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Keitt v. State

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 10, 2013

DEVIN KEITT, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Devin Keitt, proceeding pro se, brings this Complaint against defendants the State of New York, the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision ("DOCCS"), and 13 prison officials (collectively, "defendants").[1] He alleges that, during his incarceration in the custody of DOCCS, defendants violated several of his constitutional and statutory rights. Defendants move to dismiss the case for improper venue or to transfer it to the Northern District of New York, or, in the alternative, to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants defendants' motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of New York.

I. Background[2]

A. Factual Background

Keitt is a prisoner in the custody of DOCCS, and is presently incarcerated at Coxsackie Correctional Facility ("Coxsackie") in Coxsackie, New York. SAC ¶ 3. He was previously incarcerated at Upstate Correctional Facility ("Upstate") in Malone, New York. See, e.g., id ¶ 18.

Keitt is an observant Muslim. Id ¶ 16. Inmates who wish to observe Ramadan may fast during the day and receive a separate meal in the evening when they break the fast. Id ¶¶ 19-21. Keitt, however, is unable to fast because he suffers from Type-A diabetes for which he must take medication three times a day with food. Id. ¶ 17. Keitt nevertheless wishes to join in a separate evening meal that is served to fasting inmates as part of the observance of Ramadan. Id. ¶¶ 19, 26. He alleges that defendants substantially and unnecessarily burdened his practice of religion by forcing him to choose between the separate evening meal and the normal, three-meals-a-day schedule. Id. ¶¶ 20, 26. These allegations are repeated in similar fashion as to defendants T. Hawk, coordinating chaplain at Upstate, id ¶¶ 15-36; M. Lira, deputy superintendent of programs at Upstate, id ¶¶ 37-52; D. Uhler, deputy superintendent for security at Upstate, id ¶¶ 53-69; J. Otis, deputy superintendent for administration at Upstate, id ¶¶ 70-82; D. Rock, superintendent at Upstate, id ¶¶ 83-96; and as to defendant B. Fischer in his supervisory capacity as the commissioner of DOCCS, id ¶¶ 97-111.

Keitt also alleges that his religious practices were unnecessarily burdened by defendants' policy of denying him the right to wear a religious head covering called a kefiya, see id ¶¶ 112-121, or a religious robe called a Jalabiyah, id ¶¶ 128-135. Keitt also alleges that defendants failed to accommodate his dyslexia by refusing to provide him books on tape while attending religious classes. Id ¶¶ 122-127. These allegations are repeated in similar fashion against Fischer, id ¶¶ 112-135; J. Bellnier, deputy commissioner of an unspecified entity, id. ¶¶ 136-149; D. Martuscello, superintendent at Coxsackie, id ¶¶ 150-171; P. Melecio, deputy of programs at Coxsackie, id. ¶¶ 172-186; C. Miller, an employee at Coxsackie, id ¶¶ 187-204; Dr. Ali, chaplain at Coxsackie, id ¶¶ 205-235; the State of New York, see id. ¶¶ 236-249, and DOCCS, id ¶¶ 250-259, 300-303.

Based on these allegations, Keitt asserts that defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. He asserts causes of action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988; the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et. seq.; 29 U.S.C. § 794(a); and the Religious Land and Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc et seq. See SAC ¶ 1. Keitt seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief.

B. Procedural History

On March 28, 2012, Keitt filed the original Complaint. Dkt. 1. On January 28, 2013, defendants filed a motion to transfer this case to the Northern District of New York, or, in the alternative, to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 26-28. Shortly after that motion was filed electronically on the Court's docket, an Amended Complaint, which the Court's pro se office had received on January 25, 2013, was posted to the docket. Dkt. 31. Because defendants' motion and Keitt's Amended Complaint crossed in the mail, the Court issued an Order allowing defendants to respond to Keitt's Amended Complaint, and specifying that Keitt would be given another opportunity to amend. Dkt. 32. On March 1, 2013, defendants again moved to transfer the case or, in the alternative, to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Dkt. 33-36. On March 18, 2013, Keitt filed a Second Amended Complaint. Dkt. 38.

On April 17, 2013, Keitt filed a submission styled as a motion for summary judgment, but which entails a point-by-point opposition to defendants' motion to transfer venue or dismiss the case, see Dkt. 40, at 1-21, as well as affidavits from Keitt and several other inmates in support of Keitt's claims, see Dkt. 40, at 22-44. On April 30, 2013, defendants renewed their motion to transfer venue and/or dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Dkt.42-46. Neither party has filed a response to the other's latest submission.

II. Discussion

A. Defendants' Motion to Transfer Venue

Defendants argue that this case should be transferred to the Northern District of New York for the convenience of the parties and in the interests of ...


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