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Lopez v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 19, 2019

SCOTT SEMPLE, ET AL. Defendants.



         Statement of the Case

         On November 23, 2018, the plaintiff, Treizy Treizon Lopez (“Plaintiff”), a state prisoner currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, filed a civil rights complaint (“Compliant”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against ten Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) officials. Compl. (DE#1). The Plaintiff claimed that these Defendants, in a variety of ways, violated his First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while he was confined at the Manson Youth Institution (“MYI”) in Cheshire, Connecticut. Id. On January 4, 2019, by Initial Review Order the Court permitted the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim to proceed against Captain Salvatore, Counselor Fortin, and Warden Butricks; his First Amendment claim to proceed against Correction Officer Garibaldi, and his Fourteenth Amendment claim to proceed against CO Garibaldi, Counselor Mala, Salvatore, and Lieutenant Eberle. Initial Review Order (DE#9) 20.

         On March 12, 2019, Garibaldi filed the instant motion to dismiss the First Amendment claim against him on the grounds that (1) the Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and (2) the claim is barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Mot. to Dismiss (DE#19); Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def. Garibaldi's Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”) (DE#19-1). The Plaintiff file his opposition to the motion on June 3, 2019. Obj. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (“Pl.'s Obj.”) (DE#28). For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

         Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief 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.” Id. The plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the complaint must show, not merely allege, that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See id.

         The Court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. This principle does not, however, apply to the legal conclusions that the plaintiff draws in the complaint. Id.; Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555; 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) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Moreover, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555).

         “Where . . . the complaint was filed pro se, it must be construed liberally with ‘special solicitude' and interpreted to raise the strongest claims that it suggests.” Hogan v. Fischer, 738 F.3d 509, 515 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Hill v. Curcione, 657 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2011)). Nevertheless, a pro se 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 Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Facts and Procedural History

         The Court incorporates the following factual allegations in the Complaint as stated in the Initial Review Order:[1]

In April of 2018, while being transferred from MYI to the Bridgeport Correctional Center (“BCC”), the Plaintiff was found to be in possession of compact discs (“CDs”), which are considered contraband. Compl. ¶ 88. A correction officer at BCC gave the Plaintiff an ultimatum of either revealing the identity of the person who gave him the CDs or receiving a Class A disciplinary report (“DR”) for possession of contraband. Id. Because the Plaintiff was unwilling to cooperate with the staff, he was placed in segregation immediately upon his arrival at BCC. Id. The following day, the Plaintiff was released from segregation, and his Class A DR was reduced to a Class B DR. Id. at ¶ 89.
On June 20, 2018, the Plaintiff was transferred from BCC back to MYI without notice that most of his personal property would be left behind at BCC. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. He asked Correction Officer White why he had not been provided with all of his property. Id. at ¶ 17. White told the Plaintiff that, when the rest of his property arrives from BCC, it would have to be inspected by Correction Officer Lis because the Plaintiff was previously found to be in possession of contraband. Id. The Plaintiff signed for the property that had arrived and proceeded to his housing unit. Id.
The next day, the remaining property arrived at MYI. Compl. ¶ 18. Although it had already been inspected at BCC and cleared of any contraband, Correction Officer White conducted another search and found a one-dollar bill, another contraband item. Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. The bill was discovered in a manila envelope that belonged to the Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 21. After White's search, the Plaintiff's property was stored in the MYI storage room. Id. at ¶ 19.
On June 26, Officer Lis conducted another “targeted search” of the Plaintiff's property, even though it had been stored in the storage room and was only accessible to MYI staff. Compl. ¶¶ 23-24. As a result of the search, the Plaintiff was brought to segregation and placed on administrative detention pending a security risk group (“SRG”) affiliation. Id. at ¶ 26. He received a DR for the SRG affiliation, and Officer White issued him a DR for possession of contraband for the one-dollar bill that was discovered in his personal items. Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 26-27. The ...

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