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Williams v. Ford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 16, 2017

LESLIE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER FORD, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANTS' CROSS MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Victor A. Bolden, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, Leslie Williams, currently incarcerated, has filed this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After this Court granted in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, his remaining claims are for retaliation, denial of due process, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and excessive punishment. See Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 34, at 20. All of his claims arise from his confinement in restrictive housing for twenty-two days after giving a drawing and poem to a Correctional Officer. The remaining Defendants, [1] Warden Walter Ford, Deputy Warden Dennis Roche, Captain Ernestine Green, and Nurse Joanna Beaulieu (“Defendants”), move for summary judgment on all remaining claims. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); In re Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 151 (2d Cir. 2009). The moving party may satisfy his burden “by showing-that is pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). A genuine issue of fact means that “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). While genuineness runs to whether disputed factual issues can ‘reasonably be resolved in favor of either party, ' ... materiality runs to whether the dispute matters, i.e., whether it concerns facts that can affect the outcome under the applicable substantive law.” Graham v. Henderson, 89 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir.1996) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250). The nonmoving party “must offer some hard evidence showing that its version is not wholly fanciful.” D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).

         II. Factual Allegations[2]

         Mr. Williams is confined to the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction and is serving a life sentence. Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt., ECF No. 47-2, at ¶¶ 1-2. Nurse Beaulieu is a registered nurse. Id. at ¶ 3. In February 2013, Nurse Beaulieu worked for the Connecticut Department of Correction at the Hartford Correctional Center. Id. at ¶ 4. As part of her duties, she triaged inmates for medical issues and referred inmates to the medical doctor or mental health unit as required. Id. at ¶ 5. She also distributed medication and toured the housing units. Id. at ¶ 5.

         On February 7, 2013, Nurse Beaulieu was in the South Block at Hartford Correctional Center. Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 6. Defendant Beaulieu states that Mr. Williams gave her a folded piece of paper. Id. She assumed it was an Inmate Request form seeking medical assistance. Id. at ¶ 7. She unfolded the paper as she was walking away and realized it was a drawing of her and a love poem. Id. Defendant Beaulieu states that she knew the drawing was of her because the figure had similar features and wore a scrub shirt with a distinctive logo and her necklace. Id. After reading the note Nurse Beaulieu felt “uncomfortable, scared, and threatened.” Id. at ¶ 8 (citing Beaulieu Aff., Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt., Ex. 1, ECF No. 47-4, ¶ 7).

         Before this incident, Defendant Beaulieu felt uncomfortable around Mr. Williams because “he would stare at [her] and make inappropriate comments about [her] appearance.” Beaulieu Aff. ¶ 7. Defendant Beaulieu reported the incident to the deputy warden and requested a separation profile between her and Mr. Williams. Def's L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 9. Department of Corrections staff can request a separation profile to determine that “an inmate poses a threat or risk” to that staff member. Green Aff., Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt., Ex. 2, ECF No. 47-5, 17. If the profile request is granted, the DOC will not put the inmate in the same correctional facility as the staff member. Id. After receiving Mr. Williams' note, Nurse Beaulieu also wrote an incident report. Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 10.

         Mr. Williams claims that he is an aspiring artist and only showed the note to Nurse Beaulieu because he thought she would appreciate his artwork. Williams Decl. ¶ 12. He further claims that the note was not a love poem and the language was not threatening. Id. Furthermore, Mr. Williams emphasizes that Nurse Beaulieu chose to accept the note and open it later. Id. at ¶ 9. Mr. Williams alleges that Defendant Beaulieu violated prison directives by engaging in undue familiarity with him by accepting the note. Id. He also states that Defendant Beaulieu never expressed any discomfort around Mr. Williams before he gave her the drawing. Id. at ¶ 15. Finally, he notes that prison officials never notified him that female staff members felt uncomfortable around him.

