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Milner v. Lewis

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 16, 2017

KYRON MILNER, Plaintiff,
v.
KARL LEWIS, et al. Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Kryon Milner, is currently incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut. He initiated this action by filing a civil rights complaint against Director of Classification and Population Management Karl Lewis, Deputy Commissioner Scott Semple, Counselor Sean O'Neill, Warden Anne Cournoyer, Counselor Supervisors M. Vazquez and Jacqueline Bashan, Commissioner James Dzurenda, and Classification Committee Member John Doe. On March 9, 2015, the court dismissed the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). On April 9, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. On April 14, 2015, the court denied the motion for reconsideration and denied the motion to amend without prejudice to re-filing the motion accompanied by a proposed amended complaint.

         On April 27, 2015, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal of the ruling dismissing the complaint and a motion for leave to amend. The notice of appeal of the court's dismissal of the complaint deprived the court of jurisdiction to rule on the renewed motion to amend. On July 16, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the matter to this court to rule on the plaintiff's renewed motion for leave to amend.

         On November 3, 2015, the court granted the motion to amend and reviewed the claims in the amended complaint. The amended complaint named Director of Classification Lewis, Deputy Commissioner Semple, Counselor O'Neill, Warden Cournoyer, Counselor Supervisors Vazquez and Bashan and Commissioner Dzurenda as defendants. The court concluded that the claims against the defendants in their official capacities for money damages would be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2) and the claim that the defendants had violated the plaintiff's due process rights in connection with his placement in Administrative Segregation would proceed against all defendants in their individual capacities and against defendant Dzurenda in his official capacity.

         The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment should be granted if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine factual disputes exist. See Vivenzio v. City of Syracuse, 611 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2010). “In determining whether that burden has been met, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and credit all factual inferences that could be drawn in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). If there is any evidence in the record that could reasonably support a jury's verdict for the nonmoving party, summary judgment must be denied.” Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Hapag Lloyd Container Linie, GmbH, 446 F.3d 313, 315-16 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In addition, determinations of the weight to accord evidence or assessments of the credibility of witnesses are improper on a motion for summary judgment, as such are within the sole province of the jury. Hayes v. New York City Dep't of Corr., 84 F.3d 614, 619 (2d Cir. 1996).

         When a motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Thus, a plaintiff opposing a motion for summary judgment, may not rely solely on “the allegations of the pleadings, or on conclusory statements, or on mere assertions that affidavits supporting the motion for summary judgment are not credible.” Gottlieb v. Cty. of Orange, 84 F.3d 511, 518 (2d Cir. 1996) (internal citation omitted). Rather, a plaintiff must present specific admissible evidence in support of his or her allegations and “showing a genuinely disputed factual issue that is material under the applicable legal principles.” Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Salvino, Inc., 542 F.3d 290, 310 (2d Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). Where there is no evidence upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it and upon whom the onus of proof is imposed, such as where the evidence offered consists of conclusory assertions without further support in the record, summary judgment may lie. See Fincher v. Depository Trust and Clearance Co., 604 F.3d 712, 726-27 (2d Cir. 2010).

         II. Facts[1]

         During the morning of October 4, 2013, the plaintiff was involved in a verbal discussion with Correctional Officer Szymczak Kendrick in the F-1 housing unit at Enfield Correctional Institution (“Enfield”). When the discussion escalated, Officer Szymczak radioed for assistance. Correctional Officer Kendrick responded and became involved in a physical altercation with the plaintiff. Officer Szymczak called a code to summon additional assistance from other correctional personnel.

         Lieutenant Rivera and other officers responded to the code. During attempts to gain control of the plaintiff, Lieutenant Rivera utilized a one second burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff's facial area. After gaining control of the plaintiff and placing him in handcuffs, officers escorted him to the restrictive housing unit, decontaminated him from the effects of the chemical agent and placed him in a cell.

         At approximately 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, Correctional Officer Kendrick issued the plaintiff a disciplinary report for assault on a Department of Correction employee, a Class A offense. He claimed that the plaintiff had struck him during the incident that morning. A prison official at Enfield issued a formal order that the plaintiff be removed from general population and placed in a restrictive housing unit on administrative detention pending the disposition of the disciplinary report for assault on correctional staff.

         Later that day, a Connecticut State Trooper arrived at Enfield and interviewed Officer Kendrick and the plaintiff. Officer Kendrick chose to press criminal charges against the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that he had been assaulted and wanted to press charges against correctional staff. At approximately 4:00 p.m., officers at Enfield transported the plaintiff to Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”), a level 5 security facility.

         Prison officials involved in the incident classified it as a Level 2 Incident. Pursuant to State of Connecticut Administrative Directive 9.2(12)(C)(1), an inmate who has been involved in a Level 1 assault on a correctional employee should automatically be placed in administrative detention and be reviewed for placement on administrative segregation. A level 1 assault is defined in State of Connecticut Administrative Directive 6.6 as involving a Level 1 incident.

         On October 23, 2013, the plaintiff was present and made a statement during a hearing in connection with the disciplinary report for assault on a correctional officer. After the hearing, the disciplinary hearing officer found the plaintiff guilty of a Class A assault on a Department of Correction employee and sanctioned the plaintiff to thirty days of punitive segregation, sixty days loss of visitation, ninety days loss of telephone privileges and fifty days loss of risk reduction earned credits.

         On October 31, 2013, Correctional Counselor O'Neill completed a Notification of Hearing CN 9402 form, indicating that at the request of Warden Cournoyer, a hearing would be held to consider whether the plaintiff should be placed on administrative segregation. The reasons for the hearing were described as: plaintiff's assault of a Department of Correction employee on October 4, 2013, finding of guilt on disciplinary charge of assault on a Department of Correction employee, and sanctions imposed pursuant to the guilty finding, investigation by the Connecticut State Police of assault by plaintiff on a peace officer and plaintiff's prior violent conduct, including a history of security risk group threat activity.

         On November 5, 2013, the plaintiff met with Correctional Counselor Bachan, who had been assigned to be his advocate for purposes of the classification hearing. During the meeting, the plaintiff informed Counselor Bachan that he would prepare a written statement to submit at the hearing.

         On November 6, 2013, the plaintiff attended a classification hearing to determine whether he should be placed in administrative segregation. Counselor Supervisor Vazquez served as the administrative segregation hearing officer. Counselor Supervisor Bachan was present at the hearing as the plaintiff's advocate and Counselor O'Neill was present as the hearing recorder. The plaintiff prepared a written statement in response to the allegations that formed the basis for the administrative segregation hearing. After the hearing, Counselor Supervisor Bachan provided Counselor O'Neill with a copy of the plaintiff's written statement to be placed in the plaintiff's classification file.

         On November 6, 2013, based on a memorandum from Warden Cournoyer, incident reports and plaintiff's disciplinary reports, Counselor Supervisor Vazquez made a recommendation regarding the plaintiff's placement on Administrative Segregation. On November 15, 2013, Director of Classification and Population Management Lewis authorized the plaintiff's placement on administrative segregation. The plaintiff received notice of the decision later that day.

         III. Discussion

         The defendants include three arguments in their motion. They contend that (1) the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his claim regarding cell conditions at Northern; (2) the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for the denial of his procedural due process rights in connection with his placement on administrative segregation and (3) they are entitled to qualified immunity. In opposition to the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff argues that he did exhaust his administrative remedies and that ...


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