Shapard v. Attea et al
DECISION AND ORDER granting 47 Motion for Summary Judgment for defendants Schoellkoph and Selsky and the claims against them are dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Hon. Charles J. Siragusa on 11/30/11. (KAP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DECISION AND ORDER
JOHN ATTEA, et al.,
Christopher Shapard, Pro Se
Auburn Correctional Facility
Auburn, New York 13021
Gary M. Levine, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General of Counsel
New York State Office of the Attorney General
144 Exchange Boulevard, Suite 200
Rochester, New York 14614
This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which Plaintiff, a prison inmate
in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community
Supervision (“DOCCS”), alleges that Defendants, all employees of DOCCS, violated his
federal constitutional rights. Now before the Court is a motion for summary judgment
(Docket No. [#47]) by defendants Thomas Schoellkopf (“Schoellkopf”) and Donald Selsky
(“Selsky”). The application is granted.
Unless otherwise noted, the following are the facts of this case, viewed in the light
most-favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was housed
at Wende Correctional Facility (“Wende”). All defendants except Selsky, DOCCS Director
of Special Housing, were employed at Wende. Specifically, Anthony Zon (“Zon”) and
Robert Kirkpatrick (“Kirkpatrick”) were Superintendents of Wende,
(“Kearney”) was a Corrections Captain, Al Herdzik (“Herdzik”) was a Corrections
Lieutenant, John Attea (“Attea”), Edwin Mendez (“Mendez”), and Robert Kyle (“Kyle”) were
Corrections Officers, and Schoellkopf was a Hearing Officer.
On or about May 16, 2005, Plaintiff was housed in Wende’s Special Housing Unit
(“SHU”), when Kyle, Mendez, and Attea physically removed another inmate, Figueroa, from
a cell adjacent to Plaintiff’s cell. Plaintiff “verbally intervened” in the conflict by telling the
officers that Figueroa was deaf, and that he therefore could not comprehend their verbal
commands to him. Plaintiff maintains that the officers responded by taunting him, and by
telling him that he would “be next.” Defendants, however, contend that Plaintiff was being
taunted by other inmates.1 In any event, Plaintiff contends that Herdzik told him that by
verbally intervening in the situation with Figueroa, he was “inciting” the other inmates, and
that Herdzik would “remember this,” which Plaintiff characterizes as “an overt threat of
retaliation.” Later that day, Plaintiff filed an inmate grievance, claiming that Herdzik had
threatened him. (Grievance Dated May 16, 2005).
Plaintiff adm its that he could not distinguish whether certain statem ents were m ade by officers or
inm ates, but he does indicate that it was a fellow inm ate who called him “Christine.” See, Plaintiff’s Deposition
at pp. 73-74, 78-88.
At that time, Plaintiff was nearing the end of his SHU sentence, when he would
return to general population. Plaintiff wrote to Zon and Kearney, asking that he not be
placed in B Block, where Kyle, Attea, and Mendez were assigned to work. Plaintiff also
claims that sometime between May 23, 2005 and May 27, 2005, he verbally asked
Kearney not to house him in B Block. In a letter to Kearney, Plaintiff described their
conversation as follows: “[W]e had a discussion where I requested not to be released from
SHU to B Block. In turn, you walked away stating, ‘Well, Shapard, you know, you have to
go wherever we have room for you.’ Or something to that effect.” (June 13, 2005 letter to
Kearney, attached to Complaint). On or about May 27, 2005, Plaintiff was released from
the SHU and placed in B Block.
On or about June 7, 2005, in B Block, Plaintiff alleges that Kyle, Attea, and Mendez
assaulted him without provocation, causing him lacerations, contusions, and a concussion.
Defendants counter that it was Plaintiff who attacked Attea without provocation, and that
they merely used reasonable force to subdue him.2 Kyle issued Plaintiff a misbehavior
report, charging him with assault on staff and refusing a direct order. Plaintiff subsequently
wrote a letter to Zon, complaining about the assault by Attea, Mendez, and Kyle.
Prior to the ensuing Tier III disciplinary hearing on the misbehavior report issued by
Kyle, Plaintiff, who was confined to the SHU pending the hearing, requested the aid of an
employee assistant. Angelo Amato (“Amato”) was the employee assistant assigned to help
Plaintiff. See, Def. Summary Judgment Motion, Ex. A, Pl. Article 78 Complaint ¶ 7.