         A. Administrative Detention Policies in the Connecticut Department of Corrections

         In Connecticut Department of Corrections facilities, Administrative Detention is a restrictive status applied only in certain circumstances. See Conn. Dep't of Corr. Admin. Directive 9.4(3)(B)(2), effective June 16, 2016.[3] According to the Directive, Administrative Detention is appropriate “[f]or the investigation of an allegation or information involving the inmate in the commission of a crime, or of activities jeopardizing the security of the facility or the safety of staff or inmates that could result in placement on punitive or administrative segregation or transfer to high security.” Id. The Directive allows prison officials to authorize placement in Administrative Detention for up to fourteen days, unless an Administrative Segregation hearing is pending. See Conn. Dep't of Corr. Admin. Directive 9.4, Att. B, effective June 16, 2016. While an inmate is on Administrative Detention, the warden or his designee is supposed to conduct a 72-hour review of the plaintiff's status. See Id. (requiring review “every 72 hours by the Unit Administrator or designee and recorded on Restrictive Housing Order”); see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 28.

         B. Administrative Detention of Mr. Williams

         Captain Green, a correctional lieutenant at Hartford Correctional Center, oversaw the Restrictive Housing Unit and conducted investigations within the facility. Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 13. She had the authority to place inmates on Administrative Detention in the Restrictive Housing Unit. Id. at ¶ 14.

         On February 7, 2013, Defendant Green learned from her supervisor that Mr. Williams had given Nurse Beaulieu an inappropriate note. Id. at ¶ 15. Defendant Green met with her supervisor and Defendant Beaulieu to discuss the incident and review the note. Id. Defendant Green “had previously heard many complaints from other female staff members that Mr. Williams would often stare at them inappropriately and had a long history of making female staff members feel uncomfortable around him.” Green Aff. ¶ 8. Nurse Beaulieu also reported to Defendant Green that Mr. Williams made her feel uncomfortable. Id. at ¶ 9. Ms. Green concluded that Mr. Williams had an “inappropriate fixation” on Nurse Beaulieu and that Mr. Williams posed a safety threat to her. Id. at ¶ 10. On February 7, 2013, Defendant Green submitted a separation profile request to her supervisor because she thought Mr. Williams posed a safety threat to Defendant Beaulieu. Green Aff. ¶ 18. She also submitted a supplemental page to the incident report. Id.

         Defendant Green conducted an investigation of the incident. Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 20. She met with Mr. Williams in his cell where, after initial denials, Mr. Williams admitted to the incident. Id. Defendant Green told Mr. Williams that he would be transferred to the Restrictive Housing Unit pending the investigation. Id. Defendant Green and her supervisor, Deputy Warden Roche, decided to transfer Mr. Williams to the Restrictive Housing Unit on Administrative Detention status. Defs.' L. R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶ 24. On February 7, 2013, prison officials transferred Mr. Williams to the Restrictive Housing Unit. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. Captain Green does not know whether the warden or his designee conducted a 72-hour review of Mr. Williams' Administrative Detention. Id. at ¶ 20.

         The parties dispute the conditions in the restrictive housing cell. Defendants contend that a video of the transfer shows that the cell was clean and appropriate for housing Mr. Williams. Defs.' L.R. 56(a) Stmt. ¶¶ 23-24. On the other hand, Mr. Williams alleges that his cell lacked hot water and was cold, unsanitary, and infested with insects. Williams Decl. ¶ 30. He claims that the video did not show the corners of the room, the condition of the mattress, or whether the sink had running hot water. Id. at ¶ 23. He also alleges that, because he was in Administrative Detention, he was not able to access the prison commissary and could not purchase toiletries or other necessities, and that prison officials did not otherwise make these items available to him. Id. at ¶ 29.

         Defendant Green does not recall speaking to Mr. Williams on February 19, 2013. Green Aff. ¶ 21. If she had learned that Mr. Williams' cell was unclean or required maintenance, she allegedly would have “immediately addressed those issues.” Id. On February 20, 2013, Defendant Green had not heard from her supervisor regarding the request for a separation profile between Defendant Beaulieu and Mr. Williams. Id. ΒΆ 22. As a result, she continued Mr. William's placement in the Restrictive Housing ...


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