United States District Court, N.D. New York
ANTHONY D. AMAKER, Plaintiff,
A. BOYD, et al., Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER
LAWRENCE E. KAHN, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Clerk has sent to the Court for review a complaint submitted
by pro se plaintiff Anthony D. Amaker asserting claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
et seq. (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., and the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq.
Dkt. No. 2 (“Complaint”).
SUFFICIENCY OF THE COMPLAINT
Governing Legal Standard
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, a court must review any
“complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of
a governmental entity” and must “identify
cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of
the complaint, if the complaint . . . is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief.” § 1915A(a)-(b);
see also Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir.
1999) (per curiam) (noting § 1915A applies to all
actions brought by prisoners against government officials
even when plaintiff paid the filing fee).
may not dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff has stated
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 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.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In assessing whether this
standard has been met, courts “must accept all
allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party's
favor.” In re NYSE Specialists Sec. Litig.,
503 F.3d 89, 95 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted).
Although the Court should construe the factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, “the tenet
that a court must accept as true all of the allegations
contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not
permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not
‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
“demands more than an unadorned,
Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555). Thus, a pleading that only “tenders naked
assertions devoid of further factual enhancement” will
not suffice. Id. (internal quotation marks and
Court must construe pro se complaints liberally, see
Nance v. Kelly, 912 F.2d 605, 606 (2d Cir. 1990) (per
curiam), and should exercise “extreme caution . . . in
ordering sua sponte dismissal of a pro se complaint before
the adverse party has been served and both parties (but
particularly the plaintiff) have had an opportunity to
respond.” Anderson v. Coughlin, 700 F.2d 37,
41 (2d Cir. 1983) (internal citations omitted).
Summary of the Complaint
asserts allegations of wrongdoing that occurred while he was
incarcerated at Bare Hill Correctional Facility (“Bare
Hill C.F.”) and in the custody of the New York State
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
(“DOCCS”). See generally Compl. The
following facts are set forth as alleged in the Complaint.
March 2015, Plaintiff suffered from knee discomfort,
“lower herniated discs[, ] and sciatica” while
incarcerated at Otisville Correctional Facility
(“Otisville C. F.”). Id. at 3.
30, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to Bare Hill C. F. from
Fishkill Correctional Facility. Id. at 13. Upon his
arrival at Bare Hill C. F., Plaintiff “witnessed a
racism assault on a dark skin[ned] Hispanic prisoner”
and “was subjected to racial intimidation and
harassment.” Id. Plaintiff was also denied his
Ramadan meal for two days despite informing the sergeant in
the reception room of his desire for religious meals.
Id. at 13-14. After Plaintiff received his Ramadan
meals, he was denied permission to attend religious services
for two weeks, until he filed a grievance. Id. at
14. The issue was then corrected. Id.
about July 30, 2016, Plaintiff slipped in the shower and
injured “the second toe on [his] left foot.”
Id. at 15. Following the injury, Plaintiff was
transported by van to “the clinic.” Id.
at 15-16. Upon arriving at the clinic, Plaintiff was examined
by Nurse M. Harmon, who pressured Plaintiff to move his toe
even after plaintiff informed her that he was unable to
“wiggle [his] toe” and was “in pain.”
Id. at 16. Thereafter, Harmon asked Plaintiff to
sign the injury report that she completed, which he refused
to do because the document contained
“misinformation” about the condition of his toe.
Id. at 16-17. After Plaintiff refused to sign the
injury report, Harmon walked away, placed a call on
“the phone on the back wall[, ]” left the room,
and then returned with two corrections officials.
Id. at 17. One of those corrections officials,
Sergeant Coleman,  “asked [Plaintiff] what the problem
was and kept . . . disrespectfully telling [Plaintiff] [that
he] was harassing the nurse.” Id. Plaintiff
explained that Harmon wanted him to sign something that
contained incorrect information, and Coleman directed
Plaintiff to correct the document as he desired and then sign
it. Id. Plaintiff then signed the form, and Coleman
told Harmon and another correction officer, Albert,
“write a misbehavior report for harassment[.]”
the issuance of the misbehavior report, Plaintiff was
“cube confine[d].” Id. at 17. As a
result of the misbehavior report, Plaintiff had to
“wait four days to see a doctor for [his] dislocated
toe[, ]” during which time he was in “extreme
pain.” Id. at 18.
