United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Edison Vidro, an inmate currently incarcerated at Osborn
Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, has brought
this civil rights action pro se against various
prison officials of Cheshire Correctional Institution, the
prison where he was previously housed, in Cheshire,
Connecticut. Vidro is suing Defendants Scott Erfe and Amonda
Hannah in their individual capacities for monetary damages.
Judge Garfinkel granted Vidro's motion to proceed in
forma pauperis on March 7, 2018. See Doc. 9.
The Court now reviews Vidro's Complaint to determine
whether his claims are "frivolous" or may proceed
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the following reasons, the
Court dismisses his Complaint in part.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a
prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss any portion that
"(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief."
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). Although highly detailed
allegations are not required, the complaint "must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). "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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678. The complaint must provide "more than an unadorned,
Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'"
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will
[ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense." Id. at 663-64. When
"well-pleaded factual allegations" are present,
"a court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief." Id. at 679. Factual disputes do not
factor into a plausibility analysis under Iqbal and
all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be
true, this tenet is 'inapplicable to legal
conclusions.'" LaMagna v. Brown, 474
Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept.
of Corr. Servs., 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011)
(same). Accordingly, the Court is not "bound to accept
conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as
factual conclusions." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins.
Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon
v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008))
(quotation marks omitted). Consequently, "[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555).
respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established
that "[p]ro se submissions are
reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed
liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments
that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank
Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017)
(quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470
F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also
Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013)
(same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d
Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for
pro se litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp., 521
F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed pro
se is to be liberally construed and a pro se
complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers." (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S.
89, 94 (2007))); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed
Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (where the
plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court is "obliged
to construe his pleadings liberally" (quoting
McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir.
2004))); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir.
2007) (in reviewing a pro se complaint, the court
"must liberally construe [the] pleadings, and must
interpret [the] complaint to raise the strongest arguments it
despite being subject to liberal interpretation, a pro
se plaintiff's complaint still must "state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir.
2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
allegations in this Part are derived from the Complaint.
is a devout Native American, who at all times relevant to
this matter was incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional
Institution ("Cheshire") in Cheshire, Connecticut.
Complaint, Doc. 1, ¶ 6. Plaintiff participated in all
Native American services at Cheshire, including smudging
outdoors every day for up to twenty minutes, as permitted by
the Department of Correction's ("DOC")
"Native American Smudge Policy." Id. Vidro
claims that the act of smudging is one of the most important
aspects of the Native American religion. Id., ¶
7. It consists of burning sacred herbs, and waving the smoke
over one's body as a cleansing technique and to carry the
prayers "to the realm of the Creator." Id.
permits inmates to smudge if they purchase smudge supplies
from the commissary. Id., ¶ 8. At Cheshire,
smudging is permitted outdoors only, at specified times: 4:00
a.m. on weekends and holidays, and at 5:45 a.m. on weekdays.
This is so regardless of the temperature outside, or the
weather. Id. Although inmates who work in various
outdoor buildings are issued jackets and hats for their walks
from building to building, Cheshire does not issue jackets or
hats to those who wish to participate in smudging.
Id., ¶¶ 9-10. This is true despite the
fact that smudgers remain outdoors each day in the winter for
up to twenty minutes in the cold and dark. Id.,
the winter of 2016, Vidro smudged every day, in the extreme
cold, without adequate outdoor clothing to protect him from
the elements. Id., ¶ 11. Vidro was only able to
participate in the smudging rituals by going outdoors; if he
were to remain indoors, he would not be able to practice his
religion. Id., ¶ 11. Vidro requested a jacket
and hat upon several occasions that winter, but his requests
were denied. Id., ¶ 12. As a result, he became
ill several times over the course of the winter.