United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
VICTOR A. TAVARES, Plaintiff,
LIEUTENANT MACOMBER, C.O. SPADONI, C.O. ANTONELLI, C.O. SANTA-GATA, LIEUTENANT DIVINE, DEPUTY WARDEN MOORE, and WARDEN ACETO, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PATRICIA A. SULLIVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for leave to file
a supplemental complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d),
which allows a party, with leave of court, to serve a
supplemental pleading setting out any “transaction,
occurrence, or event that happened after the date of the
pleading to be supplemented.” Id.; ECF No. 34.
Depending on what is counted, the motion is arguably
Plaintiff's fifth attempt to change the content of the
operative pleading. Because of the confusion created by
Plaintiff's prior efforts to amend, the Court held an
on-the-record conference with the parties on April 19, 2019,
for the purpose of establishing the operative pleading and to
set a schedule for response. Based on that conference, the
Second Amended Complaint, which was filed on March 21, 2019,
was established as the operative pleading, and June 18, 2019,
was set as the deadline for responsive filings.
currently operative Second Amended Complaint is based on 42
U.S.C. § 1983, arising from events that occurred in the
fall of 2018. First, following an argument that erupted when
a correctional officer notified Plaintiff that his court
clothes were to be destroyed, Plaintiff claims he was booked
three times for a single incident and that, after delay, his
clothes were destroyed. ECF No. 24 ¶¶ 9-11. Second,
Plaintiff claims that, after he was “involved in an
altercation” with an inmate known to be an enemy (from
whom correctional officers did nothing to protect him) and
hit his head, correctional officers applied “riot
spray” to his face after he was on the floor, denied
him medical treatment, cut his hair, and imposed disciplinary
confinement and loss of good time credit, prolonging his
sentence. Id. ¶¶ 13-18. And, third,
Plaintiff alleges he was deprived of proper hygiene, food and
footwear, and forced to sleep with the lights on.
Id. ¶ 19. As remedies, Plaintiff seeks money
damages and injunctive relief affecting his conditions of
confinement. Id. ¶ 34.
weeks after filing the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff
filed the instant motion. It seeks to supplement the Second
Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 15(d) by adding
a separate, distinct and entirely new and unrelated cause of
action to be asserted against a new defendant (Captain
Haiban). Specifically, Plaintiff wants to allege that his
sentence to serve forty-two months for violating conditions
derived from his conviction for First Degree Robbery, which
was imposed by Superior Court Justice Luis Matos on August
17, 2018, was improperly calculated by the addition of
eighteen months pursuant to an unspecified “new
conspiracy.”ECF No. 34 at 1; ECF No. 34-1 at 1. In his
attached grievance dated March 3, 2019, Plaintiff claims that
“Records & ID added a fictitious charge to my
sentence, adding an additional 3 ½ year sentence
without an order from a judge.” ECF No. 34-1 at 3-4.
Plaintiff also attaches the “Department of Corrections
Inmate Sentence Information, ” which appears to reflect
a sentence of forty-two months' duration, with a
“good time date” set exactly forty-two months
after the date of imposition of sentence. Id. at
3. Apart from the filing of an administrative grievance, the
motion makes no mention of exhaustion of state remedies for
challenging the length of a sentence nor does it suggest that
the erroneous sentence calculation violated the Constitution
or laws of the United States.
vigorously object to the motion to supplement. They argue
that Plaintiff's dissatisfaction with the calculation of
his sentence was known to Plaintiff, at the latest, by March
3, 2019, when he filed a grievance based on it, and therefore
this is not a claim based on events that happened after the
date of the pleading to be supplemented, which is the Second
Amended Complaint, filed on March 21, 2019. ECF No. 39 at
2-3. Accordingly, Defendants contend that the motion is not
proper under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d). Id. at 3. They also
rely on Plaintiff's failure to attach the actual proposed
pleading, as well as the prejudice to them caused by his
undue delay (at least two months) in bringing up the claim.
Id. at 3-4. More substantively, they ask the Court
to deny the motion as futile in that the new claim is really
a collateral attack on his conviction and sentence.
15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the
Court to grant leave to supplement a complaint with facts
“setting out” a “transaction, occurrence,
or event that happened after the date” of the
complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d). “Absent undue delay, bad
faith, dilatory tactics, undue prejudice to the party to be
served with the proposed pleading, or futility, the motion
[to supplement] should be freely granted.” Graham
v. Grondolsky, No. Civ. A. 08-40208-MBB, 2012 WL 405459,
at *16 (D. Mass. Feb. 7, 2012) (quoting Quaratino v.
Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 66 (2d Cir.1995)).
However, “when the matters alleged in a supplemental
pleading have no relation to the claim originally set forth
and joinder will not promote judicial economy or the speedy
disposition of the dispute between the parties, refusal to
allow the supplemental pleading is entirely justified.”
Stow v. McGrath, No. 17-CV-088-LM, 2018 WL 1545701,
at *3 (D.N.H. Mar. 2, 2018) (citing 6A Charles Alan Wright,
Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice
and Procedure § 1506 (3d ed. 2017)),
approved, No. 17-CV-88-LM, 2018 WL 1542324 (D.N.H.
Mar. 28, 2018). As Fed.R.Civ.P. 18 and 20 make clear,
“[u]nrelated claims against different defendants belong
in different suits, ” in part “to ensure that
prisoners pay the required filing fees, ” and that
prisoners not avoid exposure to the “three
strikes” provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).
Rule 15(d) is not an open invitation to make
“supplemental” filings that subject defendants
“to a moving target of litigation” or
“bombard the [c]ourt” with filing upon filing.
