Artis v. Wood et al
DECISION AND ORDER: ORDERED that 1. This action is DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; 2. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case. Signed by Judge David N. Hurd on 3/8/17. (served on plaintiff by regular mail)(alh, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
CLARENCE L. ARTIS, JR., also known
as Clarence Lee Artis, Jr., also known as
G. WOOD, C.O., Clinton Correctional
Facility, J. LADIEU, O.R.C., Clinton
Correctional Facility, and BULLIS,
C.H.O., Clinton Correctional Facility,
CLARENCE L. ARTIS, JR.
Plaintiff, pro se
Clinton Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 2000
Dannemora, NY 12929
DAVID N. HURD
United States District Judge
DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Clarence L. Artis, Jr. ("Artis" or "plaintiff") commenced this action by filing a
pro se civil rights complaint together with an application for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl."); Dkt. No. 5 ("IFP Application").
By Decision and Order filed January 5, 2017, Artis's IFP Application was granted. Dkt.
No. 7 (the "January 2017 Order"). However, following review of the complaint in accordance
with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the January 2017 Order
determined the complaint was subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. Id. In light of his pro se status, plaintiff was afforded an opportunity to
submit an amended complaint. Id.
Presently pending is Artis's amended complaint. Dkt. No. 8 ("Am. Compl.").
A. Summary of the Amended Complaint
Artis's amended complaint asserts claims arising out of his confinement at Clinton
Correctional Facility ("Clinton C.F."). See generally Am. Compl. The following facts are set
forth as alleged by plaintiff in his amended complaint.
Defendant Wood issued Artis a false misbehavior report charging plaintiff with
stalking, because plaintiff had gone to defendant Ladieu's office. Am. Compl. at 1, 3. In
support of defendant Wood's misbehavior report, defendant Ladieu lied when she claimed
that she did not know why plaintiff came to her office. Id. at 1-2. Defendant Wood issued
the misbehavior report "in retaliation" because plaintiff had returned to B-block without a pass
and without defendant Wood realizing that plaintiff had returned, "which made [defendant
Wood] seem incompetent." Id. at 1.
Defendant Bullis, who conducted Artis's disciplinary hearing arising from defendant
Wood's misbehavior report, was not fair and impartial, did not rely on the evidence presented
at the hearing when he found plaintiff guilty, and knew that defendant Wood was lying about
the stalking charge. Am. Compl. at 2. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages and injunctive
relief. Id. at 3. For a more complete statement of plaintiff's claims, refer to the amended
Construed liberally, Artis alleges that (1) defendants Wood and Ladieu issued him a
false misbehavior report; (2) defendant Wood retaliated against him; and (3) defendant Bullis
denied plaintiff due process at his disciplinary hearing in violation of plaintiff's constitutional
The legal standard governing the dismissal of a pleading for failure to state a claim
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) w as discussed at length in
the January 2017 Order and it will not be restated in this Decision and Order. See January
2017 Order at 2-4.
Artis seeks relief pursuant to Section 1983, which establishes a cause of action for
"'the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws'
of the United States." German v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 885 F. Supp. 537, 573
(S.D.N.Y. 1995) (quoting Wilder v. Virginia Hosp. Ass'n, 496 U.S. 498, 508 (1990) (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 1983)) (footnote omitted).
"Section 1983 itself creates no substantive rights, [but] . . . only a procedure for]
redress for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere." Sykes v. James, 13 F.3d 515,
519 (2d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). To state a viable claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff
must allege that the defendant, while acting under color of state law, deprived him of a right,
privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or by the laws of the United States. See 42
U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48-49 (1988).
1. False Misbehavior Report Claims
Artis alleges that defendant Wood issued him false misbehavior report, and that
defendant Ladieu lied in support of the misbehavior report. Am. Compl. at 1-2.
But as stated in the January 2017 Order:
It is well settled that "a prison inmate has no general
constitutional right to be free from being falsely accused in a
misbehavior report." Boddie v. Schnieder, 105 F.3d 857, 862 (2d
Cir. 1997) (citing Freeman v. Rideout, 808 F.2d 949, 951 (2d Cir.
