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Campbell v. Quiros

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 13, 2018



          Charles S. Haight, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

         The Plaintiff, Jesse Campbell, III, is currently incarcerated at Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”). He has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against District Administrator Angel Quiros, Commissioner Scott Semple, Wardens William Mulligan and Faneuff (or "Fane Duff"), Unit Manager Gregorio Robles, and Deputy Commissioners Cheryl Capelak (or Cepelak) and Monica Rinaldi. The Court has subjected the pleading to the mandatory statutory review. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will be dismissed in part.


         28 U.S.C. § 1915A directs federal district courts to consider all prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors, and dismiss any portion of the complaint that "is frivolous, malicious, or 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." § 1915A(b)(1), (2).

         A district court's sua sponte dismissal of a prisoner's complaint under § 1915A is reviewed de novo by the court of appeals. Where the district court has dismissed for failure to state a claim, the Second Circuit has said that "we accept all of plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. We must reverse a district court's dismissal pursuant to § 1915A whenever a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated." Larkin v. Savage, 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         At the district court level, the district judge's § 1915A review of whether a complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" is guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as interpreted by Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions whose principles have become familiar. A pro se complaint is adequately pleaded if its allegations, liberally construed, could "conceivably give rise to a viable claim." Phillips v. Girdich, 408 F.3d 124, 130 (2d Cir. 2005).

         The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded and non-conclusory 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). 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). In Larkin the Second Circuit took care to say, in the § 1915A context: "We will not affirm the dismissal of a complaint unless it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief." 318 F.3d at 139 (citation omitted).

         The Court will apply the foregoing standards in conducting its initial review of any claims asserted by Campbell. The Court begins with a recitation of the factual allegations contained in the pleading.


         These factual allegations, accepted as true only for the purposes of this Order, are taken from the numbered paragraphs at pages 2-16 of the Complaint [Doc. 1], as well as the Exhibits to that filing.

         On March 29, 2010, Plaintiff was confined in a cell on death row at Northern.[1] ¶ 13. On that day Captain Jason Cahill was involved in an altercation with another death row inmate. ¶ 12, Ex. A. Following the altercation, prison officials at Northern imposed a lockdown of the death row unit. ¶ 14. Captain Cahill supervised a strip search of Plaintiff as well as a search of Plaintiff s cell and the confiscation of items of Plaintiff s personal property. ¶ 16.

         During the lock down, prison staff placed Plaintiff on full restraint status. ¶¶ 14-15. Under this status, prison officials placed handcuffs, leg shackles and tether chain around Plaintiffs waist every time he left his cell. Id. On April 5, 2010, Defendant Quiros, who was then Warden of Northern, implemented an indefinite restraint policy regarding death row inmates. ¶ 17; Ex. A. The policy required death row inmates to be placed either in handcuffs, leg shackles and a tether chain or just handcuffs behind their backs every time prison staff escorted them from their cells. Ex. A.

         No hearing was held before prison officials imposed the new restraint status on Plaintiff. ¶ 19. That status is indefinite. Id. There is no process pursuant to which Plaintiff may challenge the restraint status or be relieved from the status. ¶ 20. After implementation of the restraint policy, prison officials installed "traps" in the doors of the dayrooms in the death row unit to enable officers to remove inmates' handcuffs while the inmates used the dayrooms. ¶ 21.

         Prior to the imposition of the new restraint policy, Plaintiff held a job as a tierman/janitor in the death row unit, for which he received "Level Two" pay, or $1.25 per day. ¶¶ 28-30. After the imposition of the restraint policy, he was removed from his tierman position . ¶ 27-28. Plaintiffs tierman job was replaced with "Level One" pay of $0.75 per day, for doing "nothing." ¶ 30. Defendants assigned Plaintiff a do-nothing job, for which he was compensated at Level One, because Defendants believe they are required, by Connecticut law, to provide work assignments for death row inmates whose cases remain on direct appeal. ¶ 31. Plaintiffs appeal of his conviction and sentence of death remains pending. ¶ 32.

         Plaintiff has filed grievances regarding the change in his job assignment and the imposition of the restraint policy, but prison officials have denied the grievances. ¶ 37; Ex. E. Other death row inmates have been allowed to continue their out-of-cell jobs. Inmate Joseph Rizzo operates the book cart and inmate Richard Reynolds works as a barber. ¶ 37.

         During the six months prior to the filing of this complaint, the State of Connecticut resentenced three other death row inmates, Russell Peeler, Jr., Sedgwick Cobb and Richard Reynolds, pursuant to the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut. ¶¶ 38-39, 42-43. After resentencing, Peeler, Cobb, and Reynolds were no longer subject to the out-of-cell restraint policy. ¶ 38. In addition, prison officials permitted Peeler, Cobb and Reynolds to engage in recreational activities for two extra hours a week and to use all of the equipment in the prison gym. They were also eligible for prison jobs that pay a higher wage. ¶¶ 45-47, 49.


         Plaintiff contends that the Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process, as well as his purported right to employment under C.G.S. § 18-10a, and his right to equal protection under the Connecticut Constitution. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.[2]

         A. Eighth Amendment Claim

         Plaintiff alleges that the requirement that he be placed in restraints every time he leaves his cell, and the refusal of prison officials to allow him to work, constitute punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment bar on cruel and unusual punishment.

         The Supreme Court has held that prisoners have no right to be housed in comfortable surroundings. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1980) (harsh or restrictive conditions are part of the penalty criminal offenders pay for their crimes). A prisoner's conditions of confinement, however, must meet "minimal civilized measures of life's necessities." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). This means that prison officials are required to provide for inmates' basic human needs - "e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety." DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep't of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989).

         To state an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim, an inmate must establish first, that a prison official denied him "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Second, the inmate must show that the official acted with subjective "deliberate indifference to [his] health or safety" because the official knew that the inmate "face[d] a substantial risk of serious harm and disregard[ed] that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 834, 847 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff has not alleged that the requirement that he be placed in handcuffs and leg restraints every time he leaves his cell deprives him of one of life's necessities. He concedes that he is not confined in restraints when he is in his cell or when he spends time in the dayroom. In addition, the notice attached to the complaint regarding the restraint policy states that restraints will be removed when an ...

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