United States District Court, D. Vermont
AMENDED REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (DOC. 42)
M. Conroy, United States Magistrate Judge.
Devin Richardson, proceeding pro se, brings this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his
procedural and substantive due process rights were violated
during prison disciplinary proceedings and a prolonged
disciplinary segregation while he was a federal pretrial
detainee in the custody of the Vermont Department of
Corrections (DOC). (See Doc. 11.) Plaintiff seeks
$250, 000 in compensatory and punitive damages, an award of
“court cost[s] and disbursements” (id.
at 6), and “[a]ny further relief the court may deem
just and appropriate” (id. at 6-7) against
Defendants State of Vermont, the DOC, former DOC Commissioner
Andrew Pallito, Superintendent Greg Hale, and hearing officer
filed his initial Complaint on June 10, 2015. (Doc. 4.) On
June 29, after being granted leave to amend, Plaintiff filed
an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 11.) On September 3, 2015,
Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a
Claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc.
21.) Defendants argued that Plaintiff's claims for
monetary damages against the state and individual defendants
in their official capacities were barred by sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment; that Plaintiff had
failed to establish the personal involvement of Defendants
Pallito and Hale in their individual capacities in any
allegedly unlawful action; that Plaintiff failed to allege a
deprivation of his due process rights; and that Defendants
were entitled to qualified immunity. (Id.)
Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants'
Motion. (Doc. 28; see also Doc. 30 (adopting Report
and Recommendation).) The Court dismissed Plaintiff's
claims against the State of Vermont and Defendants Pallito,
Hale, and Brouillette in their official capacities on the
basis of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. (Doc. 28 at
6-9.) The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's claims against
Defendants Pallito and Hale in their individual capacities.
(Id. at 10-14.) Additionally, the Court dismissed
Plaintiff's municipal liability claims. (Id. at
Court denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with regard to
Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment due process claims,
explaining that Defendants had utilized an incorrect standard
in analyzing these claims and had not addressed the due
process claims in their entirety. (Id. at 14-18.)
The Court also denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on
the basis of qualified immunity. (Id. at 18-20.) As
a result, the claims remaining in this matter are: (1)
Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Brouillette in his
personal capacity; and (2) Plaintiff's claim that all
Defendants have deprived him of his substantive and
procedural due process rights. (See generally Doc. 28;
see also Doc. 11 at 6; Doc. 42 at 2-3.)
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(c). (Doc. 42.) Defendants argue as follows: (1) three of
Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Brouillette in his
individual capacity fail to assert sufficient facts showing
his personal involvement in any allegedly unlawful action;
(2) Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants in their
official capacities should be dismissed as moot; (3)
Plaintiff fails to establish a deprivation of his due process
rights, and in any event, he received adequate process prior
to his disciplinary segregation; (4) Plaintiff has failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies; and (5) Plaintiff has
not alleged facts sufficient to satisfy the elements of a
punitive damages claim under § 1983. (Id.)
filed an Opposition to Defendants' Motion (Doc. 43), and
Defendants filed a Reply in response thereto (Doc. 44). For
the reasons stated below, I recommend that Defendants'
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 42) be GRANTED.
purpose of deciding Defendants' Motion, the Court accepts
as true all of the factual allegations contained in
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, as summarized below.
See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)); see also Alcantara v. Bakery &
Confectionary Union & Indus. Int'l Pension Fund
Pension Plan, 751 F.3d 71, 75 (2d Cir. 2014) (“In
deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, we apply the same standard as
that applicable to a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), accepting
the allegations contained in the complaint as true and
drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving
party.” (quoting Ziemba v. Wezner, 366 F.3d
161, 163 (2d Cir. 2004))).
the relevant period, Plaintiff was a federal pretrial
detainee incarcerated with the Vermont DOC at Northwest State
Correctional Facility (NWSCF) in Swanton, Vermont. (Doc. 11
at 1.) On April 14, 2015, Plaintiff was summoned to a
disciplinary hearing for his alleged refusal to submit to a
urine analysis on April 8. (Id. at 1-2.) Defendant
Brouillette presided over the hearing. (Id. at 2.)
After Plaintiff's request for a continuance was denied,
he pled guilty to the charge of “refusing to submit to
a urine analysis.” (Id. at 1-2.) Brouillette
“sent[e]nced [P]laintiff to serve four . . . days in
the disciplinary segregation unit.” (Id. at
2.) At the end of the hearing, Plaintiff was not given
“any written statement [of] the evidence relied upon or
the reason for the action taken.” (Id.)
the hearing, Plaintiff was placed in the disciplinary
segregation unit at NWSCF. (Id.) On April 19,
realizing that it was his fifth day of segregation, Plaintiff
asked an officer when he would be released. (Id.)
Plaintiff was told that his release date had been on April
18, but because inmates are not released from segregation on
weekends, he had been placed on “Bedspace status”
until Monday, April 20, when he would be released.
(Id.) Plaintiff was not provided with any written
notice informing him of this two-day extension of his
morning of April 20, Plaintiff was released from the
disciplinary segregation unit and returned to general
population at NWSCF. (Id.) At around 3:00 that
afternoon, he received “a copy of the written statement
of the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the action
taken in establishing [his] guilt at the [April 14]
disciplinary hearing.” (Id. at 3.) According
to the hearing officer's determination, Plaintiff's
segregation should have ended on April 17, not April 18.