1986); accord, Pittman v. Forte, No. 9:01-CV-0100, 2002 WL
31309183, at *5 (N.D.N.Y. July 11, 2002) (Sharpe, M.J.); see also
Santana v. Olson, No. 07-CV-0098, 2007 WL 2712992, at *2
(W.D.N.Y. Sept. 13, 2007) ("[T]he filing of a false behavior report by
a correctional officer does not state a claim for relief.").
The only way that false accusations contained in a
misbehavior report can rise to the level of a constitutional violation
is when there has been more such as "retaliation against the
prisoner for exercising a constitutional right." Boddie, 105 F.3d at
862. In addition, "[t]he filing of a false report does not, of itself,
implicate the guard who filed it in constitutional violations which
occur at a subsequent disciplinary hearing."1 Williams v. Smith, 781
F.2d 319, 324 (2d Cir. 1986) (rejecting prisoner's "but for" argument
as to guard who prepared misbehavior report but was not involved
in Tier III hearing) (citation omitted).
January 2017 Order at 5-6. Accordingly, plaintiff's false misbehavior claims fail.
Construing the amended complaint liberally, Artis may also be claiming that defendant
Wood and / or defendant Ladieu gave false testimony at plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Even
accepting these allegations as true, plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted under Section 1983.
"The only constitutional violation that could occur in this situation is if plaintiff were not provided
adequate due process in any proceeding which is based upon the misbehavior report. In that case, the claim is
not based on [the] truth or falsity of the misbehavior report but instead on the conduct of the hearing
itself." Santana, 2007 WL 2712992, at *2.
"The principle that 'a prison inmate has no constitutional right to be free from being
falsely accused in a misbehavior report . . . extends as well to false testimony by corrections
personnel at prison disciplinary hearings.'" See Thomas v. Calero, No. 09 Civ. 5209, 2011
WL 1532058, at *6-7 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 17, 2011) (citing Mitchell v. Senkowski, 158 F. App'x
346, 349 (2d Cir. 2005)), Report and Recommendation adopted, 2011 WL 1532061
(S.D.N.Y. Apr. 20, 2011); Phillips v. Goord, No. 08-CV-0957, 2009 WL 909593, at *6
(W.D.N.Y. Apr. 1, 2009) ("[A] claim for the filing of a false report or of providing false
testimony by a correctional officer witness at a disciplinary hearing, in and of itself, does not
state a cognizable claim that plaintiff's due process rights were violated.").
Therefore Artis's false misbehavior report claims against defendants Wood and
Ladieu, and his claims that defendants Wood and Ladieu gave false testimony, are
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) f or failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Section 1983.
2. First Amendment Retaliation Claim
Artis next claims that defendant Wood issued plaintiff a misbehavior report "in
retaliation" for making him seem incompetent.
Courts must approach claims of retaliation "'with skepticism and particular care'
because 'virtually any adverse action taken against a prisoner by a prison official–even those
otherwise not rising to the level of a constitutional violation–can be characterized as a
constitutionally proscribed retaliatory act.'" Davis v. Goord, 320 F.3d 346, 352 (2d Cir. 2003)
(quoting Dawes v. Walker, 239 F.3d 489, 491 (2d Cir. 2001), overruled on other grounds,
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002)).
To state a plausible claim, a plaintiff asserting a First Amendment retaliation claim
must advance "non-conclusory" allegations establishing "(1) that the speech or conduct at
issue was protected, (2) that the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff, and
(3) that there was a causal connection between the protected speech [or conduct] and the
adverse action." Davis, 320 F.3d at 352 (quoting Dawes, 239 F.3d at 492). "[A] complaint
which alleges retaliation in wholly conclusory terms may safely be dismissed on the
pleadings alone." Flaherty v. Coughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 1983).
