United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTIONS FOR AID OF JUDGMENT AND RELEASE OF
MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.
2016, a federal jury found that a Connecticut Department of
Correction (“DOC”) employee maliciously violated
the Eighth Amendment rights of inmate Rashad Williams and
awarded him compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C.
Section 1983 (“Section 1983”). After the judgment
became final, the State of Connecticut chose to indemnify its
employee and has since been clawing back from Williams the
bulk of his award using state laws that allow it to recover
the costs of incarcerating him and providing him with public
defender services. I must decide whether the State's
actions in indemnifying its employee from a civil rights
judgment and using state laws to recoup most of its indemnity
expense conflict with and are thus preempted by Section 1983,
a federal law aimed at deterring state officials from
violating citizens' civil rights and compensating victims
of such violations. If federal law preempts the State's
actions, then they are of no legal effect and Williams
remains free to recover the judgment from the DOC employee
who violated his rights; if not, then the judgment has been
satisfied and that employee owes him nothing (other than a
small amount of outstanding interest and costs).
conclude that the collective impact of the State's
actions in this case, some of which are ongoing, will be
virtually to nullify Williams's judgment, leaving it with
little deterrent or compensatory value and thereby
undermining Congress's purposes in enacting Section 1983.
The message the State is sending to its DOC employees is that
even when they maliciously violate an inmate's civil
rights, neither they nor their employer will suffer
significant financial consequences; instead, the State will
hold them harmless and then recapture the cost of doing so
from the inmate whose rights were violated. A Section 1983
lawsuit-even when found by a jury to have merit-will amount
to little more than a nuisance. Because such a result would
so starkly clash with the history and intent behind
Congress's enactment of Section 1983-a federal remedy
adopted in the wake of the Civil War to combat civil rights
violations by state officials-, the State's actions in
this case are preempted. Those actions have therefore done
nothing to satisfy the judgment owed by the DOC employee.
conclusions are occasioned by Williams's Motion for Aid
of Judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 69 and his related Motion to
Unfreeze Assets, which ask me to (1) declare that the
State's application of its incarceration cost recovery
statute is preempted by Section 1983, (2) order the State of
Connecticut to pay the outstanding judgment, (3) order the
State to release monies in Williams's inmate trust
account that it froze to secure payment of the cost of public
defender services, and (4) order that his judgment not be
reduced by the State's cost recovery efforts. The
Eleventh Amendment, which sets forth a rule of state
sovereign immunity in federal courts, bars me from granting
much of this relief, but it does not prevent me from finding
that the State's actions in this case cannot reduce the
amount of the judgment against its employee, which remains
due and owing.
Motion for Aid of Judgment is therefore GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART, and his Motion to Unfreeze Assets is DENIED.
Williams remains free to execute on the judgment, which, with
interest, currently amounts to $287, 433.92.
His requests for monetary relief against the State of
Connecticut, including an order requiring payment and an
order requiring release of funds in his inmate account, are
fuller explanation of the reasons for this ruling is set
2010, Williams was an inmate at Northern Correctional
Institution (“Northern”) serving a 30-year
sentence. (ECF No. 214 at 5). Dennis Marinelli, the judgment
debtor in this case, was a captain at Northern who helped
oversee the Administrative Segregation program to which
Williams was assigned. (Id.). From the time he
arrived at Northern in November, 2009, until October, 2010,
Williams “never had a cellmate.” (Id. at
6). In early 2010, Williams pleaded with prison officials not
to “double cell” him-i.e., place him in the same
cell-with a gang member. (Id. at 7). He
“conveyed fears for his safety and, in particular,
concerns about receiving a cellmate and the possibility of
attacks by gang members” due in part to having
“previously been attacked by other inmates.”
(Id. at 7). In the months leading up to
October of 2010, Williams also complained to multiple prison
officials about the prison's “sequential uncuffing
practice.” (Id. at 7). Under that practice,
two inmates living in the same cell would have their
handcuffs removed in sequence, leaving one inmate cuffed for
a brief time after the other had been uncuffed. (Id.
at 7-8). Williams specifically told prison officials
“that he was afraid that he would be unable to defend
himself from assaults” as a result of this practice.
