United States District Court, D. Connecticut
DAVID A. ABRAMS, No. 241224, a/k/a ABRAHAMS, Plaintiff,
CORRECTIONS OFFICER WATERS AND CAPT. NUNEZ, sued in their individual capacities; CORRECTIONS OFFICER PHILLIPS; DISCIPLINARY REPORT INVESTIGATOR KELLY; CAPT. JOHN WATSON; WARDEN SCOTT ERFE; MAINTENANCE SUPERVISOR JOHN DOE; and MAILROOM HANDLER CORRECTIONS OFFICER RAMIREZ, sued in their individual and official capacity, Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a preliminary injunction motion by
Plaintiff [Doc. 6], which the Court will analyze and resolve
in this Ruling. The condensed procedural and factual history
of the case is as follows.
October 10, 2017, pro se plaintiff David A. Abrams,
an inmate currently incarcerated at the Corrigan-Radgowski
Correctional Institution ("Corrigan") in
Uncasville, Connecticut, brought a civil rights action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various prison officials at
Cheshire Correctional Institution ("Cheshire
C.I."), where he was previously housed. Doc. 1
("Complaint"). On February 2, 2018, upon performing
its initial screening duties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, this Court dismissed Abrams's claims against all
but three defendants: Corrections Officer Phillips,
Corrections Captain Nunez, and Corrections Captain John
Watson. Doc. 17 ("Initial Review Order"). The
remaining three Eighth Amendment "cruel and unusual
punishment" claims in this action include: (1)
"excessive force" against Phillips regarding his
conduct in subduing Abrams after his cellmate, Kashawn Brown,
attacked him on August 4, 2017; (2) "failure to
protect" against Nunez for placing Brown, "a high
security" risk inmate, in Abrams's cell, despite
Brown's history of attacking cellmates; and (3) exposure
to "hazardous conditions of confinement" against
Watson for placing Abrams in a segregation cell with black
mold on the vent and not remediating said mold upon receiving
notice of the problem. Id., at 12-19.
addition, the Court decided to permit Abrams's state law
claims of assault, battery, and intentional infliction of
emotional distress to proceed against Phillips in conjunction
with his Eighth Amendment "excessive force" claim.
Id., at 35. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction
over these state law claims, which derive from a common
nucleus of operative fact with the federal claim against
Phillips. As of this date, defendants Phillips, Nunez, and
Watson have not yet responded to the Complaint.
October 27, 2017, shortly after filing his Complaint, Abrams
moved for a preliminary injunction against the Defendants,
requesting the Court to grant him an injunction
"directing the defendant [Waters, and the named prison
officials at Corrigan] to assign [him] single-cell status as
a result of [Waters's] failure to protect the plaintiff
after the plaintiff was assaulted on two different occasions
by his cellmates." Doc. 6-1 ("Memorandum in Support
of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction"),
at 1. In so moving, Plaintiff asserts that he has twice been
assaulted by cellmates at other facilities, and consequently,
suffers from sleeplessness, "receiv[ing] less than 3
hours [of] sleep nightly because [he is] always on guard
anticipating another attack." Doc. 6 ("Motion for
Preliminary Injunction"), ¶ 17. He also claims that
he has been evaluated by "a mental health doctor who
stated that it['s] normal for [him] to be on alert and
paranoid due to the trauma [he] suffered." Id.,
¶ 18. As a result, the doctor allegedly recommended that
[he] obtain single cell status." Id., ¶
filed a memorandum in opposition to Abrams's preliminary
injunction motion. Doc. 13. In that opposition, Defendants
argue that (1) Abrams's transfer from Cheshire C.I. to
Corrigan moots any claim for injunctive relief, (2) Abrams
has failed to show that he will suffer irreparable harm in
the absence of the requested relief, and (3) Abrams has not
demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of his
claims. Id., at 3-8. In support of their memorandum,
Defendants attached an affidavit of Dr. Craig Burns, a
psychiatrist who provides mental health services for
Connecticut prison inmates. Doc. 13-1 ("Burns Affidavit,
" dated December 4, 2017).
November 22, 2017, Burns reviewed Abrams's Department of
Correction ("DOC") medical files "to evaluate
his mental health, to determine the treatment most suitable
to address any mental health needs and to assess whether
there was any mental health related reason to support his
request for a single cell." Id., ¶ 8. In
reviewing Abrams's prior psychiatric records, Burns noted
that during his seventeen years of confinement, Abrams
"has been a well-adjusted inmate." Id.,
¶ 9. Moreover, when assessed by a prior clinician on
October 23, 2017, that doctor found no indication that Abrams
"was in any way psychiatrically impaired" or that
he "needed the accommodation of a single
cell." Id., ¶ 10. In addition, upon
speaking with the Corrigan custody staff, Burns found that
Abrams had no "issues that would indicate a possible
need for a single cell." Id., ¶ 11.
repeated attempts to interview Abrams - with Abrams at first
declining to be interviewed - Burns set up an interview date
of December 5, 2017. Id., ¶¶ 12-14. In
anticipation of the interview, Burns reviewed his research on
Abrams's history at Corrigan. He noted that Abrams
appears to be a "relatively well-adjusted inmate at
Corrigan, " classified as "Mental Health 2, "
an inmate with "a history of mental health disorder that
is not currently active or needing treatment, " or one
who "has a current mild mental health disorder, not
requiring treatment by a mental health professional."
