Willey v. Kirkpatrick

Decision Date28 August 2015
Docket NumberDocket No. 13–699.
Citation801 F.3d 51
PartiesAaron WILLEY, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Robert A. KIRKPATRICK, M. Monahan, Martain Kerney, Scott Lambert, Taylor Roberts, M. Sztuk, A. Allessandro, M. Overhuff, Tom Schoellkopfl, Jeff Jeszorski, Defendants–Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit

RYAN A. LEMA (Timothy W. Hoover and Michael S. Silverstein, on the brief), Phillips Lytle LLP, Buffalo, New York, for PlaintiffAppellant.

Robert M. Goldfarb, Assistant Solicitor General, for Andrea Oser, Deputy Solicitor General, Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, and Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, Albany, New York, for DefendantsAppellees.

Before: KATZMANN, Chief Judge, POOLER and CARNEY, Circuit Judges.


KATZMANN, Chief Judge:

PlaintiffAppellant Aaron Willey alleges that, while incarcerated in New York, he endured a cruel campaign of harassment at the hands of corrections officers in retaliation for his refusal to provide false information against another inmate. The course of retaliatory conduct he alleges included smaller indignities like frequent harassment and a week's worth of meals that were nutritionally inadequate. But Willey also alleges that he was on three occasions exposed to unsanitary conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The most grotesque exposure Willey alleges is that officers placed him in solitary confinement with a Plexiglas shield restricting the airflow to his small cell and then incapacitated his toilet, so that he was reduced to breathing a miasma of his own accumulating waste. The two other alleged exposures to unsanitary conditions involved Willey's detention in an observation cell whose walls and mattress were smeared with feces and stained with urine. Willey alleges further retaliatory conduct including theft of his legal documents, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment.

Willey proceeded pro se below, naming as defendants several corrections officers and their supervisors at the Wende Correctional Facility, in Alden, New York, where Willey was incarcerated during the events alleged in his complaint. When these defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, the district court (Siragusa, J. ) denied the motion in its entirety. Several years later, the district court (Telesca, J. ) granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, deciding in sum and substance that Willey's amended complaint failed to state a claim. The district court's grant of summary judgment in part on grounds not raised by the movants, without notice to Willey or an opportunity for him to respond, conflicts with Rule 56(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As to those grounds that were raised by the defendants, the district court's conclusion that Willey's complaint failed to state a claim rested on an erroneous legal foundation.

In this opinion, we first reiterate the proper standard for granting summary judgment on grounds not raised by the movant, which was not met here. Second, we clarify the standard for a claim for unconstitutional retaliation. Third, we disagree with the district court's analysis of Willey's claim for unsanitary conditions. Fourth, we revive Willey's claims for nutritionally inadequate meals, theft of legal documents, harassment, malicious prosecution, and false imprisonment. Finally, we suggest to the district court that on remand Willey receive appointed counsel, an opportunity to take further discovery, and leave to file a second amended complaint.

I. Willey's Complaint

This summary of the relevant factual background we draw principally from the allegations in Willey's complaint, because, as we will explore further, the defendants' motion for summary judgment rested entirely on the legal sufficiency of the allegations of the complaint and not on any evidence. Willey, pro se, filed his original typewritten complaint on August 31, 2007, and filed his handwritten amended complaint on April 7, 2010. Because they are substantively identical, with one exception discussed below, this recitation cites to allegations in the original complaint, all of which appear also in the amended complaint. Compare Compl., J.A. 17–36, with Am. Compl., J.A. 158–172.

Beginning at age 18, Willey was incarcerated at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York, from April 2004 until October 2006, although during this period he was housed for five months at the Central New York Psychiatric Facility. The events giving rise to this suit all occurred at Wende, and the defendants are Wende corrections officers, hearing officers, and their supervisors who were employed there during Willey's incarceration. Willey alleges that, on October 15, 2005, he was approached on his way to evening recreation by Sergeant Scott Lambert, who stopped Willey and requested identification. Corrections officer Taylor Roberts then performed a pat frisk of Willey, which uncovered nothing unusual. Nevertheless, Roberts handcuffed Willey and escorted him “into a room with no cameras or witnesses present.” J.A. 20. In this room, Willey alleges, the following took place:

I was questioned by defendant LAMBERT about another prisoner who was supposedly smuggling drugs into the prison. I explained that I had no knowledge or recollection of involvement with this person, nor did I even know who this person was. Defendant LAMBERT then opened a desk drawer and pulled out what appeared to be a weapon or piece of metal. Defendant LAMBERT placed this piece of metal on the desk between us, and threatened me by stating, “Either you work with us as an informant or you are going to be charged with a weapon.” At this time I stopped talking completely, to which defendant LAMBERT responded, “Have it your way.” Corrections officers then took me to the WCF special housing unit (solitary confinement) where I was in fact falsely imprisoned.