See Negron v. Turco, 253 F.Supp.3d 361, 363 (D.
assessing futility, a court may deny a motion to supplement
if the new claim fails to state a claim upon which relief
could be granted. Pelletier v. Rhode Island, No. CA
07-186 S, 2008 WL 4900951, at *1 (D.R.I. Nov. 14, 2008). That
is, “the court must accept all well-pleaded factual
allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences
favorable to the plaintiff, although it need not credit bald
assertions or legal conclusions.” Id. “A
complaint states a claim for relief when, viewed in this
manner, the factual allegations raise plaintiff's right
to relief above the speculative level.” Id.
(citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
545 (2007)). If the proposed new claims would not entitle the
claimant to relief, “it would be futile to allow him to
supplement his amended complaint” and the motion to
supplement should be denied. Pelletier, 2008 WL
4900951, at *1.
Court steps past Defendants' well-founded argument that
this motion is not proper under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(d) because
the events in issue must have happened, and clearly became
known to Plaintiff, before the date of the Second Amended
Complaint. Instead, the Court denies Plaintiff's
motion to supplement because he seeks to assert a futile
claim amounting to an unexhausted collateral attack on his
sentence not based on any violation of applicable federal
law, as well as because he seeks to bring a separate and
distinct cause of action totally unrelated to any of the
pending claims and asserted against a different defendant.
futility, because the “core” of the
Plaintiff's new claim concerns the duration of his
confinement and he does not seek money damages, it is clear
that the proposed claim must be treated as a habeas corpus
petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (“when a state
prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his
physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a
determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a
speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal
remedy is a writ of habeas corpus”); Whitman v.
Ventetuolo, 25 F.3d 1037, 1994 WL 246063, at *1 (1st
Cir. June 7, 1994) (per curiam) (when claimant
“seeks to shorten the duration of his confinement, the
district court correctly found that such relief is cognizable
only in federal habeas corpus, with its concomitant
requirement of exhaustion of state remedies”). Only
after all applicable state-law remedies have been
properly exhausted may a prisoner bring such a claim to
federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). Plaintiff argues
that his exhaustion obligation was satisfied by the filing of
a grievance, which prison officials rejected because his
claim related to the length of the sentence, a matter set by
“laws, regulations, and/or court decisions” not
covered by the Rhode Island grievance system. ECF No. 34-1 at
5. This argument might apply if he were bringing a civil
rights action for damages, but it is not correct for a habeas
petition under § 2254, which is the only federal remedy
for a challenge to the duration of a sentence.
Preiser, 411 U.S. at 494 (damages action by state
prisoner could be brought under Civil Rights Act in federal
court without any requirement of prior exhaustion of state
remedies, but challenge to sentence duration must be made in
habeas petition, which mandates pre-filing exhaustion of
state remedies). The motion to supplement also fails for
futility because he alleges only “discrepanc[ies] in
his sentencing data” and “a new conspiracy,
” ECF No. 34 at 1, but fails to explain how the
discrepancies implicate a federal constitutional or statutory
violation, which is an essential element of a federal habeas
petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (sentence must be
violative of federal constitution or laws for prisoner bring
habeas corpus claim to federal court).
suggestion that he can satisfy the essential element that all
available state law remedies have been exhausted, and with no
allegation of a federal constitutional or legal deficiency in
the calculation of his sentence, Plaintiff's motion to
supplement seeks to add a new claim for habeas corpus relief
that is not facially plausible. Accordingly, the motion to
supplement is denied as futile.
motion's other fatal flaw is the utter lack of overlap
between Plaintiff's existing claims and his new one. That
is, even if Plaintiff were able to allege that applicable
state remedies have been exhausted and that he asserts a
viable federal law challenge, the principle that courts
typically require some relationship between the original and
the later accruing material, as well as the Fed.R.Civ.P.
20(a)(2) joinder requirement that a common question of law or
fact applicable to all defendants must arise in the action,
still auger strongly against the joinder of Plaintiff's
habeas claim with the totally unrelated civil rights claims
presently asserted in the Second Amended Complaint. See
Browder v. Blackburn Corr. Complex, No. 5:06-177-JMH,
2007 WL 2363035, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Aug. 16, 2007) (where
petitioner's claims against prison mailroom clerk did not
arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences as his habeas corpus petition,
the claims should have been filed as a separate action);
Cadogan v. Vittitow, No. 2:06-CV-15235, 2007 WL
2331877, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Aug. 13, 2007), adopted,
No. 06-CV-15235, 2007 WL 2875464 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 30, 2007)
(denying motion to supplement to join habeas corpus claim
with wholly unrelated civil rights claims). “While
there may be some instances in which it is proper to pursue
habeas corpus and § 1983 relief in the same action, as a
general matter ‘in instances in which a petition [or
complaint] combines claims that should be asserted in
habeas with claims that properly may be pursued as
an initial matter under § 1983, and the claims can be
separated, federal courts should do so.'”
Cadogan, 2007 WL 2875464, at *1.
conclude, Plaintiff's motion to supplement is denied
because “the matters alleged in [this] supplemental
pleading have no relation to the claim originally set forth,
” Stow, 2018 WL 1545701, at *3, as well as
because the new claim adds an unrelated new defendant
contrary to the joinder rule in Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2).
Further, allowing supplementation will undermine judicial
economy and the speedy disposition of the dispute because the
new claim is futile and will simply lead to further delay.
And Defendants have already been prejudiced by the confusion
that Plaintiff's approach to pleading has wrought;
allowing a futile supplementation would exacerbate the
on the foregoing, the motion to supplement (ECF ...