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Reynault Chevalier v. J. Schmidt

December 19, 2012

REYNAULT CHEVALIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J. SCHMIDT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John T. Curtin. United States District Judge

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He seeks compensatory damages for the alleged denial of procedural due process and First Amendment rights. Currently pending before the court is the defendant's motion to dismiss (Item 9).

BACKGROUND and FACTS

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 25, 2011 with the filing of a pro se complaint in the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Item 2). *fn1

Specifically, plaintiff alleged that in 2009, while incarcerated at Groveland Correctional Facility, he wrote a letter to the New York State Supreme Court Justice who had sentenced him. In that letter, which is quoted in the complaint, plaintiff stated, "You are to blame for the violation of my civil and constitutional rights. . . . I will see to it one way or another you are penalized for your corrupt actions." (Item 2, p. 10). During the course of an investigation by the New York State Inspector General's Office, plaintiff was interviewed at Groveland. He admitted writing the letter and was served with an Inmate Misbehavior Report for harassment and threats in writing (Item 2, p. 20). Following a Tier III disciplinary hearing, on July 9, 2009, plaintiff was found guilty and was sanctioned to a period of 12 months in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") and a loss of privileges. Id., p. 21. Plaintiff alleges that, initially, defendant Schmidt was going to issue a period of "keeplock," a less restrictive form of confinement than SHU, but that he reconsidered and imposed confinement in the SHU (Item 2, p. 14). Plaintiff appealed that determination, and the sentence was reduced to six months. Id., p. 22. Plaintiff was released from the SHU on November 28, 2009 after serving 136 days. Id., pp. 15, 23.

On September 14, 2011, this case was transferred to the Western District (Item 4). On February 21, 2012, plaintiff was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis (Item 6). In lieu of an answer, on August 1, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim (Item 9). On August 9, 2012, the parties consented to the referral of this matter to United States Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (c) for all further proceedings including the entry of judgment (Item 11).

Plaintiff sent a letter response to the motion to dismiss dated October 30, 2012 (Item 15). On November 29, 2012, the case was transferred to the docket of the undersigned (Item 14). The court has determined that oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons that follow, the defendant's motion to dismiss is granted.

DISCUSSION

1. Standard of Review

The standard of review for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is well-settled. "To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6) ], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Plausibility exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. The court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Holmes v. Grubman, 568 F.3d 329, 335 (2d Cir. 2009). *fn2

As the plaintiff is proceeding pro se , his submissions should be held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . . ." Hughes v. Rowe , 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (quotations and citation omitted); see also Harris v. Mills , 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (the court is "obligated to construe a pro se complaint liberally"). Nevertheless, pro se plaintiffs are not excused from the normal rules of pleading and "dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper if the complaint lacks an allegation regarding an element necessary to obtain relief." Geldzahler v. N.Y. Med. Coll. , 663 F.Supp.2d 379, 387 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting 2 Moore's Federal Practice § 12.34[4][a], at 12--72.7 (2005)). Additionally, while a pro se complaint should generally not be dismissed without granting leave to amend at least once, see Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010), leave to amend need not be granted where a liberal reading of the complaint gives no indication that a valid claim might be otherwise stated and amendment would be futile. Morpurgo v. Inc. Vill. of Sag Harbor, 697 F.Supp.2d 309, 342 (E.D.N.Y. 2010), aff'd, 417 Fed. Appx. 96 (2d Cir. 2011) (citing Ellis v. Chao , 336 F.3d 114, 127 (2d Cir. 2003)); see also Cuoco v. Moritsugu , 222 F.3d 99, 112 (2d Cir. 2000) (holding that a "futile request to replead," even by a pro se litigant, "should be denied").

2. First Amendment Retaliation

Plaintiff alleges that he was punished for exercising his First Amendment right to redress grievances when he was issued a misbehavior report for writing to the judge who sentenced him to prison. It is well-established that a prisoner retains certain First Amendment rights notwithstanding his incarceration. See, e.g., Pell v. Procunier , 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974). Nevertheless, "[l]awful incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the considerations underlying our penal system." Bell v. Wolfish , 441 U.S. 520, 545-46 (1979) (internal quotes and citations omitted). In the First Amendment context, a prisoner retains only those rights "that are not inconsistent with his status as a prisoner or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system." Pell, 417 U.S. at 822. It is generally recognized that security, order, and rehabilitation are legitimate penological objectives. See Procunier v. Martinez , 416 U.S. 396, 413-14 (1974) .

"To prove a First Amendment retaliation claim under Section 1983, a prisoner must show . . . (1) that the speech or conduct at issue was protected, (2) that the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff, and (3) that there was a causal connection between the protected speech and the adverse action." Espinal v. Goord , 558 F.3d 119, 128 (2d Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Since it is "near[ly] inevitabl[e]" that "prisoners will take exception" with the decisions of prison officials, the Second Circuit has cautioned that prisoners' retaliation claims must be "examin[ed] . . . ...


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