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Smith v. Arnone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 27, 2016

DEVON SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
LEO C. ARNONE, MARK STRANGE, KIMBERLY WEIR, JOSE FELICIANO, EDWARD MALDONADO, SCOTT SEMPLE, BRIAN BOUFFARD, JAMES DZURENDA, and SMITH, Defendants.

          RULING GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Janet Bond Arterton, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Devon Smith brought this suit against Defendants Leo C. Arnone, Mark Strange, Kimberly Weir, Jose Feliciano, Edward Maldonado, Brian Bouffard, James Dzurenda, and Smith in their individual capacities, [1] alleging violations of his Fourteenth/Fifth and First Amendment rights.[2] Defendants now move [Doc. # 89] for summary judgment on all of Mr. Smith's claims. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.[3]

         I. Discussion[4]

         The parties' familiarity with the factual background of this three-year old case is presumed.[5] Defendants seek summary judgment on five grounds: (1) Plaintiffs due process rights were not violated; (2) Plaintiffs First Amendment rights were not violated; (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (4) Plaintiffs complaint is barred by the statute of limitations; and (5) Defendants Arnone, Strange, Dzurenda, Feliciano, and Maldonado were not sufficiently personally involved to be held liable.[6] (See Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 89-1].) Because, as discussed below, the Court holds that no reasonable jury could find for Plaintiff on either his due process claim or his First Amendment claim, the Court does not reach Defendants' other arguments.

         A. Due Process

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants deprived him of a state-created liberty interest[7]in not being placed in administrative segregation without due process of law.[8] (See PL's Opp'n Mot. Summ. J. [Doc. # 100] at 7-9.) In determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim for procedural due process violations of the type alleged by Mr. Smith, courts assess "(1) whether the plaintiff had a protected liberty interest in not being confined . . . and, if so, (2) whether the deprivation of that liberty interest occurred without due process of law." Tellier v. Fields, 280 F.3d 69, 80 (2d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The courts' "determination of whether the plaintiff had a protected liberty interest in not being confined also requires a two-part analysis, " in which courts consider (1) "whether the alleged deprivation was atypical and significant"[9] and (2) "whether the state has created a liberty interest by statute or regulation."[10] Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff here alleges that following the filing of the disciplinary report against him, he was immediately transferred to Northern Correctional Institute, a maximum security facility, and placed in administrative segregation. (Compl. f 20.) He asserts that prisoners in administrative segregation are denied "all the privileges normally afforded" them and are unable to earn "good time" credits to "reduce[] the[ir] total effective sentence." (Id. f 22.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims that prisoners in administrative segregation "must complete a twelve month program to be removed from that status" and "[t]hen serve another six month probation period" before they are placed back in general population. (Id.)

         As Defendants note in their reply, however, Plaintiff has offered no evidence in support of any of the above claims (see Reply at 4, 7), nor any evidence regarding the amount of time he spent in administrative segregation or where he was placed following his "conviction" of the disciplinary offense. Because Defendants have thus identified an "evidentiary insufficiency" on Plaintiffs part, "the burden shifts to" Plaintiff "to point to record evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact." Salahuddin, 467 F.3d at 272. "Like the movant, [Plaintiff] cannot rest on allegations in the pleadings and must point to specific evidence in the record to carry [his] burden on summary judgment." Id. He has failed to do so here. As such, summary judgment is granted in Defendants' favor on Plaintiffs due process claim.

         B. First Amendment

         Plaintiff next argues that Defendants violated his First Amendment rights. In his complaint, he alleged that Defendants did so by denying him "access to the courts, and redress, and the ability to [mount] a defense" (Compl. f 44-45), but in his Opposition, he appears to disavow this claim, instead arguing (somewhat incomprehensibly) that "the injury was to the defense of the false criminal case against him as well as the sham review on appeal." (Opp'n at 12.) He continues: "The First Amendment violation couldn't be more apparent-the individual defendants failed to preserve the video of the service of the [disciplinary report] ... so as to eliminate any chance Smith could substantiate that [Correctional Officer] Brouffard did not deliver the [disciplinary report] as sworn to." (Id.)

         "To prove a First Amendment retaliation claim under Section 1983, a prisoner must show that (1) that the speech or conduct at issue was protected, (2) that the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff, and (3) that there was a causal connection between the protected speech and the adverse action." Espinal v. Goord, 558 F.3d 119, 128 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, Plaintiff has failed to establish even the first prong of a First Amendment retaliation claim. Notwithstanding his belief that the First Amendment violation "couldn't be more apparent, " it is wholly unclear what protected speech or conduct he claims to have engaged in to cause Defendants to retaliate against him. As such, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted as to Plaintiffs First Amendment claim.

         II. Conclusion

         For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' Motion [Doc. # 89] for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. The clerk ...


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