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Altayeb v. Chapdelaine

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 16, 2016

BECKER ALTAYEB, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROL CHAPDELAINE, CTO PERRY, C/O JOHN DOE 1, C/O JOHN DOE 2, C/O JOHN DOE 3, C/O JOHN DOE 4, C/O JANE DOE 1, C/O JANE DOE 2, C/O JANE DOE 3, C/O JANE DOE 4, NURSE JOHN DOE 1, NURSE JOHN DOE 2, NURSE JOHN DOE 3, NURSE JOHN DOE 4, NURSE JOHN DOE 5, NURSE JANE DOE 1, NURSE JANE DOE 2, NURSE JANE DOE 3, NURSE JANE DOE 4, NURSE JANE DOE 5, Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Becker Altayeb (“Altayeb”), incarcerated and pro se, has filed a Complaint [Doc. 1] asserting 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and certain state-law claims. The Defendants are Warden Carol Chapdelaine, Correctional Treatment Officer Perry, Correctional Officers John Doe 1-4, Correctional Officers Jane Doe 1-4, and Nurses John/Jane Doe 1-5. All Defendants are named in their individual capacities only.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors and dismiss any portion of the complaint that “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted” or that “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Second Circuit precedent, a pro se complaint is adequately pled, and thus passes a § 1915A review, if its allegations, liberally construed, could “conceivably give rise to a viable claim.” Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 130 (2d Cir. 2005). The Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive dismissal unless its factual recitations "'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'" See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro 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 rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         The Second Circuit reviews a district court's dismissal of a prisoner's complaint under § 1915A de novo and will "reverse a district court's dismissal pursuant to § 1915A whenever a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated." Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Wynn v. Southward, 257 F.3d 588, 591-92 (7th Cir. 2001)). Moreover, reiterating this point, in the § 1915A context, the Second Circuit in Larkin cited and quoted approvingly from Desiderio v. Nat'l Ass'n of Sec. Dealers, Inc., 191 F.3d 198, 202 (2d Cir. 1999) that it "will not affirm the dismissal of a complaint unless it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief." Larkin, 318 F.3d at 139.

         II. ALLEGATIONS

         Altayeb was transferred to the MacDougall Correctional Institution on April 3, 2014. During the intake interview, Altayeb told correctional staff he was concerned for his personal safety because he was a Muslim/Arab. He repeated these concerns to Warden Chapdelaine when she toured his housing unit. Warden Chapdelaine told Altayeb that he was over-reacting.

         During July and August 2014, Altayeb told Correctional Officers John Doe 1-4 and Jane Doe 1-4 that several inmates had threatened him. They called him a terrorist and said that they were going to “get him for what Arabs are doing to our country.” Doc. 1 at 5, ¶ 15. Defendants Correctional Officers Doe told Altayeb that he would get what was coming to him. Altayeb relayed these comments and his concerns to Defendant Perry, who told him not to pay attention to the comments and characterized the comments as childishness.

         On August 14, 2014, over Altayeb's objection, Defendant Perry moved inmate Williams into Altayeb's cell. Inmate Williams made a derogatory remark toward Altayeb based on his faith, which Defendant Perry heard. Altayeb asked to be removed and Defendant Perry laughed it off. Inmate Williams was a former soldier who had served in Afghanistan, which Defendant Perry also knew. That afternoon, while Altayeb was sleeping, inmate Williams attacked Altayeb and called him a terrorist. Inmate Williams stabbed Altayeb in the chest, broke a fan over his head and hit him in the chest and ribs. Altayeb tried to bang on the cell door for help but Correctional Officers Doe did nothing. After another inmate called Correctional Officers Doe, they eventually came to the cell and deployed a chemical agent. Both inmates were handcuffed.

         Altayeb was taken to the medical unit to have his eyes washed and brought to the segregation unit. At the medical unit, Defendants Nurses John/Jane Doe 1-5 refused to treat Altayeb's stab wounds and other injuries. He received no medical care from August 14, 2014, through August 21, 2014, on which day Altayeb was transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility. Medical staff there ordered him taken to the hospital for treatment of several broken ribs, a concussion, and infected stab wounds.

         Between August 14 and 21, 2014, Altayeb repeatedly requested that Defendants Correctional Officers Doe call the state police so he could file a complaint for a hate crime and assault against inmate Williams. They denied his requests. Correctional Officers Doe also denied Altayeb a legal call to contact his attorney. Warden Chapdelaine also denied him permission to call his lawyer, the state police and "the councilor at the embassy in New York." Doc. 1 at 9, ¶ 35.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Altayeb asserts several § 1983 claims based on the following violations: (1) Defendants Chapdelaine, Perry and Correctional Officers Doe were deliberately indifferent to his safety and failed to protect him from harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) Defendants Nurses Doe were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and (3) Defendants Chapdelaine and Correctional Officers Doe violated Altayeb's right to due process and equal protection as well as his First Amendment rights by failing to call the state police and failing to permit him to make legal calls. Alatayeb also asserts state-law claims against Defendants Chapdelaine, Perry and Correctional Officers Doe for negligence in failing to protect him from harm. Altayeb seeks declaratory relief, monetary damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief, but asserts claims against all Defendants only in their individual capacities.

         A. Injunctive Relief

         Altayeb seeks injunctive relief only in the form of an order that the Department of Correction place him on single cell status, remove all disciplinary reports from his file and reinstate his social contact visits. This relief must be denied. First, Altayeb asks the Court to order the Department of Correction to afford him the requested relief. The Department of Correction, a state agency, is not a defendant in this case and, indeed, cannot be sued under section 1983 for injunctive relief. See Bhatia v. Conn. Dep't of Children & Families (DCF), 317 F.App'x 51, 52 (2d Cir. 2009) ("[A] state agency . . . is not susceptible to liability under section 1983 . . . both because such an agency is not a 'person' within the meaning of that statute . . . and because state agencies are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity." (citations omitted)) (summary order); see also Will v. Mich. Dep't of Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989) (holding that states and its officials are not a person within the meaning of the statute); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984) (recognizing that state agencies are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity). Thus, Altayeb cannot save this claim by simply adding the Department of Corrections as a Defendant.

         Moreover, Defendants sued by Altayeb are named in their individual capacities only. “[Injunctive relief against a state official may be recovered only in an official capacity suit, . . . because [a] victory in a personal-capacity action is a victory against the individual defendant rather than against the entity that employs him.” Marsh v. Kirschner, 31 F.Supp.2d 79, 80 (D. Conn. 1998) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, Altayeb cannot seek injunctive relief against the state officials in their individual capacities. Section 1983 does, however, permit individuals to seek injunctive relief against state actors in their official capacities. Id. However, even if Defendants had been named in their official capacities, Defendants all work at MacDougall Correctional Institution and have no control over Altayeb's confinement at Garner Correctional Institution, his place of confinement when he filed this action. See Prins v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 504, 506 (2d Cir. 1996) ("It is ...


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