(Id. at 7). In particular, “he feared he would
be assaulted while cuffed behind his back.”
(Id. at 8). Although prison officials did little in
response to Williams's concerns, he nonetheless remained
living alone-until October 28, 2010. (Id. at 8).
date, Williams was informed that he would be moved to another
cell and would live with a cellmate, inmate Darnell Walker.
(Id. at 10). Walker “was an active member of
the Bloods” and was also designated by the DOC as a
“Security Risk Group Threat Member, which means that he
was an active gang member who had engaged in violence in the
prison system and who potentially pose[d] a threat to
institutional operations.” (Id. at 11
(internal quotation marks omitted)). Marinelli was involved
in the plan to move Williams to a double cell and was aware
of his background. (Id. at 9-10). Further, Marinelli
“would have reviewed Walker's [DOC] designations
and disciplinary history before the move.”
(Id. at 11). He nonetheless did nothing to prevent
Williams from being celled with Walker. Despite
Williams's protestations, he was being placed in the very
situation he most feared.
learning of the plan to place him with Walker, Williams
immediately asked to speak to mental health staff, who had
promised him numerous times that he would remain living
alone. (Id. at 8-11). Williams was told to calm down
and that his situation would be investigated prior to his
moving into the cell. (Id. at 10). Nonetheless,
Williams was escorted to his new cell shortly thereafter.
(Id. at 11). As he approached the cell, he informed
the officers escorting him that “he had been told by
mental health that he would be living alone, ” and he
urged them to contact various mental health staff members to
confirm this guarantee. (Id. at 12). They informed
him that they would do so and left him in the cell, uncuffed,
with inmate Walker. (Id.).
first few minutes, Williams's double celling with Walker
was uneventful. He and Walker remained in the cell for four
to six minutes, uncuffed, without incident. (Id.).
Then the officers returned and escorted Williams to the day
room. (Id.). One of the officers then went to speak
with Marinelli, and subsequently “reported that
Marinelli had instructed that Williams be returned to the
cell with Walker and that, if he refused, he would be issued
a disciplinary report, ” amongst other sanctions.
(Id.). Facing sanctions should he choose otherwise,
Williams allowed the officers to escort him back to the cell.
(Id. at 13).
then returned to the cell while cuffed behind his back.
(Id.). Walker, who was waiting in the cell, was then
cuffed prior to Williams's entrance into the cell.
(Id.). However, once both inmates were in the cell
together and the door locked, “Walker went immediately
to . . . uncuff” through a slot in the cell door.
(Id.). The officers uncuffed Walker, who then
proceeded to assault Williams while he remained cuffed behind
his back. (Id.). Walker “punched [Williams] in
the head, knocked him to the floor, kicked him, and stomp[ed]
on him.” (Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted)). Williams suffered injuries to his head, ankle,
back, and knee as a result of the assault. (Id. at
12). Immediately after the assault, Walker angrily said
“that the correctional staff knew what [they] were
doing when they put him into a cell with an inmate on single
cell status doing 30 years.” (Id. at 13-14
(internal quotation marks omitted)). After the assault,
Marinelli approached Williams and told him that he would
receive another cellmate, leaving Williams
“‘terrified' that he would be assaulted
again.” (Id. at 14).
months after the assault, Marinelli repeatedly threatened
Williams that he would be receiving a cellmate. (Id.
at 14). Marinelli at one point told another inmate-who was
also a gang member-that he was going to be housed with
Williams. (Id.). Even after the deputy warden
“specifically told Marinelli that he could not place
anyone in the cell with Williams- following a written
complaint by Williams about Marinelli's threats-Marinelli
continued to tell Williams he would receive a
cellmate.” (Id.). Marinelli also spoke to
another prison official “in an attempt to persuade her
to take Williams off single cell status.” (Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted)). To make matters worse
for Williams, Walker was placed a few cells away from him.
