Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harris v. Miller

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

March 15, 2016

AUDRA LYNN HARRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SGT. MICHAEL MILLER, CORRECTIONS OFFICER ELLA ANDERSON, CORRECTIONS OFFICER VALERIE BRYANT, AND CORRECTIONS OFFICER ROBIN TROTTER, Defendants-Appellees, COMMISSIONER BRIAN S. FISCHER, SUPERINTENDENT SABINA KAPLAN, ELIZABETH WILLIAMS (Former Superintendent), DONALD SAWYER (Director, Central New York Psychiatric Center (Marcy)), RICHARD ROY, DR. CATHERINE MCDERMOTT (Director, Office of Mental Health), MICHAEL CAPRA, CAPTAIN T. FITZGERALD, LARRY ZWILLINGER, JOSEPH JOSEPH, FIDELE FIORE, SGT. RORICK, CORRECTIONS OFFICER L. BELL, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HUNTER, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HARDY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER K. SLADE, CORRECTIONS OFFICER OGLESBY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER M. JORDAN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER K. DERRY, CORRECTIONS OFFICER L. SIMMONS, CORRECTIONS OFFICER K. SMITH, CORRECTIONS OFFICER C. MC NEIL, CORRECTIONS OFFICER H. MALDONADO, CORRECTIONS OFFICER SHARON GRANT, CORRECTIONS OFFICER JOE PLOWDEN, SGT. MICHAEL DRAGOON, SUPERINTENDENT OF MEDICAL DEPARTMENT MARJORIE BYRNES, DR. LORI BETH GOLDSTEIN, NURSE PRACTITIONER ELIJAH STEVENS, LESTER WRIGHT (Commissioner of Medical), CORRECTIONS OFFICER JANE DOE #1, CORRECTIONS OFFICER JANE DOE #2, all sued and in their official capacity (the last two names being fictitious, said individuals being corrections officers of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility who participated in assaulting Plaintiff on April 8, 2010), Defendants.[*]

         Argued January 15, 2016

Page 50

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 51

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 52

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 53

          Appeal from an order entered by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (McMahon, J.), granting summary judgment in favor of defendants. Appearing pro se, Plaintiff-Appellant Audra Lynn Harris, a former inmate of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, brought several claims against the Facility's employees relating to her period of incarceration. The motions panel dismissed all but one of Harris's claims and appointed pro bono counsel to brief that sole remaining claim, which alleges that Defendants- Appellees Ella Anderson, Valerie Bryant, and Robin Trotter grabbed Harris, threw her to the ground, raised her smock, and forcibly spread her legs open to allow a male officer, Defendant-Appellee Michael Miller, to visually inspect Harris's genitalia for cotton. Because we conclude that the district court's memorandum-decision and order rested on an incomplete assessment of the law, we VACATE and REMAND only so much of the order as granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants-Appellees on this remaining claim.

         ARUN S. SUBRAMANIAN, Susman Godfrey L.L.P, New York, NY, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

         DAVID LAWRENCE III, Assistant Solicitor General (Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, and Michael S. Belohlavek, Senior Counsel, on the brief), for Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, NY, for Defendants-Appellees.

         Before: KATZMANN, Chief Judge, KEARSE, Circuit Judge, and SCHOFIELD, District Judge.[*]

          OPINION

Page 54

          Per Curiam

         Plaintiff-Appellant Audra Lynn Harris is a former inmate of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. She testified at her deposition that, while incarcerated at Bedford Hills, a male officer and three female officers entered her room to take down cotton that she had removed from her mattress and pasted to her room's windows. The male officer then demanded to know if Harris had any more cotton. According to Harris's testimony, which was not disputed under oath, after she said no, the three female officers grabbed her, threw her to the ground, lifted her smock, and forcibly opened her legs to allow the male officer to visually inspect her genitalia for any additional cotton.

         Harris later brought a claim against the officers, Defendants-Appellees Michael Miller, Ella Anderson, Valerie Bryant, and Robin Trotter (collectively, the " Appellees" ), for violations of her constitutional rights based on this search. After the Appellees moved for summary judgment, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (McMahon, J. ) determined that there was no genuine dispute of material fact and that the Appellees were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Because we respectfully conclude that the district court's analysis of this claim rested on an incomplete assessment of the law, particularly the Fourth Amendment's protection of an inmate's right to bodily privacy, and because we conclude that there are genuine disputes of material fact, we VACATE so much of the district court's order as dismissed the claim concerning the search for cotton, and we REMAND for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are either uncontroverted or construed in the light most favorable to Harris, the nonmovant. Harris was incarcerated at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, New York, from September 30, 2008, to February 14, 2012, for burglary and criminal contempt. Dr. Catherine McDermott-Coffin, the Forensic Unit Chief of the New York State Central New York Psychiatric Center's Satellite Unit at Bedford Hills, explained that Harris received a Level 1 designation for " Treatment Needs/Service Level" at the time of her admission. J.A. 1108-09. A Level 1 " designation is the highest level designation and is assigned to individuals displaying symptoms of major/serious mental illness, with active symptoms requiring care and treatment and/or patients who require frequent support and interventions by the mental health staff." Id.