Two days later, on October 17, Willey “was issued a false misbehavior report alleging false charges that [he] was in possession of a weapon/contraband.” Id. At a hearing held on October 19, Willey was adjudged guilty of the shank-possession charge, but he alleges that he was never told that the hearing was to occur nor provided with the opportunity to attend or to present witnesses or evidence. Willey appealed internally to the statewide Special Housing Unit director in Albany, Donald Selsky, who reversed the finding of guilt and ordered a new hearing. At the new hearing, Willey was allowed to appear, but the hearing officer Martain Kerney allegedly threatened to beat Willey and called him a “young punk.” Id. at 22. Kerney eventually ejected Willey and found him guilty in absentia, sentencing him on December 28, 2005, principally to 180 days of solitary confinement (also known as Special Housing Unit or the “S.H.U.”). Willey filed another appeal with Selsky.

With his appeal pending, Willey remained in solitary confinement. Willey alleges that he was “continuously harassed psychologically, emotionally, verbally, and sexually by corrections officers but particularly by defendant A. ALLESSANDRO.” Id. at 28. This conduct included, while watching Willey shower, Sergeant Allessandro “licking his lips and blowing kisses toward [Willey].” Id. Just over a month into his time in solitary confinement, on November 26, 2005, Willey alleges that he was escorted by Allessandro and corrections officer M. Sztuk to the shower, and upon Willey's return found his cell “trashed, i.e., toilet flooded, water all over; legal paperwork, books, personal letters scattered all over and out of their original places.” Id. at 23. That evening, Willey asked Sztuk for a search contraband slip to document what happened, to which Sztuk responded by threatening Willey with worse punishments if he persisted.

Willey also allegedly learned from other inmates confined near his cell that they had seen Sztuk removing Willey's “rolled up legal paperwork.” Id. at 24. Willey then shouted that he wanted to speak to a supervisor, to which Allessandro replied that Willey should give it a rest or he would soon be moved to the restricted side of solitary. “I'm not giving it a rest—you people stole my legal paperwork,” answered Willey. Id. Sztuk then responded, “What's that Willey, you said you are going to ‘shit us down’?,” prison argot for throwing feces or urine at a corrections officer. Id. Willey denied having made the threat.

Because Allessandro and Sztuk said that Willey made this threat against them, he was moved to the restricted side of solitary, and a Plexiglas cell shield was placed over the bars, preventing air circulation. In Willey's complaint, he alleges:

For the entire duration of time I was behind the cell shields, defendant A. ALLESSANDRO subjected me to various forms of harassment including turning off my toilet water pressure, so that I couldn't flush my toilet, thereby forcing me to stay in a cell with restricted air circulation and breathe in urine/feces odors. At all times mentioned defendant JEFF JESZORSKI was the acting sergeant supervising defendants A. ALLESSANDRO, M. SZTUK, and M. OVERHUFF, and allowed them to harass plaintiff, and abdicated his legal duty to stop and prevent above-listed defendants from harassing plaintiff; defendant JEFF JESZORSKI also participated in harassing plaintiff.

Id. at 25 (citation omitted).

Sztuk issued Willey an allegedly false misbehavior report, on November 28, 2005, which stated that Sztuk had read Willey's lips and that Willey had mouthed a threat to throw his waste at Sztuk. After a hearing at which Willey testified and cross-examined Sztuk, Willey was found guilty and sentenced principally to 90 days of solitary confinement. Willey once again filed an appeal with Selsky.

On December 18, 2005, corrections officer M. Overhuff approached Willey's cell after dinner. Willey alleges:

I placed my cups, tray, and utensils on the feed-up port so defendant OVERHUFF could

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