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Todd v. Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility Warden Cory Riendeau

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

May 23, 2019

Khamin Todd
v.
Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility Warden Cory Riendeau, and NCF Chef FNU Sol [1]

          Khamin Todd, pro se.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Andrea K. Johnstone, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff, Khamin Todd, an African American inmate at the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility (“NCF”), has filed a complaint (Doc. No. 1) alleging racial harassment and discrimination. The matter is before the court for preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and LR 4.3 (d) (1).

         Preliminary Review Standard

         The court conducts a preliminary review of prisoner complaints filed in forma pauperis. See LR 4.3(d)(1); see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e) (2), 1915A. The court construes pro se complaints liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). In considering whether the complaint states a claim, the court determines whether, stripped of legal conclusions, and with all reasonable inferences construed in plaintiff's favor, the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief'” upon which relief can be granted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). Claims may be dismissed, sua sponte, if, among other things, the court lacks jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, or the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 (e) (2), 1915A (b) (1); LR 4.3 (d) (1) (A).

         Background

         Todd asserts that while working in the NCF Kitchen on September 8, 2018, he approached NCF Chef Sol to ask if Todd could be promoted or assigned to a different prison kitchen job. Sol told Todd that he would have to work like “Kunta Kinte” in that new position. Todd considered Sol's reference to Kunta Kinte, the African slave, captured and beaten in Alex Haley's Roots, to be racist, offensive, and humiliating. Todd obtained witness statements of other inmates in October 2018, corroborating Todd's description of Sol's comments and reporting that Sol had made other racist comments in the past. See Oct. 9, 2018 Statement of Aaron Bonds (Doc. No. 1-1, at 1); Oct. 25, 2018 Statement of James Beverly (Doc. No. 1-1, at 2). When Todd reported what Sol had said to Corrections Officer Snyder, Snyder told Todd he should not return to the kitchen until the incident was resolved. See Sept. 10, 2018 Inmate Request Slip (“IRS”) (Doc. No. 1-1, at 3). Todd alleged he suffered emotional distress and had trouble sleeping because of the incident. Sept. 11, 2018 Grievance (Doc. No. 1-1, at 5).

         Todd complained to Sol's NCF Kitchen supervisor Joe Pelletier after the incident. Pelletier offered Todd the opportunity to work a different shift in the kitchen, but Todd declined, explaining that he could not see himself working where racist comments are displayed and racism takes place. Sept. 11, 2018 Grievance (Doc. No. 1-1, at 5). An exhibit attached to the complaint indicates that Todd was placed on “No Job Available Status” on September 24, 2018, “due to reasons other than disciplinary or being threatening to institutional security.” N.H. Dep't of Corr., Placement on Reduced Pay or No. Job Available Status (Doc. No. 1-1, at 7).

         Todd submitted an IRS about Sol's remark, followed by a grievance to Warden Riendeau in September 2018. See Sept. 10, 2018 IRS (Doc. No. 1-1, at 3); Sept. 11, 2018 Grievance (Doc. No. 1-1, at 5). Riendeau responded to Todd's administrative complaints by stating that Riendeau had confirmed that NCF staff member Director Hanson was aware of the incident and would investigate the matter further, in connection with Hanson's supervisory responsibilities over the NCF Kitchen. See Sept. 19, 2018 Response (Doc. No. 1-1, at 3).

         The complaint asserts the following claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law:

1. Chef Sol violated Todd's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection, in that Sol responded to Todd's request for a new job by making a humiliating racist remark, saying Todd could have or hold that new position only if Todd worked as hard as Kunta Kinte, rendering Sol liable under § 1983.
2. Defendant Warden Riendeau violated Todd's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by failing to prevent or respond adequately to Sol's use of racist remarks in the NCF Kitchen, rendering Riendeau liable under § 1983.
3. Defendants are liable for damages for tortious conduct ...

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