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Stimpson v. Comm'r Correction Office

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 23, 2017

MERLE E. STIMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMM'R CORRECTION OFFICE, ET AL., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER

          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Merle E. Stimpson, incarcerated and pro se, initiated this action by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Commissioner of Corrections, Warden Carol Chapdelaine, and Captain Hall. Pending before the court are Stimpson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a letter motion to add new defendants, and a letter motion for preliminary injunction and an amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 16, 17, and 18) For the reasons set forth below, the motions are denied and the amended complaint is dismissed.

         I. Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis [ECF No. 16]

         Stimpson seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. On April 26, 2016, the court granted Stimpson leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF No. 10. Accordingly, the new application to proceed in forma pauperis is denied as moot.

         II. Amended Complaint [ECF No. 15]

         The initial complaint included allegations regarding the placement of Inmate Andino in Stimpson's cell at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”) in mid- February 2016, Stimpson's unsuccessful attempts to be moved from the cell because Andino was sexually assaulting him, a false accusation by prison staff that Stimpson had sent a letter to the Commissioner of Correction as if he were Inmate Andino, and Stimpson's placement in restrictive housing after receiving a disciplinary report for sending the letter to the Commissioner. See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1-3.

         On June 16, 2016, Stimpson filed a letter motion seeking to add new claims regarding an incident that occurred on June 8, 2016, involving Captain Hall's alleged decision to place Inmate Vernal Davis in Stimpson's cell as his new cellmate. See ECF No. 11. Because the defendants had not responded to the complaint and that was Stimpson's first request to file an amended complaint, I granted the motion to amend on June 29, 2016. See Ruling and Order, ECF No. 12.

         In the June 29 ruling granting the motion to amend, I noted that Stimpson had not attached a proposed amended complaint to his motion that was in the proper form. The documents attached to the motion did not contain a case caption with a title listing Stimpson as the plaintiff and the name of each defendant nor did it include a designation identifying the document as an amended complaint, as required by the civil rules governing the form of pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10. In addition, the letter motion did not include any of the claims that were set forth in the original complaint. I cautioned Stimpson that any amended complaint would completely replace the original complaint. Thus, any amended complaint should include the allegations against the defendants named in the complaint with regard to the incidents that were described in the complaint to the extent that Stimpson still sought to pursue those claims.

         In addition, I observed that Stimpson had not alleged that he had exhausted his administrative remedies with regard to any of the incidents set forth in the initial complaint or the June 8, 2016 incident set forth in the motion to amend. Section 1997e of Title 42 of the United States Code governs actions brought by prison inmates. Section 1997e(a) provides: “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” That subsection applies to all claims regarding prison life, including the use of excessive force by prison staff. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

         I informed Stimpson that exhaustion of all available administrative remedies must occur regardless whether the administrative procedures provide the relief that the inmate seeks. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). Furthermore, prisoners must comply with all procedural rules regarding the grievance process prior to commencing an action in federal court. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 83-85 (2006). Thus, completion of the exhaustion process after a federal action has been filed does not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. See Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001). Accordingly, I instructed Stimpson that any amended complaint must include allegations regarding any attempts by him to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to his claims prior to filing this lawsuit. See Ruling and Order, ECF No. 12 at 4.

         In response to my order, Stimpson sent a letter to the Clerk, accompanied by thirty-five pages of exhibits allegedly showing retaliation by the Department of Correction. Stimpson did not file an amended complaint. See ECF No. 13.

         On August 11, 2016, I informed Stimpson that if he sought to proceed with this action, he must file an amended complaint that complied with the June 29 order. See Order, ECF No. 14. I instructed Stimpson that any amended complaint must be filed within thirty days of the date of that order and cautioned Stimpson that if he chose not to file an amended complaint within the time specified, the case would only proceed only on the claims in the initial complaint.

         Stimpson did not file an amended complaint within the time specified. Instead, he waited until October 19, 2016 to file an amended complaint. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 15. Thus, the amended complaint is untimely. I nevertheless review it as follows:

         In the caption of the amended complaint, Stimpson lists the following people or entities as defendants: Office of CT - Commissioner of Corrections, Warden Carol Chapdelaine and Captain Hall and “Et Al.” Stimpson subsequently describes the first defendant as Commissioner Scott Semple and the “Et Al.” defendant as “future/present defendants here in CT-D.O.C.” See Id. at 2-3. Because Commissioner Scott Semple is not listed in the caption of the amended complaint, he is not a defendant. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) (“[T]he title of the complaint must name all the parties.”).

