Gatling v. Arquitt et al
ORDER GRANTING Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis; DIRECTING the Clerk of Court to strike Docket No. 4 as docketed in error, and vacate the 5 Judgment; DIRECTING the Clerk of Court to restrict access to Docket No. 1 to the parti es and court users; DIRECTING the Clerk of Court to forward a copy of this Order by email to Michael Russo, Assistant Attorney General in Charge, Buffalo Regional Office <Michael.Russo@ag.ny.gov>; DIRECTING the Clerk of Court to file the p leadings and cause the United States Marshal to serve copies of the Summons, Complaint (Docket No. 1), and this Order upon the named Defendants without Plaintiff's payment therefor, unpaid fees to be recoverable if this action terminates by monetary award in Plaintiff's favor; DIRECTING the Defendants to answer the Complaint. Signed by William M. Skretny, United States District Judge on 9/22/2016. (MEAL) - CLERK TO FOLLOW UP - Copy mailed to Plaintiff.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
E. ARQUITT, M. SHEEN, Doctor JANE
DOE, and Sergeant JOHN DOE,
Plaintiff, Charles Gatling, a prisoner confined at Elmira Correctional Facility, filed
this pro se action seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Docket No. 1). Plaintiff has
both requested permission to proceed in forma pauperis and filed a signed
Authorization (Docket Nos. 2 and 3).
Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted and
sexually abused while in restraints and confined to a wheelchair, then denied medical
treatment, as more clearly detailed in his Complaint. For the reasons discussed below,
Plaintiff’s claims may go forward.
Because Plaintiff has met the statutory requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and
filed an Authorization with respect to this action, Plaintiff is granted permission to
proceed in forma pauperis. Sections 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(a) of 28 U.S.C. require
the Court to conduct an initial screening of this Complaint. In evaluating the Complaint,
the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations and must draw all inferences
in Plaintiff’s favor. See Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (per curiam);
King v. Simpson, 189 F.3d 284, 287 (2d Cir. 1999).
While “a court is obliged to
construe [pro se] pleadings liberally, particularly when they allege civil rights violations,”
McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004), even pleadings submitted
pro se must meet the notice requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Wynder v. McMahon, 360 F.3d 73 (2d Cir. 2004). “Specific facts are not
necessary,” and the plaintiff “need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . .
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93,
(2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Boykin v. Keycorp, 521 F.3d 202, 213
(2d Cir. 2008) (discussing pleading standard in pro se cases after Twombly - “even after
Twombly, dismissal of a pro se claim as insufficiently pleaded is appropriate only in the
most unsustainable of cases.”).
Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To state a valid claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff must allege that the challenged conduct (1) was
attributable to a person acting under color of state law, and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a
right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States."
Whalen v. Cnty. of Fulton, 126 F.3d 400, 405 (2d. Cir. 1997) (citing Eagleston v. Guido,
41 F.3d 865, 875-76 (2d Cir. 1994)). Based on its evaluation of the Complaint, the
Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims may go forward.
Plaintiff alleges excessive use of force against Defendants Arquitt, Sheen, and
Sergeant John Doe occurring on December 12, 2014 at Five Points Correctional
Facility. It is well-settled that “the core judicial inquiry for determining whether prison
officials have violated the Eighth Amendment by using excessive physical force is
whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)
(citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986)). Here, Plaintiff alleges that he was
seated in a wheelchair and further restricted by waistchain restraints when Defendants
Arquitt and Sheen punched him repeatedly in the face in response to a verbal exchange
with Plaintiff. When Plaintiff requested to see the block Sergeant, Arquitt, Sheen, and
the Sergeant then instructed Plaintiff not to inform the nurse concerning the assault, and
continued to attempt to suppress Plaintiff’s report of the actions of Defendants Arquitt
and Sheen. Plaintiff’s claims of excessive force may go forward against Defendants
Arquitt, Sheen, and Sergeant John Doe.
