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Rodriguez v. Massachusetts Parole Board

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 22, 2017




         Plaintiff Jose Rodriguez, proceeding pro se, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 alleging violations of Massachusetts law and the federal constitution. Rodriguez seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the Massachusetts Parole Board (“Parole Board”) and three groups of defendants: the “Parole Board defendants, ” who are past or current Parole Board members (Josh Wall, Cesar Archilla, Charlene Bonner, Sheila Dupre, Tonomey Coleman, Lucy Soto-Abbe, and Ina Howard-Hogan); the “DOC defendants, ” who are current employees of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections (Thomas A. Turco III and Richard Pizzuto); and the “District Attorney defendants” (Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey and Assistant District Attorney Marguerite Grant).

         On July 19, 2016, the Court dismissed all counts against the Parole Board as a state agency but allowed the counts against the individual defendants to proceed. [ECF No. 14]. Now before the Court are three motions: 1) Rodriguez's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction [ECF No. 10], which the Parole Board and District Attorney defendants oppose [ECF No. 42]; 2) the Parole Board and District Attorney defendants' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 41], which Rodriguez opposes [ECF No. 52]; and 3) the DOC defendants' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 55], which Rodriguez also opposes [ECF No. 66]. For the reasons stated below, this Court hereby GRANTS the motions to dismiss submitted by the DOC, Parole Board, and District Attorney defendants, and DENIES Rodriguez's motion for a TRO or preliminary injunction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Rodriguez is a Massachusetts state prisoner serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole following convictions in the late 1970's. [ECF No. 20 (hereinafter the “Complaint”) at ¶¶ 1b, 16]. On July 16, 2013, he had his third parole hearing in front of the Parole Board. Id. at 18. At that hearing, two of the Parole Board defendants, Defendant Bonner and Defendant Wall, allegedly examined Rodriguez's Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report including sealed juvenile records. Id. at ¶¶ 19-21. ADA Grant, who was present at the Parole Board hearing, also allegedly provided CORI and juvenile records to the Parole Board. Id. at ¶ 1e. The Parole Board, partially relying on this information, refused to parole Rodriguez. Id. at ¶ 29. The allegations that CORI and juvenile offender records were relied upon in denying Rodriguez parole form the basis for the counts in the amended complaint against the Parole Board defendants, id. at Counts 1-9, 14, 17, and for some of the counts against the District Attorney defendants, id. at Counts 14, 16.

         Rodriguez also alleges that the DOC defendants have kept him at custody levels (i.e. minimum, medium, and maximum security) higher than the one warranted by his situation through the use of a “Class C Non-Discretionary Override, ” which overrides his objective classification score. Id. at ¶¶ 38-40; see also 103 Mass. Code Regs. 420.06 (definitions of “non- discretionary override” and “objective classification system”). Rodriguez asserts that the Parole Board's refusal to grant him parole blocks his ability to obtain a lower security designation in prison. Compl. at ¶¶ 47-49, 59. According to Rodriguez, the DOC defendants violated their own rules and regulations by keeping him at a high security facility, and, further, the regulations pertaining to Class C Non-Discretionary Overrides are unconstitutional. Id. at ¶¶ 60-61. These claims form the basis for the counts against the DOC defendants. Id. at Counts 10, 11, 13, 14.

         Rodriguez next claims that District Attorney Defendant Morrissey entered into an unlawful agreement with the DOC defendants to keep Rodriguez in a higher security setting, id. at ¶¶ 61-62, and that the District Attorney defendants used the Parole Board's decision denying parole as an exhibit to their opposition to Rodriguez's motion for a new trial in the Norfolk Superior Court, id. at ¶¶ 50, 65, in violation of the state and federal constitutions. Id. at ¶¶ 65-66. These facts form the basis for the remaining counts against the District Attorney defendants. Id. at Counts 12, 15.


         All defendants named in the pending complaint have filed motions to dismiss pursuant to either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (lack of subject matter jurisdiction) or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted).

         a. Standard of Review

         To withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Assessing the plausibility of a claim is a two-step process. “First, the court must sift through the averments in the complaint, separating conclusory legal allegations (which may be disregarded) from allegations of fact (which must be credited). Second, the court must consider whether the winnowed residue of factual allegations gives rise to a plausible claim to relief.” Rodriguez- Reyes v. Molina-Rodriguez, 711 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Along with all well-pleaded facts, the Court must draw all logical inferences from a complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Frappier v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 750 F.3d 91, 96 (1st Cir. 2014). “If the factual allegations in the complaint are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of mere conjecture, the complaint is open to dismissal.” Rodriguez-Reyes, 711 F.3d at 53 (quoting SEC v. Tambone, 597 F.3d 436, 442 (1st Cir. 2010) (en banc)).

         “When considering a motion to dismiss under subsection 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court should apply a standard of review ‘similar to that accorded a dismissal for failure to state a claim' under subsection 12(b)(6).” Menge v. N. Am. Specialty Ins. Co., 905 F.Supp.2d 414, 416 (D.R.I. 2012) (quoting Murphy v. United States, 45 F.3d 520, 522 (1st Cir. 1995)). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) is the usual vehicle for dismissal under the Eleventh Amendment. Sepulveda v. UMass Corr. Health Care, 160 F.Supp.3d 371, 383 (D. Mass. 2016).

         b. Claims Under the Federal Constitution

         i. Fourth, Fifth, and ...

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