Plaintiff provided Amato with several pages of requests, asking him, among other things,
As discussed further below, Plaintiff later pleaded guilty to assaulting Attea.
to interview witnesses and obtain documents and videotape evidence. Amato complied
with many of the requests, but not others. Plaintiff complains that Amato did not conduct
all of the tasks himself, but instead delegated them to “the Captain’s secretary.” Def.
Summary Judgment Motion, Ex. A, Article 78 Complaint ¶ 7.
On or about June 14, 2005, Schoellkopf, the designated hearing officer,
commenced Plaintiff’s Tier III disciplinary hearing. See, Transcript of Hearing [#16-2] Part
I, [#16-3] Part II.
Before the presentation of any evidence, Plaintiff raised various
objections, including an objection that Amato had not provided adequate assistance, and
that Schoellkopf was biased.
Plaintiff also requested that a number of additional
documents be produced.
With regard to Amato’s assistance, Plaintiff believed that Amato had falsely
indicated that certain inmate witnesses had declined to testify at the hearing. In response
to that objection, Schoellkopf called Amato to testify, and extensively questioned him about
the steps he had taken to assist Plaintiff. See, [#16-2] at pp. 46-59. Amato indicated that
Plaintiff had given him a three-page list of information that he wanted, consisting of thirty
items. Id. at 47. Amato indicated that he gathered “the vast majority” of information that
Plaintiff requested. Id. at 48. Plaintiff had then asked Amato to get additional information,
including surveillance videos, but Amato was not able to obtain a video of the incident for
which Plaintiff was issued the misbehavior report. Id. Amato further testified that he
personally interviewed all seven of the inmates whom Plaintiff requested as witnesses, and
that all of them declined to testify. Id. at 49-50. Plaintiff complained, though, that he did
not believe Amato. Id. at 60. Plaintiff also complained that Amato had not obtained certain
records, such as documentation showing whether batons were issued to the corrections
officers who responded to the incident. Id. at 53. Plaintiff agreed, however, that Amato had
provided him with a copy of his injury report, names and identification numbers of potential
inmate witnesses, and a use of force report. Id. at 54. Plaintiff nevertheless complained
that Amato had not obtained copies of inmate grievances that Plaintiff had filed prior to the
incident, but Schoellkopf ruled that they were not relevant in any event. Id. at 55. Plaintiff
also requested copies of DOCCS “use of force” directives, but Schoellkopf denied the
request. Id. at 58. Schoellkopf then excused Amato from the hearing.3
As Plaintiff explained it to Schoellkopf, his defense was that he did not assault
anyone, and that he was set up by the corrections officers. In that regard, Plaintiff
essentially testified that prior to his release from SHU to B Block, he had told several
people that he was worried that he would be attacked by the officers involved with
Figueroa’s cell extraction. Plaintiff asked Schoellkopf to obtain grievances that he had filed
against staff, in order to show that they had a motive to frame him, and documentation
showing that Plaintiff had requested not to be housed in B Block. Plaintiff also asked
Schoellkopf to allow certain inmates from B Block to testify about whether they had seen
or heard anything, because he believed that it was possible they might have heard staff
conspiring against him.4 Schoellkopf indicated that the inmates could testify, but they
would testify out of Plaintiff’s presence, since he was confined to SHU and the other
As discussed further below, later during the hearing, Plaintiff objected to Am ato being assigned to
his case, because he believed that Am ato was in or near B Block when the assault allegedly occurred. In that
regard, Plaintiff alleges, “upon inform ation and belief,” that Am ato “was a witness and passive participant in
the alleged assault on staff.” (Com plaint ¶ 33).
Plaintiff does not believe that any inm ate actually saw what happened, since the incident occurred
“in between the two com panies.” Pl. Dep. at pp. 125-126.
inmates were in general population. Id. at 72. Schoellkopf told Plaintiff, however, that he
would tape the testimony and play it back for him. Id.
Subsequently, Schoellkopf took testimony from inmates who Plaintiff had identified
as possible witnesses. See, e.g., id. at 77. However, the inmates either gave answers that
were irrelevant and or unresponsive to Schoellkopf’s questions, or they indicated that they
witnessed nothing or did not want to be involved. See, id. at 77-85. Several inmates
declined to testify altogether. See, [#16-3] at pp. 9-14.
Officer Kyle then testified that Plaintiff attacked Attea by striking him in the head.
[#16-3] at 88-89. Kyle further testified that he and other officers ordered Plaintiff to stop
fighting, but he refused. Id. at 89. Plaintiff retorted that Kyle was “full of shit,” and that
everything he said was “a lie.” Id. at 90.