Id., ¶ 16. Moreover, for the majority of his
incarceration, Abrams was a "Mental Health 1"
inmate, one who was "emotionally stable, " with
"no mental health history or current need" for
treatment. Id., ¶ 17. As of December 4, 2017,
Burns found there was no "sufficient evidence to suggest
in any way that there [was] a mental health or any other
related reason to recommend that [Plaintiff] requires the
accommodation of a single cell." Id., ¶
18. Burns expressed his intention to update his findings
following his scheduled interview with Abrams. Id.,
response to Defendants' opposition, Abrams filed a reply,
disagreeing with Burns's conclusions regarding his mental
health and arguing that he is in "actual danger" of
future harm from another inmate. Doc. 15, at 3-6. Abrams
reiterated that he has twice been assaulted by other inmates
and, therefore, does not trust the staff at Corrigan to
protect him from future harm. Id., at 4-5.
replied, updating their submission in opposition to the
motion by filing the "Supplemental Affidavit of Dr.
Craig Burns" [Doc. 16], describing Burns's findings
after interviewing Abrams on December 5, 2017. In that
affidavit, Burns stated that after "a nearly two and a
half hour evaluation and a review of my previous evaluation
of Mr. Abram's issues[, ] to a reasonable degree of
medical certainty, it is my opinion that there is
not a psychiatric reason to provide Mr. Abrams with
'single cell' status at this time."
Id., ¶ 11 (emphasis in original). He perceived
Abrams as "well-nourished, " "well groomed,
" and "articulate." Id., ¶ 12.
Abrams "neither reported nor appeared to be experiencing
any physical or obvious emotional distress."
Id. Overall, Abrams appeared "to be a high
functioning, intelligent, educated, articulate, [and]
motivated individual, " who did not meet the criteria
for any emotional or stress-related disorder. Id.
Furthermore, he demonstrated "intellectual
adroitness" that would not be expected in one with
cognitive impairment. Id., ¶ 14.
Abrams self-reported "mood related" symptoms, such
as sleeplessness and decreased frustration tolerance, he
"did not meet criteria for a Mood Disorder, " such
as depression. Id., ¶ 13. For example, rather
than exhibiting signs of hopelessness, Abrams was noted to be
working diligently to "us[e] the courts to seek a
reduction in his sentence that might result in a discharge
from DOC far in advance of his current sentence."
addition, although Abrams self-reported traumatic experiences
in his life, he "ha[d] not met criteria for the trauma
and stress related diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder." Id., ¶ 15. Rather, he
"remains highly functional" with the capability of
engaging in "appropriate[ ] levels of
self-reflection" and "reality testing."
Id., ¶ 16.
reiterated that Abrams was a Mental Health 1 prisoner for 17
years before becoming a Mental Health 2 in October of 2017,
id., ¶ 20, following his transfer from Cheshire
to Corrigan (which occurred in August 2017). "Neither of
these classifications [1 or 2] require the individual, so
designated, to have contact with a mental health
professional." Id., ¶ 21. Nonetheless,
having observed that Abrams is experiencing some level of
distress due to the "tragic death of his son and the two
assaults that he experienced in DOC, " Burns recommended
that the optimal approach to managing Abrams's current
issues would be to raise his Mental Health score to a Mental
Health 3 . . . and to place him on the case load of one of
the therapists at Corrigan." Id., ¶¶
22, 25. Such treatment would be far superior to "placing
him in a single cell, " which "might provide
temporary relief from having to worry about a cell mate
assaulting him, " but "would not resolve his
underlying issues." Id., ¶ 25.
Remaining at Corrigan with his cellmate, with regular contact
with a therapist, dealing with his issues instead of
by-passing them, in my opinion would provide an affirmative
way to impact the very self-efficacy and adaptive functioning
that would be most helpful to Mr. Abrams. The door remains
open for the potential reassessment for a single cell, if,
after a period of therapy, it was thought to be clinically
indicated. However, at the present time, to a reasonable
degree of medical certainty, with all of the supports
available to Mr. Abrams at Corrigan, it is my opinion that
there is not a psychiatric reason to provide Mr.
Abrams with "single cell" status at this time.
Id., ¶ 29 (emphasis in original).
Standard for Preliminary Injunction
injunctive relief is "one of the most drastic tools in
the arsenal of judicial remedies." Hanson Trust PLC
v. SCM Corp., 774 F.2d 47, 60 (2d Cir. 1985). As the
United States Supreme Court has stated, "a preliminary
injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that
should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing,
carries the burden of persuasion." Mazurek v.
Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per
curiam) (quoting 11A Charles A. Wright et al.,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2948, at 130
(2d ed. 1995)) (emphasis omitted). "The purpose of a
preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo until a
trial on the merits." Lopez v. McEwan, No.