl. (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. B.

On March 24, 2007, while at Clinton, plaintiff was issued a misbehavior report by Corrections Officer G. LaBonte accusing him of refusing to obey a direct order, failure to maintain clean quarters, and interference with staff. Levin (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. C. That disciplinary report resulted from plaintiff's failure to obey a direct order to clean his cell bars. See id. A Tier II disciplinary hearing was convened on March 28, 2007 to address the charges and, due to his refusal to attend, was held in plaintiff's absence by Hearing Officer John Miller.2 Id. At the close of the proceedings the hearing officer found plaintiff guilty of refusing to obey a direct order and failure to maintain clean quarters, imposing a penalty which included thirty days of keeplock confinement with a corresponding loss of telephone, package, and commissary privileges.3 Id.

On the same day that Corrections Officer LaBonte issued plaintiff a misbehavior report, Brown authored a letter to defendant L. Turner, the Deputy Superintendent for Programs at Clinton, accusing LaBonte of sexual misconduct. Levin Decl. (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. D; Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 45) ¶ 9. That letter, though dated March 24, 2007, was forwarded by plaintiff to prison officials two days later, and was stamped as "received" on March 26, 2007. See id.

On the day on the letter complaining of Corrections Officer LaBonte's actions was sent by Brown and received by defendant Turner's office, plaintiff was escorted to an office within the Upper F Block at Clinton, where he was placed in mechanical restraints by defendants Beeman and Corrigan, and thereafter beaten by those two individuals, in concert with Corrections Sergeant Darryl Menard. Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 45) ¶ 10. During the course of the assault one of the corrections workers, defendant Beeman, brandished a knife and threatened to stab the plaintiff if he filed any further grievances. Id.

Plaintiff wrote to Clinton Superintendent Dale Artus on April 3, 2007, complaining of the assault. Levin Decl. (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. F. As result of that complaint, plaintiff was examined by medical professionals at the facility on April 5, 2007, and photographs were taken to determine the extent of any physical injuries suffered. See Levin Decl. (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. G, H. An investigation conducted with respect to the incident resulted in the issuance of a memorandum dated April 9, 2007, in which defendant Minogue, a corrections captain, concluded that plaintiff's complaint was without merit.4 Levin Decl. (Dkt. No. 67-4) Exh. I.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff commenced this action on May 3, 2007, Dkt. No. 1, and later amended his complaint, with court approval, see Dkt. No. 35, on June 11, 2008. Dkt. No. 45. Named as defendants in plaintiff's amended complaint are Dale Artus, the superintendent at Clinton; Linda Turner, a former deputy superintendent of program services at the facility; R.J. Minogue, a former corrections captain at the facility; Darryl Menard, a corrections sergeant at Clinton; and Keith Beeman and Geri Corrigan, two corrections officers at the prison. Id. Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts two causes of action, one alleging unlawful retaliation in contravention of the First Amendment, and the second asserting that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id.

Following joinder of issue and the close of discovery, defendants Artus and Minogue moved for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure dismissing plaintiff's claims against them. Dkt. No. 67. In their motion those defendants argue that 1) the record fails to establish that they took action toward Brown in retaliation for his having engaged in protected activity; 2) they were not personally involved in any potential Eighth Amendment violation; and 3) in any event, they are shielded from suit by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Plaintiff's opposition to defendants' motion was received by the court on February 9, 2009. Dkt. No. 68.

On May 8, 2009, plaintiff moved for sanctions, asserting that defendant Artus violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, by submitting an affidavit in direct conflict with evidence submitted by plaintiff.5 Dkt. No. 72. Defendants have since responded in opposition to plaintiff's motion, Dkt. No. 75, and plaintiff has now replied to defendants' submission. Dkt. No. 76.

Both motions currently before the court are ripe for determination, and have been referred to me for the issuance of a report and recommendation to the assigned district judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Northern District of New York Local Rule 72.3(c).6 See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

III. DISCUSSION
A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment motions are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under that provision, summary judgment is warranted when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 82-83 (2d Cir.2004). A fact is "material", for purposes of this inquiry, if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; see also Jeffreys v. City of New York, 426 F.3d 549, 553 (2d Cir.2005) (citing Anderson, ...

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