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Carter v. Watson

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 1, 2018

ANTHONY C. CARTER
v.
JAMES WATSON ET AL.

          Argued December 6, 2017

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for the alleged deprivation of the plaintiff's due process rights, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district New Haven, where the court, Ecker, J., granted in part the defendants' motion to dismiss; thereafter, the court granted the defendants' motion for reargument and rendered judgment dismissing the action, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Anthony C. Carter, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

          Steven R. Strom, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, attorney general, for the appellees (defendants).

          Sheldon, Elgo and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BEAR, J.

         The self-represented plaintiff, Anthony C. Carter, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his action against the defendants, the attorney general for the state of Connecticut and four state employees, [1] in their official and individual capacities, on the grounds of sovereign immunity, lack of personal jurisdiction due to insufficient service of process, and mootness. On appeal, the plaintiff asserts that the court erred in dismissing his action against the defendants in their official capacities because his allegations fall within (1) an exception to the doctrine of sovereign immunity and (2) the capable of repetition, yet evading review exception to mootness.[2] We affirm the judgment of the court.

         The following facts alleged in the complaint and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. In a complaint dated June 9, 2015, the plaintiff, then an inmate at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Cheshire, alleged that on July 17, 2014, he was subject to a random urinalysis test pursuant to Department of Correction Administrative Directive 6.8. The plaintiff was informed that his urine sample tested positive for amphetamines. According to protocol, a positive test result requires the sample to be sent to an outside laboratory for confirmatory testing. The plaintiff was placed in restrictive housing while awaiting the results of the confirmatory test. On July 22, 2014, correctional institution officials were informed that the plaintiff's urine sample tested negative for amphetamines and methamphetamines. More than twenty-four hours later, the plaintiff was still in restrictive housing. According to the administrative directive, when the ‘‘outside laboratory urinalysis results are negative . . . the inmate's status prior to any administrative action taken shall be restored.'' The plaintiff alleged that, following the negative test results, ‘‘he was not restored to his prior status as a ticket or trouble free inmate, nor his employment in the library area . . . .''

         The plaintiff averred that the defendants either were involved in a conspiracy to deprive or ‘‘reckless[ly] dis-regard[ed] . . . the plaintiff's due process rights afforded [to] him by administrative directive 6.8.'' For relief, the defendant sought monetary damages from the defendants in their official and individual capacities, a jury trial and ‘‘[a] declaratory judgment declaring what [his] due process rights [were] or are.'' On August 7, 2014, approximately three weeks after the random urinalysis test was administered, the plaintiff was transferred to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. The plaintiff subsequently was transferred to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville.

         The defendants were served with process on July 20, 2015, by a state marshal who left the writ of summons and complaint at the Office of the Attorney General. On August 12, 2015, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction, sovereign immunity, and mootness. On February 18, 2016, the court granted the motion to dismiss in part, stating that (1) sovereign immunity barred any claims for monetary damages against the defendants in their official capacities, and (2) claims against the defendants in their individual capacities were dismissed for defective service of process. The court denied the motion to dismiss as to the plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief. Subsequently, on August 16, 2016, the court granted the defendants' motion to reargue and dismissed the plaintiff's complaint entirely, stating that the plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief was moot because he had been transferred out of the correctional institution at which the defendants were employed. This appeal followed.

         Our standard of review on a motion to dismiss is well established. ‘‘A motion to dismiss tests, inter alia, whether, on the face of the record, the court is without jurisdiction. . . . [O]ur review of the court's ultimate legal conclusion and resulting [determination] of the motion to dismiss will be de novo. . . . When a . . . court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pre-trial motion to dismiss, it must consider the allegations of the complaint in their most favorable light. . . . In this regard, a court must take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint, including those facts necessarily implied from the allegations, construing them in a manner most favorable to the pleader. . . . The motion to dismiss . . . admits all facts which are well pleaded, invokes the existing record and must be decided upon that alone.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Gold v. Rowland, 296 Conn. 186, 200-201, 994 A.2d 106 (2010).

         I

         We first address the plaintiff's claim that the court erred by dismissing his action against the defendants in their official capacities on the ground of sovereign immunity. The plaintiff argues that his complaint contained sufficient allegations to fall within an exception to the doctrine of sovereign immunity; specifically, that the defendants' conduct ...


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