Hynes v. Squillace

Decision Date01 May 1998
Docket NumberNo. 1477,D,1477
Citation143 F.3d 653
PartiesChris HYNES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. J. SQUILLACE, Hearing Officer; N. Buth, Correction Officer; and Louis F. Mann, Superintendent, Defendants-Appellees. ocket 97-2091.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

Kenneth R. Stephens, Poughkeepsie, NY (Lauren Petit, law student intern, Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, on brief), for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Martin A. Hotvet, Assistant Attorney General, Albany, NY (Dennis Vacco, Attorney General of the State of New York, Peter H. Schiff, Deputy Solicitor General, Nancy A. Spiegel, Assistant Attorney General, on brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: FEINBERG, JACOBS and MAGILL *, Circuit Judges.

PER CURIAM:

Plaintiff-Appellant Chris Hynes, an inmate at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, filed suit alleging that a corrections officer violated Hynes' First Amendment rights by charging him with misbehavior in retaliation for his prior inmate complaints, and that the prison hearing officer who ruled on the misbehavior report violated Hynes' due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. After referring the case to a Magistrate Judge and receiving the Magistrate Judge's Report-Recommendation, the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Scullin, J.) granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and dismissed the complaint.

Hynes appeals on the grounds that in granting summary judgment on the retaliation claim the district court erroneously relied on evidence submitted to the district court for the first time with the defendants' objections to the Report-Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, that in any event questions of fact remain on the retaliation claim, and that the district court made insufficient findings to support its ruling (under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995)) that Hynes' 21-day pre-hearing keeplock confinement did not deprive Hynes of a liberty interest.

BACKGROUND

Hynes alleges that on November 5 and November 9, 1994, he filed grievances with defendant Louis Mann, Shawangunk's superintendent complaining about abusive conduct by defendant N. Buth, a correctional officer. He claims that on the evening of November 25, 1994, he asked Buth whether he had called the package room to check on the availability of a package that Hynes' family had dropped off earlier that day. According to Hynes, Buth responded, "No, handle it, write another complaint." The specific details of what followed are disputed; but it is uncontested that Hynes disobeyed Buth's direct order to lock into his cell.

The next day, Hynes was served with a misbehavior report, filed by Buth, charging him with violations of: (i) Rule 102.10, which provides that "[i]nmates shall not, under any circumstances, make any threat, spoken, in writing, or by gesture"; (ii) Rule 106.10, which provides that "[a]ll orders of facility personnel will be obeyed promptly and without argument"; (iii) Rule 107.11, which provides that "[i]nmates shall not verbally or in writing harass employees. This includes using insolent, abusive and/or obscene language and gestures"; and (iv) Rule 104.13, which provides that "[i]nmates shall not engage in conduct which disturbs the order of any part of the facility. This includes, but is not limited to, loud talking in mess halls, program areas or corridors."

Hynes spent 21 days in keeplock confinement pending the completion of his Tier III disciplinary hearing. 1 On December 15, 1994, he was found guilty of all of the charged rule violations and sentenced to 180 days in SHU. On January 27, 1995, Mann reversed the 180-day sentence after discovering that part of the tape recording of the disciplinary hearing was inaudible.

Hynes sued Mann, Buth, and J. Squillace, the hearing officer, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming: (i) that Buth filed the misbehavior report in retaliation for Hynes' complaints to Mann, in violation of the First Amendment; and (ii) that Hynes was denied due process, both prior to and at his disciplinary hearing, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. 2 The parties both moved for summary judgment. Magistrate Judge Scanlon recommended dismissal of Hynes' Fourteenth Amendment claim, finding that Hynes had not been deprived of a liberty interest under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995), but recommended that summary judgment be denied on the First Amendment retaliation claim because defendants had failed to submit evidence demonstrating that the misbehavior report was legitimate.

Defendants then filed an objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report-Recommendation, claiming that they were entitled to summary judgment on the retaliation claim because the evidence demonstrated Hynes' guilt of the violations charged in the misbehavior report. In support of their objection, defendants submitted supplemental evidence, including a partial transcript of the Tier III disciplinary hearing.

Hynes also filed an objection to the Report-Recommendation, claiming that: (i) he was entitled to summary judgment on the retaliation claim, and (ii) the Magistrate Judge erred in the Sandin analysis. Hynes also submitted a separate letter objecting to the defendants' submission of supplemental evidence in support of their motion for summary judgment on the retaliation claim.

The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on all claims. On appeal, Hynes claims that the district court erred: (i) in dismissing his retaliation claim, both because the supplemental evidence should not have been considered, and because even considering this evidence, disputed issues of fact remain; and (ii) in failing to explain adequately the factual findings underlying its conclusion that plaintiff had not been deprived of a liberty interest under Sandin.

DISCUSSION
I

Reliance on Supplemental Evidence. Considerations of efficiency and fairness militate in favor of a full evidentiary submission for the Magistrate Judge's consideration, and we have upheld the exercise of the district court's discretion in refusing to allow supplementation of the record upon the district court's de novo review. See, e.g., Paddington Partners v. Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1137-38 (2d Cir.1994) (finding no abuse of discretion in district court's refusal to consider supplemental evidence); Pan American World Airways, Inc. v. International Bhd. of Teamsters, 894 F.2d 36, 40 n. 3 (2d Cir.1990) (holding that district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiff's request to present additional testimony where plaintiff "offered no justification for not offering the testimony at the hearing before the magistrate"); see also Wallace v. Tilley, 41 F.3d 296, 302 (7th Cir.1994) ("It is not in the interests of justice to allow a party to wait until the Report and Recommendation or Order has been issued and then submit evidence that the party had in its possession but chose not to submit. Doing so would allow parties to undertake trial runs of their motion, adding to the record in bits and pieces depending upon the rulings or recommendation they received.") (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

At the same time, the district court had discretion to consider evidence that had not been submitted to the Magistrate Judge. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Magistrate Judge's Report-Recommendation was subject to de novo review as to those issues upon which the parties raised objections. Both § 636(b)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) explicitly permit the district court to receive additional evidence as part of its review. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (1994) ("[T]he [district] judge may also receive further evidence...."); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) ("The district judge to whom the case is assigned shall make a de novo determination upon the record, or after additional evidence, of any portion of the magistrate judge's disposition to which specific written objection has been made ...."); see also 12 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Richard L. Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3070.2, at 378 (1997) ("The statute and the rule both confirm, further, that the district judge is completely free to supplement the record developed by the magistrate judge with further evidence ....").

We do not think that the district court here abused its discretion in considering the defendants' supplemental evidence. The defendants plausibly asserted that they originally construed all of plaintiff's causes of action to be governed by Sandin, and therefore did not address the separate merits of the retaliation claim before the Magistrate Judge. The district court had discretion to accept this explanation, and it did.

Notwithstanding the district court's discretion to consider this supplemental evidence, the parties agree that the court erred in failing to give Hynes notice of its intention to consider this supplemental evidence in resolving the objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report-Recommendation. However, Hynes was not prejudiced by the district court's failure to give such notice. Hynes had moved for summary judgment on the retaliation claim before the Magistrate Judge; he therefore had every incentive to submit all evidence supporting his retaliation claim. After the Magistrate Judge recommended denial of the motions for summary judgment on the retaliation claim, Hynes objected, claiming that the Magistrate Judge should have recommended granting his motion. At that time, he also had the right to submit a response to defendants' objections to the Report-Recommendation, and chose to limit his response to technical objections relating to the supplementation of the record. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) ("A party may respond to another party's objections within 10 days after being served with a copy thereof."). Thus, Hynes had opportunities and incentives to submit...

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