In this case, Artis alleges no facts to plausibly suggest that he received a misbehavior
report because he engaged in constitutionally protected conduct. To the contrary, plaintiff
alleges that defendant Wood "wrote [plaintiff] up" because plaintiff made defendant Wood
"seem incompetent" as a result of plaintiff returning to B-block without a pass and without
defendant Wood realizing that he had returned, see Am. Compl. at 1, which is clearly not
constitutionally protected conduct. Thus, plaintiff fails to meet the first prong of a retaliation
claim. See Davis, 320 F.3d at 352.
Moreover, the fact that Artis characterizes defendant Wood's misbehavior report as
retaliatory, but does not plead any facts that would give rise to such an inference, is wholly
conclusory, and fails to state a plausible claim of retaliation. See Friedl v. City of New York,
210 F.3d 79, 85 (2d Cir. 2000) (holding claims of retaliation must be "'supported by specific
and detailed factual allegations,'" and not stated "'in wholly conclusory terms.'" (quoting
Flaherty, 713 F.2d at 13)); see also Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1996)
(holding that wholly conclusory claims of retaliation "can be dismissed on the pleadings
alone"); Gill v. Mooney, 824 F.2d 192, 194 (2d Cir. 1987) (same).
Therefore, the First Amendment retaliation claim against defendant Wood is
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) f or failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
3. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim
Artis also alleges that defendant Bullis denied him procedural due process at the
disciplinary hearing because defendant Bullis was "unfair and partial," his decision to find
plaintiff guilty was not based upon the evidence, and he knew that defendant Wood was lying
about the charges lodged against plaintiff.
As Artis was advised in the January 2017 Order:
To successfully state a claim under Section 1983 for denial of due
process arising out of a disciplinary hearing, a plaintiff must show
that he both (1) possessed an actual liberty interest, and (2) was
deprived of that interest without being afforded sufficient process.
See Ortiz v. McBride, 380 F.3d 649, 654 (2d Cir. 2004); Tellier v.
Fields, 280 F.3d 69, 79-80 (2d Cir. 2000); Hynes v. Squillace, 143
F.3d 653, 658 (2d Cir. 1998); Bedoya v. Coughlin, 91 F.3d 349,
351-52 (2d Cir. 1996). 2
January 2017 Order at 7.
Additionally, the January 2017 Order stated:
While not the only factor to be considered, the duration of a
disciplinary confinement remains significant under Sandin.3 Colon
The due process protections afforded inmates facing disciplinary hearings that affect a liberty or
property interest include advance written notice of the charges, a fair and impartial hearing officer, a hearing that
affords the inmate the opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence, and a written statement
of the evidence upon which the hearing officer relied in making his determination. Sira v. Morton, 380 F.3d 57,
69 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing, inter alia, Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563- 67 (1974)). The hearing officer's
findings must be supported by "some" "reliable evidence." Id. (citing, inter alia, Superintendent v. Hill, 472 U.S.
445, 455 (1985)).
For example, segregation for a period of thirty days was found by the Supreme Court in Sandin not to
impose a significant hardship on an inmate. Sandin, 515 U.S. at 485-86. In explaining its reasoning, the Court
found that the disciplinary confinement failed to present "a dramatic departure from the basic conditions" of an
inmate’s normal sentence. Id.
v. Howard, 215 F.3d 227, 231 (2d Cir. 2000). Specifically, while
under certain circumstances confinement of less than 101 days
could be shown to meet the atypicality standard under Sandin (see
Colon, 215 F.3d at 232 n.5), the Second Circuit generally takes the
position that disciplinary confinement, without unusual conditions,
for a period of up to 101 days will generally not constitute an atypical
hardship, while confinement for a period of more than 305 days has
been held to be atypical even if under "normal conditions." Ortiz,
380 F.3d at 654; Colon, 215 F.3d at 231.
January 2017 Order at 7-8.
After reviewing and liberally construing Artis's original complaint, it appeared that
plaintiff served only 51 days in the special housing unit ("SHU") as a result of defendant
Bullis's disciplinary sentence. See January 2017 Order at 8.