         During her incarceration at Bedford Hills, Harris filed at least 30 grievances against prison staff, at least 11 of them prior to the events at issue in this appeal. Harris alleges that " throughout [her] incarceration, [her] Civil Rights were violated by Bedford Hills Correction's Officers and Security staff due to their pattern of ongoing abuse of authority, fabricated Misbehavior Reports, malicious and calculated cell searches, harassment, retaliation, deliberate indifference, intentional misconduct, as well as verbal and physical abuse and beatings." J.A. 1191. She further

Page 55

alleges that she " was constantly harassed and retaliated against by officers because [she] wrote grievances when they violated [her] rights and the rules." J.A. 1192.

         Following a series of incidents that are outside the scope of this appeal, officers transferred Harris to a one-on-one observation room to monitor her more closely. In the observation room, officers directed Harris to change into a smock. Harris, who had been in an observation room before, acknowledged that changing into a smock was standard procedure. At her deposition, Harris explained that she attempted to put the smock on over her clothing while getting undressed, but the officers told her she could not undress in that manner. She stated that the officers proceeded to knock her down and pull off her clothing, injuring her in the process, before throwing the smock at her. (It is unclear from the record which officers were involved in this incident.) Harris contends that she then requested medical assistance from nearby nurses, but the officers who had changed her clothing refused to allow the nurses to tend to her.

         At that point, Harris attempted to use her mattress to block the observation room's windows. She explained at her deposition: " I put up my mattress again so I couldn't be seen, because I felt humiliated. I felt like I had been raped, and nobody would help me." J.A. 1072. Harris then ripped open her mattress, which may have been torn already, and started using water to put the mattress's cotton stuffing on the windows so that she " couldn't be seen." J.A. 1072.

         What occurred after Harris began pasting the cotton to the windows is the focus of this appeal. At her deposition, Harris testified that a male officer, Miller, and three female officers--later identified as Anderson, Bryant, and Trotter--entered her room and started taking down the cotton while Harris stood in the shower. At her deposition, Harris recounted the events that followed:

And [Miller], said you have any more cotton? And I said no. He told me to lift up my smock. And I said, I don't have anything. I said, you can't do that. You are a man. And then he nodded to the three officers, and they snatched me on the ground, threw me on the ground, and they started--like I tried to keep my legs closed, and they pulled my legs apart, lift up my smock. And they opened my legs and he at my legs--between my legs. And then they threw my legs down, and then I started screaming. I started screaming. I realized I had a cut.

J.A. 1072. Shortly after this incident, Miller, with the assistance of others, caused Harris to be injected with antipsychotic medication.

         Several weeks later, Harris filed a grievance complaining about the April 8, 2010 search. The description she provided in that grievance is consistent with her initial complaint filed in the district court on September 7, 2011, her amended complaint filed on November 29, 2011, her deposition testimony on November 26, 2012, and, finally, her declaration in opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment filed on November 22, 2013.

         Harris's description is also the only evidence in the record detailing the April 8, 2010 search: The Appellees did not offer any evidence contradicting Harris's description of the incident, such as an affidavit from Miller stating that the search never happened or explaining that it did not happen as Harris describes. Instead, the Appellees' only denial that the search occurred was in their briefs filed in the district court. Moreover, the evidence that the Appellees submitted to the district court relating to the incident corroborates

Page 56

much of Harris's description, although it is silent on the officers' conduct. For example, the Appellees submitted an Inmate Misbehavior Report dated April 8, 2010, which states that, on April 8, 2010,

while conducting an 1 on 1 watch with inmate Harris . .., after discovering she was moving her mattress to the shower, [Anderson] gave her several direct orders to move it. Inmate Harris proceeded to rip a hole in the mattress & place it's contents on the floor and the glass (she used water as a paste) blocking [Anderson's] view.

J.A. 1131. They also submitted the following entry from Harris's medical file, also dated April 8, 2010:

Inmate has been on Infirmary for several days, but today, became combative & irrational, prompting a phone call to OMH -- Inmate's therapist, Spatarella, attended pt. on the infirmary & requested 1:1 observation in the Infirmary. Upon nurse's attempted assessment, inmate verbally abusive, demanding some cream for her arm; but had been pulling apart her mattress, trying to flood her cell, laying in the shower & refusing to come out. At one point, pt. very angry, blocking her window with her robe, and plastering her window with wet paper towels, blocking CO's view. Inmate refused [illegible] ordered stat by MD, and received [illegible] Zyprexa.

J.A. 1097.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On September 7, 2011, appearing pro se, Harris filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. As with many pro se litigants, Harris's pleadings are less than clear, naming a plethora of individuals and asserting at least eight claims. On September 16, 2013, following the close of discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment. On August 1, 2014, the district court granted that motion in its entirety. See Harris v. Fischer, No. 11 Civ. 6260 (CM)(JLC), at *83, 2014 WL 3859242, at *30 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 1, 2014). Harris timely filed a notice of appeal on August 15, 2014.

         On December 2, 2014, a motions panel of this Court appointed pro bono counsel for Harris and directed counsel to brief whether the April 8, 2010 search performed by the Appellees violated Harris's constitutional rights. The motions panel dismissed all of Harris's remaining claims as to all other defendants as lacking an arguable basis in law and fact. Accordingly, the only claim we address in this opinion is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.