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Chambers v. Johnpierre

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 30, 2016

ROBERT CHAMBERS, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O JOHNPIERRE, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Robert Chambers, is currently incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Connecticut (“Cheshire”) and filed this action against Deputy Commissioner Scott Semple, Warden Jon Brighthaupt, Deputy Wardens Iweka and Walker, Correctional Officers Johnpiere[1] and Watson, Counselor Supervisor Peterson, Lieutenant Mollin[2] and Administrative Remedies Coordinator Fitzner.

         On August 11, 2015, the Court dismissed Chamberes' claim for injunctive relief regarding the conditions of his confinement at Corrigan Correctional Institution, the official capacity claims for money damages, the failure to protect claim against defendant Brighthaupt in his individual capacity, and all claims against defendants Peterson, Semple and Fitzner in their individual capacities. See Initial Review Or. at 14-15, ECF No. 11. The Court concluded that Chambers' official capacity claim seeking injunctive relief regarding policies governing grievances and property claims and the request for declaratory relief against defendants would proceed against defendants Brighthaupt, Walker, Iweka, Watson, Mollin, and Johnpiere. See Id. at 8, 15. In addition, the following individual capacity claims would proceed: (a) the retaliation claim against defendant Johnpiere regarding the destruction of Mr. Chambers's property; (b) the retaliation claim regarding the transfer of Mr. Chambers to a different facility against defendants Brighthaupt, Iweka, and Walker; (c) the failure to protect claims regarding the destruction of Mr. Chambers's property and the allegedly retaliatory transfer against defendants Brighthaupt, Walker, Iweka, and Watson, and (d) the claims of improper confiscation and reading of privileged legal materials against defendant Mollins. Id. at 15-16.

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all claims. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Allegations [3]

         In January 2010, Mr. Chambers arrived at Cheshire. In April 2013, he filed a civil rights action against seven employees of the Department of Correction, including a deputy warden from Cheshire. See Chambers v. Ruiz, et al., Case No. 3:13cv565 (AWT) (Complaint filed on April 19, 2013; judgment for defendants entered on July 9, 2015), ECF No. 22-10. None of the defendants in that action are defendants in this action.

         On February 19, 2014, correctional officials at Cheshire transferred Mr. Chambers to the restrictive housing unit (“RHU”). On that date, Officer Barriault was the Property Officer at the RHU. Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶19, ECF No. 22-11. He inventoried Mr. Chambers's personal property and completed an Inmate Property Status and Receipt form indicating that he planned to discard Chambers's Koss headphones because he did not believe that they belonged to him, that he planned to discard Chambers's digital antenna because it was broken, and that he planned to discard Chambers's photo album cover because it was in excess of the number of photo album covers that an inmate was permitted to possess. Barriault Aff. ¶6, ECF No. 22-7 (Ex. F). On February 26, 2014, Mr. Chambers allegedly signed the Inmate Property Status and Receipt form completed by Officer Barriault regarding the destruction of his three property items. Id. at ¶7.

         On February 26, 2014, prison officials released Mr. Chambers from the RHU. Later that day, Mr. Chambers visited the property room to collect his personal property items. Pl.'s Aff. ¶14-15, ECF No. 23-1 (Ex. A). Officer Johnpiere was working in the property room and informed Mr. Chambers about the three items that had already been discarded by Officer Barriault. Officer Johnpiere told Mr. Chambers that he had too many non-legal books and that any books in excess of the number permitted by the Department of Correction would be discarded. Id. at ¶¶22-25. Officer Johnpiere completed an Inmate Property Status and Receipt Form indicating that miscellaneous books possessed by the plaintiff had been discarded as excess items. The plaintiff signed this form, allegedly because Officer Johnpiere threatened to return him to the RHU if he did not. Id. at ¶¶19-20.

