United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
STEVEN D. COLLYMORE, Plaintiff,
LT. ROBERT MCLAUGHLIN, Defendant.
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
Sorokin United States District Judge.
reasons that follow, the Court ALLOWS IN PART and DENIES IN
PART Defendant Lieutenant Robert McLaughlin's Motion to
Dismiss (Doc. 22).
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. 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. 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.
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.
27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response to the instant Motion.
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
Plaintiffs Claims for Damages
Official Capacity Claims
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
Individual Capacity Claims
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).
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 ...