United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
VICTOR A. TAVARES, Plaintiff,
RHODE ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, JACK VICINIO, MATTHEW KETTLE, JEFFERY ACETO, and ASHBEL T. WALL, II, Defendants.
J. MCCONNELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Victor A. Tavares sues various State Defendants and the City of
Cranston, alleging violations of his constitutional rights
guaranteed by the United States Constitution, He alleges that
the State Defendants caused these violations by the way they
handled disciplinary infractions and hearings thereon while
he was incarcerated at the Adult Correctional Institution
(ACI) in Cranston. This Court dismissed his initial Complaint
on November 30, 2017, for failure to state a claim upon which
the Court could grant relief. See ECF No. 4. Mr.
Tavares filed an Amended Complaint on December 27, 2017. ECF
No. 9. All Defendants now move to dismiss the Amended
Complaint (ECF Nos. 32 and 33), to which Mr. Tavares objects
(ECF Nos. 36 and 37), the Defendants reply (ECF Nos. 38 and
39), and Mr, Tavares sui-replies. ECF Nos. 40 and 41. Because
the Court finds that Mr. Tavares' Complaint, even as
amended, also fails to state a claim, the Court GRANTS the
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss.
Amended Complaint, Mr. Tavares alleges that the State
violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights and that he is
suffering "atypical and significant hardship."
Specifically, he alleges that after a number of disciplinary
infractions, prison officials issued him "offender
reports" and subsequently conducted disciplinary
hearings on those infractions. At these hearings, he alleges
that the State denied him assistance of counsel, the right to
question witnesses, and the right to review evidence. Because
of his disciplinary infractions and subsequent hearings, Mr.
Tavares claims the State has sanctioned him since July 24,
2017 and those sanctions will continue until June 10, 2020.
Mr. Tavares also alleges that disciplinary proceedings are
not "up to Federal Standards." Standard of
Review To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiffs claim
is plausible when it states sufficient facts that allow
"the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Court must accept a plaintiffs allegations as true and
construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
and review pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally.
However, the Court need not credit bald assertions or
unverifiable conclusions." Tucker v. Wall, No.
07-406 ML, 2010 WL 322155, at *8 (D.R.I. Jan. 27, 2010)
(citations omitted). At the motion to dismiss stage, a court
must "consider not only the complaint but also matters
fairly incorporated within it and matters susceptible to
judicial notice." In re ColonialMortg. Bankers
Corp., 324 F.3d 12, 15 (1st Cii\ 2003).
State Defendants'Motion to Dismiss
Disciplinary Segregation Mr. Tavares argues that the
discipline the State imposed violated his constitutional
rights. The law, however, does not support his position. A
brief review of the well-settled precedent follows and the
Court's application of the law to Mr. Tavares'
allegations leads it to reject again his complaint as failing
to state a claim.
incarceration brings about the necessary withdrawal or
limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction
justified by the considerations underlying our penal
system." Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285
(1948). "Discipline by prison officials in response to a
wide range of misconduct falls within the expected perimeters
of the sentence imposed by a court of law." Sandin
v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 485 (1995). The United States
Supreme Court has stated that "[t]he Due Process Clause
standing alone confers no liberty interest in freedom from
state action taken 'within the sentence
imposed."' Sandin, 515 U.S. at 480 (citing
Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 468 (1983)). The
Supreme Court has rejected claims that an inmate has the
right to remain in general population, holding that "the
transfer [of an inmate] to less amenable quarters for
nonpunitive reasons was 'ordinarily contemplated
by a prison sentence.'" Id. (emphasis
added). The Due Process Clause will not be implicated unless
a complaint plausibly alleges the loss of a liberty-based
interest based on the "imposition of] atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the
ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. at 484.
For example, in Sandin, the Supreme Court found that
a prisoner's punishment of thirty days in disciplinary
segregation "did not present the type of atypical,
significant deprivation in which a State might conceivably
create a liberty interest." Id. at 486.
Amended Complaint, Mr. Tavares alleges that the State placed
him in disciplinary segregation for thirty days, which
imposed "atypical" and "significant"
hardship on him. ECF No. 9 at 4, ¶18. The State has
classified him to the High Security Center and Administrative
Confinement. However, merely pleading that his punishment was
an atypical and significant deprivation is not enough to
plead plausibly the loss of a liberty interest. Therefore,
Mr. Tavares' allegation that prison officials placed him
in segregation is insufficient to state a claim upon which
the Court can grant relief.
The Loss of Good-Time Credit
Tavares alleges that the loss of good-time credit is a
violation of his Due Process Clause rights. The United States
Supreme Court discussed a prisoner's Fourteenth Amendment
liberty interest in good-time credit in Wolff v.
McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). While the Supreme Court
noted that the United States Constitution "does not
guarantee good-time credit for satisfactory behavior while in
prison, " id. at 557, an inmate has a liberty
interest in good-time credit if a state statute provides such
a right and delineates that it may not be taken away except
for serious misconduct. Id. at 558. Looking then to
Rhode Island's good-time statute, R.I. Gen. Laws §
42-56-24, the Court finds that it does not create any such
liberty interest. See Almeida v. Wall, No. C.A.
08-184S, 2008 WL 5377924, at *6 (D.R.I. Dec. 23, 2008);
Barber v. Vose, 682 A.2d 908 (R.I. 1996). The
statute gives RIDOC administration the discretion to extend
or deduct good-time credit and does not require "that
the offender be consulted before the good-time is deducted
from that which the prisoner has accumulated."
Almeida, 2008 WL 5377924, at *6. Consequently, Mr.
Tavares does not have a liberty interest under either the
Rhode Island statute or the United States Constitution in the
good-time credits for which he is seeking protection under
the Due Process Clause.
Tavares alleges that the State violated his due-process
rights by failing to provide him with sufficient process in
his disciplinary hearings. Mr. Tavares' claim fails,
however, because he cannot make a claim that insufficient
process violated his due-process rights without plausibly
alleging that the State deprived him of a protected liberty
interest. See Bd. of Regents of State Colleges v.
Roth,408 U.S. 564, 571 (1972). As discussed above,
neither the Due Process Clause nor Rhode Island state law
creates a liberty interest in remaining in the general
population. Wolff, 418 U.S. at 557-58. The State
cannot violate due-process rights where there is no liberty
interest effected by ...