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Townsend v. Hardy

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 13, 2017


          Argued February 16, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Blue, J.

          Timothy Townsend, Jr., self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

          Janelle Medeiros, certified legal intern, with whom were Steven R. Strom, assistant attorney general, and, on the brief, George Jepsen, attorney general, for the appellees (defendants).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Harper, Js.


          SHELDON, J.

         The plaintiff, Timothy Townsend, Jr., brought this action against two prison officials, the defendants, Anita Hardy and John Riccio, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] claiming that they had violated his constitutional rights while he was confined at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. The plaintiff claims that the trial court erred in rendering summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the ground that none of their alleged misconduct rose to the level of a constitutional violation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         In his amended complaint dated October 24, 2012, the plaintiff alleged the following facts, which the defendants did not dispute for purposes of the court's consideration of their motion for summary judgment. At all times relevant to the plaintiff's allegations, he was an inmate at the Cheshire Correctional Institution, where Riccio was a correction officer and Hardy was a captain. The plaintiff claimed that Riccio sexually harassed him on two occasions. First, on September 25, 2010, Riccio asked the plaintiff if he wanted ‘‘some sugar, '' which, the plaintiff alleged, is slang for a ‘‘kiss.'' Then, on October 3, 2010, Riccio told the plaintiff, ‘‘I'm checking on you because I care about you'' and ‘‘I still genuinely care about you.'' On October 6, 2010, the plaintiff filed a complaint regarding those two alleged instances of sexual harassment with Hardy.

         The plaintiff also alleged that Riccio threatened him when, on October 18, 2010, Riccio told the plaintiff, ‘‘Your life is going to be short lived in this block.'' That same day, the plaintiff filed a complaint with Hardy and other prison officials, alleging that he had been threatened by Riccio, and that he feared for his physical safety. The plaintiff alleged that Riccio had threatened him in retaliation for his filing of a complaint about the aforementioned sexual harassment.

         On October 20, 2010, the plaintiff was moved to a restrictive housing unit while Hardy investigated his complaints that Riccio had sexually harassed and threatened him. While in the restrictive housing unit, the plaintiff reported Riccio's conduct to the Connecticut State Police. On November 2, 2010, Hardy explained to the plaintiff that his complaints against Riccio could not be substantiated, and thus the plaintiff was transferred out of the restrictive housing unit. On November 4, 2010, the plaintiff was interviewed by the Connecticut State Police regarding his allegations of sexual harassment and threatening by Riccio.

         On November 5, 2010, Hardy told the plaintiff to ‘‘sign this statement stating you no longer fear for your safety.'' The plaintiff refused to do so, and thus was transferred back to the restrictive housing unit, where he remained for three days, until November 8, 2010, when he was released back into the general population with no explanation. The plaintiff alleged that Hardy had transferred him to the restrictive housing unit in retaliation for contacting the Connecticut State Police regarding his claims against Riccio.

         On the basis of the foregoing, the plaintiff claimed that Riccio and Hardy violated his constitutional rights and, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, sought compensatory damages from both of them in their individual capacities.

         On March 3, 2015, the defendants moved for summary judgment on all of the plaintiff's claims. They argued that, even if the plaintiff's factual allegations against Riccio were true, they were not serious enough to rise to the level of constitutional violations. As for the plaintiff's allegations against Hardy, the defendants argued that they too were de minimis. The defendants also argued that Hardy had no personal involvement in the decision to send the plaintiff to the restrictive housing unit.

         On July 1, 2015, the court agreed with the defendants, over the plaintiff's objection, and issued a memorandum of decision rendering summary judgment in their favor. The plaintiff thereafter asked the court to articulate its ruling on the ground that it had failed to address his claimed constitutional violations. On October 6, 2015, the court filed an articulation explaining, inter alia: ‘‘The court's July 1, 2015 . . . decision implicitly addresse[d] these claims by following the precedent of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that claims like the ones presented by the [plaintiff] do not constitute cognizable claims of constitutional ...

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