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Medina v. Punter

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 22, 2017

ROGELIO MEDINA, Plaintiff,
v.
PUNTER, Defendant.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On July 28, 2017, Rogelio Medina (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Medina”), an inmate confined at Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”) in Newtown, CT, filed a Complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Correction Officer Punter in his individual capacity for monetary damages. Mr. Medina is suing Officer Punter for negligence and deliberate indifference to Mr. Medina's safety.

         On August 9, 2017, the Court granted Mr. Medina's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF No. 9. For the following reasons, Mr. Medina's Complaint will proceed in its entirety.

         I. ALLEGED FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Complaint alleges that, on March 21, 2017, at around 4:45 p.m., Garner correction officers opened Mr. Medina's cell door so that Mr. Medina could go to the dining hall. At that moment, another inmate named Taylor allegedly passed in front of Mr. Medina and asked him what he had just said. Mr. Medina replied that he did not say anything. Mr. Taylor then allegedly walked up to Mr. Medina, placed his two fingers next to Mr. Medina's head as if it was a gun, and told him to “watch [his] fucking mouth.” The Complaint maintains that Mr. Taylor's cellmate, Campbell, pulled Mr. Taylor away from Mr. Medina and then said to Mr. Medina, “I got you.” Mr. Medina allegedly approached Officer Punter, who was nearby, and asked him why he had not said anything to Mr. Taylor in response to the threat. Officer Punter allegedly told Mr. Medina that he did not see Mr. Taylor engage in any threatening behavior.

         The Complaint further claims that when Mr. Taylor and Mr. Campbell overhead Mr. Medina talking to Officer Punter, they called Mr. Medina a “snitching little bitch, ” and the three inmates started cursing and arguing with each other. Officer Punter allegedly told them to “bang out or get in line.” It is alleged that Mr. Campbell's friend put Mr. Medina in a choke hold. Officer Punter allegedly watched the physical altercation unfold for three minutes before calling a “code blue, ” which allegedly signals an inmate fight.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must “review . . . a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.”[1] 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if the complaint or any of its parts are “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. § 1915A(b).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a plaintiff plead only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), to provide the defendant “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         A plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and assert a cause of action with enough heft to show entitlement to relief and “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. A claim is facially plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows 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). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not required, a complaint must offer more than “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-57. Plausibility at the pleading stage is nonetheless distinct from probability, and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the claims] is improbable, and ... recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. at 556 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Pro se complaints, however, “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) (internal quotation marks omitted) (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 the “special solicitude” courts afford pro se litigants).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment[].” U.S. Const. amend. VIII; see also Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 667 (1962) (incorporating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment as binding on the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment). “[S]et[ting] constitutional boundaries on the conditions of imprisonment, ” the Amendment bars “unnecessary and wanton ...


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