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Sosa v. CT Dept. of Corrections

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Britain, New Britain

October 8, 2015

Andres R. Sosa
v.
CT Dept. of Corrections, Comm. Scott Semple et al

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION TO DISMISS #104

Marcia J. Gleeson, J.

FACTS

This is a civil action by an inmate, [1] Andres Sosa, for compensatory, declaratory, and injunctive relief, arising under the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against employees of the department of correction, including commissioner Scott Semple, warden Carol Chapdelaine, and district administrator Angel Quiros.[2] The action primarily concerns the constitutionality of a portion of department of correction Administrative Directive § 10.6, [3] prohibiting prisoners from receiving contact visits for a two-year period for each individual class A or B disciplinary report.

On December 5, 2014, the plaintiff filed a complaint, dated November 18, 2014, against the defendants. The plaintiff alleges that, on August 9, 2014, he was given a class A disciplinary report for masturbating inside his own cell. The plaintiff alleges that he was issued several sanctions, including an automatic two-year loss of contact visits, pursuant to Administrative Directive § 10.6. The plaintiff claims that the two-year restriction on contact visits is not a permissible penalty under Administrative Directive § 9.5.[4]

The plaintiff further alleges that during his seventeen years of incarceration, he has been deprived of physical contact with family and friends for a period of twelve or more years, and was not provided with a due process hearing in which to appeal the denial of his contact visits. The plaintiff claims that this fact showed that the defendants have created an unconstitutional " custom policy."

The plaintiff alleges that the only notice provided by the defendants was in 2001, and the notice stated that the plaintiff will be deprived of contact visits for (1) intoxication, (2) assault, (3) refusal to give urine specimen, (4) visiting room misconduct, and (5) contraband. The plaintiff states that the only listed violation that he is actually guilty of was fighting in 2001.

On March 12, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the entire action. On April 22, 2015, the plaintiff filed an objection to the motion. The matter was heard at short calendar on June 22, 2015.

II

DISCUSSION

[A] motion to dismiss . . . properly attacks the jurisdiction of the court, essentially asserting that the plaintiff cannot as a matter of law and fact state a cause of action that should be heard by the court." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Santorso v. Bristol Hospital, 308 Conn. 338, 350, 63 A.3d 940 (2013). " [J]urisdiction over the person, jurisdiction over the [subject matter], and jurisdiction to render the particular judgment are three separate elements of the jurisdiction of a court." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Morgan v. Hartford Hospital, 301 Conn. 388, 401, 21 A.3d 451 (2011).

" Pursuant to the rules of practice, a motion to dismiss is the appropriate motion for raising a lack of subject matter jurisdiction." St. George v. Gordon, 264 Conn. 538, 545, 825 A.2d 90 (2003). " [T]he doctrine of sovereign immunity implicates subject matter jurisdiction and is therefore a basis for granting a motion to dismiss." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Housatonic R.R. Co. v. Comm'r of Revenue Servs., 301 Conn. 268, 274, 21 A.3d 759 (2011).

The doctrine of federal qualified immunity also implicates the court's subject matter jurisdiction, and is a proper ground for the motion to dismiss. Chapman v. Chapdelaine, Superior Court, judicial district of Tolland, Docket No. CV-12-5005693-S, 2013 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2348 (October 17, 2013, Graham, J.) (56 Conn. L. Rptr. 932, 933), citing Housatonic R.R. Co. v. Comm'r of Revenue Servs., 301 Conn. 268, 274, 21 A.3d 759 (2011), and Tuchman v. State, 89 Conn.App. 745, 747, 763, 878 A.2d 384, cert. denied, 275 Conn. 920, 883 A.2d 1252 (2005). See also Miller v. Arnone, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV-13-5034503-S, 2015 Conn. Super. LEXIS 228 (January 30, 2015, Wilson, J.); Brahm v. Newbould, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV-12-5034199-S, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3150 (December 26, 2012, Zemetis, J.); Brody v. Arnone, Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Docket No. CV-11-5035229-S, 2011 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1446 (June 2, 2011, Domnarski, J.).

