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Moreau v. Peterson

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 13, 2015

EMILE MOREAU, Plaintiff,
v.
DEN PETERSON; TRAUDE ELLERT; JEAN MIDTSKOGEN; WILLIAM A. LEE; AND SERGEANT KUTZ, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

NELSON S. ROMN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Emile Moreau ("Plaintiff"), an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility ("Green Haven") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Green Haven teachers Den Peterson and Jean Midtskogen, Green Haven school principal Traude Ellert, Prison Superintendent William A. Lee, and Sergeant Ronald Kutz in their personal and official capacities for violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants Peterson, Ellert, Lee, and Kutz (collectively, the "Defendants") move to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint unless otherwise noted, and are accepted as true for the purposes of this motion.

Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") at Green Haven. Gleaned from the Complaint are a number of claims alleging that Plaintiff was discriminated against on the basis of his race and that, as a result of filing an official grievance with DOCCS against Defendants Peterson and Ellert regarding the alleged discrimination, Plaintiff was retaliated against as part of a conspiracy by Defendants Peterson, Ellert, Midtskogen, and Kutz. Plaintiff also alleges that he was treated with deliberate indifference by Defendants Lee and Kutz as a result of their failure to acknowledge his facility transfer request and for placing his cell near an inmate who previously attacked him. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Kutz violated his due process rights by confining him to his cell.

While incarcerated at Green Haven, Plaintiff attended pre-GED classes and successfully advanced to the GED level class. On April 8, 2010, Plaintiff attended Defendant Peterson's GED 3 class, but Defendant Peterson asked him to leave shortly after the beginning of class purportedly due to his body odor. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff states that he did not smell and that he was discriminated against for being Haitian. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff wrote a letter to Defendant Ellert explaining the situation and requesting to be removed from Defendant Peterson's class. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff then filed an official grievance against Defendant Peterson on April 12, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Following a discussion with Defendants Ellert and Peterson, Plaintiff and the two defendants purportedly reached an agreement that Plaintiff would withdraw his grievance in exchange for his GED certificate, which would be issued whether or not Plaintiff passed the GED exam. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff wrote a letter to the Inmate Grievance Review Committee ("IGRC") seeking to withdraw his grievance. ( Id. ¶ 15.) Nevertheless, rather than permitting Plaintiff to withdraw his grievance, Defendant Superintendent Lee denied the grievance, and Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Central Office Review Committee ("CORC") on May 4, 2010. ( Id. ¶¶ 16-17.)

On September 23, 2010, Defendant Midtskogen, a teacher at the prison, provided Plaintiff with incorrect instructions for completing the essay portion of one of Plaintiff's exams. ( Id. ¶ 18.) When Plaintiff turned in his exam, Defendant Midtskogen recognized the error, but she told Plaintiff not to worry because Defendant Peterson was an exam supervisor and she would speak with him. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff spoke with Defendants Peterson and Ellert regarding the mistake, and they told him "everything was fine." ( Id. ) However, on September 25, 2010, Plaintiff learned that he had failed the exam because he did not complete the essay portion properly. ( Id. ¶ 20.)

On October 12, 2010, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Lee requesting a transfer from Green Haven because he feared retaliation from Defendants Peterson and Ellert, as well as from Defendant Peterson's "inmates friends." ( Id. ¶ 22, Ex. F.) On October 25, 2010, Plaintiff sent another letter to Defendant Lee asking for a response to his transfer request. ( Id. Ex. F.)

On August 13, 2012, Defendant Ellert ordered Plaintiff to take a Test of Adult Basic Education ("TABE exam"), scheduled for October 23, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 31.) On October 18, 2012, Plaintiff's cousin passed away. ( Id. ¶ 32). The next day, Plaintiff asked Defendant Ellert if he could take the exam on a different date due to his cousin's death. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Defendant Ellert expressed her condolences and asked if Plaintiff's cousin was Haitian; she then refused to allow Plaintiff to reschedule his exam. ( Id. ¶ 33.)

During December 2012 and January 2013, Plaintiff claims that inmate Mack, who is allegedly best friends with Defendant Peterson, acted violently towards Plaintiff and extorted him. ( Id. ¶ 35.) Consequently, Plaintiff requested a cellblock transfer on January 6, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 36.) Defendant Kutz granted the request, but purportedly placed Plaintiff under keeplock confinement for thirteen days. ( Id. ) At this time, Plaintiff did not have access to the notary and could not file any claims with the Court. ( Id. ) As a result of being confined to his cell, Plaintiff missed class and was subsequently subject to a disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, Defendant Kutz testified that he had not placed Plaintiff under keeplock confinement. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Other inmates testified on Plaintiff's behalf, stating that Defendant Kutz had placed Plaintiff under keeplock confinement, and the charges were dismissed. ( Id. )

After Plaintiff successfully vindicated himself in the disciplinary hearing, inmate Dennis, an inmate with whom Defendant Peterson had a relationship, warned Plaintiff to leave the school. ( Id. ¶ 39.) A few weeks later, on March 1, 2013, Plaintiff saw the same inmate talking to Defendant Peterson in his classroom. The inmate then entered Plaintiff's classroom and tried to attack him. ( Id. ¶ 40.)

On March 7, 2013, Defendant Kutz transferred Plaintiff to a cell near inmate Dennis and asked Plaintiff why he had filed a grievance against Defendants Peterson and Ellert. ( Id. ¶ 41.) On March 11, 2013, Plaintiff requested protective custody, which he received, and a transfer from Green Haven, which was not granted. ( Id. ¶ 42.)

STANDARD ON A MOTION TO DISMISS

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include "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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility 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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint does not require "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss, but mere "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, "a court should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if ...


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