(Id.) Thus, Plaintiff was held in the disciplinary
segregation unit “for three . . . days beyond the
sanction imposed by the hearing officer.”
December 2015, Plaintiff was subsequently transferred to the
Federal Correctional Institution in Schuylkill, Pennsylvania,
where he is currently incarcerated. (See Doc. 27.)
Procedural Requirements of Rule 12(c)
have filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc.
42.) Rule 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings
are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may
move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(c). “On a 12(c) motion, the court considers
‘the complaint, the answer, any written documents
attached to them, and any matter of which the court can take
judicial notice for the factual background of the
case.'” L-7 Designs, Inc. v. Old Navy,
LLC, 647 F.3d 419, 422 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting
Roberts v. Babkiewicz, 582 F.3d 418, 419 (2d Cir.
2009)). The standard for granting a Rule 12(c) motion for
judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Bank of N.Y. v. First
Millennium, Inc., 607 F.3d 905, 922 (2d Cir. 2010)
(citing Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d
Cir. 1994)). Accordingly, to survive a Rule 12(c) motion for
judgment on the pleadings, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Nielsen
v. Rabin, 746 F.3d 58, 62 (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678); see also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
principles guide a plausibility determination: first, though
a court must accept as true all factual allegations in the
complaint, this requirement “is inapplicable to legal
conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Id.; see also Turkmen v.
Hasty, 789 F.3d 218, 233 (2d Cir. 2015). “Second,
only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief
survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id.
parties seek dismissal of pro se complaints under
Rule 12(b)(6), “courts ‘apply a more flexible
standard to evaluate their sufficiency than we would when
reviewing a complaint submitted by counsel.'”
Thompson v. Pallito, 949 F.Supp.2d 558, 571 (D. Vt.
2013) (alteration in original) (quoting Lerman v. Bd. of
Elections in City of N.Y., 232 F.3d 135, 140 (2d Cir.
2000)). The basis for this liberal construction is “the
understanding that ‘[i]mplicit in the right of
self-representation is an obligation on the part of the court
to make reasonable allowances to protect pro se
litigants from inadvertent forfeiture of important rights
because of their lack of legal training.'”
Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471,
475 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (alteration in original)
(quoting Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir.
1983)). The same policy applies to dismissals sought under
Rule 12(c), as the standard for granting these motions is
identical. See First Millennium, 607 F.3d at 922.
Nevertheless, a complaint filed by a pro se
plaintiff “must state a plausible claim for
relief.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515
(2d Cir. 2013); see also Thompson, 949 F.Supp.2d at
42 U.S.C. § 1983, a claimant may bring suit
“against ‘[e]very person who, under color of any
statute . . . of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen . . . to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws . . . .'” Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S.
158, 161 (1992) (alterations in original) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983). “The purpose of § 1983 is to deter
state actors from using the badge of their authority to
deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights and
to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails.”
Id. (citing Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247,
254-57 (1978)). A plaintiff bringing a § 1983 claim must
establish that: “(1) the defendant acted under color of
state law; and (2) as a result of the defendant's
actions, the plaintiff suffered a denial of her federal
statutory rights, or her constitutional rights or
privileges.” Annis v. County of Westchester,
136 F.3d 239, 245 (2d Cir. 1998). Section 1983 does not by
itself create any substantive rights, but rather it
establishes a procedure for plaintiffs to seek damages or
injunctive relief for deprivation of their statutory or
constitutional rights. Thompson, 949 F.Supp.2d at
Brouillette argues that three of Plaintiff's claims
against him in his individual capacity should be dismissed
because “Plaintiff does not allege that [he] was
personally involved in any of these scenarios.” (Doc.
42 at 4-5.) Specifically, Brouillette asserts that Plaintiff
has failed to sufficiently allege his personal involvement in
the following claims: (1) Plaintiff's procedural due
process claim regarding the extension of his disciplinary
segregation beyond the sanction imposed; (2) Plaintiff's
procedural due process claim regarding Defendants'
failure to inform Plaintiff of his bedspace designation; and
(3) Plaintiff's substantive due process claim regarding
Plaintiff's subjection to bedspace status. (Id.
at 4.) Plaintiff did not respond to these arguments.
(See Doc. 43.)
is well settled in this Circuit that personal involvement of
defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a
prerequisite to an award of damages under § 1983.”
Spavone v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr. Servs., 719
F.3d 127, 135 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Colon v.
Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 873 (2d Cir. 1995)). The Second
Circuit has held:
The personal involvement of a supervisory defendant may be
shown by evidence that: (1) the defendant participated
directly in the alleged constitutional violation, (2) the
defendant, after being informed of the violation through a
report or appeal, failed to remedy the wrong, (3) the
defendant created a policy or custom under which
unconstitutional practices occurred, or allowed the
continuance of such a policy or custom, (4) the defendant was
grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who committed
the wrongful acts, or (5) the defendant exhibited deliberate
indifference to the rights of inmates by failing to act on
information indicating that unconstitutional acts were
Colon, 58 F.3d at 873. Additionally, personal
involvement “requires a showing of more than the
linkage in the prison chain of command; the doctrine of
respondeat superior does not apply.” Ayers v.
Coughlin, 780 F.2d 205, 210 (2d Cir. 1985) (per curiam)