At the completion of the hearing, Schoellkopf found Plaintiff guilty of the charges,
and explained the reason for his decision. See, [#16-3] at 30-32, 82.
sentenced Plaintiff to, inter alia, two years in the SHU and two years loss of good time
credit. Plaintiff appealed, and Zon affirmed Schoellkopf’s determination. Plaintiff appealed
that determination to Selsky, who affirmed the convictions but reduced the sentence to one
year in the SHU and one year loss of good-time credit. Notably, in that regard, Prisoners’
Legal Services of New York filed an appeal brief on Plaintiff’s behalf, arguing in part that
his sentence should be thrown out or reduced because Plaintiff was mentally ill, and
because Schoellkopf had not considered Plaintiff’s mental health records, even though he
was never asked to do so. See, [#16-3] at 87-89.
On or about July 13, 2005, Plaintiff attempted to file criminal assault charges against
Herdzik, Kyle, Mendez and Attea with the New York State Police. The New York State
Police later informed Plaintiff that it had forwarded his complaint to DOCCS’s Inspector
General for investigation and a response.
On or about November 27, 2005, Plaintiff commenced an Article 78 proceeding in
New York State Supreme Court, Erie County, seeking to set aside his disciplinary
conviction and sentence. In that regard, Plaintiff alleged that his due process rights were
violated at the disciplinary hearing. On August 16, 2006, the Honorable Shirley Troutman,
Acting Justice of Supreme Court, denied the Article 78 petition. Plaintiff filed an appeal to
the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division Fourth Department.
Plaintiff was subsequently charged with Assault in the Second Degree, in violation
of the New York Penal Law, § 120.05(7), in connection with his alleged assault on Attea.
The relevant statute provides: “A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when:
...(7) Having been charged with or convicted of a crime and while confined in a correctional
facility . . . pursuant to such charge or conviction, with intent to cause physical injury to
another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person.” New York
Penal Law § 120.05(7) (McKinney 2009). On July 16, 2007, Plaintiff pleaded guilty and
was sentenced to fifteen years to life as a persistent violent felon. As part of his plea,
Plaintiff admitted that on June 7, 2005, he assaulted and injured Attea. (Docket No. [#16-5]
On April 2, 2008, Plaintiff commenced this action. The Complaint maintained that:
1) Kyle, Attea, and Mendez used excessive force against him, in violation of the Eighth
Amendment; 2) Herdzik, Kyle, Attea, and Mendez retaliated against him, in violation of the
First Amendment, by assaulting him; 3) Schoelkopf and Selsky deprived him of due
process in connection with his disciplinary hearing, in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment; and 4) Zon, Kearney, and Kirkpatrick failed to protect him from being
assaulted by Attea, Mendez, and Kyle, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
On September 11, 2008, Herdzik, Zon, Kearney, and Kirkpatrick filed a motion [#9]
to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) 12(b)(6), seeking the dismissal
of all claims against them. Zon, Kearney, and Kirkpatrick contended that the Complaint
failed to state a claim against them for failing to protect Plaintiff against Attea, Kyle, and
Mendez, while Herdzik contended that the Complaint failed to state a retaliation claim
On September 25, 2008, Selsky and Schoellkopf filed a motion [#13] for summary
judgment, based on several arguments. First, they maintained that since Plaintiff’s due
process claims raised the same issues as his Article 78 proceeding, such claims were
barred by res judicata/collateral estoppel. Alternatively, Selsky and Schoellkopf maintained
that, to the extent Plaintiff’s due process claim sought “a reversal of the Article 78
proceeding,” it was barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Additionally, movants argued
that Plaintiff’s due process claims should be barred by his admission, as part of his guilty
plea, that he had assaulted Attea. And finally, they argued that the procedural due process
claim lacked merit.5
On April 9, 2009, Norm Bezio (“Bezio”), Selsky’s successor, reversed the Tier III
convictions at issue in this action, and expunged Plaintiff’s record. (Docket No. [#25] at 8).
Consequently, on June 5, 2009, the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division
On or about Decem ber 3, 2008, Plaintiff filed his response to both of Defendants’ m otions. (See,
Plaintiff’s letter to Court dated April 22, 2009, Docket No. [#25] at 2).
Fourth Department, dismissed Plaintiff’s Article 78 appeal of Justice Troutman’s ruling as
moot. See, Shapard v. Zon, 63 A.D.3d 1661, 879 N.Y.S.2d 744 (4th Dept. 2009).
