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Lewis v. Lee

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 6, 2016

KACEY LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
MAURICE LEE, et al., Defendants.

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The plaintiff, Kacey Lewis, currently incarcerated at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, Connecticut, has filed a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000). He names as defendants, Dr. Maurice Lee and Nurse Jill Burnes. The defendants are named in their individual and official capacities. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants caused him to be forcibly injected with psychotropic drugs as punishment.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (2000), the court must review prisoner civil complaints 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. Id. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Although detailed allegations are not required, 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 right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “pro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.’” 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)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

I. Allegations

On twenty dates, between November 25, 2011, and May 8, 2013, Dr. Lee ordered the plaintiff forcibly injected with Haldol. The drug caused the plaintiff to suffer tardive dyskinesia, an irreversible neurological disorder characterized by involuntary and uncontrollable muscle movement. In 2013, Dr. Lee told the plaintiff that Haldol had caused the tardive dyskinesia. This diagnosis was confirmed by another doctor in August 2014.

In 2012, Dr. Lee ordered the plaintiff confined in a housing unit designated for inmates with profound mental illness. The placement was punishment for the plaintiff’s refusal to speak to mental health staff, including Dr. Lee. The placement was not related to the plaintiff’s physical or mental health. Dr. Lee used medication to punish the plaintiff when he increased the dosage of psychotropic drugs that were forcibly injected into the plaintiff against his will. During this period, the plaintiff suffered constant lethargy and dizziness. He was unable to stand for longer than a few minutes without becoming dizzy. He also experienced fainting spells, which caused him to collapse.

On March 4, 2014, defendant Burnes placed the plaintiff in restrictive housing without due process and used the involuntary medication panel to forcibly inject him with psychotropic drugs as punishment.

II. Discussion

The Supreme Court has held that the right to substantive due process is violated if a person is subjected to conduct “so brutal and offensive to human dignity as to shock the conscience.” Vega v. Rell, No. 3:09-cv-737(VLB), 2012 WL 2860793, at *7 (D. Conn. July 9, 2012) (quoting Silvera v. Department of Corrections, No. 3:09-cv-1398(VLB), 2012 WL 877219, at *15 (D. Conn. Mar. 14, 2012) (quotation marks omitted)). In the prisoner context, the Supreme Court has found that the transfer to a mental hospital and the involuntary administration of psychotropic medication meet this standard. Id. (citing Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 479 n. 4 (1995)).

The plaintiff alleges that Dr. Lee forcibly administered psychotropic drugs against his wishes without any medical necessity. Thus, he has alleged a plausible claim for denial of his right to substantive due process. See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 222 (1990) (substantive due process protects prisoner from involuntary administration of psychotropic drugs unless such treatment in best interest of inmate).

The plaintiff alleges that both defendants administered psychotropic drugs to him solely as punishment. In Helling v.McKinney, 509 U.S. 25 (1993), the Supreme Court recognized an Eighth Amendment claim for exposure to secondhand smoke, based upon the possibility that exposure “might ‘unreasonably endanger[]’ a prisoner’s future health.” Harrison v. Barkley, 219 F.3d 132, 142 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting Helling, 509 U.S. at 35). To establish such a claim, the prisoner was required to show that the condition was “contrary to current standards of decency.” Helling, 509 U.S. at 35. Use of psychotropic medications only as punishment and not for treatment of any serious mental health conditions could endanger the plaintiff’s health and would violate current standards of decency. Thus, the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims also will proceed at this time.

ORDERS

In accordance with the foregoing analysis, the court enters the following orders:

(1) The Clerk shall verify the current work addresses of defendants Lee and Burnes with the Department of Correction Office of Legal Affairs, mail a waiver of service of process request packet to each defendant at the confirmed address within twenty-one (21) days of this Order, and report to the court on the status of the waiver request on the thirty-fifth (35) day after mailing. If any defendant fails to return the waiver request, the Clerk shall make arrangements for in-person service by the U.S. Marshals Service on the defendant in his or her ...


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