Ramos v. New York State et al
DECISION AND ORDER: ORDERED that the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 12 ) is ACCEPTED for filing and is the operative pleading in this action. ORDERED that the Clerk shall (i) terminate New York State, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Annucci, and Supt. &quo t;Doe" as defendants; and (ii) revise the docket to add Sgt. "John Doe," Lt. "John Roe," and the unnamed Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders as defendants. ORDERED that plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment cla ims arising out of his confinement in a "dry cell" for twenty-six days SURVIVE initial review and require a response from the Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders. ORDERED that plaintiff's remaining claims are DISMISSED without prej udice in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. ORDERED that the Clerk shall terminate C.O. Rose, Sgt. "John Doe," and Lt. "J ohn Roe" as defendants. ORDERED that to the extent possible, the New York State Attorney General's Office is requested to produce the information specified above regarding the unidentified Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders within thir ty (30) days of the filing date of this Decision and Order; upon receipt of this information, the Clerk of the Court shall return the file to the Court for further review. Signed by Judge Brenda K. Sannes on 11/30/17. (Attachments: # 1 Unpublished Decision Cited) (served on plaintiff by regular mail; served on NYS AG's Office with dkt. no. 12 by regular mail)(alh, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
NEW YORK STATE; et al.,
Plaintiff, pro se
Washington Correctional Facility
Comstock, NY 12821
BRENDA K. SANNES
United States District Judge
DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff Paul Ramos filed his pro se complaint in this action in March 2017 seeking to
assert claims arising out of his confinement at Mid-State Correctional Facility ("Mid-State
C.F."). See Dkt. No. 1.
In a Decision and Order filed May 16, 2017, this Court granted plaintiff's in forma
pauperis application and reviewed the sufficiency of his claims in accordance with 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Dkt. No. 8 (" May Order"). On the basis of that review,
and for the reasons stated in the May Order, the Court concluded that the complaint failed to
state one or more claims for the violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights cognizable under
Section 1983. Id. at 12. As a result, the complaint was dismissed and plaintiff was afforded
the opportunity to submit an amended complaint if he wished to avoid dismissal of this
Plaintiff duly filed an amended complaint, which is before the Court for review. See
Dkt. No. 12 ("Am. Compl.").
SUFFICIENCY OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff seeks relief for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights arising out of a
period of restricted confinement in a "dry cell" at Mid-State C.F. in order to be checked for
contraband. See generally Am. Compl.1 As alleged in the amended complaint, Sgt. "John
Doe" ordered this confinement on March 22, 2015, following a visit. Id. at 2. Lt. "John Roe"
was on duty as the Watch Commander, and "authorized the placement of Plaintiff in the
'Special Watch' status." Id. "During the period of isolation, the Plaintiff voided approximately
12 negative defecations and was not removed from this status." Id. Plaintiff remained
confined in a "dry cell" for twenty-six days, during which time he was not "afforded a shower,
use of a toothbrush and toothpaste, nor wash cloth." Id. Plaintiff's confinement beyond
seven days was not authorized by "the Superintendent or his designee" as required by
DOCCS Directive 4910, nor were there any other "statutorily allowable extenuations before
the lapsing of seven days, to justify the disregard of this Directive." Id.
Plaintiff also complains of an incident involving C.O. Rose which occurred during his
DOCCS Directive 4910 states that when there is "probable cause” to believe that the inmate has either
ingested a contraband item or inserted a contraband item into the rectal cavity," an inmate can be placed on
temporary isolation for "a period not to exceed 48 hours," unless special circumstances exist which extend that
period to "up to seven days with the written approval of the Superintendent or designee." Id., Sec. IV(J).
Generally speaking, the water supply is turned off in a "dry cell" so that an inmate's bowel movements can be
monitored and inspected for contraband. See DOCCS Directive 4910(J); McNair v. Sgt. Jones, No. 01 Civ.
3253, 2002 WL 31082948, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 18, 2002).
confinement. See Am. Compl. at 2.2 As alleged, C.O. Rose denied plaintiff's request for a
bed pan and told plaintiff to "hold it I get off in ten minutes." Id. Plaintiff was unable to wait
and defecated on himself and the bed. Id.3
Based upon the foregoing, plaintiff claims that his confinement in a "dry cell" for
twenty-six days violated his rights protected under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments,
and that C.O. Rose subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement.4 In addition
to C.O. Rose, Sgt. "John Doe," and Lt. "John Roe," the amended complaint names seventyeight defendants who are identified as the Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders who
"authorized the continuance of Plaintiff in this 'Special Watch' status" (referred to herein as
the "Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders").5
Upon review, and for the reasons set forth in the May Order, the Court concludes that
the amended complaint does not state a cognizable claim against C.O. Rose for having
denied plaintiff a bed pan. See May Order at 8-10. No new factual allegations regarding this
"single unfortunate and undeniably unpleasant incident," id. at 9, are set forth in the
amended complaint, and there is no basis upon which the Court could conclude that C.O.