(Id.). Walker and other prisoners taunted Williams
about the assault, and threatened that it would happen again.
(Id.). “When Williams complained to Marinelli
about being housed with gang members, Marinelli told him to
shut up and to lie down on his bunk.” (Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted)). All the while, Williams
had “recurring nightmares about being killed by
cellmates” and constant anxiety. (Id. at 13).
filed a complaint under Section 1983 on August 9, 2013,
alleging, among other things, that Northern personnel had
been deliberately indifferent to unsafe conditions in
violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1 at 9). Marinelli,
along with the other defendants, was represented by the
Connecticut Attorney General's Office. (See ECF
No. 21). Williams's claims were ultimately
submitted to a jury with respect to four defendants in their
individual capacities: Marinelli, Lieutenant Melvin Saylor,
and Correctional Officers Alphonso Lindsey and Dishana
Robinson. (ECF No. 214 at 4). I instructed the jury that it
could award punitive damages against a defendant if it found
that the defendant “engaged in any of the following
conduct: a. [m]alicious or oppressive violation of Mr.
Williams's constitutional rights; or b.
[r]eckless disregard or callous indifference as to whether he
or she was violating Mr. Williams's constitutional
rights.” (ECF No. 171 at 24-25). On July 19, 2016, the
jury rendered a verdict in favor of Williams against
Marinelli in the amount of $250, 000.00 in compensatory
damages and $400, 000.00 in punitive damages; and in favor of
defendants Saylor, Lindsey, and Robinson against Williams.
(ECF No. 178).
Relevant Post-Judgment Procedural History
the jury's verdict, Marinelli filed motions for judgment
as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, a new trial under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 59, and remittitur. (ECF No. 190). I rejected
Marinelli's motions for judgment as a matter of law and
for a new trial, but granted in part and denied in part the
motion for remittitur. (ECF No. 214 at 2-3). With regard to
the latter, I offered Williams the choice of accepting a
remittitur of the punitive damages award to $50, 000 or
having a new trial on damages. (ECF No. 214 at 3). Williams
accepted the remittitur, leaving a total award of $300, 000
in damages. (ECF No. 216; ECF No. 220). On July 27, 2016,
Williams filed an “objection to [the] State of
Connecticut's claim for repayment of cost of
incarceration, ” in which he preemptively objected to
the State of Connecticut's applying a lien against his
judgment to recover the cost of his incarceration. (ECF No.
185). I construed this as a “motion to enjoin the State
from setting off the costs of his incarceration, ” and
denied it without prejudice “to refiling the motion
when issues arising from collection of the judgment bec[a]me
ripe. . . .” (ECF No. 214 at 3).
defendants initially filed a notice of appeal (ECF No. 224)
but withdrew the appeal on July 5, 2017. (ECF No. 231). On
July 13, 2017, the Assistant Attorney General who had
defended Marinelli at the trial contacted Williams's
counsel,  informing him by email that the amended
judgment would be paid as follows: “1) $15, 140 made
payable to Connecticut Child Support for fulfilling his
statutory obligation to reimburse a child support
lien; 2) $142, 430 made payable to the
Department of Administrative Services to fulfill statutory
obligation for cost of incarceration; [and] 3) $142, 430 made
payable to Williams.” (ECF No. 241-1 at 3).
Williams's counsel objected, asking that the State
“not issue any checks at this time.”
(Id. at 2).
18, 2017, Williams's counsel filed a motion to extend the
time to file a bill of costs until 14 days “after
adjudication of Williams'[s] forthcoming motion
concerning the State of Connecticut's attempt to seize a
portion of Williams'[s] award under Connecticut's
cost of incarceration statute.” (ECF No. 234 at 1.) The
Court granted the motion and scheduled a telephonic status
conference, which it held on July 26, 2017. During that
conference, I discussed briefly with all counsel
Williams's “forthcoming motion, ” which I
directed his counsel to file by August 18, 2017, and the need
to give notice to the State, a non-party, regarding the
anticipated challenge to the constitutionality of its cost of
incarceration statute. (ECF No. 279; ECF Nos. 234 & 236;
ECF No. 252 at 12-13); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.1
and 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b).
