United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHRISTOPHER M. ALLEN Plaintiff,
CAPTAIN J. KUNKEL, et al. Defendants.
RULING RE: MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT (Doc. No. 13)
AND REVIEW OF AMENDED COMPLAINT
C. Hall United States District Judge.
February 20, 2018, the plaintiff, Christopher M. Allen
(“Allen”), an inmate currently housed at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution
(“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, filed a
complaint pro se pursuant to title 42, section 1983
of the United States Code against Captain J. Kunkel,
Correctional Counselor Jessica Bennet, and Correction Officer
Irizarry. This court issued its Initial Review Order on March
13, 2018, dismissing all claims against Bennet but permitting
Allen's free exercise of religion claims under the First
Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article First,
section 3 of the Connecticut Constitution and the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1, to proceed
against Kunkel and Irizarry. Initial Review Order (Doc. No.
7) at 12. Kunkel and Irizarry have not yet submitted their
responses to the Complaint.
March 26, 2018, Allen filed the instant Motion for Leave to
File a Joinder of Claims and Additional Counts, which this
court construes as a motion to amend his Complaint. Motion to
Amend (“Mot. to Am.”) (Doc No. 13). He attached a
proposed amended complaint which adds similar religious
freedom claims against ten new defendants: Steven Strom,
Attorney O'Brasky, Reverend Williams, Director Karl
Lewis, Counselor Supervisor John Aldi, Warden Scott Erfe,
Director Michael Bibens, Warden William Mulligan, Deputy
Warden Mudano, and Commissary Service Manager Failla. Amended
Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 13-1) at
¶¶ 7-16. All of these defendants are state
officials and are being sued in their individual and official
capacities. Id. Allen also seeks to add a claim that
Kunkel and Irizarry violated his “right to choose a
nationality under Article 15(1) and (2) of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.” Id. at ¶
court first addresses Allen's Motion to Amend, which is
granted, and then reviews his Amended Complaint as mandated
by Title 28 section 1915A of the United States Code.
MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
plaintiff may amend his complaint once as a matter of right
within twenty-one days after service of the complaint or
within twenty-one days after service of a responsive pleading
(i.e., an answer or a motion to dismiss), whichever
is earlier. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(A) and (B);
Gaughan v. Rubenstein, 261 F.Supp.3d 390, 399
(S.D.N.Y. 2017). In all other cases, a plaintiff may amend a
complaint only with the court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). The court's permission to amend a complaint
“shall be freely given when justice so requires.”
Id. It is generally appropriate to grant a motion to
amend unless there is an “apparent or declared”
reason not to, such as “undue delay, bad faith or
dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure
to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue
prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of the allowance of
the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment.”
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
“This relaxed standard applies with particular force to
pro se litigants.” Pangburn v.
Culbertson, 200 F.3d 65, 70 (2d Cir. 1999).
case, Allen is entitled to amend his Complaint as a matter of
right because he filed his Motion to Amend (Doc. No. 13),
with Proposed Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 13-1) within
twenty-one days after service of the initial Complaint (Doc.
No. 1). Therefore, the court grants his Motion to Amend the
REVIEW OF AMENDED COMPLAINT
to title 28 section 1915A of the United States Code, this
court must review civil complaints filed by prisoners and
dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or
malicious, that 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. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A. A complaint must include sufficient facts to afford
the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon
which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief.
See Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The
plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is
well-established that “[p]ro se complaints
‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise
the strongest arguments that they suggest.'”
Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir.
2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons,
470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)).
makes substantially the same factual allegations against
Kunkel, Irizarry, and Bennet in his Amended Complaint that he
made in his original Complaint, as follows:
is a devout Moorish-American and diligently practices his
Moorish religion. Am. Compl. (Doc. No. 13) at ¶ 22. The
staff at MWCI permits inmates of the Moorish Science religion
to practice their faith on an individual basis with books,
religious newspapers, audio recordings, and other items.
Id. at ¶ 23. The staff also allows individual
clergy visits on occasion. Id.
Moorish-American inmate gave Allen a list of books on their
religion but told him that one of the books, Nationality,
Birthrights, and Jurisprudence by Bandele El-Amin, was
not approved for inmate access by the Media Review Committee
(“MRC”) at MWCI. Am. Compl. at ¶ 24. This
book explains the legal process for becoming a
Moorish-American, which Allen must claim as his nationality
in order to be recognized as a member of the Moorish Science
Temple of America. Id. at ¶ 31 n.1. Captain
Kunkel is the head of the MRC and Irizarry is a committee
member. Id. at ¶ 29. Allen submitted an inmate
request to C.T.O. Perry inquiring about the book, and Perry
responded by confirming that it was on the MRC's
rejection list. Id. at ¶¶ 25-26.
further investigation, Allen learned that the MRC did not
approve the book because it “encourages and/or
instructs on the commission of criminal activities.”
Am. Compl. at ¶ 27. Offended by the MRC's reasoning,
Allen filed a grievance claiming that banning the book
abridged his right to freely practice his religion.
Id. at ¶ 28. Kunkel, Irizarry, and Bennet, the
grievance coordinator, “ignored [Allen's]
grievance.” Id. at ¶ 29. ...