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Forbes v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

August 6, 2015

DARCY W. FORBES, pro se,
ASHBEL T. WALL, et al.


MARY M. LISI, Chief District Judge.

The Plaintiff in this case of alleged retaliation[1], Darcy W. Forbes, ("Forbes") was, at all times pertinent to his complaint, incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Institution ("ACI") in Cranston, Rhode Island. The gravamen of Forbes' case is that he was "downgraded to Administrative C-Status" (apparently resulting in the imposition of additional safety measures and the loss of certain privileges) in retaliation for filing a grievance against a correctional officer at the ACI. The case is before this Court on the motion to dismiss by four of the remaining defendants (the Defendants").[2] For the reasons set forth herein, that motion is GRANTED.

I. Factual Background and Procedural Summary

According to Forbes' Amended Complaint (the "Complaint, " Dkt. No. 7), on January 17, 2014, he was moved from the ACI Intake Service Center to the High Security Center. Complaint ¶ 14. At that time, Forbes was classified as "B-Status" in the A-Module. Complaint ¶ 15. On January 18, 2014, Forbes was moved to the D-Module "based on the request he entered." Complaint ¶ 17. As set forth in Forbes' original complaint (Dkt. No. 1), he "wrote a request slip... about Problems concerning his life and safety due to threats he was receiving from other Inmates in A-Module & B-Module & [he] ask [sic] to be Placed in Protective Custody." Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 22. Forbes asserts that he was housed in D-Module for sixty-six days, during which time he "never got into trouble or discipline." Complaint at ¶¶ 20, 21. He further alleges that he was treated as a "disciplined inmate/management problem, " and that he was denied an opportunity to speak with the shift commander or a member of the special investigative unit "concerning more threats on his life." Complaint at ¶¶ 22, 25.

According to Forbes, on March 13, 2014, he filed a grievance against Correctional Officer John Howard for being denied B-status privileges. Complaint at ¶ 26. On March 25, 2014, Forbes was moved from the D-Module and placed in the F-Module and his status was changed to "Administrative Confinement" or "Admin C. status." Complaint at ¶¶ 30, 31. On May 8, 2014[3], Forbes appeared before the Classification Board (the "Board, " on which the four Defendants seeking dismissal of Forbes' suit served as members). According to Forbes, he "explained his situation concerning his safety and [he] recommended to be placed on p.c. [protective custody] status." Complaint at ¶ 36. In accordance with the decision by the Board, Forbes was classified as C-status. Complaint at ¶ 38. Although Forbes generally alleges that keeping him at the C-status level-which allows for fewer privileges than B status-is "treatment done to inmates who file grievances and write D.O.C. [Department of Corrections] staff up, " Complaint at ¶ 39, he offers no factual support for, or additional examples of, such assertions.

On July 15, 2014, Forbes, pro se, filed a four-count complaint (Dkt. No. 1) against sixteen ACI officials and officers, together with (1) an application to proceed without prepayment of fees (Dkt. No. 2), and (2) a motion for appointment of counsel (Dkt. No. 3). Following the required screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C. 1915A(b), the Court dismissed two of Forbes' claims outright; it dismissed Forbes' negligence claim without prejudice to being brought in state court; and it permitted Forbes to restate his retaliation claim. Any defendants not named in Forbes' original retaliation claim were also dismissed from the case. Memorandum and Order (Dkt. No. 5).

On October 17, 2014, Forbes filed an amended complaint against ten remaining defendants. (Dkt. No. 7). On April 21, 2015, six of those defendants (Galligan, Sayles, Duarte, Porter, Howard, and Calise) filed an answer to Forbes' Complaint. On the same day, the other four Defendants (Doyle, Bouchard, Amaral, and Ward) filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 17). Forbes submitted a response in opposition to the motion on May 21, 2015 (Dkt. No. 20), to which no further reply was received.

II. Standard of Review

The dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim is governed by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Such dismissal is indicated "if the complaint does not set forth factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.'" Lemelson v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass'n, 721 F.3d 18, 22 (1st Cir. 2013)(quoting United States ex rel. Hutcheson v. Blackstone Med., Inc., 647 F.3d 377, 384 (1st Cir.2011), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 815, 181 L.Ed.2d 525 (2011) (quoting Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir.2008)). In determining whether a motion to dismiss should be granted, the Court considers whether "construing the well-pleaded facts of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the complaint states a claim for which relief can be granted." Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir.2011).

To withstand a motion to dismiss, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter... to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Katz v. Pershing, LLC, 672 F.3d 64, 72-73 (1st Cir.2012)(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). In other words, the plaintiff must "include factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Katz v. Pershing, LLC, 672 F.3d at 73 (quoting Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir.2011) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949)). However, "[n]on-conclusory factual allegations in the complaint must... be treated as true, even if seemingly incredible." Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d at 12 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1951)).

Generally, the Court does not consider any documents outside of the complaint without express incorporation, see, e.g., Alternative Energy, Inc. v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 267 F.3d 30, 33 (1st Cir.2001)("Ordinarily, a court may not consider any documents that are outside of the complaint, or not expressly incorporated therein, unless the motion is converted into one for summary judgment"). However, the Court makes an exception "for documents the authenticity of which are not disputed by the parties; for official public records; for documents central to plaintiffs' claim; or for documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint." Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1993). Such documents "merge[] into the pleadings" and may be considered by the Court under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Alternative Energy, Inc., 267 F.3d at 33.

III. The Parties' Positions

The Defendants assert that (1) Forbes had no constitutional or statutorily protected liberty interest in his prison-inmate classification status; (2) prison administrators have broad discretion where to place prisoners within the correctional system; (3) Forbes' allegations that the Classification Board customarily retaliates against inmates who file grievances by downgrading their placement status is factually unsupported; and (4) based on Forbes' expressed concerns about his personal safety, his classification as C-status was consistent with RIDOC policy No 15.11-3[4].

Forbes' response in opposition to the motion to dismiss, which also includes an "answer for summary judgment, " addresses, at least in part, some of the affirmative defenses raised by the six defendants who are not part of the motion to dismiss now before the Court. In general, Forbes maintains that he was downgraded to C-status and placed in segregation for forty days in retaliation for filing a request slip to the Special Investigation Unit and/or for complaining about Lt. Galligan. Forbes acknowledges, however, that he had "enemy issues, " of which he had made the Defendants aware. Forbes offers no ...

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