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Moore v. Parsons

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 19, 2018




         Plaintiff Terrance Moore, an inmate currently incarcerated at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, has brought this civil rights action pro se against various prison officials of Northern Correctional Institution ("Northern C.I."), the prison where he was previously housed, in Somers, Connecticut. The defendants include Correction Officers Parsons, Titus, Vargas, and Sanchez; Captain Robles; Lieutenants Melendez and Prior; Warden Faneuff; and Deputy Warden Molden. Moore is suing these defendants in their official and individual capacities, and seeks monetary damages from all defendants.

         Magistrate Judge Garfinkel granted Moore's motion to proceed in forma pauperis on March 29, 2018. See Doc. 5. The Court now reviews Moore's Complaint to determine whether his claims are "frivolous" or may proceed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses his Complaint in part.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss any portion that "(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2). Although highly detailed allegations are not required, the complaint "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S 544, 570 (2007)).[1] "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint must provide "more than the unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         "[W]hether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will [ultimately] . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 663-64. When "well-pleaded factual allegations" are present, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679. Factual disputes do not factor into a plausibility analysis under Iqbal and its progeny.

         "Although all allegations contained in the complaint are assumed to be true, this tenet is 'inapplicable to legal conclusions.'" LaMagna v. Brown, 474 Fed.Appx. 788, 789 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). See also Amaker v. New York State Dept. of Corr. Servs., 435 Fed.Appx. 52, 54 (2d Cir. 2011) (same). Accordingly, the Court is not "bound to accept conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions." Faber v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 648 F.3d 98, 104 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Rolon v. Henneman, 517 F.3d 140, 149 (2d Cir. 2008) (quotation marks omitted). Consequently, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         With respect to pro se litigants, it is well-established that "[p]ro se submissions are reviewed with special solicitude, and 'must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'" Matheson v. Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 706 Fed.Appx. 24, 26 (2d Cir. 2017) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (per curiam)). See also Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (same); Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants); Boykin v. KeyCorp., 521 F.3d 202, 214 (2d Cir. 2008) ("A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007))); Sealed Plaintiff v. Sealed Defendant, 537 F.3d 185, 191 (2d Cir. 2008) (Where the plaintiff proceeds pro se, a court is "obliged to construe his pleadings liberally." (quoting McEachin v. McGuinnis, 357 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir. 2004))); Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007) (in reviewing a pro se complaint, the court "must liberally construe [the] pleadings, and must interpret [the] complaint to raise the strongest arguments it suggests").

         Despite being subject to liberal interpretation, a pro se plaintiff's complaint still must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Mancuso v. Hynes, 379 Fed.Appx. 60, 61 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Therefore, even in a pro se case, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Chavis v. Chappius, 618 F.3d 162, 170 (2d Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Nor may the Court "invent factual allegations" that the plaintiff has not pleaded. Id.


         The allegations in this Part are derived from the Complaint.

         In July 2017, Moore was housed at Northern Correctional Institution. Doc. 1 (Complaint), ¶3. On or about July 7, 2017, Moore was scheduled for a "social" telephone call, at Northern's 2 west housing unit. Id., ¶11. Starting at 3:00 p.m. on that date, at the beginning of the second shift, Defendant Parsons began harassing Moore, calling him a "snitch" for complaining to Parson's supervisors about him. Id., ¶12. Parsons also called Moore a "rat" and a "wigger." Id. Parsons referenced Moore's scheduled telephone call, saying, "let's see how bad you are then" and that he was going to "fuck [him] up." Id. Such threats and harassment represented a continuation of a pattern of behavior which had commenced some time ago. Id. Parsons continued to taunt Plaintiff for the next several hours.

         At approximately 7:00 p.m., Defendants Parsons and Titus reported to Moore's cell for "what was supposed to be" Plaintiff's scheduled telephone call. Id., ¶14. Parsons approached Moore's cell door, asked him if he was "ready to get fucked up, " and then ordered Moore to place his hands through the slot to be handcuffed. Id., ¶15. Moore complied with Parsons' order without resistance. Id. Parsons then applied the handcuffs on Moore's wrists extremely tightly, "squeezing the cuffs [until] about their last clicks, " causing Moore extreme pain. Id., ¶16. This was done for the sole purpose of causing Moore harm. Id. Moore screamed and pleaded for the restraints to be loosened, but Parsons and Titus ignored his cries, calling him a "bitch." Id., ¶17. When Moore then requested the presence of a supervisor, Parsons called him a "snitch bitch." Id., ¶18. Parsons then summoned for Moore's cell door to be opened and entered the cell. Id., ¶19.