         On March 2, 2014, Mr. Chambers sent an Inmate Request to Counselor Supervisor Garcia about the incident involving the destruction of his personal property by Officer Johnpiere on February 26, 2014. Pl.'s Aff. ¶31. He informed Counselor Supervisor Garcia that he felt Officer Johnpiere had destroyed his property in retaliation for his 2014 lawsuit against correctional officials. Id. On March 4, 2014, Supervisor Garcia responded to Mr. Chambers's request and suggested that he write to the property office regarding his claim. Id. at ¶32. Mr. Chambers allegedly made written and verbal complaints to defendants Iweka and Walker about the retaliatory destruction of his property. Id. at 41-42. However, Mr. Chambers did not file a claim with Cheshire's Lost Property Board. See Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶7. See also Rivera Aff. ¶¶ 4-6, ECF No. 22-4 (Ex. C).

         On August 1, 2014, Counselor Supervisor Garcia submitted a request to the Office of Population and Management to transfer Mr. Chambers from Cheshire to another prison facility, allegedly because he “had been incarcerated at Cheshire for an extended period of time” and risked becoming “too comfortable with other inmates at the facility.” Garcia Aff. ¶¶4-5, ECF No. 22-5 (Ex. D). On August 8, 2014, prison officials at Cheshire transferred Mr. Chambers to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution (“Corrigan”). On September 11, 2014, Counselor Hannon, an employee at Corrigan Correctional Center, allegedly requested that Mr. Chambers be transferred the back to Cheshire. Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶16. See also Vazquez Affidavit, ¶¶7-10, ECF No. 22-6 (Ex. E). On September 17, 2014, prison officials at Cheshire transferred Mr. Chambers back to Corrigan, allegedly at the request of Population Management Counselor John Creamp. Id. at ¶17.

         Mr. Chambers allegedly wrote a written complaint to “Administration/Intelligence” about the confiscation of his privileged mail. Pl.'s Aff. ¶¶50-53. He does not allege that he filed a grievance regarding either transfer to Corrigan or his brief transfer back to Cheshire. He also does not claim to have submitted a grievance regarding the conduct of defendant Mollin, who allegedly confiscated and read his legal papers upon his transfer back to Cheshire on September 11, 2014.

         1. Grievances Procedures in the Connecticut Department of Correction

         An inmate at a Connecticut Department of Correction facility who wishes to file a grievance must follow the procedure established in Connecticut Department of Correction Administrative Directive 9.6 (“Directive”). See Administrative Directive 9.6, ECF No. 22-2 (Ex. A), Conn. Dep't of Corr. Admin. Directive 9.6, effective August 15, 2013).[4] Under the Directive, full administrative review generally occurs in three steps. First, an inmate must seek to resolve his or her complaint informally by depositing an Inmate Request Form (CN 9601) in a designated collection box. If the inmate is dissatisfied with the response to his or her Inmate Request Form or does not receive a response within fifteen days, the inmate may proceed to the second step, which is termed “Level One Review.” To initiate Level One Review, an inmate completes the Inmate Administrative Remedy Form (CN 9602). At this point, the inmate is required to provide evidence that he or she attempted to informally resolve his or her grievance by attaching the Inmate Request Form (CN 9601) to CN 9602. Id. at 9.6(6)(C). The inmate also has the option of submitting CN 9602 without attaching CN 9601 and providing a “valid reason” why he or she could not obtain the form. Id. In the Administrative Directive, the Department of Correction indicates that not receiving a “timely response” to an inmate request would be a “valid reason” for not attaching the CN 9601 form. Id. Level One Review is undertaken by the Unit Administrator, who must respond to the grievance in writing within thirty days. Id. at 8. An inmate may proceed to the third step, Level Two Review, if he or she disagrees with the Unit Administrator's judgment or does not receive a timely response. Id. Generally, Level Two Review takes place before a District Administrator and is the final stage of appeal. Level Three appeals are restricted to challenges to department policy or the integrity of the grievance procedure, or to appeals of Level Two grievances to which the District Administrator has failed to respond in a timely manner. See Id. at 9.6(6)(L).

         2. Special Grievance ...


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