On November 16, 2009, this Court issued a Decision and Order [#28], granting the
motion to dismiss and denying the motion for summary judgment. In that regard, the Court
dismissed the claims against Kirkpatrick, Zon, Kearney, and Herdzik. However, the Court
subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, and reinstated the retaliation
claim against Herdzik. See, Decision and Order [#55] (reinstating retaliation claim against
Herdzik). The Court denied the motion for summary judgment on the due process claims
since, at that time, it was unclear why Bezio had reversed Plaintiff’s conviction.
Accordingly, the claims that are presently pending before the Court are: 1) excessive force
claims against Attea, Mendez, and Kyle; 2) retaliation claims against Herdzik, Attea,
Mendez, and Kyle; and 3) due process claims against Schoellkopf and Selsky.
On June 23, 2010, Schoellkopf and Selsky filed the subject motion for summary
judgment [#47] on the due process claims against them.6 In that regard, they contend that
Plaintiff received all of the procedural due process to which he was entitled at the hearing,
and that his conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. For example, Defendants
contend that Plaintiff received extensive assistance from his assigned employee assistant,
Amato, and that Schoellkopf addressed, and attempted to correct, any deficiencies in such
assistance that Plaintiff identified. Defendants further state that Amato provided at least
some assistance to Plaintiff, which is all that is constitutionally required, and that any
Defendants provided the pro se Plaintiff with the Irby notice required by Local Rule of Civil Procedure
56.2. See, Docket No. [#49]. Defendants apparently concede that there are triable issues of fact concerning
the claim s against Attea, Mendez, and Kyle.
alleged deficiency would therefore be harmless error. Additionally, Defendants indicate
that Schoellkopf was fair and impartial, and that his determination was supported by
sufficient evidence, inasmuch as it was supported by the testimony of Officer Kyle, who
witnessed the incident, as well as by written reports. Defendants also point out that the
misbehavior report, which charged him with assault on staff and disobeying an order, is
supported by Plaintiff’s subsequent admission, as part of his guilty plea, that he assaulted
Defendants admit that the tier hearing conviction was subsequently overturned and
expunged, but they contend that such fact does not establish a due process violation. In
that regard, they maintain that the conviction was reversed because Selsky’s successor,
Norm Bezio (“Bezio”), determined that Plaintiff had mistakenly been informed at the
hearing that no tape existed of Figueroa’s cell extraction on May 16, 2005, when in fact
such a tape did exist.8 However, such tape did not concern the event for which Plaintiff
was charged in the misbehavior report, which occurred on June 7, 2005. Defendants also
maintain that the tape disproves Plaintiff’s contention that corrections officers taunted him
during the Figueroa cell extraction.9
As discussed further below, Plaintiff responds that he did not receive procedural due
Plaintiff later m oved to withdraw his plea, but that application was denied. See, Pl. Dep. at pp.5-6,
27. In that regard, Plaintiff contends that he com m itted perjury during the plea, because he wanted to extend
his sentence in New York State, rather than being transferred to Connecticut, where he m ust serve a
consecutive life sentence, because he wanted the opportunity of having conjugal visits with a New York
wom an whom he hoped to m arry. Id. at pp. 27-29.
See, Transcript of Plaintiff’s Tier Disciplinary Hearing, [#16-2] at 94 (Schoellkopf told Plaintiff that he
was advised by the Discipline Office that there was no videotape on file of the SHU cell extraction of
The tape indicated that Plaintiff was taunted by another inm ate.
process, because Amato failed to provide sufficient assistance, and because Schoellkopf
The standard for granting summary judgment is well established. Summary
judgment may not be granted unless “the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A party seeking summary judgment
bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See Adickes
v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). “[T]he
movant must make a prima facie showing that the standard for obtaining summary
judgment has been satisfied.” 11 Moore's Federal Practice, § 56.11[a] (Matthew Bender
3d ed.). “In moving for summary judgment against a party who will bear the ultimate
burden of proof at trial, the movant may satisfy this burden by pointing to an absence of
evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim.” Gummo v.
Village of Depew, 75 F.3d 98, 107 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322–23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)), cert denied, 517 U.S. 1190 (1996).
The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate “specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To do this, the
non-moving party must present evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in its favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The underlying facts contained in affidavits, attached exhibits,
and depositions, must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. U.S.
v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962). Summary
judgment is appropriate only where, “after drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the
party against whom summary judgment is sought, no reasonable trier of fact could find in
favor of the non-moving party .” Leon v. Murphy, 988 F.2d 303, 308 (2d Cir. 1993). The
parties may only carry their respective burdens by producing evidentiary proof in
admissible form. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Moreover, since Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the
Court is required to construe his submissions liberally, “to raise the strongest arguments
that they suggest.” Burgos v. Hopkins, 14 F.3d 787, 790 (2d Cir. 1994).
