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Fernandez v. Dougherty

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 19, 2017

CAPTAIN DOUGHERTY, et al., Defendants.



         John Fernandez (“Plaintiff”) is incarcerated at the Corrigan Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut. He has filed a Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Captain Dougherty, Counselor Gaudet, Lieutenant Prior, and District Administrator Quiros. For the reasons set forth below, the Complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A complaint that includes only “‘labels and conclusions, ' ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement, ' ” does not meet the facial plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Although courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must still include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         II. Factual Allegations

         On March 28, 2016, Captain Dougherty allegedly issued Mr. Fernandez a Class A disciplinary report for being a member of a Security Risk Group. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5. The report alleged that Mr. Fernandez had “displayed behaviors that are uniquely and clearly associated with [Latin King] activity” and that he “participated in an act of gang-related violence on March 23, 2016.” Id. at ¶ 6. The Report did not list any witnesses, and listed other incident reports and video footage as the only physical evidence. Id. at ¶ 7.

         Mr. Fernandez met with an investigator who assigned him an advocate, Defendant Gaudet. Compl. ¶ 15. Advocate Gaudet allegedly refused to permit Mr. Fernandez to see the evidence supporting the disciplinary report and did not otherwise assist Mr. Fernandez in preparing his defense. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.

         On March 31, 2016, Mr. Fernandez appeared at a hearing held by Lieutenant Prior. Compl. ¶ 19. Advocate Gaudet was not present at the hearing. Id. at ¶ 20. Lieutenant Prior allegedly found Mr. Fernandez guilty of being a Security Risk Group Member. He allegedly based his conclusions on video footage of the alleged violent incident that occurred on March 23, 2016 and corroborating statements from other inmates. Id. at ¶ 22. Lieutenant Prior did not permit Mr. Fernandez to view the videotape or to review the witness statements. Id. at ¶ 23. At the conclusion of the hearing, prison officials transferred Mr. Fernandez to Walker Correctional Institution and placed in a restrictive housing unit designated for Security Risk Group Members. Id. at ¶ 23.

         Mr. Fernandez appealed the guilty finding and placement in the restrictive housing unit. Compl. ¶ 28. District Administrator Quiros upheld the decision in a written opinion in which, Mr. Fernandez alleges, he “did not comment on any of the grounds for which the appeal was based.” Id. at ¶ 28 Mr. Fernandez claims that he must remain classified as a Security Risk Group Member for a year before becoming eligible for return to the general population. Compl. ¶ 26. The conditions in the housing unit in which Mr. Fernandez has been confined since April 2016, allegedly are significantly more restrictive than the conditions in general population. See Id. at ¶¶ 30-32. He specifically alleges that inmates in administrative segregation are “denied all parole opportunities” as well as access to “vocational, educational, and job training programs.” Id. at ¶ 30.

         III. Discussion

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         Mr. Fernandez seeks monetary damages and injunctive and declaratory relief. To the extent that he seeks monetary damages from Defendants in official capacities, those claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985) (Eleventh Amendment, which protects the state from suits for monetary relief, also protects state officials sued for damages in their official capacity); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979) (Section 1983 does not override a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity). All claims for monetary damages against the defendants in their official capacities are dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

         B. Fourteenth ...

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