Rose knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to plaintiff's health and safety. Id.
Plaintiff does not provide the date of this incident. See Am. Compl. In his original complaint, plaintiff
stated that the incident occurred on March 27, 2015. Compl. at 5.
Plaintiff further alleges that the officer(s) on the next shift did not allow him to clean himself or his cell
for approximately six hours. Am. Compl. at 2.
While plaintiff also refers to the Fourth Amendment, see Am. Compl. at 1, there are no facts alleged in
the amended complaint which plausibly suggest that his rights protected under this Amendment were violated.
Original defendants Governor Cuomo, DOCCS Acting Commissioner Annucci, and Mid-State C.F.
Supt. "Doe" are not named as defendants in the amended complaint and are not parties to this action. See Am.
Compl. Although New York State is named in the caption of the amended complaint, plaintiff's claims for money
damages against New York State were dismissed with prejudice and it is not a proper party. See May Order at
The Court has also considered the sufficiency of plaintiff's claims that his prolonged
confinement in a "dry cell" was unconstitutional. As alleged in the amended complaint, this
confinement was unusually restrictive, lasted well beyond its intended duration, and was not
authorized by supervisory personnel. Am. Compl. at 2. Significantly, whereas this claim was
asserted only against C.O. Rose in the original complaint, the amended complaint names the
Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders as defendants.
The Eighth Amendment "does not mandate comfortable prisons," Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981), but prisons nevertheless "must provide humane
conditions of confinement," Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). "A claim . . . for
violations of the Eighth Amendment requires (1) an 'objectively, sufficiently serious . . . denial
of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities' and (2) a 'sufficiently culpable state of
mind' on the part of the responsible official." Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 66 (2d Cir.
2015) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). "Unsanitary conditions, especially when coupled
with other mutually enforcing conditions, such as poor ventilation and lack of hygienic items
(in particular, toilet paper), can rise to the level of an objective deprivation." Darnell v.
Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 30 (2d Cir. 2017) (citing Willey, 801 F.3d at 66-68). 6 "While Willey
acknowledged that 'there are many exposures of inmates to unsanitary conditions that do not
amount to a constitutional violation,' the Court rejected a 'bright-line durational requirement
for a viable unsanitary- conditions claim' or a 'minimal level of grotesquerie required' before
such a claim could be brought." Id. at 30-31 (quoting Willey, 801 F.3d at 68).
The Darnell Court reversed the grant of summary judgment dismissing claims by pretrial detainees
that they had been subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, including unsanitary conditions. See
Darnell, 849 F.3d at 31.
To state a claim under Section 1983 for the denial of procedural due process, a
plaintiff must allege both the existence of a protected liberty or property interest, and that he
or she was deprived of that interest without being afforded sufficient process. Shakur v.
Selsky, 391 F.3d 106, 118 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Kentucky Dep't of Corrs. v. Thompson, 490
U.S. 454, 460 (1989)). "[A] prisoner's restricted confinement within a prison does not give
rise to a liberty interest, warranting procedural due process protection, unless the conditions
'impose[ ] atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents
of prison life.'" Sealey v. Giltner, 197 F.3d 578, 583 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). 7
"It is well established that the administrative classification of prisoners does not give
rise to a protectable liberty interest under the Due Process Clause itself." Greene v. Garcia,
No. 12-CV-4022, 2013 WL 1455029, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2013) (quoting Hewitt v.
Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983)). "Because prisoners have no liberty interest in being free
from classification, they are also not entitled to due process before they are classified or prior
to the imposition of conditions necessitated by their classification." Walker v. Shaw, No.
08-CV-10043, 2010 WL 2541711, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. June 23, 2010). As the Second Circuit has
recognized, however, to ensure that a facility does not use restrictive confinement
classification as a pretext to commit an inmate indefinitely, "the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment mandates that prison officials periodically review whether an inmate
continues to pose a threat to the facility." Proctor v. LeClaire, 846 F.3d 597, 601 (2d Cir.
Atypicality in a Sandin inquiry is normally a question of law. Colon v. Howard, 215 F.3d 227, 230-31
(2d Cir. 2000); Sealey, 197 F.3d at 585.
2017).8 Procedural due process permits only an evaluation of whether the method used for
making a determination that an inmate should be placed on restricted confinement is
sufficient and not the substance of the decision itself. Id. at 608. In addition, courts must be
mindful of the context in which these claims arise and the deference owed to prison officials
in carrying out their daily tasks. Id.
