United States District Court, D. Connecticut
LUIS G. ORTIZ, Plaintiff,
BENNETT, et al., Defendants.
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Luis G. Ortiz is a prisoner at MacDougall Correctional
Institution in the custody of the Connecticut Department of
Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and
in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against four defendants in their individual and official
capacities: Remedy Coordinator Bennett, Lieutenant Williams,
and Correctional Officers Duchette and Vassell. Plaintiff
alleges defendants used excessive force in violation of the
Eighth Amendment when they forced him into too-tight
handcuffs and “bounced” his head against a wall.
After an initial review, the Court concludes that the
complaint should be dismissed as to defendant Bennett and be
served on the remaining defendants.
following allegations from plaintiff's complaint are
accepted as true for purposes of this ruling. Plaintiff was a
sentenced prisoner confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution at the time of the incident underlying the
complaint. On February 16, 2016, plaintiff was speaking with
his mother on the unit telephone when a recall was issued.
Doc. #1 at 7. Plaintiff terminated his call and proceeded to
walk from the telephone banks at the front of the housing
unit to his cell at the back of the housing unit. Plaintiff
entered his cell and waited for staff to close the cell door.
after the cell door was closed, plaintiff heard defendant
Duchette direct the control officer to open plaintiff's
cell door. Plaintiff's cellmate was escorted to the
unit's medical area, where he was handcuffed and placed
face-first against the wall. Doc. #1 at 7 (¶ 36).
Plaintiff was then ordered to exit his cell. Once he did,
Duchette grabbed him and pushed his face against the wall.
Defendant Williams pressed a can containing a chemical agent
against plaintiff's face. When plaintiff questioned these
actions, Williams told plaintiff he would explain when
plaintiff got to restrictive housing. Id. at 7-8
Vassell and Duchette used Vassell's forearm to
“bounce” plaintiff's face against the wall.
They also twisted his wrists until plaintiff heard something
“pop” in his left wrist. Plaintiff experienced
severe pain and began “seeing stars.”
Id. at 8 (¶¶ 41-43). The defendants
laughed at his cries of pain. Defendants then placed
handcuffs on plaintiff's wrists, clamping them tight
enough to cause lacerations and dripping blood. Id.
at ¶ 44. Defendants then escorted plaintiff to
restrictive housing, and, after plaintiff was strip-searched
and placed in a restrictive housing cell, the handcuffs were
removed. An additional, unidentified officer carrying a
hand-held video camera recorded the walk to the restrictive
housing unit. Shortly thereafter, Williams and Vassell
photographed plaintiff's injuries to his wrist, and he
was examined by Nurse Diaz. Id. at 8-9 (¶¶
ten minutes later, Williams and his supervisor, Captain
Baymon, came to plaintiff's cell. Williams said that
there had been a mistake, plaintiff had done nothing wrong,
and plaintiff would be released from restrictive housing and
returned to his unit. No further explanation of the incident
has been provided to plaintiff. Following the incident,
plaintiff began seeking mental health treatment for anxiety
caused by the incident. He also has suffered permanent nerve
damage. Id. at 9 (¶¶ 48-54).
submitted an institutional grievance regarding this incident.
When he received no response he questioned defendant Bennett,
the Administrative Remedies Coordinator. Defendant Bennett
denied receiving the grievance. Id. at 5-6.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), 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. The
Court must accept as true all factual matters alleged in a
complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its
factual recitations state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d
170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014). Nevertheless, it is well-established
that “pro se complaints ‘must be construed
liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments
that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am.,
723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v.
Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir.
2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90,
101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude
for pro se litigants).
recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold
“plausibility” pleading standard for courts to
evaluate the adequacy of federal court complaints. A
complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal
conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief.
See, e.g., Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se
complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive
dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic
plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v.
Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).
allegations support a claim for use of excessive force
against defendants Williams, Vassell, and Duchette. As with
all Eighth Amendment claims, excessive force claims have
subjective and objective components. The subjective component
focuses on “the defendant's motive for his
conduct”; the objective component focuses “on the
conduct's effect.” Wright v. Goord, 554
F.3d 255, 268 (2d Cir. 2009). In excessive force cases, the
“core judicial inquiry” is “whether force
was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause
harm.” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 37
(2010) (per curiam) (quoting Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992) (internal quotation
marks omitted)). The use of excessive force against a
prisoner can constitute cruel and unusual punishment
regardless of whether the inmate suffers serious injuries.
See Hudson, 503 U.S. at 4; accord Wilkins,
559 U.S. at 34, 36.
alleges that Vassell and Duchette used excessive force
against him by pushing him against the wall, bouncing his
head against the wall, twisting his wrists and applying the
handcuffs so tight that his wrists began bleeding. Williams
effectively condoned this conduct while threatening plaintiff
with a chemical agent. Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged
actions that indicate a malicious desire to cause harm rather
than a good faith effort to maintain discipline.
Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 36. First, plaintiff alleges
that defendants laughed at him when he cried out in pain.
Second, defendants' alleged “bouncing” of
plaintiff's head against a wall while plaintiff was
already immobilized served no apparent disciplinary purpose.
In the context of such malicious ...