United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR., SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Zion Webb, a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated at the
Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, has
filed a civil rights complaint pro se pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against five Connecticut Department of
Correction ("DOC") officials in their official and
individual capacities: former Commissioner Scott Semple,
Commissioner Rollin Cook, Board of Pardons and Paroles
Chairman Carleton Giles, Warden Yadira Otero, and Director of
Parole and Community Services Division Richard Sparaco. Doc.
1 ("Compl.") at 2-3. Webb claims that the
Defendants acted under color of state law to violate his
Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws by
treating him differently than other similarly situated
inmates with respect to applying earned credits to advance
his parole eligibility date. Id. at 8-9. For the
following reasons, his Complaint is dismissed in full.
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."
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2) (2012).
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 the 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. 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) (internal
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) (declaring
that 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 assume the truth of the
allegations, and interpret them liberally to "raise the
strongest arguments [they] suggest.").
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). Therefore, even in a
pro se case, "threadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice." Chavis v.
Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Nor may the Court
"invent factual allegations" that the plaintiff has
not pleaded. Id.
March 2011, Webb was charged with robbery in the first degree
with a firearm in violation of Connecticut General Statutes
§ 53a-134(a)(4). Compl. ¶ 1. He was convicted
of the offense in February 2012 after pleading guilty and
sentenced to twelve years in prison. Id. At the time
of his conviction, he was required to serve at least
eighty-five percent of his sentence before becoming eligible
for parole under Connecticut General Statutes § 54-125a.
Id. ¶ 2.
1, 2011, the state legislature had amended Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 54-125a by Public Act 11-51, § 25 to allow
inmates incarcerated after October 1, 1990, who had served
not less than fifty percent of their definite or aggregate
sentences, less any risk reduction earned credit
("RREC") under Section 22 of the Act, to become
eligible for parole. Id. ¶ 3. Section 22 of the
Act, codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-98e, provided
that the eligibility of inmates to earn RREC was at the
discretion of the Commissioner. Id. at 4. While
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-98e identified certain crimes as
exceptions to RREC eligibility, Webb was not convicted of any
of these crimes. As such, Webb and other inmates convicted of
robbery in the first degree were eligible to earn RREC upon
satisfaction of certain conditions, including adherence to
their inmate offender accountability plan, good conduct,
obedience to prison regulations, and participation in
programs and activities. Id. ¶ 5.
April 25, 2012, then-Commissioner Semple expanded the list of
crimes ineligible for RREC to include felony murder, arson
murder, and aggravated sexual assault. Id. ¶ 6.
Webb's crime, robbery in the first degree, was not a
violent offense precluded from RREC. Id. Thus, Webb
was permitted to continue earning RREC and accelerate his
parole eligibility date. Id. On July 1, 2013,
however, Webb received a memorandum signed by Chairman Giles
stating that his RREC would no longer be applied to advance
his parole eligibility date. Id. ¶ 7.
December 4, 2018, Webb discovered that another inmate who had
also been convicted of robbery in the first degree was still
permitted to advance his parole eligibility date through
RREC. Id. ¶ 8. Webb has a Level 2 security
classification, does not have any documented assaults on DOC
staff or gang affiliation, and has maintained employment for
the past three years as a certified nursing assistant.
Id. ¶ 9. Nevertheless, other similarly situated
inmates convicted of the same offense were permitted to have
their RREC applied to accelerate their parole eligibility
contends that Defendant Sparaco, Director of Parole and
Community Services, has instituted a policy that allows only
certain violent offenders and violent offenders who committed
their crimes between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2013, to have
their RREC applied to accelerate their parole eligibility
dates. Id. ¶ 10. Under this policy, Webb's