United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
N. Chatigny United States District Judge
brings this action against the State of Connecticut
Psychiatric Security Review Board (“the Board”)
seeking a declaratory judgment that his confinement at
Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital
violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment. He submits that (1) since his
commitment to Whiting, he has been convicted of a crime in
state court after being found competent to assist in his
defense; (2) inmates who are similarly situated are released
at the completion of their prison sentences; and (3) his
continued confinement at Whiting is not authorized by any
valid state statute. The Board has moved to dismiss the
action arguing that under controlling precedent
plaintiff's exclusive federal remedy is a petition for
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. I
agree with the Board's argument and therefore grant the
March 22, 1985, following a criminal trial in Connecticut
Superior Court, plaintiff was found not guilty by reason of
mental disease or defect and committed him to the Department
of Mental Health for a period not to exceed 25 years. His
commitment was due to expire on March 21, 2010. However, on
March 19, 2010, the State petitioned to continue his
confinement with the support of the Board. The Superior Court
ordered plaintiff's commitment to continue for an
additional three years. Pursuant to that order, the
commitment was due to expire on March 18, 2013.
April 26, 2010, an acquittee at Whiting complained that
plaintiff had struck him with a radio. As a result of the
complaint, the State charged plaintiff with criminal assault.
The Connecticut Superior Court found him competent to assist
in his defense, convicted him of assault in the third degree
and gave him a suspended sentence of one year. He was then
returned to Whiting.
April 24, 2012, the State again petitioned to continue
plaintiff's confinement with the support of the Board. On
March 18, 2013, the Superior Court ordered that
plaintiff's commitment continue until March 18, 2018. The
Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed. State v.
Dyous, 153 Conn.App. 266, 100 A.3d 1004 (2014). The
Connecticut Supreme Court granted certification to appeal,
received briefs and heard argument, then ruled that the
petition for certification had been “improvidently
granted.” State v. Dyous, 320 Conn. 176, 128
A.3d 505 (2016).
to bringing the present action, plaintiff filed a petition
for writ of habeas corpus in state court seeking immediate
release from Whiting. In 2014, the petition was denied.
Dyous v. Rehmer, Docket No. CV10-4012049-S, 2014 WL
3805582 (Conn. Super. Ct. June 26, 2014). The judgment was
recently affirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court. Dyous
v. Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction
Services, 324 Conn. 163 (2016).
Preiser v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court held that
when a state prisoner challenges the fact or duration of his
imprisonment and the relief he seeks is a determination that
he is entitled to release, his sole federal remedy is a writ
of habeas corpus after exhausting available state court
remedies. 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973). Lower federal courts have
consistently held that the Declaratory Judgment Act may not
be used as a substitute for habeas corpus. See Benson v.
State Bd. of Parole & Prob., 384 F.2d 238, 239-40
(9th Cir. 1967); Jackson v. Scalia, 780 F.Supp.2d
81, 83 (D.D.C. 2011); Laird v. Mackay, No. 10-396-
MO, 2010 WL 3585199 (D. Ore. September 9, 2010); Hill v.
State of Tennessee, 465 F.Supp. 789, 789 (E.D. Tenn.
1978); Hogan v. Lukhard, 351 F.Supp. 1112, 1113-14
(E.D. Va. 1972).
argues that this action is not barred by Preiser
because he is seeking declaratory relief rather than release
from confinement. If plaintiff were to prevail, however, he
would rely on the judgment to gain release prior to the
expiration of his current commitment. Thus, his request for
declaratory relief is tantamount to seeking relief from
confinement for purposes of Preiser. See Murphy
v. Travis, 36 F.App'x 679, 681 (2d Cir. 2002)(claim
for mandatory injunction requiring state to provide plaintiff
with de novo parole release hearing was tantamount to seeking
relief from confinement and thus barred by Preiser).
the motion to ...