27, 2017, the Assistant Attorney General sent a check for
$142, 430 to the DOC with instructions that it be deposited
into Williams's inmate account. (See ECF No. 241-2
at 2). The check was deposited into the inmate account on
August 1, 2017. (See ECF No. 241-3 at 2).
August 17, 2017, Williams filed a “motion for aid of
judgment” requesting “that the Court declare that
Connecticut's cost of incarceration statute, codified at
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-85b,  conflicts with 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 in such a way as to stand as a substantial
obstacle to Congress's goals and that, as a result and as
applied to Williams's judgment, § 18-85b is
preempted by federal law.” (ECF No. 240 at 1). The
motion also requested that “the Court order the State
of Connecticut to pay the remainder of the outstanding
judgment” and “order that [Williams's]
judgment not be reduced through the application of Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 18-85b.” (Id. at 1, 11). A day
later, the Court “certifie[d] to the Connecticut
Attorney General that [Williams] ha[d] raised a
constitutional challenge to Connecticut's cost of
incarceration statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-85b,
” and that the State would have sixty days to intervene
in the matter under 28 U.S.C. § 2403(b). (ECF No. 243;
see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 5.1). The State of
Connecticut eventually intervened and filed a brief averring
that Williams's claim contained no merit and was, in any
event, precluded by the Eleventh Amendment to the United
States Constitution. (ECF No. 268).
November of 2017, Williams filed a motion to unfreeze assets
(ECF No. 256) claiming that the State of Connecticut had
“unilaterally and without due process seized $65, 000
of [his] judgment by unilaterally ordering a freeze on his
inmate trust account.” (ECF No. 257 at 1). A printout
of the transaction history of Williams's inmate account
demarcated this hold as the result of a “Court Order,
” although the record does not reflect the issuance of
any such order by this Court or any other court. (ECF No.
257-2 at 2). Williams's motion also included an attached
complaint by the State of Connecticut in Connecticut Superior
Court for “at least $48, 842.42 for the services”
rendered to Williams by the Connecticut “Division of
Public Defender Services.” (ECF No. 257-3 at 3). The
State filed an objection to Williams's motion to unfreeze
assets, in which it represented that the hold on
Williams's account was initiated as part of the
State's ongoing effort to recover, by means of a lawsuit
recently initiated in state court under Conn. Gen. Stat.
§ 51-298, the costs of state public defender
services he has utilized over the years. (ECF No. 266 at
1-2). Williams later removed that lawsuit to this Court.
See Connecticut v. Williams, 17CV02023 (MPS). In a
ruling issued today, however, I grant the State's motion
to remand that case to state court. (See Id. at ECF
a hearing on Williams's motions in this case and the
State's motion to remand in Connecticut v.
Williams on March 14, 2018. Counsel for the State
represented at the hearing that the $48, 000 amount mentioned
in the complaint in Connecticut v. Williams covered
only a portion of Williams's prior public defender
services. He estimated that the total amount of the
recoverable public defender costs would likely be higher and
that, in particular, the $48, 000 did not include expert
costs, which he reserved the right to seek.
Motion for Aid of Judgment and Motion for Release of Funds
seek various forms of relief, including: (1) “that the
Court declare that Connecticut's cost of incarceration
statute [Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-85b] . . . as applied to
Williams's judgment . . . is preempted by federal law,
” (2) “that the Court order that his judgment not
be reduced through application of Conn. Gen. Stat. §
18-85b”; (3) that the Court order “that the State
of Connecticut pay him the remainder of [his] judgment”
(id.); and (4) that the Court “order that the
State of Connecticut release its hold on monies in his inmate
trust account” on the ground that “the
State's efforts to reduce Mr. Williams's § 1983
judgment to recover public defender fees suffers from the
same constitutional defect as the State's cost of
incarceration claim.” (ECF Nos. 240 at 1, 241 at 11,
256, & 257 at 3.) As shown below in Section III.B, the
Eleventh Amendment bars granting monetary relief against the
State and thus forecloses some of Williams's requests.
