United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAMES L. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
PETER MURPHY, et al. Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT (Dkt. No.
VANESSA L. BRYANT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
17, 2018, the plaintiff, James L. Griffin, an inmate
currently confined at Garner Correctional Institution in
Newtown, Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se and
in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
against seven Connecticut Department of Correction
(“DOC”) officials in their individual capacities
for violating his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
while he was confined at the Cheshire Correctional
Institution (“Cheshire”). Compl. (Dkt. No. 1).
The seven defendants are District Administrator Peter Murphy,
Lieutenant Eberie, Lieutenant Matusczak, Correctional
Counselor Pacelli, Correction Officer Torres, Correction
Officer Verdura, and Correction Officer Peracchio. He sought
damages and declaratory relief. Id. at 14-16. After
initial review, the Court permitted the plaintiff's
claims for damages to proceed against all defendants except
District Administrator Murphy. Initial Review Order (Dkt. No.
7) at 12. The Court also dismissed the plaintiff's claim
for declaratory relief. Id. The defendants answered
the complaint on November 9, 2018. Answer (Dkt. No. 19).
January 23, the plaintiff filed the instant motion to amend
his complaint. Mot. to Amend (Dkt. No. 28). Based on the
Court's review of the attached amended complaint (Dkt.
No. 28-1), the plaintiff seeks to add a claim that the
defendants violated his First Amendment rights based on the
same conduct which gave rise to his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment claims. In the interest of justice, the Court will
GRANT the motion to amend the complaint and permit the First
Amendment claim to proceed against the defendants in their
plaintiff may amend his complaint once as a matter of right
within twenty-one days after service of the complaint or, if
a responsive pleading is required, within twenty-one days
after service of the responsive pleading. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 15(a); O'Dell v. Bill, No.
9:13-CV-1275 (FJS/TWD), 2015 WL 710544, at *44 (N.D.N.Y. Feb.
18, 2015). In all other cases, the plaintiff may amend his
complaint only with the Court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a)(2). Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure requires that the Court's permission to amend a
complaint “shall be freely given when justice so
requires.” “In the absence of any apparent or
declared reason - 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, futility of the amendment, etc. - the leave
should, as the rules require, be ‘freely
given.'” 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) (internal
he is not entitled to amend as a matter of right because over
two months have elapsed since the defendants answered the
complaint, the Court does not conclude that an amended
complaint will unduly prejudice the defendants. Thus, in the
interest of justice, the Court will GRANT the motion to amend
appears from his amended complaint that the plaintiff seeks
to add a First Amendment retaliation claim against the
defendants for manufacturing a false disciplinary report and
sanctioning him for his refusal to cooperate in an internal
facility investigation. See Am. Compl. at 1, 16, 18.
The First Amendment claim is based on the same facts which
gave rise to the plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth
prevail on a First Amendment retaliation claim, [the
plaintiff] must establish (1) that the speech or conduct at
issue was protected, (2) that the defendant[s] took adverse
action against the [plaintiff], and (3) that there was a
causal connection between the protected [speech] 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, No. 08-CIV- 941 (TJM/CFH), 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 alo
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). The plaintiff 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, 367 (S.D.N.Y.
claims of retaliation are easily fabricated, the courts
consider such claims with skepticism and require that they be
supported by specific facts; conclusory statements are not
sufficient.” Riddick v. Arnone, No.
3:11-CV-631 (SRU), 2012 WL 2716355, at *6 (D. Conn. July 9,
2012); see also Dawes v. Walker, 239 F.3d 489, 491
(2d Cir. 2001) (“virtually any adverse action taken
against a prisoner by a prison official - even those
otherwise not rising to the level of a constitutional
violation - can be characterized as a constitutionally
proscribed retaliatory act”). “Accordingly,
plaintiffs in retaliatory motive cases must plead
‘specific and detailed factual allegations which amount
to a persuasive case' or ‘facts giving rise to a
colorable suspicion of retaliation.'”
Moore, 92 F.Supp.3d at 120 (quoting Johnson v.
Eggersdorf, 8 Fed.Appx. 140, 144 (2d Cir. 2001)).
Second Circuit has recognized First Amendment claims against
prison officials who take adverse action against inmates for
their refusal to cooperate in internal investigations.
See Burns v. Martuscello, 890 F.3d 77, 89 (2d Cir.
2018). Here, the plaintiff alleged facts in support of a
claim that the defendants sanctioned him after he refused to
provide information about how contraband was entering
Cheshire. Officer Peracchio issued him a disciplinary report
for funding money outside the facility to facilitate the
importation of the contraband. Am. Compl. at 4. The plaintiff
also alleges that, at his disciplinary hearing, Lieutenant
Matusczak said that he would find the plaintiff guilty of the
charge unless he told him who was importing the contraband.
Id. at 6. Construed liberally, these facts support a
First Amendment retaliation claim. Therefore, the Court will
permit the First Amendment claim to proceed against the
defendants in their individual capacities for damages.
Court previously dismissed the plaintiff's claims against
District Administrator Murphy for failure to sufficiently
allege personal involvement. Initial Review Order at 10-11.
The amended complaint does not allege any additional facts
against Murphy. Thus, to the extent the plaintiff wishes to
reinstate Murphy as a defendant to this action, his request
amended complaint also restates the plaintiff's claim for
declaratory relief. The Court dismissed the claim for
declaratory relief as stated in the initial complaint because
his request concerned only past actions; specifically, the
initial guilty finding from the disciplinary report and the
sanctions that followed. See Initial Review Order at
11. The amended complaint does not cure this deficiency; it
does not show that the plaintiff is subjected to any ongoing
constitutional harm. Therefore, the claim for declaratory
relief remains dismissed.
motion to amend the complaint (Dkt. No. 28) is GRANTED. The
First Amendment claim may proceed against the defendants in
their individual capacities for damages. The claim against