United States District Court, D. Vermont
OPINION AND ORDER (DOCS. 7, 13, 17, 20)
GEOFFREY W. CRAWFORD, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Plaintiff Darren Couture, an inmate presently in the custody
of the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC), has filed an
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Sue
Blah, Director of the Vermont Parole Board, and against the
"Vermont Parole System." (Doc. 4 at 1.) His claims
stem from an April 1, 2014 preliminary parole revocation
hearing before the Vermont Parole Board (the
"Board"), at which time he asserts that he was on
suicide watch and was suffering from qualifying disabilities.
(See Id. at 3.) Plaintiff claims that, at the
hearing and afterwards, Defendants violated his rights under
the Fourteenth Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act.
(See Id. at 1, 10.) He further alleges that
constitutional and ADA violations are pervasive throughout
the Vermont parole system. (See Id. at 5, 7.) He
seeks wide-ranging injunctive relief as well as compensatory
and punitive damages. (Id. at 10-13.)
motions are currently pending: Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 7), and Plaintiffs "Motion to Amend to
Class Certification" (Doc. 17). The United States
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R)
regarding the Motion to Dismiss on May 8, 2017. (Doc. 13.)
Plaintiff filed objections to that R&R on May 30, 2017
(Doc. 16), and Defendants filed a response on June 1, 2017
(Doc. 19). The Magistrate Judge issued an R&R regarding
the Motion to Amend on August 25, 2017. (Doc. 20.) No
objections have been filed as to that R&R.
careful review of the record, the Magistrate Judge's
R&Rs, and the objections, the court AFFIRMS, APPROVES,
and ADOPTS both the May 8, 2017 R&R and the August 25,
2017 R&R, with only one minor narrowing of the basis for
dismissing Mr. Couture's ADA and Rehabilitation claims to
the extent that they are brought against the Board.
district judge must make a de novo determination of
those portions of a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); Cullen v. United
States, 194 F.3d 401, 405 (2d Cir. 1999). The district
judge may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate
judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); accord
Cullen, 194 F.3d at 405. The district judge is not
required to review the factual or legal conclusions of the
magistrate judge as to those portions of a report and
recommendation to which no objections are addressed.
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a pleading "must contain
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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The court
must also draw all reasonable inferences in the non-moving
party's favor. Lanier v. Bats Exch, Inc., 838
F.3d 139, 150 (2d Cir. 2016). Dismissal is appropriate when
"it is clear from the face of the complaint, and matters
of which the court may take judicial notice, that the
plaintiffs claims are barred as a matter of law."
Conopco, Inc. v. Roll Int'l, 231 F.3d 82, 86 (2d
Cir. 2000). "Res judicata challenges may
properly be raised via a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)." Thompson v. Cty.
of Franklin, 15 F.3d 245, 253 (2d Cir. 1994). "The
burden is on the party seeking to invoke res
judicata to prove that the doctrine bars the second
action." Brown Media Corp. v. K&L Gates,
LLP, 854 F.3d 150, 157 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting
Comput. Assocs. Int'l, Inc. v. Altai, Inc., 126
F.3d 365, 369 (2d Cir. 1997)).
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7)
Magistrate Judge took notice of a case that Mr. Couture filed
in this court in 2014, which ended in 2015 with the dismissal
of Mr. Couture's complaint and amended complaints.
See Couture v. Blair, No. 5:14-cv-00220, 2015 WL
1931548 (D. Vt. Apr. 28, 2015), ECF No. 29 (granting Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted), appeal dismissed, No.
15-1520 (2d Cir. Aug. 13, 2015).The Magistrate Judge analyzed
the elements of res judicata and concluded that all of the
elements are satisfied with respect to each of Plaintiff s
claims except his First Amendment retaliation claim. (Doc. 13
at 6-18.) Plaintiff challenges the Magistrate
Judge's res judicata conclusion, arguing that his present
action involves different issues than the issues in the 2014
case, and that new issues and new facts have been discovered
which were not fully and fairly litigated in the 2014 case.
(See Doc. 16 at 1.)
doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion, holds
that 'a final judgment on the merits of an action
precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating
issues that were or could have been raised in that
action.'" Brown Media Corp., 854 F.3d at
157 (quoting Monahan v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Corr.,
214 F.3d 275, 284 (2d Cir. 2000)). "To determine whether
the doctrine of res judicata bars a subsequent action, we
consider whether 1) the prior decision was a final judgment
on the merits, 2) the litigants were the same parties, 3) the
prior court was of competent jurisdiction, and 4) the causes
of action were the same." Id. (quoting In
re Layo, 460 F.3d 289, 292 (2d Cir. 2006)).
appear to be no objections to the Magistrate Judge's
analysis of the first three elements of the res judicata
test. The Magistrate Judge recognized that the court's
April 28, 2015 decision in the earlier case was a dismissal
for failure to state a claim-a final judgment on the merits
with res judicata effects. (Doc. 13 at 12 (citing
Carthaginian Fin. Corp. v. Skinner, Inc., No.
2:05-CV-3, 2005 WL 1388689, at *3 (D. Vt. June 3,
2005)).) Regarding the second element, the
Magistrate Judge concluded that this case and the 2014 case
involve "essentially the same parties." (Doc. 13 at
12.) Finally, the Magistrate Judge noted that the court in
the 2014 case was a court of competent jurisdiction.
(Id.) In the absence of any objections to that
analysis, the court turns to the final element of res
judicata: whether the causes of action were the same.
Couture asserts that the causes of action in this case are
different than those in the 2014 case. He says that the
issues in the first case were "revocation hearings and
waivers, as well as seeking release, " whereas
"this action concerns ADA & Rehab. Act, conjunctive
with 14th Amendment Constitutional violations, and
unconstitutional Parole system, Director, and Board."
(Doc. 16 at 1.) It is true that, in the 2014 case, Mr.
Couture did not bring claims under the ADA or the
Rehabilitation Act. See Couture, 2015 WL 1931548, at
*2 (noting two categories of claims: claims that aspects of
his parole revocation proceedings violated his right to
procedural due process, and a claim that the parole
revocation proceedings violated his rights under the Equal
Protection Clause). It is also true that some of the forms of
relief that Mr. Couture sought in the 2014 case were
different than the relief he seeks in this ...