But the Eleventh Amendment does not affect the Court's
jurisdiction over Marinelli, the actual defendant and
judgment debtor in this case. See Hafer v. Melo, 502
U.S. 21, 31 (1991) (“We hold that state officials, sued
in their individual capacities, are ‘persons'
within the meaning of § 1983. The Eleventh Amendment
does not bar such suits. . . .”). Also, Williams's
request that I order that “his judgment not be reduced
through application” of the State's cost recovery
statutes raises the question whether the State's actions
in this case have reduced or satisfied Marinelli's
obligation to pay the judgment. Indeed, any “Motion for
Aid of Judgment”-under Rule 69 or otherwise- raises the
question whether the judgment debtor has satisfied the
judgment, because, if he has, there is of course no need for
aid and no basis to grant the motion. See Zamani v.
Carnes, 491 F.3d 990, 996 (9th Cir. 2007) (holding that
Rule 69 “applies to satisfaction of judgments”).
federal court possesses inherent authority to enforce its
judgments. See Degen v. United States, 517 U.S. 820,
823 (1996) (“Courts invested with the judicial power of
the United States have certain inherent authority to protect
their proceedings and judgments in the course of discharging
their traditional responsibilities.”); Young v.
United States ex. rel. Vuitton et Fils S.A., 481 U.S.
787, 809 (1987) (noting that courts' ability to enforce
their orders and judgments is “a subject that directly
concerns the functioning of the Judiciary”);
Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349, 356 (1996) (noting
the existence of “a federal court's inherent power
to enforce its judgments”). Implicit in that authority
is the power to determine whether the judgment has been
satisfied. See Bryan v. Erie Cty. Office of Children
& Youth, 752 F.3d 316, 323 (3d Cir. 2014) (“In
ongoing litigation, district courts have the jurisdiction to
decide whether the parties have settled the action or have
satisfied the judgment.”); Jarvis v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 2008 WL 2757608 at *5 n.7 (W.D. Mich. July
11, 2008) (“[I]t appears that this court would retain
jurisdiction [in post-judgment proceedings involving
questions over the proper payee] to determine whether the
judgment has been satisfied.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5)
(permitting relief from judgment if court concludes
“the judgment has been satisfied, released or
answer the question whether the judgment has been
satisfied-or even reduced-in this case, I must decide the
legal effect of the State's actions in indemnifying
Marinelli and recovering the associated expense from Williams
through its use of the cost recovery statutes. Specifically,
I must decide whether those actions have served (or will
serve, with respect to the ongoing efforts to recover costs
of public defender services) to reduce Marinelli's
obligation to pay Williams or whether, as Williams contends,
those actions are preempted by Section 1983 and thus of no
legal effect. It is to that issue I turn now.
The Supremacy Clause
involves the enforcement of the Supremacy Clause, which
provides that the laws and treaties of the United States
“shall be the supreme Law of the Land . . . any Thing
in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary
notwithstanding.” U.S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Under
the Supremacy Clause, “state laws that conflict with
federal law are without effect.” Altria Group, Inc.
v. Good, 555 U.S. 70, 76 (2008); see also Gibbons v.
Ogden, 22 U.S. 1, 211 (1824) (“The appropriate
application of [the Supremacy Clause] is to such acts of the
State Legislatures . . . enacted in the execution of
acknowledged State powers, [that] interfere with, or are
contrary to the laws of Congress, made in pursuance of the
constitution. . . . In every such case, the act of Congress,
or the treaty, is supreme; and the law of the State . . .
must yield to it.”). The “state laws” in
question include more than just statutes. Also preempted by
federal law are actions of state executive branch officials
and state courts that conflict with federal law. See
Cuomo v. Clearing House Ass'n, L.L.C., 557 U.S. 519,
536 (2009) (National Banking Act preempted New York Attorney
General from issuing letters to banks threatening to subpoena
them concerning their lending practices); Morales v.
Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 384 (1992)
(noting that the Airline Deregulation Act preempts
“[s]tate enforcement actions having a connection with
or reference to airline rates, routes, or services”
(internal quotation marks omitted)); Power & Light
Co. v. Mississippi ex rel. Moore, 487 U.S. 354, 377
(1988) (state inquiry into reasonableness of FERC-approved
prices for sale of nuclear power to wholesalers of
electricity preempted due to conflict with FERC's
jurisdiction); Appalachian Power Co. v. Pub. Serv.
Comm'n of W. Virginia, 812 F.2d 898, 904
(4th Cir. 1987) (“Preemption principles deny
state authority to act in a way that would undermine the
purposes of federal law.”); Riegel v. Medtronic,
Inc., 552 U.S. 312, 323-30 (2008) (holding that FDA
regulation preempted plaintiff's state common law
federal law may preempt state law in at least three ways.
First, Congress may include an express preemption provision
in a statute clearly indicating its intent to preempt
contrary state law. See, e.g., Northwest, Inc.
v. Ginsberg, 134 S.Ct. 1422, 1426 (2014) (concluding
that state common law claim fell within ambit of Airline
Deregulation Act's preemption provision); Gobeille v.
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 136 S.Ct. 936, 947 (2016)
(concluding that preemption provision in Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempted state law as
applied to ERISA plans). Second, Congress may “occupy
the field” regulated by a statute, thereby preempting
all contrary state law. See, e.g., Schneidewind
v. ANR Pipeline Co., 485 U.S. 293, 310 (1988) (holding
that Natural Gas Act occupied field upon which state act
impinged and therefore preempted state act). Congress's
intent to occupy the field “can be inferred from a
framework of regulation ‘so pervasive . . . that
Congress left no room for the States to supplement it' or
where there is a ‘federal interest . . . so dominant
that the federal system will be assumed to preclude
enforcement of state laws on the same subject.'”
Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387, 399 (2012)
(quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S.
218, 230 (1947)). Third, a federal law may conflict with
state law, thereby preempting it. See, e.g.,
Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S.
363, 387 (2000) (holding state law regulating trade with
Burma was preempted because it conflicted with federal law
addressing same subject); PLIVA, Inc. v. Mensins,
564 U.S. 604, 619 (2011) (holding state law claims conflicted
with federal drug regulations and were therefore preempted).
invokes only the third of these theories-conflict
preemption-in support of his motions for aid of judgment and
release of funds. (ECF No. 241 at 11; ECF No. 257 at 3.)
Conflict preemption involves situations in which
“compliance with both federal and state regulations is
a physical impossibility, and those instances where the
challenged state law stands as an obstacle to the
accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and
objectives of Congress.” Arizona, 567 U.S. at
399 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
Williams argues that the State of Connecticut's actions
in this case fall under the latter category of conflict
preemption, known as obstacle preemption. (ECF No. 241 at 11;
ECF No. 257 at 3).
“in all pre-emption cases . . . we start with the
assumption that the historic police powers of the States were
not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the
clear and manifest purpose of Congress, ” Wyeth v.
Levine, 555 U.S. 555, 565 (2009), “the party
asserting that federal law preempts state law bears the
burden of establishing preemption.” In re Methyl
Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) Prod. Liab. Litig., 725 F.3d
65, 96 (2d Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).
That burden is a heavy one when obstacle preemption is at
issue: “[F]ederal law does not preempt state law under
obstacle preemption analysis unless the repugnance or
conflict is so direct and positive that the two acts cannot
be reconciled or consistently stand together.”
Id. at 102 (internal quotation marks omitted).
“The mere fact of tension between federal and state law
is generally not enough to establish an obstacle supporting
preemption. . . .” Madeira v. Affordable Hous.
Found., Inc., 469 F.3d 219, 241 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Nonetheless, ...