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Melvin v. State

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 1, 2017

MARTIN MELVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT, et al., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER

          Robert N. Chatigny United States District Judge

         In response to the initial review order dismissing the complaint in this case, plaintiff has filed an amended complaint eliminating some claims and defendants. The allegations of the amended complaint, construed liberally to raise the strongest arguments they suggest, raise the possibility that plaintiff may have a potentially valid claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, specifically, a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim against one or more parole officials for requiring him to reside as an in-patient at a drug treatment facility although they knew he would contract a serious illness at the facility and be deprived of adequate medical care. See Jacobs v. Ramirez, 400 F.3d 105, 106 (2d Cir. 2005). The allegations in the amended complaint fall short of stating a plausible claim under Jacobs because the allegations are merely conclusory in nature (in other words, unsupported by specific factual allegations required to state a plausible claim). Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to file a second amended complaint alleging specific facts in support of a substantive due process claim under Jacobs. Plaintiff should bear in mind that a parole official who orders a parolee to reside at a drug treatment facility as a condition of parole may be entitled to absolute immunity under § 1983 depending on whether the official was performing a quasi-adjudicatory function rather than an administrative one. See Victory v. Pataki, 814 F.3d 47, 65-67 (2d Cir. 2016). To be timely, the second amended complaint must be filed on or before October 15, 2017. All other § 1983 claims in the amended complaint are dismissed without leave to amend. To the extent the amended complaint can be construed to allege claims under state law, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any such claims.

         I. Allegations

         The amended complaint alleges the following. In September 2009, plaintiff was sentenced in state court to a term of imprisonment of three years to be followed by a five-year term of special parole. On February 3, 2014, while he was on special parole, he was ordered to participate in drug treatment at Daytop at the “express direction” of the Parole Board. His participation in the program was a condition of his special parole.

         While an in-patient at Daytop, plaintiff was exposed to methecillin sensitive staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) resulting in an infection. Daytop had no screening for communicable diseases and any infected person could walk in off the street. Plaintiff was exposed to other residents at Daytop who should have been quarantined.

         Plaintiff was ill at Daytop from February 10, 2014, through early March 2014. He was denied sick bed status for most of that time. In response to his requests for sick bed status, defendant Kushpinski threatened to report that he was refusing programs. Plaintiff filed grievances about bedbug bites and his illness. Daytop Program Director Lead and Nurse Supervisor Linette failed to respond to the grievances. Plaintiff told Dr. Shi about his symptoms of oscillating fever, vomiting and chest pain but she “deliberately” failed to order a necessary pulmonary examination. As a result, plaintiff lapsed into septic shock with “lung effusions, abscess and collapse.”

         Daytop Program Technician Alice “sadistically” confiscated an article of plaintiff's winter clothing even though he was ill. When he objected, she falsely reported to Program Director Lead that he was filing a lawsuit against Daytop. In fact, he was merely trying to file a change of address notice in a unrelated case, Melvin v. Miller, 3:09-CV-1612 (RNC). Lead mistakenly believed the notice was a complaint against Daytop and, as a result, the notice was “disregarded” and not mailed. Later, in March 2014, when plaintiff left Daytop to obtain medical care, a second change of address notice was discarded. In addition, after plaintiff left Daytop, someone there destroyed his personal property, including legal materials.

         Plaintiff was physically assaulted by another resident at Daytop. After the assault, Daytop Counselor Supervisor Greg erroneously reported to the Parole Board that plaintiff had assaulted the other resident. As a result, plaintiff was returned to prison. A discharge summary was prepared at Daytop by Counselor Williams. The discharge summary repeated false statements contained in a report fabricated by Daytop Counselor Diaz indicating that plaintiff admitted to a history of substance abuse, psychiatric issues and gun use. The discharge summary stated that plaintiff was resistant to treatment and had difficulty adjusting at Daytop. It also made vague references to a “homicidal history.” Parole Officer Runlette subsequently initiated a parole revocation proceeding, which resulted in the revocation of plaintiff's special parole.

         Parole Board Chair Tindall “knew or should have known” that as an in-patient at Daytop, plaintiff would be subjected to the unsafe living conditions and mistreatment he alleges. Daytop management was motivated by its “single-minded, greed-filled deal to garner program fee payments from state insurance coffers.” And the staff at Daytop was “inherently inept.” The Parole Board - including Chairs Tindall and Guiles and members Ireland, Smayda, and Berry - abused its discretion in revoking plaintiff's parole.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, courts are required to review a prisoner's complaint against government entities and employees and dismiss any part of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. A complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), and “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In reviewing a pro se complaint, a court must assume the truth of the allegations and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Pro se plaintiffs are given an opportunity to file an amended complaint “unless the court can rule out any possibility, however unlikely it might be, that an amended complaint would succeed in stating a claim.” Gomez v. USAA Fed. Sav. Bank, 171 F.3d 794, 795 (2d Cir. 1999).

         III. Discussion

         Section 1983 provides that “[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of any State . . . subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights . . . secured by the Constitution and laws shall be liable to the party injured.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to state a claim on which relief may be granted under § 1983, a complaint must satisfy two essential requirements: (1) the conduct complained of must have been committed by a person acting “under color of state law”; and (2) the conduct complained of must have violated a right secured to the plaintiff by federal law. See Pitchell v. Callan, 13 F.3d 545, 547 (2d ...


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