" Trial courts addressing motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to § 10-31(a)(1) may encounter different situations, depending on the status of the record in the case . . . [L]ack of subject matter jurisdiction may be found in any one of three instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts . . . Different rules and procedures will apply, depending on the state of the record at the time the motion is filed." (Citation omitted; footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Conboy v. State, 292 Conn. 642, 650-51, 974 A.2d 669 (2009). " When a trial court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pretrial motion to dismiss on the basis of the complaint alone, it must consider the allegations of the complaint in their most favorable light . . . In this regard, a court must take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint, including those facts necessarily implied from the allegations, construing them in a manner most favorable to the pleader." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 651.

The defendants move to dismiss the entire action on the grounds that the claims against them are barred by sovereign immunity and/or qualified immunity. More specifically, the defendants move to dismiss the action on the ground that sovereign immunity bars the plaintiff's claims for monetary damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against them in their official capacity. In addition, the defendants move to dismiss the action on the ground that qualified immunity bars any monetary damage claims against them in their individual capacity. In the alternative, the defendants move to dismiss claims for monetary damages against them in their individual capacity on the ground that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the individual defendants.

The plaintiff counters that all three exceptions to sovereign immunity apply in the present case, and that sovereign immunity does not bar the plaintiff's action. In particular, the plaintiff argues that the second exception applies because he has properly brought due process and first amendment claims against the defendants. In addition, the plaintiff argues that the third exception to sovereign immunity applies because the two-year restriction on contact visits is not a permissible penalty under Administrative Directive § 9.5, and that the defendants have thus acted in excess of statutory authority.

As to qualified immunity, the plaintiff argues that the defendants violated clearly established constitutional rights, and that it was not objectively reasonable for them to believe that they were not violating the law. As such, the plaintiff contends that qualified immunity does not bar the claims against the defendants in their individual capacity.

A

Eleventh Amendment Immunity

The plaintiff seeks compensatory, declaratory, and injunctive relief for claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the first and fourteenth amendments against the defendants in their official capacity.

" [W]hen sovereign immunity is claimed as a defense to a cause of action pursuant to § 1983, federal sovereign immunity jurisprudence preempts analysis under state law." Sullins v. Rodriguez, 281 Conn. 128, 133, 913 A.2d 415 (2007). " Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has taken the view that Congress did not intend to defeat traditional notions of sovereign immunity in enacting § 1983. Quern v. Jordan, [440 U.S. 332, 341, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979)]. Instead, these principles inform the meaning of the term 'person' as used in § 1983." Sullins v. Rodriguez, supra, 140.

" A state, as an entity having immunity under the eleventh amendment to the United States constitution, is not a 'person' within the meaning of § 1983 and thus is not subject to suit under § 1983 in either federal court or state court . . . This rule also extends to state officers sued in their official capacities." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Miller v. Egan, 265 Conn. 301, 311, 828 A.2d 549 (2003). " [A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office . . . As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself." (Citation omitted.) Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989). " 'A suit generally may not be maintained directly against the State itself, or against an agency or department of the State, unless the State has waived its sovereign immunity.' Florida Dep't of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670, 684, 102 S.Ct. 3304, 73 L.Ed.2d 1057 (1982). Suits seeking monetary damages may not be brought against the state or its agencies and departments, pursuant to § 1983; rather, only suits for injunctive relief may be maintained against the state. Quern v. Jordan, [ supra, 440 U.S. at 338] (1979). State officers acting in their official capacity may, typically, only be sued for injunctive or declaratory relief. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 757, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 144 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999)." Richards v. Conn. Dep't of Corr., 349 F.Supp.2d 278, 288 (D.Conn. 2004).

In the present case, because the state has not waived sovereign immunity, the state and its officials and employees are immune from claims seeking monetary damages resulting from the performance of their official duties. The remaining issue is whether the defendants ...


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