Kent County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Jason Dixon-Acosta, Esq.
For Defendant: Timothy G. Healy, Esq.
This matter is before the Court on Respondent, Ashbel T. Wall's motion to dismiss the application for post-conviction relief of Applicant Joshua Flynn (Petitioner). The State moves pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Rhode Island Rules of Civil Procedure for an order dismissing Petitioner's Complaint for failure to state a claim and asserts res judicata grounds as well. For the reasons set forth herein, the State's motion to dismiss is converted to a Super. R. Civ. P. 56(b) motion for summary judgment. The State's motion is granted in part and denied in part. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-6.
Facts and Travel
Petitioner has asked this Court to restore good time credits in each instance where the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (DOC) subjected him to discipline without first affording Petitioner the opportunity to present a defense, including but not limited to the presentment of witnesses. The Petitioner is currently serving a sentence at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI), as imposed upon him subsequent to his conviction on April 24, 1996 after he pled nolo contendere to two counts of second degree robbery in Kent Superior Court (C.A. No. K2-1994-0446A). At that time, Petitioner received a thirty-year sentence, with eight years to serve at the ACI and the balance suspended with probation. That sentence was subsequently reduced by the Superior Court to an aggregate of twenty-two years, with thirty-four months to serve and the balance suspended with probation. Petitioner was released from the ACI in approximately May of 2002. However, in December 2002, Petitioner violated the terms of his probation and a Superior Court Justice sentenced him to serve the remainder of his sentence in the ACI. In addition to the violation, Petitioner was charged with one count of breaking and entering the dwelling of a person over age sixty in Kent Superior Court (C.A. No. K2-2005-0315A). Petitioner was sentenced to twenty years, with fifteen years to serve and the balance suspended with probation. This sentence runs concurrent with the sentence imposed in K2-1994-0446A.
In 2002, Petitioner notified the DOC of alleged occurrences of misfeasance and malfeasance of DOC officers and other officials directed at Petitioner and allegedly in retaliation for Petitioner's involvement in an incident where a police officer was injured. Petitioner states that he complained that he was subjected to assaultive conduct and excessive force, disciplined upon false institutional charges, denied prompt medical treatment and arbitrarily denied certain privileges. In October 2011, Petitioner notified the DOC that he intended to challenge certain conditions of confinement at the High Security Center through the inmate grievance process and, if necessary, through the judicial process. In accordance with the DOC's protocol, Petitioner requested grievance forms with which he could initiate said process. The DOC allegedly refused to provide Petitioner with the appropriate forms, which are only available to inmates upon request. Petitioner then escalated his request through the chain of command at the High Security Center, and, ultimately, a deputy warden allegedly threatened to move Petitioner to a disfavored unit if he did not cease in his attempt to avail himself of the grievance process.
In November 2011, Petitioner filed a Complaint in Providence Superior Court against the Director of the Department of Corrections and several named and unnamed officials to seek redress for alleged tort claims and violations of his constitutional and civil rights. Petitioner's Complaint included numerous allegations of misconduct on the part of the DOC officials, both in general and on specific alleged dates and occasions between 2003 and 2006, and in 2011. Petitioner sought injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
Petitioner alleges that shortly after he filed the November 2011 Complaint, DOC officials began to engage in a course of retaliatory conduct, including scrutiny and harassment which allegedly occurred far more frequently for him than for similarly classified inmates. The Petitioner alleges that since December of 2011, DOC officers have alleged that he committed ninety-two infractions of the disciplinary code. DOC officials sustained ninety-one of the allegations and allegedly have subjected Mr. Flynn to disciplinary sanctions in excess of 3200 days. By operation of section 42-56-24 of the Rhode Island General Laws, said discipline has resulted in the revocation of an equal number of days of good time credit. Petitioner alleges that in many instances the DOC summarily sustained the allegations against the Petitioner, and he was disciplined without first allowing him an opportunity to present witnesses to aid in his defense against the bare allegations of a DOC official. Petitioner, to no avail, appealed these disciplinary determinations through the highest administrative level at the DOC.
Standard of Review
"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint about whether it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Boyer v. Bedrosian, 57 A.3d 259, 270 (R.I. 2012). "Rule 12(b)(6) does not deal with the likelihood of success on the merits, but rather with the viability of a plaintiff's bare-bones allegations and claims as they are set forth in the complaint." Hyatt v. Vill. House Convalescent Home, Inc., 880 A.2d 821, 823 (R.I. 2005). When ruling on a Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion, a court's review is confined to the four corners of the pleadings. See Palazzo v. Alves, 944 A.2d 144, 149 (R.I. 2008). If the movant cannot show beyond a reasonable that there is no conceivable facts that could be proven in support of the claim, the motion to dismiss must be denied, and the allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. However, if evidence is presented beyond the allegations set forth in the complaint, and "a trial justice considers evidence not incorporated in the final pleadings, a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is automatically transformed into one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56." W. Mass. Blasting ...