         Upon entry into the cell, Parsons ordered Moore to kneel on his bunk so that he could apply leg irons, and Moore complied. Id., ¶21. Again, despite Moore's compliance, Parsons applied the restraints in an extremely tight manner, causing Moore extreme pain. Id., ¶22. Parsons continued the harmful restraint application, while Titus stood by and watched, deliberately failing to intervene. Id., ¶23. Parsons commented that Moore's cell was a "blindspot." Id., ¶24. Moore, "in great fear and pain, " turned to look back at Parsons and Titus, but Parsons, using an expletive, immediately ordered Moore not to look at him. Id., ¶25.

         As Moore voiced his intentions to complain to the supervisors, Parsons yanked on Moore's leg irons, causing Moore to hit his head on the edge of the bed as he fell to the cell floor. Id., ¶26. While Moore was lying face down on the floor, slightly dazed, distraught and in pain, Parsons kicked and punched him several times. Id., ¶27. Moore screamed for help and pleaded for Parsons to stop hitting him, but the assault continued. Id., ¶28. Fully restrained, Moore attempted to take cover under a stationary mounted desk in his cell. Id., ¶29. He was facing away from Parsons and Titus and was not threatening in any way. Id. Nevertheless, Parsons continued to assault him, calling Moore names. Id., ¶30. Parsons dragged Moore across the floor by his legs and leg iron chains, and continued to strike him with his closed fists and knees. Id., ¶¶31-2. Titus stood by and watched the assault, without intervening. Id., ¶32.

         Approximately two minutes into the assault, Parsons yelled to Titus that he "could go ahead and call it now, " which prompted Titus to falsely radio in a "signal-11, " which is a Connecticut Department of Correction code for an unruly inmate. Id., ¶33. Shortly thereafter, Lieutenants Melendez and Prior arrived at Moore's cell with several other correction officers. Id., ¶34. Moore was struck several times by the responding staff, who ignored his cries for help as he layon the ground, compliant and not resisting. Id. Moore's head and face were slammed against the ground several times, and the officers attempted to strike him and grab at his face. Id. ¶36-7. Melendez and Prior, who had been standing by and watching, then unnecessarily sprayed the compliant Moore with a chemical agent. Id., ¶39. As a result of the attack, Moore suffered contusions and lacerations on various parts of his body. Id., ¶40.

         After the assault, Melendez and Prior ordered that Moore be placed on in-cell restraint status for approximately twenty-four hours. Id., ¶42. Moore's hands were secured in the front in cuffs, his legs were secured in leg irons, and a tether chain connected the handcuffs to the leg irons. Id. In addition to suffering extreme pain from the assault, Moore was unable to walk freely, use the toilet, or sleep properly because of the restraints. Id., ¶43. The pain from his injuries was aggravated by the use of the restraints. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Claims Against Defendants in their Official Capacities

         To the extent Moore seeks money damages from the defendants in their official capacities, the claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979). Although the Complaint states that Moore "seeks damages in defendants' individual capacities only, " the caption of the Complaint indicates that Defendants are "sued in both individual and official capacities, " and Moore does not seek injunctive relief. Doc. 1, at 1 (sic). "Generally, a suit for recovery of money may not be maintained against the state itself, or against any agency or department of the state, unless the state has waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment." Auguste v. Dep't of Corr., 424 F.Supp.2d 363, 367 (D. Conn. 2006) (citations omitted). "[T]o the extent that a State official is sued in his official capacity, such a suit is deemed to be a suit against the State, and the official is entitled to invoke the same Eleventh Amendment immunity as that belonging to the State." DeLoreto v. Ment, 944 F.Supp. 1023, 1031 (D. Conn. 1996). "However, state officials sued in their individual capacities are not immune from personal liability pursuant to § 1983." Credle-Brown v. Connecticut, 502 F.Supp.2d 292, 299 ...

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