Plaintiff received a disciplinary hearing on the misbehavior
report, which was presided over by Correction Lieutenant
Flint. Id. at 17-18. Flint denied
Plaintiff's request to introduce into evidence copies of
the “schedule for de-escalation of writing [a]
misbehavior report and re-training of the staff throughout
the State of New York.” Id. Flint also caused
Plaintiff's statements and objections to be deleted from
the transcript of the hearing and denied Plaintiff's
request to call a doctor as a witness, even though the
proposed witness would have offered testimony that
Plaintiff's toe was actually injured. Id. at 18.
Flint found that the misbehavior report was justified because
Plaintiff “had no injury.” Id. Following
the hearing, Flint sentenced Plaintiff to thirty days of lost
privileges and “cube confinement.” Id.
Correction Captain A. Boyd upheld this determination.
also raises additional allegations about the manner in which
religious practices were handled at Bare Hill C. F. On an
unidentified date during Eid-Ul-Fitr, Correction Officer
Benior “refused to supply the Sahor [sic]
bag to start the fast, despite being told to do so.”
Id. at 14. In addition, on or before January 11,
2017, Reverend Ranney caused an “erroneous packet”
to be distributed, which directed that members of the Nation
of Islam to pick up Sahor [sic] bags from the mess hall on
February 25, 2017, and return to the gym to eat at 12:30.
Id. On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff notified the
“facilitator” that the timing and consumption
location for the meal was wrong. Id. However, this
error was not corrected, and as a result, Plaintiff was not
allowed to take food back to his cell. Id.
Superintendent B. Yelich, Deputy Superintendents D. Phelix
and S. Barton, and Ranney were responsible for the violation
of Plaintiff's religious rights because they
“allow[ed] non-Nation of Islam members to dictate [the]
practice of religion” at Bare Hill C. F. Id.
also seems to suggest that Ranney impaired the rights of
Nation of Islam members in other ways, including (1) not
placing a DVD in the locker for class; (2) ending the class
at 9:00 p.m. instead of 10:00 p.m.; and (3) failing to submit
paperwork for a fundraiser. Id. at 15. According to
Plaintiff, this is because Ranney has a “conflict of
interest” because of “deep-seated racial
animosity at Bare Hill C. F.” Id.
at some unidentified point during Plaintiff's confinement
at Bare Hill C. F. and upon Phelix's authorization,
Correction Officer Russell refused to pick up mail from
Plaintiff's dorm area bound for Plaintiff's attorney
because Russell “claim[ed] prisoners [were]
smoking.” Id. at 20. Plaintiff alleges that as
a result of Russell's refusal to pick up his mail, he is
“being denied” the ability to file “a
post-conviction remedy motion.” Id. at 19, 22.
Plaintiff also accuses D. Willet and Yelich of
“operating under illegal policy [and] overriding the
Commissioner['s] authority” regarding
Plaintiff's access to legal mail. Id. at 19.
Barton was also “in charge of the unconstitutional
policy governing the internal and external mail at Bare Hill
C. F.” Id. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that he
has not received timely responses to his grievances and, on
one occasion while he was incarcerated at either Otisville C.
F. or Bare Hill C. F., did not receive mail from his brother
containing “religious photos.” Compl. at 19-20.
improper conduct at Bare Hill C. F. was a product of DOCCS
Commissioner Annucci, Deputy Commissioner Joseph Bellnier,
and Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey McCoy's “blind eye
in management.” Id. at 19. Plaintiff
“has suffered and continues to suffer from the pain of
[his] dislocated toe, ” which he “has not been
able to bend” since July 30, 2016, yet has been refused
follow up treatment with “a foot doctor[.]”
Id. at 21. During Plaintiff's confinement at
Bare Hill C. F., he also “suffer[ed] from the denial of
reasonable accommodation of bus services[, ]” was
“made to walk long hill and distance [sic] [, ]”
and “never received adequate or follow up treatment
concerning his knee braces and elbow sleeve[.]”
