Logan v. Murphy et al
ORDER adopting 24 Report and Recommendations in its entirety and Granting 21 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Therefore, the Plaintiff's complaint is Dismissed in its entirety with prejudice. The Clerk shall enter judgment and close this case. Signed by Senior Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr on 10/16/2017. (Copy served on Plaintiff via regular mail)(bjw, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
A. HARVEY, Commissioner Hearing Officer,
Sing Sing Correctional Facility
354 Hunter Street
Ossining, New York 10562
Plaintiff pro se
OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK
STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Albany, New York 12224
Attorneys for Defendant
MATTHEW P. REED, AAG
SCULLIN, Senior Judge
Plaintiff, an inmate who was, at all relevant times, in the custody of the New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendant Harvey, an employee at Great Meadows Correctional
Facility during the relevant time period, violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. See
generally Dkt. No. 1.
On May 15, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. No. 21. Plaintiff opposed that
motion. See Dkt. No. 23. In a Report-Recommendation and Order dated September 25, 2017 (filed
September 26, 2017), Magistrate Judge Hummel recommended that this Court grant Defendant's
motion and dismiss Plaintiff's complaint in its entirety with prejudice. See Dkt. No. 24 at 22.
Specifically, although Magistrate Judge Hummel concluded that he could not find "as a matter of
law, based on the current record, that [P]laintiff [had] fail[ed] to allege the deprivation of a
protected liberty interest[,]" see id. at 13 (footnote omitted), he concluded that, because Plaintiff had
not demonstrated "a denial of due process . . . he ha[d] not demonstrated a prima facie Fourteenth
Amendment claim[,]" see id. at 20 (citing Mitchell, 974 F. Supp. at 342 ("To state a procedural due
process claim challenging a disciplinary action, a prisoner must allege both that he was deprived of
a liberty interest cognizable under the Due Process Clause, and that he was deprived of that interest
without the requisite [procedural due] process.")).
Pending before the Court are Plaintiff's objections to Magistrate Judge Hummel's findings
and recommendations. See Dkt. No. 25. Specifically, Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge
Hummel's findings that (1) Plaintiff's sixty days in SHU did "not meet the federal liberty interest
standard or the atypical and significant hardship standard," (2) Plaintiff did not raise the issue of the
deprivation of his right to access the courts, (3) "hot water deprivation did not amount to [Plaintiff]
suffering [a] severe and pervasive condition," and (4) Defendant Harvey was an impartial hearing
officer and that he relied on some reliable evidence to find Plaintiff guilty "of lewd conduct, direct
order refusal and employee interference charges[.]" See generally Dkt. No. 25. However, Plaintiff
agrees with Magistrate Judge Hummel that "further development of the record, through discovery
will support the liberty interest and atypical and significant hardship standard" with regard to the
constant cell light illumination and the food. See id. at ¶ 5 (citations omitted).
After reviewing a magistrate judge's recommendations, the district court may accept, reject
or modify those recommendations. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews de novo those
portions of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which a party objects. See Pizzaro v.
Bartlett, 776 F. Supp. 815, 817 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). "'"If, however, the party makes only conclusory or
general objections, . . . the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error."'"
Salmini v. Astrue, No. 3:06-CV-458, 2009 WL 179741, *1 (N.D.N.Y. June 23, 2009) (quoting
[Farid v. Bouey, 554 F. Supp. 2d 301] at 306 [(N.D.N.Y. 2008)] (quoting McAllan v. Von Essen,
517 F. Supp. 2d 672, 679 (S.D.N.Y. 2007))). Finally, even if the parties file no objections, the court
must ensure that the face of the record contains no clear error. See Wilds v. United Parcel Serv.,
Inc., 262 F. Supp. 2d 163, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (quotation omitted).
Magistrate Judge Hummel throughly discussed each of the claims Plaintiff asserted to
support his argument that Defendant had violated certain of his protected liberty interests during his
sixty day confinement in SHU, that is, (1) that he was deprived of access to the courts when his
legal papers were not brought to SHU; (22) that he was deprived of sleep due to the constant cell
light illumination which caused him headaches and blurred vision; (3) that he suffered stomach
pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea from the food; (4) that he suffered unhygienic conditions due to
the cold shower water; and (5) that he suffered a delay in his vocational food service certification
training. See Dkt. No. 24 at 6-13. Magistrate Judge Hummel ultimately held that Plaintiff had "not
established that his lack of access to hot showers, his legal materials, and his vocational training
amounted to an atypical or significant condition of confinement." See id. at 11. To the contrary, he
concluded that, "[b]ecause the factual record is not developed as to the full extent of [P]laintiff's
alleged sleep deprivation and food conditions in SHU and [P]laintiff has alleged more than a
speculative statement that he was deprived of his due process rights, . . . [he could not] conclude as
a matter of law that [P]laintiff's conditions fail[ed] to allege a deprivation of a [protected] liberty
interest as it relates to these conditions." See id. at 12 (citations omitted).
Magistrate Judge Hummel, therefore, continued his analysis of Plaintiff's claims by
addressing the issue of whether Plaintiff had demonstrated a denial of procedural due process. In
doing so, Magistrate Judge Hummel correctly noted that the fact "that [a] plaintiff may be able to
establish a protected liberty interest with respect to his conditions of confinement does not require a
finding that this case survive [a] [m]otion to [d]ismiss as [a] plaintiff must establish both a protected
liberty interest and a denial of procedural due process to state a prima facie Fourteenth Amendment
claim." See id. at 13 n.5 (citing Mitchell, 974 F. Supp. at 342 ("To state a procedural due process
claim challenging a disciplinary action, a prisoner must allege both that he was deprived of a liberty
interest cognizable under the Due Process Clause, and that he was deprived of that interest without
the requisite [procedural due] process.")).
Although Plaintiff objects to several of Magistrate Judge Hummel's findings regarding his
allegations that he was deprived of certain protected liberty interests, such disagreement is irrelevant
if, as Magistrate Judge Hummel concluded, Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he was deprived
of those liberty interests without procedural due process. Therefore, for purposes of analyzing
Magistrate Judge Hummel's ultimate conclusion that Plaintiff failed to show that Defendant denied
him procedural due process, the Court will assume that Plaintiff has shown that all his deprivation
claims rise to the level of protected liberty interests.
The Court has reviewed the record de novo with regard to Plaintiff's claim that Defendant
was not an impartial hearing officer and did not have reliable evidence on which to base his
conclusion that Plaintiff was guilty of the charges lodged against him. Having completed that
review, the Court finds that Plaintiff's objections are without merit and agrees with Magistrate Judge
Hummel's conclusion that Plaintiff's complaint does not "plausibly suggest that he was denied
procedural due process protections at the Tier III disciplinary hearing." See Dkt. No. 24 at 14.
Accordingly, after reviewing the entire record in this matter, Magistrate Judge Hummel's
findings and conclusions in his September 25, 2017 Report-Recommendation and Order, and the
applicable law, and for the above-stated reasons, the Court hereby
ORDERS that Magistrate Judge Hummel's September 25, 2017 Report-Recommendation
and Order, see Dkt. No. 24, is ACCEPTED in its entirety for the reasons stated therein; and the
ORDERS that Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED in its entirety with prejudice; and the
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendant and close
this case; and the Court further
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Order on the parties in
accordance with the Local Rules.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: October 16, 2017
Syracuse, New York
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