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Gilliam v. Baez

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 2, 2017


          Quddoos Gilliam Otisville, NY Pro Se Plaintiff

          Eric T. Schneiderman, Esq. Christina Okereke, Esq. Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York New York, NY Counsel for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER

          KENNETH M. KARAS, District Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff Quddoos Gilliam (“Plaintiff”), currently incarcerated at Otisville Correctional Facility (“Otisville”), brings this Action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sergeant Baez (“Baez”), Former Superintendent Catherine Cook (“Cook”), Correctional Officer S. Fatuk (“Fatiuk”), Correctional Officer John Doe #1, and Correctional Officer John Doe #2 (collectively, “Defendants”).[1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., the New York State Constitution and State Correctional Law § 610. (See Compl. (Dkt. No. 2).) Before the Court is Defendants' Motion To Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (the “Motion”). (See Mot. To Dismiss the Compl. (Dkt. No. 21).) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. Background A. Factual Background

         The following allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are treated as true for the purposes of resolving the instant Motion.

         On June 27, 2013, Plaintiff-a “[p]racticing member[] of the [Nation of Islam (‘NOI')] religion, ” (Compl. ¶ 7)-“‘signed out' to attend NOI class at 6:15 PM on the Pass List inside his Housing Unit (‘H.U.'), ” (id. ¶ 8). At the time, “Plaintiff was serving 30 days Loss of Recreation (‘L.O.R.') as part of a disciplinary sanction impose[d] by the Otisville Correctional Facility Administration.” (Id.) When Plaintiff arrived at the location of the NOI class, he was informed that he “[could not] attend NOI class” and instructed to return to his H.U. (Id. ¶ 10.) Upon returning to his H.U., Plaintiff was told by Defendant Fatiuk that Defendant Baez had ordered Plaintiff back to his H.U. because of Plaintiff's L.O.R. status. (Id. ¶ 12.) The next day, Plaintiff approached Defendant Baez in the messhall and Defendant Baez confirmed that he had ordered Plaintiff to return to his H.U. and that “the policy of [Otisville] [was] that if an inmate is on L.O.R. status[, ] the inmate cannot attend [r]eligious [c]lasses.” (Id. ¶ 15 (internal quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiff was told that he was “not attending NOI [c]lasses until [he] g[o]t off L.O.R.” (Id. ¶ 16 (internal quotation marks omitted).)

         The following day, Plaintiff went to the Inmate Liaison Committee (“I.L.C.”) and filed a report that inmates on L.O.R. status were being denied the opportunity to participate in religious classes and that Plaintiff would like the issue to be raised at the next I.L.C. agenda meeting. (Id. ¶ 17.) On June 30, 2013, Plaintiff “request[ed] to see Deacon Bormann[, ] the facility coordinating chaplain.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was told that “in order to speak with Deacon Bormann [Plaintiff] ha[d] to submit a formal request via ‘interview slip'” or could approach Deacon Bormann when Plaintiff saw him on the facility compound. (Id.)

         On July 4, 2013, Plaintiff again attempted to attend NOI class, but was stopped by Defendant Fatiuk, (id. ¶ 19), and told that Plaintiff “[could not] leave [the] unit and attend religious class, ” (id. ¶ 20 (internal quotation marks omitted)). Plaintiff then decided to file a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (“IGRC”). (Id. ¶ 21.)[2]Approximately three weeks after filing his grievance, Plaintiff received a decision that “[t]he issue ha[d] been resolved, ” that the facility had “outlined . . . what can be attended when an inmate is on [L.O.R.] status, ” and that Plaintiff's “[r]equest [wa]s outside the purview of the IGRC.” (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff was instructed that he could appeal the decision to the facility Superintendent, (id.), and promptly did so, (id. ¶ 23). In response to Plaintiff's appeal, he received a letter from the Superintendent stating that despite the fact that “[t]here [was] no evidence to show malfeasance by staff, ” the facility had “clarified . . . what constitutes [L.O.R.]” and “[a] list ha[d] been distributed to all housing units.” (Id. Ex. B at unnumbered 23.)

         Plaintiff appealed the grievance to the Central Office Review Committee (“CORC”) “in order to r[a]ise awareness of the unlawful conduct by the staff at Otisville . . . because sometime[s] a lot of constitutional violation[s] . . . occur at [Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (‘DOCCS')] facilities” and “the CORC [is] not aware of these violations.” (Id. ¶ 24.)

         As a result of Defendants' alleged violations, Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, compensatory damages in the amount of $60, 000, punitive damages “in an amount to be proved at tr[ia]l, ” and disbursement, costs, and interest. (Id. at unnumbered 14 ¶¶ 1-5.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on August 21, 2015. (Dkt. No. 2.) On December 1, 2015, Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) was granted by then-Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska of the Southern District of New York. (Dkt. No. 4.)[3] On December 15, 2015, the Court issued an Order of Service stating that “the Complaint [did] not provide sufficient information to permit the New York State Attorney General, which is the attorney for and agent of the New York State [DOCCS], to identify Correctional Officer John Doe #1 and Correctional Officer John Doe #2” and that “the Complaint lack[ed] any allegations addressing the conduct of any unnamed correctional officers.” (Order of Service 2 (Dkt. No. 6).) Plaintiff was directed to “file an amended complaint within 45 days which [would] replace, not supplement, the original Complaint, in which Plaintiff [would] provide more detailed information regarding the John Doe Correctional Officers he wishe[d] to name as Defendants and their alleged involvement in the events giving rise to [Plaintiff's] [c]ase.” (Id.) Plaintiff did not file an Amended Complaint within the time allotted.

         On June 16, 2016, Defendants filed the instant Motion To Dismiss and accompanying memorandum of law. (Mem. of Law in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss the Compl. (“Defs.' Mem.”) (Dkt. No. 22).) On September 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants' Motion. (Resp. to Defs.' Movement [sic] Defense and Movement [sic] For Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Resp.”) (Dkt. No. 26).)[4] On September 30, 2016, Defendants filed a reply. (See Reply Mem. of Law in Further Supp. of Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss the Compl. (“Defs.' Reply”) (Dkt. No. 29).)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         1. Rule 12(b)(1)

         “A federal court has subject matter jurisdiction over a cause of action only when it has authority to adjudicate the cause pressed in the complaint.” Bryant v. Steele, 25 F.Supp.3d 233, 241 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Determining the existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry and a claim is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it.” Morrison v. Nat'l Austl. Bank Ltd., 547 F.3d 167, 170 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted), aff'd, 561 U.S. 247 (2010). While a district court resolving a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) “must take all uncontroverted facts in the complaint . . . as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party asserting jurisdiction, ” “where jurisdictional facts are placed in dispute, the court has the power and obligation to decide issues of fact by reference to evidence outside the pleadings, such as affidavits, ” in which case “the party asserting subject matter jurisdiction has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it exists.” Tandon v. Captain's Cove Marina of Bridgeport, Inc., ...

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