It is well settled that where prison inmates have a liberty interest in avoiding
disciplinary confinement10, they are entitled to procedural due process protections:
“Inmates are entitled to advance written notice of the charges; a fair and impartial hearing
officer; a reasonable opportunity to call witnesses and present documentary evidence; and
a written statement of the disposition, including supporting facts and reasons for the action
taken.” Luna v. Pico, 356 F.3d 481, 487 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). To comport with
due process, a disciplinary ruling must be supported by “some evidence.” Id. at 487-488
“Ascertaining whether this standard is satisfied does not require
examination of the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility of witnesses,
or weighing of the evidence. Instead, the relevant question is whether there is any
evidence in the record that could support the conclusion reached by the disciplinary board.”
“A prisoner's liberty interest is im plicated when an institution's disciplinary decision results in an
‘atypical and significant hardship ... in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.’” Luna v. Pico, 356 F.3d
481, 487 n.3 (2d Cir. 2004) (quoting Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418
Id. at 488 (emphasis added, citation omitted). The Second Circuit interprets this statement
to require “‘reliable evidence’ of the inmate’s guilt.” Id.
Inmates who are confined to SHU pending a disciplinary hearing also have a
“limited” constitutional right to assistance in preparing a defense:
[In Eng v. Coughlin, 858 F.2d 889, 891-92 (2d Cir. 1988)] we warned: ‘[F]or
inmates disabled by confinement in SHU, or transferred to another facility,
the right to substantive assistance is an obligation imposed by the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, the assistance must
be provided in good faith and in the best interests of the inmate.’ We
therefore held that in the future “an assigned assistant who does nothing to
assist a disabled prisoner ... has failed to accord the prisoner his limited
constitutional due process right of assistance.”
Ayers v. Ryan, 152 F.3d 77, 81 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Eng v. Coughlin, 858 F.2d 889,
891-92 (2d Cir. 1988)). The assistant’s obligations “include gathering evidence, obtaining
documents and relevant tapes, and interviewing witnesses. At a minimum, an assistant
should perform the investigatory tasks which the inmate, were he able, could perform for
himself.” Eng v. Coughlin, 858 F.2d at 898.
An inmate’s procedural due process rights also include the right to an impartial
hearing officer. “This standard is satisfied by a hearing officer who does not prejudge the
evidence and who cannot say how he would assess evidence he has not yet seen.
However, hearing officers are not held to the same standard of neutrality as adjudicators
in other contexts.” Murray v. Jacobs, No. 04–CV–6231–CJS, 2011 WL 4074531 at *7
(W.D.N.Y. Sep. 13, 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff contends that he was denied assistance in preparing for his hearing, and
that Schoellkopf abdicated his role as an impartial hearing officer by helping him gather
evidence for the hearing. For support, Plaintiff relies principally on Lee v. Coughlin, 902
F.Supp. 424 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (“Lee”) and Pino v. Dalsheim, 605 F.Supp. 1305 (S.D.N.Y.
1984) (“Pino”). However, because of their dissimilar facts, neither of these cases is
particularly relevant in this action. In Lee, the inmate was denied any assistance in
preparing for his disciplinary hearing, because he refused to cooperate with the designated
assistant, who was not one of the assistants that the inmate had requested. See, Lee v.
Coughlin, 902 F.Supp. at 427-428. The court held that it was a denial of the inmate’s due
process rights not to have provided him with another assistant. Id. at 431-434. The court
in Lee further rejected the defendants’ argument that such failure was rendered harmless
because the impartial hearing officer had essentially acted as the inmate’s assistant. The
court indicated that such assistance, provided by a hearing officer, would be “inconsistent”
with the hearing officers’ role,11 and further noted, significantly, that there was no indication
that the hearing officer had provided such assistance. Id. at 433. In Pino, an inmate was
charged with possessing marijuana in an SHU cell into which he had recently been placed,
although the inmate had been thoroughly searched prior to be placed in the cell, and
although there was evidence that the marijuana had been left in the cell by a prior
occupant and there was no indication of when the cell was last searched. Pino, 605
F.Supp. at 1311-1312, 1317-1318. The court held that the assistance provided to the
inmate by his employee assistant was “less than adequate,” because the assistant “fail[ed]
without justification to carry out the most basic, reasonable, and non-disruptive requests
As discussed further below, to the extent that Lee can be read as indicating that an im partial hearing
officer can never assist an inm ate at a hearing, the Court disagrees.
of the inmate.” Pino, 605 F.Supp. at 1317-1318.12 The Pino court further found that the
entire proceeding was fundamentally unfair for various reasons, including that the inmate
was not permitted to call witnesses. The Lee and Pino decisions are factually inapposite
to the facts of this case.
