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Ramos v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 24, 2016




Plaintiff, Jose Eric Ramos, is currently confined at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut. He has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 naming as Defendants the Department of Correction, Reverend Anthony J. Bruno, Counselor Arcouette, and John Doe Commissioner of the Department of Correction. For the reasons set forth below, the Complaint is dismissed in part.

Under 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a)-(b), the Court must review civil complaints filed by prisoners against governmental actors and “dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” or that “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions, ’ [ ]‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’ or ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, ’ ” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007) (second alteration in original)). Although courts have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

Mr. Ramos claims that he is a member of the Santeria religion. Compl. at Stmt. of Case ¶1, ECF No. 1. He alleges that, on an unidentified date, he contacted Reverend Bruno seeking to order tarot cards in order to practice his religion. Id. He claims that Reverend Bruno did not respond to his request. Id. ¶2. He also alleges that a prison counselor placed an order for tarot cards on his behalf. Id. Mr. Ramos alleges that Reverend Bruno subsequently blocked that order for tarot cards. Id. ¶3. Reverend Bruno allegedly informed Mr. Ramos that he must sign a use agreement with regard to the tarot cards and that the tarot cards must be ordered from a specific vendor. Id. ¶3. Mr. Ramos claims that he complied with these requirements, but has never received the tarot cards. Id. ¶4. Nor was the money that had been withdrawn from his prison account to pay for the cards credited to his account. Id.

Mr. Ramos claims that his attorney contacted the Commissioner of the Department of Correction about the tarot cards, but no action has been taken as of the filing of his Complaint. Id. ¶5. He also alleges that other inmates order Catholic and Muslim religious items on a weekly basis. Id. ¶6.

In addition, Mr. Ramos alleges that Counselor Arcouette denied him the opportunity to make a legal telephone call to his attorney on one occasion. Id. ¶9. He claims that he suffered mentally and emotionally because he could not call his attorney. Id. ¶10.

I. Official Capacity Claims

Mr. Ramos seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. Compl. at Request for Relief, ECF No. 1. To the extent he seeks money damages against the Defendants in their official capacities, the claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-67 (1985) (explaining that official capacity claims are equivalent to actions against the state and that Eleventh Amendment immunity applies); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 339-40, 343, 345 (1979) (noting that section 1983 did not abrogate sovereign immunity of the states). All such claims are dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

II. Department of Correction as a Defendant

The Department of Correction is mentioned only in the caption of the Complaint and description of the parties. To state a claim under section 1983, the plaintiff must allege facts showing that the defendant, a person acting under color of state law, deprived him of a federally protected right. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 930 (1982) (citing Flagg Brothers Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-56 (1978)).

The Department of Correction is not a person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64-65, 71 (1989) (holding that state and state agencies are not persons within meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Fisher v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973) (per curiam) (state prison department cannot be sued under section 1983 because it does not fit the definition of “person” under section 1983).

Furthermore, Mr. Ramos has not alleged that the Department of Correction violated any of his federally or constitutionally protected rights. He also includes a notation on the first page of the Complaint indicating that he is willing to remove the Department of Correction as a Defendant in the action. Accordingly, all claims against the Department of Correction are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

III. Access to Courts Claim

Mr. Ramos claims that Counselor Arcouette deprived him of access to the courts because he refused to grant his request for a legal telephone call. It is well settled that inmates have a constitutional right of access to the courts. See Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 350 (1996) (citing Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821, 828 (1977)). To state a claim for denial of access to the courts, the plaintiff is required to demonstrate that he suffered an actual injury as a result of the conduct of the defendants. Id. at 351-55. To establish an actual injury, Mr. Ramos must allege facts showing that the Defendant took actions or was ...

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