United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JAKE J. RUFFINO, Plaintiff,
LIEUTENANT FRANCO, ET AL., Defendants.
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jake J. Ruffino, is incarcerated at the Garner Correctional
Institution in Newtown, Connecticut. He has filed a civil
rights action against Lieutenant Franco and Correctional
Officer Meggett. For the reasons set forth below, the
Complaint will be dismissed in part.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must review prisoner
civil complaints against governmental actors and
“dismiss ... any portion of [a] 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 from such
relief.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A
complaint that includes only “‘labels and
conclusions, ' ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement, '” does not meet the facial
plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)).
Although courts still have an obligation to interpret
“a pro se complaint liberally, ” the
complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet
the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v.
Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations
Ruffino claims that, on February 29, 2016, he was confined in
the mental health unit at Osborn Correctional Institution.
Early that morning, Mr. Ruffino allegedly became upset and
mentally unstable and asked Officer Meggett to contact the
mental health staff. Officer Meggett allegedly refused to
call the mental health staff and suggested that Mr. Ruffino
hang himself. Mr. Ruffino and Officer Meggett allegedly
engaged in a verbal exchange. At one point, Officer Meggett
allegedly spit into Mr. Ruffino's face.
Lieutenant Franco arrived at the cell, Mr. Ruffino allegedly
explained what had occurred between himself and Officer
Meggett and requested mental health services. Lieutenant
Franco then allegedly sprayed Mr. Ruffino in the head, face
and body with a chemical agent. Officer Meggett allegedly
stood by and failed to intervene. Mr. Ruffino states that he
experienced a burning sensation in his eyes, lungs and mouth
and on his skin.
Ruffino sues Defendants in their individual capacities only.
He seeks monetary damages and declaratory relief.
Ruffino asks the Court to declare that the conduct of
Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The purpose
of the Declaratory Judgment Act is to allow parties to
resolve claims before either side suffers great harm. See
In re Combustion Equip. Assoc. Inc., 838 F.2d 35, 37 (2d
Cir. 1988). In Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908),
the Supreme Court held that an exception to the Eleventh
Amendment's grant of sovereign immunity from suit existed
to permit a plaintiff to sue a state official acting in his
or her official capacity for prospective injunctive relief
for continuing violations of federal law. Id. at
exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity, however, does not
apply to claims against state officials seeking declaratory
or injunctive relief for prior violations of federal law.
See Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority v. Metcalf
& Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993) (the Eleventh
Amendment “does not permit judgments against state
officers declaring that they violated federal law in the
past”); Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 68
(1985) (“We have refused to extend the reasoning of
Young . . . to claims for retrospective
relief”) (citations omitted); Ward v. Thomas,
207 F.3d 114, 119-20 (2d Cir. 2000) (Eleventh Amendment bars
retrospective relief in form of declaration that State of
Connecticut violated federal law in the past).
Ruffino's request for a declaration that Defendants
violated his federal constitutional rights in February 2016
cannot be properly characterized as “prospective”
because Mr. Ruffino does not allege how such relief would
remedy a future constitutional violation by Defendants. Thus,
Mr. Ruffino's request for declaratory relief does not
meet the exception to the Eleventh Amendment immunity set
forth in Ex Parte Young.
any request for prospective relief to remedy ongoing
violations of federal law, a declaration that Defendants
violated Mr. Ruffino's constitutional rights in the past
is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Green, 474
U.S. at 71-73 (if there is no allegation of an ongoing
violation of federal law, the Eleventh Amendment prevents
federal courts from providing notice relief or a declaratory
judgment that state officials violated federal law in the
past); Nicholson v. Lenczewski, 356 F.Supp.2d 157,
162 (D. Conn. 2005) (dismissing claim for retrospective
declaratory relief in the form of a statement that the
conduct of certain defendants violated plaintiff's rights
because it was barred by the Eleventh Amendment). The request
for declaratory relief is dismissed. See 28 U.S.C.
Court concludes that Mr. Ruffino has stated plausible Eighth
Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to his health and
safety and the use of excessive force as to Lieutenant
Franco, and he has stated plausible Eighth Amendment claims
of deliberate indifference to health and safety and failure
to protect from harm as to Officer Meggett. These claims will
proceed against Defendants in their individual capacities.
Court enters the ...