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Gulley v. Limmer

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 23, 2018

CHAZ O. GULLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
LIMMER, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER RE AMENDED COMPLAINT

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge.

         Chaz O. Gulley, currently confined at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaining that excessive force was used against him. The named defendants are Lieutenant Limmer and Correctional Officer Sullivan. The defendants are named in individual and official capacities. Gulley's complaint was received on June 7, 2018, and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on June 14, 2018.

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro 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).

         I. Allegations

         The incident underlying the complaint occurred while Gulley was confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 3. On March 17, 2018, Gulley returned to MacDougall from the hospital where he had been taken for neck x-rays after a suicide attempt. Gulley was taken to the infirmary to be placed on suicide watch. Id., ¶ 5. Gulley was compliant during the trips to and from the hospital and during the escort to the infirmary. Id., ¶ 6.

         An officer operating a hand-held video camera was present to record the escort to the infirmary and subsequent strip search. Id. at 2-3, ¶ 7. When they entered Room 6 in the infirmary, Limmer ordered a controlled strip search. Id. at 3, ¶ 8. Gulley told Limmer that a controlled strip search was not required under prison directives and asked that a regular strip search be performed. Id., ¶ 9. Limmer ignored Gulley's repeated requests for a regular strip search. Id., ¶ 10.

         Correctional officers proceeded with the controlled strip search, removing Gulley's clothes so he could be placed in a safety gown. Id., ¶ 11. Limmer ordered Gulley to squat and cough. Gulley refused in protest. Id., ¶ 12. Gulley has engaged in similar protests over the last ten years whenever he believes that he is being mistreated. Id., ¶ 13. He has been placed on in-cell restraints or subjected to pressure point pain compliance techniques. Id. at 4, ¶ 14.

         Limmer has a “bad rapport/history” with Gulley. Id., ¶ 19. Limmer ordered Sullivan to deliver knee strikes to Gulley's knees, a practice not authorized in prison directives. Id., ¶ 15. This practice had never before been used on Gulley. Id., ¶ 16. Although the knee strikes caused Gulley to suffer pain and bruising, he continued to protest. Id., ¶ 17. Limmer ordered correctional officers to confine Gulley in 4-point restraints. Gulley did not want to be restrained and complied with the order to squat and cough. Id., ¶ 18. II. Analysis Gulley asserts a claim for use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment and supplemental state law claims for assault and battery.

         The use of excessive force against a prisoner can constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 4 (1992); accord Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34, 36 (2010) (per curiam). The “core judicial inquiry” is not “whether a certain quantum of injury was sustained, but rather whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 37 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7).

         Gulley alleges that the defendants used unapproved force against him. He also alleges a bad relationship with Limmer, suggesting that the decision regarding the force used was based on an intent to cause harm rather than to restore discipline. The Court concludes that Gulley has stated a plausible claim for use of excessive force.

         Although Gulley states that he names the defendants in individual and official capacities, he seeks only damages. The Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages against state officials in their official capacities unless the state has waived this immunity or Congress has abrogated it. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985). Section 1983 does not abrogate state sovereign immunity, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 343 (1979), and Gulley has submitted no evidence suggesting that Connecticut has waived its immunity. Because Gulley cannot recover damages from the defendants in their official capacities, any claims against Limmer and Sullivan in their official capacities are dismissed.

         Conclusion

         All claims against Limmer and Sullivan in their official capacities are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1915A(b)(2). The case will proceed on the federal claim for use of excessive force and the supplemental state law claims for ...


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