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Alston v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 15, 2016

IRA ALSTON, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Ira Alston, appearing pro se, is a State of Connecticut prisoner housed at Northern Correctional Institution ("NCI") in Somers, Connecticut. Alston was convicted of manslaughter after a jury trial in Connecticut Superior Court. He was sentenced to a total effective term of thirty-five years imprisonment. Alston's conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Connecticut on direct appeal. 272 Conn. 432 (2005). His estimated release date is December 2035.

In this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 before this Court, Alston claims that the circumstances of his incarceration at NCI violate his rights under the United States Constitution. The case falls within § 1983 because the defendants are employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction ("D.O.C.") whose actions with respect to Alston were taken under color of state law.

Alston is presently housed in the Administrative Segregation unit at NCI. This is a restrictive unit. Alston was transferred to NCI by D.O.C. officials in January 2015 and placed in administrative segregation, where he has been ever since. Alston had previously been housed in a Security Risk Group ("S.R.G.") unit at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institute (MWCI").

Alston's amended complaint [Doc. 10-1], the operative pleading, alleges in its first paragraph that the named D.O.C. defendants

violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to the U.S. Constitution when they transferred and placed plaintiff on Adm. Seg. in retaliation for plaintiff having filed legitimate complaints. Plaintiff also allege[s] a Due Process claim against all the defendants for failing to afford him with adequate procedural processes in connection with his transfer, placement and continued confinement on Adm. Seg. without periodic reviews.

Thereafter, Alston filed a motion [Doc. 14] for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and/or a preliminary injunction. The injunctive relief prayed for is that the defendants be enjoined

from continuing to retaliate against the plaintiff by his prolong [sic] administrative segregation confinement without any reviews geared towards determining the appropriateness of the administrative segregation confinement.

Doc. 14-3, at 4. Alston also moved for a temporary restraining order "effective immediately and pending the hearing and determination of this matter, " which if granted would direct defendants "to arrange and cause the plaintiff to be transferred to general population." Id.

The Court denied plaintiff's motion for a TRO and scheduled his motion for a preliminary injunction for an expedited evidentiary hearing. That hearing extended over several days in the New Haven courthouse. Alston conducted the hearing pro se. He had to be transported each day to and from the Northern facility, presumably so named because Somers is situated to the north of Hartford, close to the Massachusetts border. Defendants were represented by a Connecticut Assistant Attorney General stationed in Hartford.

Both sides rested at the conclusion of the morning session on March 10, 2015, subject only to the question of whether the Court should enlarge the testimonial record in two respects. Having considered the matter, I now decline to do so. First, the two inmates Alston says may have overheard a conversation between Alston and MWCI Warden Chapdelaine have since been released from state confinement and control. Second, the NCI psychologist, Dr. Frayne, gave direct testimony as a witness called by the defendants, but that testimony is not relevant to the issues as they have developed on Alston's motion for a preliminary injunction, and the Court will not consider this testimony in resolving that motion.[1] Accordingly there is no need to recall Dr. Frayne for cross-examination by Alston on this motion.

The Court will require two additional submissions by defendants before this motion is decided. Before I come to them, an additional observation should be made.

During colloquy at the end of the March 10 session, counsel for the D.O.C. defendants seemed to argue that the motion hearing had been unnecessarily extended by the taking of evidence on Alston's retaliation claim, which counsel suggested was not relevant to whether the requested preliminary injunction should issue. It is puzzling if counsel does indeed make that contention, since the same able and experienced AAG represented Connecticut Department of Corrections defendants in the strikingly similar case of Lopez v. McEwan, et al., No. 3:08-cv-678 (JCH), 2010 WL 326206 (D.Conn. Jan. 22, 2010).

Lopez was a § 1983 action in which the pro se plaintiff, an inmate at NCI, was initially housed "in Closed Custody in the 2-East Unit at NCI, on single-cell, recreation-only, status with some personal property privileges." 2010 WL 326206, at *1. "On Friday, March 7, 2008, Lopez was moved to Phase 1 of Administrative Segregation in Unit 1-East." Id., at *4. Lopez resisted that move. He claimed that "his housing was moved because of the allegations he made regarding an improper ...

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