Plaintiff raises a claim of inadequate medical care against Defendant Jane Doe,
variously described as either a doctor or a nurse. Here, Plaintiff claims that the denial of
medical care was in the immediate aftermath of the use of excessive force, and
intended to avoid documenting his injuries, indicating deliberate indifference to his
medical needs on the part of Defendant. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-5
(1976). Plaintiff’s claim of denial of medical care for failure to treat his injuries may go
forward against Defendant Jane Doe.
Plaintiff has also alleged sexual abuse against Defendants Arquitt and Sheen.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that, immediately following the previously described
assault, Defendant Arquitt forced his bare hands down the back of Plaintiff’s pants while
Defendant Sheen stood watch and Plaintiff “attempted to wiggle away” for
approximately two minutes. (Docket No. 1 p. 8-9.) Plaintiff’s claim of sexual abuse
against Defendants Arquitt and Sheen may go forward. Boddie v. Schnieder, 105 F.3d
857, 861 (2d Cir. 1997) (“allegations of [sexual] abuse are cognizable as Eighth
Finally, Plaintiff makes a claim against Defendant John Doe under the Eighth
Amendment, which requires prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee
the safety of inmates in their custody. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994).
The assessment of whether or not the measures taken are reasonable turns on an
analysis of two factors. First, “the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under
conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id., 511 U.S. at 834. Second, the
officials must be shown to have demonstrated a deliberate indifference to the inmate’s
safety. Id. Deliberate indifference must be measured subjectively, that is,
a prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment ...
unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to [the]
inmate[’s] health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from
which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm
exists, and he must also draw the inference.
Id., 511 U.S. at 837. Here, Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Doe was made aware of the
earlier attacks, and sought to affirmatively cover up the events having been made aware
of them. Plaintiff’s allegations, assumed to be true at this stage, are sufficient to permit
his claim of failure to protect to proceed against Defendant John Doe. See e.g. Phelps
v. Kapnolas, 308 F.3d 180, 186-7 (2d Cir. 2002).
In his Complaint, Plaintiff lists Sergeant John Doe and nurse/doctor Jane Doe as
Defendants. Pursuant to Valentin v. Dinkins, 121 F.3d 72 (2d Cir. 1997) (per curiam),
the Court requests that the New York State Attorney General’s Office ascertain the full
names of the John Doe and Jane Doe Defendants Plaintiff seeks to sue. The Attorney
General’s Office is also requested to provide the addresses where all of the John or
Jane Doe Defendants can currently be served. The Attorney General’s Office need not
undertake to defend or indemnify these individuals at this juncture. This order merely
provides a means by which Plaintiff may name and properly serve the Defendants as
instructed by the Second Circuit in Valentin.
The New York State Attorney General’s Office is hereby requested to produce
the information specified above regarding the identities of the John Doe Defendants by
35 days from the date of this Order.
Once this information is provided, Plaintiff’s
Complaint shall be deemed amended to reflect the full names of the Defendants,
summonses shall be issued and the Court directs service on the Defendants.
IT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that Plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis is
FURTHER, that the Clerk of Court is directed to strike Docket No. 4 as docketed
in error, and vacate the Judgment (Docket No. 5);
FURTHER, that due to the nature of some of the allegations, the Clerk of Court is
directed to restrict access to Docket No. 1 to the parties and court users;
FURTHER, that the Clerk of Court is directed to forward a copy of this Order by
email to Michael Russo, Assistant Attorney General in Charge, Buffalo Regional Office
FURTHER, that the Clerk of Court is directed to file the pleadings and cause the
United States Marshal to serve copies of the Summons, Complaint (Docket No. 1), and
this Order upon the named Defendants without Plaintiff’s payment therefor, unpaid fees
to be recoverable if this action terminates by monetary award in Plaintiff’s favor;
FURTHER, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), Defendants are directed to
answer the Complaint.
/s/William M. Skretny
William M. Skretny
United States District Judge
September 22, 2016
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