United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case, Plaintiff, Thomas Santiago Bonilla, challenges the
applicability of a “cost of incarceration” lien
to the proceeds he received from the settlement of a civil
lawsuit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He argues that
the Connecticut statute creating this lien is preempted by 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Compl. ¶ 24, ECF No. 3. He seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief from this Court to prevent
Connecticut from enforcing the lien. Id. He has
named as Defendants the Commissioner of Connecticut's
Department of Correction (“DOC”), Scott Semple,
and the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of
Administrative Services, Melody Currey.
now move to dismiss Mr. Bonilla's Complaint in its
entirety, arguing that the Eleventh Amendment bars his claim
and that his Complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 18, is GRANTED.
in DOC custody, Mr. Bonilla is serving a sixty-year sentence
of imprisonment imposed in state court for murder as an
accessory and felony murder. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 14, ECF
October 2012, after his conviction, Mr. Bonilla initiated a
lawsuit pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
the three police officers who investigated and arrested him
for these crimes and who worked for the City of Waterbury,
Connecticut. Id. ¶¶ 9, 14-15; see also
Bonilla v. Tirado, Case No. 3:12-cv-01514-RNC (D.
Conn.). In this section 1983 case, he alleged claims of false
arrest, malicious prosecution, use of excessive force,
unconstitutional search of his home, and unconstitutional
conditions of confinement at the Waterbury police station.
Compl. ¶¶10-16, ECF No. 3; Initial Review Order
4-5, ECF No. 6 from Bonilla v. Tirado, Case No.
3:12-cv-01514-RNC (D. Conn.). The Court dismissed his claims
for false arrest and malicious prosecution but allowed the
others to proceed to discovery against the Defendants in
their individual capacities. Initial Review Order 4-5, ECF
No. 6 from Bonilla v. Tirado, Case No.
3:12-cv-01514-RNC (D. Conn.).
discovery was completed and the Court denied two summary
judgment motions brought by Mr. Bonilla and the Defendants,
Mr. Bonilla agreed to settle his claims against the three
officers for a payment of money. Docket Sheet from
Bonilla v. Tirado, Case No. 3:12-cv-01514-RNC (D.
Conn.); Compl. ¶¶ 17-18, ECF No. 3.
receiving notice of this settlement, officials from the
Connecticut Department of Administrative Services demanded
that Mr. Bonilla give them roughly half of the settlement
proceeds under a “cost of incarceration” lien
purportedly created by Connecticut General Statutes section
18-85b. Id. ¶¶ 20-22. They allegedly sent
Mr. Bonilla a draft complaint and indicated that they planned
to bring an action in state court to collect on the
state's lien. Id. ¶ 23. As discussed in
further detail below, section 18-85b(a) requires an inmate to
pay a portion of the costs of his incarceration from proceeds
he obtains from recoveries in civil lawsuits. Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 18-85b(a).
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. In determining
whether a complaint states a plausible entitlement to legal
relief, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the
complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from
those allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Nechis v. Oxford Health Plans, Inc.,
421 F.3d 96, 100 (2d Cir. 2005).
arguments regarding immunity may also implicate Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See e.g., Doe v.
Connecticut, Civil Action No. 3:10cv1981 (VLB), 2011 WL
5170292, at *2 (D. Conn. Oct. 31, 2011) (finding that
Eleventh Amendment immunity arguments implicate subject
matter jurisdiction); see also Tiraco v. New York State
Bd. of Elections, 963 F.Supp.2d 184, 191 n.6 (E.D.N.Y.
2013) (observing that whether motions to dismiss raising
Eleventh Amendment immunity arguments should be resolved
under Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(b)(1) is unsettled in the
Second Circuit). The standards of review for a lack of
subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) and failure
to state a plausible legal claim under Rule 12(b)(1) are
“substantively identical.” Lerner v. Fleet
Bank, N.A., 318 F.3d 113, 128 (2d Cir. 2003)
abrogated on other grounds by Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v.
Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S.Ct. 1377, 1387
(2014) as recognized by Am. Psychiatric Ass'n v.
Anthem Health Plans, Inc., 821 F.3d 352, 359
(2d Cir. 2016). However, under Rule 12(b)(1), the party
invoking the Court's jurisdiction has the burden to
demonstrate subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id.
Conversely, the movant bears the burden on a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion. Id. This distinction does not affect the
outcome in this case.
“cost of incarceration” lien statute provides, in
relevant portion, as follows
[i]n the case of causes of action of any person obligated to
pay the costs of such person's incarceration under
section 18-85a and regulations adopted in accordance with
said section. . . the claim of the state shall be a lien
against the proceeds therefrom in the amount of the costs of
incarceration or fifty per cent of the proceeds received by