In the instant case, Amato clearly provided significant meaningful assistance to
Plaintiff prior to the hearing, even if he did not obtain every single document that Plaintiff
requested. See, Shepard v. Coughlin, No. 91 CIV. 8725 (MBM), 1993 WL 77385 at *5
(S.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 1993) (“When a prisoner is in SHU, an employee assistant should
gather evidence, obtain documents and relevant tapes, and interview witnesses. At a
minimum, he should perform the investigating tasks which the inmate, were he able, could
perform for himself. The law does not, however, require the assistant to obtain all
documentary evidence. Plaintiff had no right to a private investigator.”) (citation omitted).
Plaintiff contends that Amato was not a constitutionally adequate assistant, because he
may have been in the vicinity when the alleged assault occurred. However, even assuming
that Amato had been in the vicinity of the alleged assault, Plaintiff has not shown that
Amato actually witnessed the incident, and even if Amato had witnessed the incident,
Plaintiff has not shown that such fact affected his performance. Significantly, Schoellkopf
gave Plaintiff the opportunity to call Amato as a witness, to ask whether he witnessed the
incident, and Plaintiff declined the offer. See, Hearing Transcript [#16-3] at 5. Instead,
Contrary to Plaintiff’s contention that the hearing officer should not assist an inm ate in preparing a
defense, the court in Pino faulted the hearing officer for failing to investigate a potential defense which the
em ployee assistant had failed to pursue. Pino, 605 F.Supp. at 1318 (“Pino asked Lieutenant Thom pson, the
presiding [hearing] officer, to pursue the logbook investigation that Novak [the em ployee assistant] had failed
to carry out . . . . Although Thom pson adjourned the proceeding for this purpose, the record reveals that his
investigatory efforts were perfunctory and half-hearted.”).
Plaintiff asked if he could re-call two other witnesses, Bryan and Cole, which Schoellkopf
attempted to do, but the inmates declined to re-testify. Id. at 5-6, 14, 16, 24-25, 27-28.
Moreover, the additional assistance that Schoellkopf provided to Plaintiff during the
hearing was not incompatible with his role as an impartial hearing officer. See, Lewis v.
Johnson, No. 9:08-CV-482 TJM/ATB, 2010 WL 3785771 at *12-13 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 5, 2010)
(Inmate’s right to assistance was not violated where he asked hearing officer to help,
hearing officer did so, and the inmate was satisfied with the assistance; further noting that
it is not a per se due process violation for a hearing officer to serve as an inmate’s
assistant) (Report & Recommendation adopted by 2010 WL 3762016 (N.D.N.Y. Sep. 20,
2010)) ; see also, Clyde v. Bellnier, 9:08-CV-909, 2010 WL 1489897 at *4-6 (N.D.N.Y. Apr.
13, 2010) (Holding that although the assigned assistant failed to provide the inmate with
requested documents, the inmate was not denied assistance, since the hearing officer
obtained the documents for the inmate. ). Although it was not required to do so, the Court
has reviewed the entire hearing transcript, and finds that Schoellkopf gave Plaintiff wide
latitude in presenting his defense. Moreover, Schoellkopf’s decision was supported by
sufficient reliable evidence, consisting primarily of Kyle’s testimony. As Plaintiff admitted
at deposition, the case turned on credibility, and Schoellkopf chose to accept Kyle’s version
of events. See, Pl. Dep. at 140-141. To the limited extent that Schoellkopf denied
Plaintiff’s requests, such as his requests for grievances and use of force directives, he was
justified in doing so. The fact that certain inmates declined to testify was not Schoellkopf’s
The Court has considered all of the various claims raised by Plaintiff in light of the
entire record, and finds that they lack merit. See, Pl. Opposition [#56]. Since Plaintiff
cannot demonstrate that he suffered a due process violation at the hearing, his claim
against Selsky also lacks merit.
The summary judgment motion of Schoellkopf and Selsky [#47] is granted,
and the claims against them are dismissed with prejudice.
November 30, 2011
Rochester, New Yo
/s/ Charles J. Siragusa
CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA
United States District Judge
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