         Attached to the amended complaint are forty-eight pages of exhibits. On page five of the amended complaint, the plaintiff simply states that in addition to the original claim, he seeks to file an amended complaint on the basis of the following: “I have sent to this court 35 pages of Exhibits showing retaliation by CT D.O.C.” See Id. at 5. He states that he has been retaliated against by all of the defendants and he has filed grievances with the Commissioner and the Warden about Captain's Hall's actions. See Id. In particular, Stimpson alleges that Captain Hall has used her position to retaliate against him. See Id. In response to his request regarding his clothes “being burnt” by the facility laundry personnel, Captain Hall told Stimpson to re-wash his clothes. See Id. Stimpson states that he filed an inmate request with regard to his burned clothes as well as a grievance and an appeal of the decision disposing of the grievance. In response to his inmate request, a correctional treatment officer indicated that prison officials had given him new clothes on August 1, 2016. See Id. at 6. Stimpson claims that he has not received new clothes. He seeks $550, 000.00, deferral of costs of incarceration, and reimbursement of the filing fee. See Id. He seeks injunctive relief in the form of an order that he be permitted a single cell and that he be able to order or buy items out of different catalogues. See id.

         Stimpson includes no allegations from the original complaint and does not include any allegations regarding the incident that occurred on June 8, 2016 for which he sought leave to amend to the complaint. The first forty-two pages of exhibits attached to the amended complaint instead relate to incidents that occurred after June 29, 2016. The last six pages of exhibits appear to be unrelated to any of the allegations in the initial complaint or the amended complaint, including a notice or an order of change of name, a request for Stimpson's military records, and a confirmation by a Department of Correction counselor that the Stimpson's status as a veteran had been updated as of June 9, 2016.

         To state a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that the conduct or speech at issue was protected, (2) that the defendant[s] took adverse action against the plaintiff, and (3) that there was a causal connection between the protected speech and the adverse action.” Gill v. Pidlypchak, 389 F.3d 379, 380 (2d Cir. 2004) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Because claims of retaliation are easily fabricated, the courts consider such claims with skepticism and require that they be supported by specific facts; conclusory statements are not sufficient. See Flaherty v. Coughlin, 713 F.2d 10, 13 (2d Cir. 2003).

         The allegations in the amended complaint that the defendants retaliated against Stimpson are conclusory. Stimpson does not set forth facts indicating that he engaged in protected conduct or speech. Furthermore, Stimpson includes no allegations with regard to retaliatory conduct on the part of the defendants. Nor are there any allegations demonstrating a causal connection between protected speech or conduct on the part of Stimpson and retaliatory conduct by the defendants. Thus, Stimpson's conclusory claims of retaliation fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

         The remaining allegations in the amended complaint relate to Stimpson's claims regarding his clothes. An attachment to the amended complaint reflects that in a request to Captain Hall dated July 28, 2016, Stimpson asked that his clothes, which he asserted smelled burned and/or were burned by the prison laundry, be replaced. See Am. Compl., Exhibits, ECF No. 15-1 at 16. In response, Captain Hall suggested that Stimpson re-wash the clothes that smelled burned and to bring the burned clothes to her office for review. See Id. Stimpson does not allege that he brought the burned clothes to Captain Hall for review. He does allege, in a grievance that he filed on August 2, 2016, that he tried to re-wash his clothes, but the burn marks would not come out. See Id. at 14. Stimpson claims that as of August 1, 2016, he had not received any replacement for the burned clothes.

         The allegations against Captain Hall with regard to Stimpson's burned or stained clothes do not state a claim upon which relief may be granted. “[A] prison official violates that Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met. First, the deprivation must be, objectively, sufficiently serious . . . [Second, ] a prison official must have a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind.'” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-98 (1991)). The State violates the Eighth Amendment when it “fails to provide for [inmates'] basic human needs-e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety.” DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976)). Stimpson has not alleged that Captain Hall deprived him of a basic human need. There are no allegations that he had no clothes to wear after some items of his clothing were burned in the ...


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