The January 2017 Order concluded that Artis had "failed to plead the existence of a
valid liberty interest with respect to his 51-day SHU confinement because (1) that sentence
would not, in and of itself, implicate atypicality and (2) his complaint include[d] no facts to
plausibly suggest that his confinement in SHU for 51 days imposed an atypical and
significant hardship." January 2017 Order at 8 (footnote omitted).
Additionally, even if plaintiff had asserted a valid liberty interest, the complaint failed to
allege any "facts to plausibly suggest that defendant Bullis denied him due process at his
disciplinary hearing. Therefore, regardless of the length of plaintiff's confinement, plaintiff
ha[d] failed to state a plausible claim that his SHU confinement violated his due process
rights." January 2017 Order at 8-9.
In his amended complaint, Artis now alleges that defendant Bullis denied him
procedural due process at the disciplinary hearing because defendant Bullis was "unfair and
partial," his decision to find plaintiff guilty was not based upon the evidence, and he knew
that defendant Wood was lying about the charges lodged against plaintiff. Am. Compl. at 2.
Nonetheless, as the January 2017 Order already concluded, Artis's 51-day SHU
confinement does not, in and of itself, implicate atypicality.4 See January 2017 Order at 8;
see also Brown v. Graham, 470 F. App'x 11, 13-14 (2d Cir. 2012) (noting that "restrictive
confinements of less than 101 days do not generally raise a liberty interest warranting due
process protection.") (citing Davis v. Barrett, 576 F.3d 129, 133 (2d Cir. 2009)).
Here, the amended complaint contains no facts to plausibly suggest that Artis's
confinement in SHU for 51 days imposed an atypical and significant hardship. Instead,
plaintiff only alleges that as a result of being found guilty at his disciplinary hearing, he lost
his preferential transfer out of Clinton C.F. and will not get it back for another year, therefore
he has to remain at Clinton C.F. which he describes as a "hostile" environment. Am. Compl.
at 2-3. Plaintiff also complains that his family ties are being weakened by staying at Clinton
C.F. because it is difficult for his mother and father to visit him there. Id. at 2.
These general complaints about his conditions of confinement at Clinton C.F. do not
plausibly suggest that the 51 days that he had served in SHU amounted to an atypical and
significant hardship. Therefore, his confinement does not raise a liberty interest warranting
due process protection. See Gill v. Riddick, No. 9:03-CV-1456 (NAM/RFT), 2005 WL
755745, at *15 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2005) ("[W]here no liberty interests are at stake, . . . the
Court need not assess the adequacy of the process . . . received."). Accordingly, Artis's
Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against defendant Bullis is dismissed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) f or failure to state a claim upon which
In fact, the amended complaint does not provide any information regarding the duration of time that
plaintiff served in disciplinary confinement as a result of the sentence imposed by defendant Bullis. Out of
solicitude to plaintiff, the allegations set forth in the original complaint have been included.
relief may be granted.
Generally, when a district court dismisses a pro se action sua sponte, the plaintif f will
be allowed to amend his action. See Gomez v. USAA Fed. Savings Bank, 171 F.3d 794, 796
(2d Cir. 1999). However, an opportunity to amend is not required where the defects in the
plaintiff's claims are substantive rather than merely formal, such that any amendment would
be futile. Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000); see also Pucci v. Brown, 423
F. App'x 77, 78 (2d Cir. 2011); Shuler v. Brown, 2009 WL 790973, at *5 & n.25 (N.D.N.Y.
March 23, 2009) (McAvoy, J., adopting Report-Recommendation by Lowe, M.J.) ("Of course,
an opportunity to amend is not required where the plaintiff has already amended his
After reviewing Artis's amended complaint, and according it the utmost liberality in light
of his pro se status, no cognizable factual or legal basis for this action can be
discerned. Therefore, for all of the reasons set forth here and in the January 2017 Order,
and because plaintiff has already had one opportunity to amend his claims, this action is
dismissed with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) f or
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Therefore, it is
1. This action is DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)
and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;
2. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case; and
3. The Clerk shall serve a copy of this Decision and Order on plaintiff.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: March 8, 2017
Utica, New York.
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