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Spearman v. Ide

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 10, 2018

QUANELL SPEARMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOEL IDE, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 48]

          Alvin W. Thompson, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Quanell Spearman, commenced this civil rights action pro se. The defendants, Joel Ide, Lou Renzi and Paul Rousseau, have filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is being granted as to the claims against defendant Ide and denied as to the claims against defendants Renzi and Rousseau.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; Redd v. New York Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012). “When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can satisfy its burden at summary judgment by ‘pointing out to the district court' the absence of a genuine dispute with respect to any essential element of its opponent's case: ‘a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'” Cohane v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 612 Fed.Appx. 41, 43 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). He cannot “‘rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation' but ‘must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.'” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., 781 F.3d 42, 34 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). He must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). Although the court reads pro se papers liberally and interprets them to raise the strongest arguments they suggest, Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and are insufficient to oppose a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).

         II. FACTS[1]

         Defendants Rousseau and Renzi currently work in the Commissary Warehouse, located at Cheshire Correctional Institution. Defendant Ide retired from the Department of Correction on January 1, 2016, and had no involvement in terminating the plaintiff's employment in the commissary.

         Prior to the incident underlying the remaining claims in this action, the plaintiff had submitted many complaints and grievances regarding the commissary's refusal to refund to him the purchase price for an electronic game. Correctional officials had determined that if inmates wished to possess the game, the camera, microphone and internet capability in the game had to be disabled.

         On October 19, 2016, Commissary Operator Jose Leal told defendants Rousseau and Renzi that product was missing from the commissary warehouse. In response to this report, defendants Rousseau and Renzi viewed the video footage recorded that day on the stationary surveillance cameras in the commissary warehouse. Two cameras recorded the incident from different angles. The footage shows the plaintiff working at the logging table sorting through the box of returned commissary items. His task was to determine whether the items should be discarded or returned to the line for sale.

         The footage shows the plaintiff throwing certain items in the trash. Then he takes three bottles of shampoo/conditioner and one tube of toothpaste, slides his chair to the corner of the room, and places the items in a box in the corner of the room. Inmate Parrott helped the plaintiff conceal the items in the corner of the room.

         Defendants Rousseau and Renzi determined that the only reason for the plaintiff to have secreted items in a box while working at the logging table was so that he could steal the items. They decided to discipline the plaintiff and inmate Parrott for their involvement in the theft by firing them from their jobs in the commissary warehouse.

         The Commissary Unit Worker Policy provides that any inmate caught stealing or in possession of unauthorized commissary items will be terminated and receive a disciplinary report. Because both inmates had good work history, defendants Rousseau and Renzi decided to be lenient and not issue disciplinary reports to the plaintiff and inmate Parrott.

         During their employment with the Department of Correction, defendants Rousseau and Renzi have always fired inmates caught stealing. They have never knowingly rehired these inmates to work in the commissary.

         III. DISCUSSION

         There are three claims remaining in this case, federal claims for retaliation and denial of equal protection and a state law defamation claim. In the April 11, 2017 Initial Review Order, the court dismissed the claims for deprivation of property and loss of a prison job. ECF No. 8.

         A. ...


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