Upon review and with due regard for plaintiff's status as a pro se litigant, the Court
concludes that the initial determinations by Sgt. "John Doe" and Lt. "John Roe" regarding the
need to isolate plaintiff in a "dry cell" do not give rise to cognizable claims against these
officers. However, because the amended complaint plausibly suggests that the conditions of
plaintiff's confinement were objectively "serious," and because he alleges that he was
confined for twenty-six days without review and authorization, at this early stage of the case
and interpreting the amended complaint liberally, the Court finds that the amended complaint
plausibly suggests that his constitutional rights were violated. As a result, plaintiff's Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendment claims arising from his confinement in a "dry cell" for twenty-six
days survive initial review and require a response from the Area Supervisors and Watch
Commanders. This is not a ruling on the merits and the Court expresses no opinion as to
whether these claims can survive a properly filed dispositive motion.
Because the names of the Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders are not known
to plaintiff, service of process cannot be effected on them unless and until they have been
identified by name. The Second Circuit has acknowledged the difficulty that pro se litigants,
In Proctor, the Second Circuit addressed confinement on Administrative Segregation status of a
convicted prisoner in DOCCS custody. Proctor, 846 F.3d at 601. As described by the Court, "Ad Seg" removes
an inmate from the general population when he "pose[s] a threat to the safety and security of the [prison] facility."
and in particular, incarcerated plaintiffs, face in identifying defendants without assistance.
See Valentin v. Dinkins, 121 F.3d 72, 75 (2d. Cir. 1997) (per curiam) (finding that
incarcerated plaintiff was entitled to discovery in order to ascertain identity of unknown
defendant). Rather than dismissing an action due to a plaintiff's failure to identify the
defendant, "a district court may pursue any course that it deems appropriate to a further
inquiry into the identity of [an unnamed officer]." Id.; see also Joseph v. Conway, 567 Fed.
App'x 56, 60 (2d Cir. 2014) (summary order); Murray v. Pataki, 378 Fed. App'x 50, 52 (2d Cir.
2010) (summary order).
In accordance with Valentin's directive that district courts must assist pro se
incarcerated litigants to ascertain the identities of unknown defendants, the Court requests
that the New York State Attorney General's Office attempt to ascertain the full names of the
Mid-State C.F. Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders responsible for plaintiff's
confinement in a "dry cell" during the period March 23, 2015 through April 16, 2015, as well
as the addresses where these individuals can be served with process. The Attorney
General's Office need not undertake to defend or indemnify these individuals at this juncture.
The New York State Attorney General's Office is requested to produce the information
specified above, to the extent that it can, within thirty (30) days of the filing date of this
Decision and Order. Information regarding these individuals should be sent to the Clerk of
the Court for the Northern District of New York, and to plaintiff at his address of record. Once
this information is provided, the Clerk shall return this file to the Court for further review.
WHEREFORE, it is hereby
ORDERED that the amended complaint (Dkt. No. 12) is ACCEPTED for filing and is
the operative pleading in this action; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall (i) terminate New York State, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony
Annucci, and Supt. "Doe" as defendants; and (ii) revise the docket to add Sgt. "John Doe,"
Lt. "John Roe," and the unnamed Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders as defendants;
and it is further
ORDERED that plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims arising out of his
confinement in a "dry cell" for twenty-six days SURVIVE initial review and require a response
from the Area Supervisors and Watch Commanders; and it is further
ORDERED that plaintiff's remaining claims are DISMISSED without prejudice in
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall terminate C.O. Rose, Sgt. "John Doe," and Lt. "John
Roe" as defendants; and it is further
ORDERED that to the extent possible, the New York State Attorney General's Office
is requested to produce the information specified above regarding the unidentified Area
Supervisors and Watch Commanders within thirty (30) days of the filing date of this
Decision and Order; upon receipt of this information, the Clerk of the Court shall return the
file to the Court for further review; and it is further
ORDERED that all pleadings, motions and other documents relating to this action
shall bear the case number assigned to this action and shall be filed with the Clerk of the
United States District Court, Northern District of New York, 7th Floor, Federal Building, 100 S.
Clinton St., Syracuse, New York 13261-7367. Plaintiff shall also comply with any requests by
the Clerk's Office for any documents that are necessary to maintain this action. Motions
must comply with Local Rule 7.1 of the Northern District of New York; motions will be decided
on submitted papers, without oral argument, unless otherwise ordered by this Court. Plaintiff
must promptly notify the Clerk's Office and opposing counsel (in writing) of any change in his
address; his failure to do so may result in the dismissal of this action; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall serve a copy of this Decision and Order on the plaintiff;
and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk shall provide plaintiff with copies of the unpublished
decisions cited herein in accordance with the Second Circuit decision in Lebron v. Sanders,
557 F.3d 76 (2d Cir. 2009) (per curiam).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 30, 2017
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