United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 7, 2018, Jerome Riddick, an inmate currently confined
at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut,
brought a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against five employees of the Connecticut Department of
Correction (“DOC”): Commissioner Scott Semple
(“Semple”), District Administrator Angel Quiros
(“Quiros”), Disciplinary Hearing Officer Nicole
Prior (“Prior”), Captain Gregorio Robles
(“Robles”), and Counselor Supervisor Canon
(“Canon”). He is suing all defendants in their
individual and official capacities and seeks declaratory and
injunctive relief. Riddick has also filed two motions for
preliminary injunctive relief. Doc. Nos. 7, 11. In addition,
he has filed a motion for an extension of time to file a
response to the defendants' opposition to his motions for
preliminary injunctions. Doc. No. 13. The defendants,
however, have not yet filed an opposition. Riddick has also
filed a motion for the appointment of counsel. Doc. No. 8. On
March 14, 2018, Magistrate Judge Garfinkel granted
Riddick's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.
See Doc. No. 6. For the following reasons, I will
dismiss Riddick's complaint without prejudice and deny
his motions without prejudice to refiling in the future.
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I must review prisoner civil
complaints 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. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required,
the 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 plausible right to
relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient.
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.”
Twombly, 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)); see
also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir.
2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro
asserts the following factual allegations. On March 30, 2017,
Canon was reviewing a Level-2 grievance appeal submitted by
Riddick. Compl. ¶ 10. Within that appeal, Riddick wrote
that “LT Congelos should be restrained from harassing
me the way he is, either you do it or I will.”
Id. at ¶ 11. In responding to the appeal, Canon
wrote that Riddick's statement was “perceived to be
a threat against Lieutenant Congelos who is currently
assigned to Northern C.I.” Id. at ¶ 12.
Thereafter, Canon filed a disciplinary report against Riddick
for threatening Congelos. Id. On May 3, 2017, Prior
found Riddick guilty of the charge and imposed a sanction of
fifteen days' punitive segregation. Id. at
¶ 13. Quiros later upheld Canon's and Prior's
decisions. Id. at ¶ 15.
protested the guilty finding and the manner in which the
disciplinary report was issued and decided. See
Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. He contended that he was punished
solely based on the content of his speech, which was
“too vague and ambiguous to constitute a true
threat.” Id. at ¶ 22. Riddick argued
that, prior to finding him guilty of the charge and imposing
punishment, Quiros, Prior, and Canon never presented any
evidence showing that the statement in his grievance appeal
was a true threat. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 23. He
also challenges as unconstitutionally vague and overbroad the
DOC's definition of threats as “verbal or written
statements or . . . physical conduct which causes or is
intended to cause fear in any person.” DOC
Administrative Directive 9.5, § 12EE. He argues that,
unlike Connecticut's criminal statute for threatening in
the second degree, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-62,
Administrative Directive 9.5, § 12EE does not have a
standard for proving an inmate's guilt. See
Compl. ¶ 24.
April 26, 2017 and May 15, 2017, Robles issued two more
disciplinary reports against Riddick for making threats
against Semple in letters he wrote to him. Compl. ¶ 25.
In one of those letters to Semple, Riddick wrote that he
would “make an example and kill” any cellmate
with whom he was paired if not a family member. See
Pl.'s Ex. 3, Doc. No. 1 at 38. In another letter, Riddick
wrote that he was going to assault correctional staff, that,
when he leaves the prison, he “would like to kill [him]
a C/O to get [his] point across, ” and “that [he]
will come back one day or night and sniper rifle ya'll
off one by one, or with a submachine gun and slaughter the
ones I can.” Id., Doc. No. 1 at 40, 45.
claimed in his disciplinary reports that the letters to
Semple were “Inmate Requests, ” but Riddick
argued that they were privileged communications to Semple
and, therefore, “constitutionally protected
conduct.” Compl. ¶¶ 26-29. Riddick contends
that, pursuant to the Regulations of Connecticut State
Agencies § 18-81-28(e)(5), “any written
correspondence addressed to . . . [t]he Commissioner of
Correction” constitutes a privileged communication and
DOC's Administrative Directives “do not authorize
[prison officials] to write tickets or [disciplinary reports]
in connection [with an inmate's] outgoing privileged[d]
correspondence.” See Compl. ¶¶ 28,
30; Pl.'s Ex. 1, Doc. No. 1 at 12.
alleges that the defendants continue to punish him for making
threats under their unconstitutionally vague and overbroad
definition of “threats” without any evidence that
Riddick's statements are indeed “true
threats” in the legal sense. See Compl.
¶¶ 33-36. He claims that the defendants are,
therefore, punishing him for engaging in
“constitutionally protected conduct.” See
Id. at ¶ 35.
claims that the disciplinary reports issued, processed,
and/or affirmed by the defendants constituted an act of
retaliation, in violation of his First Amendment rights to
free speech and to petition the government for redress of
grievances. He also claims that the punishment he received
violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process
because the defendants did not present sufficient evidence
that his written statements were in fact true threats. For
the following reasons, both claims are dismissed.
First Amendment Retaliation
officials may not retaliate against inmates for exercising
their constitutional rights.” Riddick v.
Arnone, 2012 WL 2716355, at *6 (D. Conn. Jul. 9, 2012).
“To prevail on a First Amendment retaliation claim, [a
prisoner] must establish (1) that the speech or conduct at
issue was protected, (2) that the [official] took adverse
action against the [prisoner], and (3) that there was a
causal connection between the protected [conduct] and the
adverse action.” Holland v. Goord, 758 F.3d
215, 225 (2d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted);
Espinal v. Goord, 558 F.3d 119, 128 (2d Cir. 2009).
“In the prison context, ‘adverse action' is
objectively defined as conduct ‘that would deter a
similarly situated individual of ordinary firmness from
exercising . . . constitutional rights.'”
O'Diah v. Cully, 2013 WL 1914434, at *9
(N.D.N.Y. May 8, 2013) (quoting Davis v. Goord, 320
F.3d 346, 353 (2d Cir. 2003)); see also Ramsey v.
Goord, 661 F.Supp.2d 370, 399 (W.D.N.Y. 2009) (prisoners
may be required to tolerate more than average citizens before
alleged retaliatory action against them is considered
adverse). In order to allege causation, the prisoner must
state facts “suggesting that the protected conduct was
a substantial or motivating factor in the prison
official's decision to take action against [him].”
Moore v. Peters, 92 F.Supp.3d 109, 121 (W.D.N.Y.
2015) (quoting Burton v. Lynch, 664 F.Supp.2d 349,