Sioleski v. Fischer et al
DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING Defendant McGrain's 18 Motion to Dismiss.Signed by William M. Skretny, Chief Judge U.S.D.C. on 12/4/2012. (Clerk to follow up.) (MEAL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
ROBERT R. SIOLESKI,
DECISION AND ORDER
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONAL SERVICES,
CORRECTIONS OFFICER G. McGRAIN,
LIEUTENANT (RET.) JUDD SULLIVAN, and
CORRECTIONS OFFICER J. ISSACS,
Presently before this Court is Defendant Corrections Officer G. McGrain’s Motion
to Dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against him.1 (Docket No. 18.) For the reasons that follow,
McGrain’s motion is granted.
Plaintiff, an inmate at the Elmira Correctional Facility (“ECF”), is a Native American
who wore his hair consistent with Native American religious and cultural styles for more
than 20 years.2 On April 20, 2010, McGrain and Defendant “Lieutenant ?”3 challenged
whether Plaintiff’s Native American hairstyle was “legal” in the facility. McGrain said, “you
tell me this hairstyle is on your I.D [?].” In response, Plaintiff produced his identification,
but McGrain and Defendant “Lieutenant ?” were not satisfied. They allegedly “locked
[Plaintiff] in” for about an hour until they determined that his hairstyle was permissible.
Upon screening, this Court found that Plaintiff’s allegations, liberally construed, were
This Court previously found that the operative pleading in this action is the Second Am ended
Com plaint — First Claim (Docket No. 5, § 5A, at 4-5) and the Third Am ended Com plaint — First, Second,
and “New Am ended” claim s (Docket No. 12). See Docket No. 13. McGrain is nam ed in only the first
claim s of the Second and Third Am ended Com plaints. For purposes of this m otion, the facts alleged in
Plaintiff’s Second and Third Am ended Com plaints (Docket Nos. 5 and 12) are assum ed to be true.
For purposes of this m otion, the facts alleged in Plaintiff’s Second and Third Am ended
Com plaints (Docket Nos. 5 and 12) are assum ed to be true.
“Lieutenant ?” presum ably is Defendant Judd Sullivan. See Docket No. 13.
sufficient to order service of the complaint as alleging a First Amendment religious-liberty
claim and a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. (Docket Nos. 10, 13.)
McGrain now moves to dismiss these claims against him. Rule 12 (b)(6) allows
dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6). When determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court must
construe it liberally, accept all factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. ATSI Commc’ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87,
98 (2d Cir. 2007).
“To survive a motion to dismiss, 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,
__ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1945, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Facial plausibility
exists when the facts alleged allow for a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct charged. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The plausibility standard is not,
however, a probability requirement: the pleading must show, not merely allege, that the
pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 1950; Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (a)(2). Well-pleaded allegations
must nudge the claim “across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S.
Even construing Plaintiff’s First Amendment and RLUIPA claims in the most liberal
fashion possible, and drawing the strongest inferences in Plaintiff’s favor, this Court
reaches the inescapable conclusion that the claims must be dismissed. To sustain either
claim, Plaintiff must prove that he was subjected to a “substantial burden” on his religious
practices. See Ramsey v. Goord, 661 F.Supp.2d 370, 395 (W.D.N.Y. 2009) (“Whether
asserted under the First Amendment or the RLUIPA, a religious liberty claim requires the
prisoner to demonstrate ‘that the disputed conduct substantially burdens his sincerely held
religious beliefs.’” (quoting Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 263, 274-75 (2d Cir. 2006)). A
substantial burden is one that “pressures [Plaintiff] to commit an act forbidden by his
religion or prevents him from engaging in conduct or having a religious experience
mandated by his faith.” Brown v. Graham, No. 9:07-CV-1353, 2010 WL 6428251, at *15
(N.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2010).
Under any formulation — and Plaintiff has now stated his claim at least three
different times — McGrain’s decision to “lock in” Plaintiff for an hour while he investigated
the legality of Plaintiff’s haircut does not raise a plausible claim that McGrain substantially
burdened Plaintiff’s religious beliefs or practices. The most that could be said is that
Plaintiff was inconvenienced, which is not actionable. See Brown, 2010 WL 6428251 at
*15 (holding that “the interference must be more than an inconvenience”); Alameen v.
Coughlin, 892 F.Supp. 440, 448 (E.D.N.Y. 1995) (similar). Defendant McGrain’s motion
will therefore be granted.
IT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that Defendant McGrain’s Motion to Dismiss (Docket No.
18) is GRANTED.
December 4, 2012
Buffalo, New York
/s/William M. Skretny
WILLIAM M. SKRETNY
United States District Court
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