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Myers v. Murphy

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 28, 2016

SHAUN MYERS, Plaintiff,
D. MURPHY, et al., Defendants.


Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

Plaintiff, Shaun Myers, currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, has filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986. Compl., ECF No. 1. The Court received his Complaint on November 30, 2015, and granted his Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on December 2, 2015.

Defendants are Correctional Officers D. Murphy, Lukasiewski and Rentz, Lieutenant Marston, Counselor Supervisor B. Griggs, Acting Commissioner “John Doe #2, ” and Director of Classification “John Doe #1.” Mr. Myers asserts a number of legal claims arising out of his allegations that the Defendants used excessive force against him and placed him in segregation without affording him due process. He seeks damages from the Defendants in their individual capacities and declaratory relief in their official capacities. Compl. at Request for Relief.

I. Standard of Review

Under 28 U.S.C. §1915A, the Court must review civil complaints filed by prisoners seeking redress from a governmental entity or employee and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Although detailed allegations are not required, to survive this review, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 570 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In addition, because Mr. Myers is pro se, the Court must construe his Complaint liberally and interpret it “‘to raise the strongest arguments that [it] suggest[s].’” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)).

II. Factual Allegations

Although Mr. Myers states that, at all times relevant to this Complaint, he was a pretrial detainee confined at the Walker building of the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, Compl. ¶3, ECF No. 1, he alleges that the incident underlying the Complaint occurred while he was confined at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, id. ¶10.

On May 6, 2014, Mr. Myers claims that he was alone in his cell listening to his CD player and watching television, when Defendant Murphy allegedly began using racially derogatory language and harassing Mr. Myers through the cell door. Id. ¶10-13. Shortly thereafter, Defendants Murphy, Lukasiewski and Rentz allegedly approached Mr. Myers cell without a supervisor or video camera and opened the door. Id. ¶15. Defendant Murphy allegedly continued the verbal harassment and told Mr. Myers to stand up and put on his shoes. Id. ¶16. Mr. Myers claims that, at Defendant Murphy’s request, Defendants Rentz and Lukasiewski obstructed the view of the cell. Id. ¶17. Defendant Murphy then allegedly struck Mr. Myers about the face and head with closed fists, without provocation. Id. ¶19. When he dropped to the floor, Defendants Rentz and Lukasiewski allegedly joined Defendant Murphy in assaulting Mr. Myers by punching, kicking and elbowing him and hitting him with handcuffs. Id. ¶21. The Defendants allegedly continued to use racial epithets and encouraged Mr. Myers to fight back. Id. ¶¶19-22. As a result of the Defendants’ conduct, Mr. Myers claims that he suffered swelling to his face, head and body, abrasions to his lips and body, as well as mental and psychological injuries. Id. ¶ 23.

Defendant Marston allegedly arrived during the assault but did not intercede to prevent Defendants Murphy, Rentz and Lukasiewski from assaulting Mr. Myers. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Although Mr. Myers alleges that he was not resisting, he claims that Defendant Marston deployed a chemical agent. Id. ¶ 29. Defendant Marston also allegedly ordered Mr. Myers to be placed on in-cell restraints, consisting of handcuffs and shackles connected by a tether chain, for fourteen hours. Id. ¶¶ 33-34. As a result of being placed on in-cell restraints, Mr. Myers allegedly suffered lacerations to his wrists and ankles and experienced mental and emotional damages. Id. ¶ 35.

On May 8, 2014, Mr Myers alleges that Defendant Doe #1 ordered him to be transferred to administrative segregation at Northern Correctional Institution, without prior notice. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Mr. Myers contends that Defendant Griggs provided him with a hearing on June 16, 2014. Id. ¶ 39. Mr. Myers also alleges that the hearing was based on a false claim that he had assaulted Defendant Murphy on May 6 and that he was not shown any evidence against him. Id. ¶¶40, 42. He claims that Defendant Griggs told him that he had been criminally prosecuted for assault of a Department of Correction employee, when he was charged only with disorderly conduct. Id. ¶¶ 40-42. On August 2, 2014, Mr. Myers allegedly received notice that Defendant Griggs approved his confinement on administrative segregation status without an adequate basis. Id. ¶ 43. Mr. Myers contends that Defendant Doe #2 denied his appeal of the decision and, in doing so, that he “allowed” due process violations to occur. Id. ¶¶ 46-47.

III. Discussion

Mr. Myers asserts federal claims for use of excessive force against Defendants Murphy, Rentz, Lukasiewski and Marston, failure to protect against Defendant Marston, and denial of due process against Defendants Griggs, Doe #1 and Doe #2. He also asserts state law claims for assault, battery, and unlawful restraint against Defendant Marston.

“‘[T]he Due Process Clause protects a pretrial detainee from the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment.’” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 n.10 (1989)). The Court applies an objective standard in assessing an excessive force claim brought by a pretrial detainee. The “pretrial detainee must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable.” Id.

Mr. Myers alleges that Defendants Murphy, Rentz, Lukasiewski, and Marston used force against him when he was not resisting or violating any prison rules and ordered him confined on in-cell restraints without justification. At this stage, these allegations are sufficient to state plausible federal claims for use of excessive force, failure to protect, and supplemental state law claims for assault, battery and unlawful restraint. The claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง1985, addressing conspiracies to interfere with civil ...

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