Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Collymore v. McLaughlin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 7, 2016

STEVEN D. COLLYMORE, Plaintiff,
v.
LT. ROBERT MCLAUGHLIN, Defendant.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendant Lieutenant Robert McLaughlin's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 16, 2016, Plaintiff Steven D. Collymore filed apro se Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), alleging that Defendant violated his civil rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.[1] Doc. 1 at 1, 3. When Plaintiff filed the Complaint, he was a detainee at the Nashua Street Jail, which the Suffolk County Sheriffs Department operates.[2] Doc. 1-1 at 2; Doc. 23 at 1 n.l. Plaintiff claims that Defendant, a supervisor at the jail and an employee of the Sheriffs Department, violated his civil rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Doc. 1 at 2-3. Plaintiff states that on December 21, 2013, he was working in his jail unit and one of his duties was "to pass out juice, " but Defendant "requested/ordered I stop serving juice because I was a gay male." Id. at 3. Plaintiff states that Defendant "expressly informed" him that he was not allowed, "under [any] circumstances, " to handle or serve food or beverages "due to [his] sexual orientation." Doc. 28 at 1. Plaintiff states that Defendant "knew or should have known [that] ordering [him] to cease serving juice because he was a gay male violated [his] civil rights." Doc. 1 at 3. Plaintiff sues Defendant in his personal and official capacities. Id. at 2. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, nominal damages, an injunction against Defendant not to engage in further "discriminatory practices, " and a declaratory judgment that Defendant's actions were unlawful. Id. at 4.

         On May 19, 2016, Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. Doc. 22. Defendant argues that (1) Plaintiff may not sue him in his official capacity; (2) Plaintiff has not stated a Fourteenth Amendment claim, as he has not identified any liberty interest that was violated; (3) Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, as Plaintiff has not alleged the violation of a clearly established right; and (4) Plaintiff is not entitled to either injunctive or declaratory relief. Id.

         On July 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response to the instant Motion. Doc. 37.

         II. DISCUSSION

         In considering the instant Motion, the Court must accept the Complaint's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in Plaintiffs favor. Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 16 (1st Cir. 2016). Because Plaintiff is pro se, the Court must also liberally construe the Complaint. Voravongsa v. Wall, 349 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2003). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint "must provide fair notice to the defendants" and "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bruns v. Mayhew, 750 F.3d 61, 71 (1st Cir. 2014) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citation omitted); see also id. at 679 (noting that a complaint must "permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct") (citation omitted). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679 (citation omitted).

         A. Plaintiffs Claims for Damages

         1. Official Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff sues Defendant for damages in his official capacity. Doc. 1 at 2, 4. State officials may not be sued in their official capacity for damages under Section 1983. Fantini v. Salem State College. 557 F.3d 22, 33 (1st Cir. 2009). Defendant is considered a state official because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts controls the Suffolk County Sheriffs Department and "all of its employees." Maraj v. Massachusetts, 836 F.Supp.2d 17, 25 (D. Mass. 2011) (citing Mass. St. 2009, c. 61). Thus, the Court dismisses Plaintiffs damages claims against Defendant in his official capacity.

         2. Individual Capacity Claims

         Plaintiff also sues Defendant in his personal capacity for damages. Doc. 1 at 2, 4. As a "general executive official[], " Defendant has qualified immunity to such a claim. Mulero-Carrillo v. Roman-Hernandez, 790 F.3d 99, 109 (1st Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). He is therefore immune unless the Complaint "plausibly demonstrate[s]" that (1) he violated one of Plaintiffs federal rights; and (2) the right that he violated was "clearly established, " i.e., was "sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right." Id; Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Courts must not "define clearly established law at a high level of generality" but inquire into "whether the violative nature of particular conduct is clearly established." Mullenix, 136 S.Ct. at 308 (emphasis in original; citations and internal quotation marks omitted). While there need not be a "a case directly on point, . . . existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         Defendant argues he is entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff has not stated any Fourteenth Amendment claim, let alone a claim that Defendant violated a clearly established right. See Doc. 23 at 6-8. More specifically, Defendant argues that Plaintiff has not stated a Fourteenth Amendment claim because the ability to "serve juice" is not a protected liberty interest under the Due Process Clause. Id. at 6. Judging by this argument - and by the absence of the phrase "equal protection" from the instant Motion - Defendant apparently assumes that only due process claims are cognizable under the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment contains not only the Due Process Clause but also the Equal Protection Clause. Although a plaintiff must allege the unfair deprivation of a liberty interest to state a due process claim, Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 220 (2011), a plaintiff need not have a liberty interest to state an equal protection claim. Austin v. Terhune, 367 F.3d 1167, 1170 (9th Cir. 2004); Higgason v. Farley, 83 F.3d 807, 810 (7th Cir. 1996); Moorman v. Thalacker, 83 F.3d 970, 972-73 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 487 n.ll (1995); Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 682 F.3d 1, 8 n.4 (2012). Rather, to state such a claim, a plaintiff must simply allege that "compared with others similarly situated, [he] was treated differently ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.