Id. at 23.
liberally, Plaintiff asserts the following claims: (1) RLUIPA
and First Amendment free exercise claims against Benior,
Yelich, Phelix, Barton, and Ranney; (2) First Amendment
retaliation claims against Harmon, Coleman, and Albert; (3)
First Amendment access-to-courts claims against Willet,
Yelich, Barton, Russell, and Phelix; (4) First Amendment
free-flow-of-mail claims against Willet, Yelich, Barton,
Russell, and Phelix; (5) Eighth Amendment medical
indifference claims against Harmon, Coleman, and Albert; (6)
Fourteenth Amendment due-process claims against Coleman,
Harmon, Albert, Flint and Boyd; (7) Fourteenth Amendment
equal-protection claims against Benior, Yelich, Phelix,
Barton, Ranney, Harmon, Albert, and Coleman; (8) supervisory
liability claims against Annucci, Bellnier, and McCoy based
on the aforementioned alleged constitutional violations; and
(9) ADA and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 claims based on
Plaintiff's alleged failure to receive bus services at
seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.
Id. at 26-28. For a complete statement of
Plaintiff's claims, reference is made to the Complaint.
Section 1983 claims
U.S.C. § 1983 provides a civil claim for damages against
any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives
another of the right, privilege or immunity secured by the
Constitution or the laws of the United States.”
Thomas v. Roach, 165 F.3d 137, 142 (2d Cir. 1999).
Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights; it
provides civil litigants a procedure to redress the
deprivation of rights established elsewhere. Id.
(citing City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S.
808 (1985)). “To prevail on a § 1983 claim, a
plaintiff must establish that a person acting under the color
of state law deprived him of a federal right.”
well settled that “personal involvement of defendants
in alleged constitutional deprivations is a prerequisite to
an award of damages under § 1983.” Wright v.
Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994) (quoting
Moffitt v. Town of Brookfield, 950 F.2d 880, 885 (2d
Cir. 1991)); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. “[A]
Section 1983 plaintiff must ‘allege a tangible
connection between the acts of the defendant and the injuries
suffered.'” Austin v. Pappas, No.
04-CV-7263, 2008 WL 857528, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2008)
(quoting Bass v. Jackson, 790 F.2d 260, 263 (2d Cir.
1986)) (other citation omitted). “[V]icarious liability
is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676.
Request for Injunctive Relief
Complaint includes a request for injunctive relief. Compl. at
26-27. After filing the Complaint, however, Plaintiff
submitted a letter to the Pro Se Intake Unit for the Southern
District of New York in which Plaintiff indicated he is no
longer incarcerated. See Dkt. No. 6.
this circuit, an inmate's transfer from a prison facility
generally moots claims for declaratory and injunctive relief
against officials of that facility.” Shepherd v.
Goord, 662 F.3d 603, 610 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting
Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 272 (2d Cir.
2006)). Inasmuch as the Complaint requests the Court order
officials at Bare Hill C. F. to provide Plaintiff with
medical treatment and accommodation, his release from prison
moots this request for relief. Khalil v. Laird, 353
Fed.Appx. 620, 621 (2d Cir. 2009) (“When Khalil was
released from prison, he no longer had a ‘continuing
personal stake' in the outcome of this action, and his
claims were rendered moot.” (quoting Muhammad v.
City of N.Y. Dep't of Corr., 126 F.3d 119, 123 (2d
Cir. 1997)). Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for
injunctive relief is dismissed without prejudice.
RLUIPA and Free Exercise Claims
affords prison inmates certain protections relevant to
exercising their religious beliefs, and provides, in
pertinent part, that
[n]o government shall impose a substantial burden on the
religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an
institution . . . even if the burden results from a rule of
general applicability, unless the government demonstrates
that imposition of a burden on that person-
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest;
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that
compelling governmental interest.
42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a).
does not authorize claims for monetary damages against state
officers in either their official or individual
capacities.” Holland v. Goord, 758 F.3d 215,
220-22 (2d Cir. 2014). Moreover, as set forth above, since
plaintiff is no longer incarcerated, he may not pursue claims
for injunctive relief against the named defendants.
Accordingly, Plaintiff's RLUIPA claims are dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted.
the First Amendment of the United States Constitution
guarantees the right to free exercise of religion.
See U.S. Const. amend. I; Cutter v.
Wilkinson, 544 U.S. 709, 719 (2005). As is true with
regard to the First Amendment generally, the Free Exercise
Clause applies to prison inmates, subject to appropriate
limiting factors. Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 582,
588 (2d Cir. 2003) (holding that “[p]risoners have long
been understood to retain some measure of the ...