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Webb v. Arnone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 1, 2018

DANIEL J.A. WEBB, Plaintiff,
LEO ARNONE, et al., Defendants.



         Daniel J.A. Webb-a prisoner currently incarcerated at Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”)-has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, against current and former Commissioners of Correction Leo Arnone, James Dzurenda, Brian Murphy, and Scott Semple; current and former Wardens Eduardo Maldonado, Anne Cournoyer, and William Mulligan; and District Administrator/Warden Angel Quiros. Webb also seeks the appointment of pro bono counsel.

         I. Complaint [Doc. No. 1]

         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, malicious, or 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 grounds upon which they are based and to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (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).

         On April 25, 2012, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law An Act Revising the Penalty for Capital Felonies, which prospectively repealed the death penalty for capital felonies committed after its enactment. See P.A. No. 12-5. For prisoners who had been sentenced to death prior to April 25, 2012, and whose sentences were subsequently “reduced to a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release by a court of competent jurisdiction, ” the act provided that the Commissioner of Correction “shall place [the] inmate on special circumstances high security status and house the inmate in administrative segregation until a reclassification process is completed.” See Id. at § 37(a) (codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-10b(a)). The act also directed the Commissioner to “establish a reclassification process” that would “include an assessment of the risk a[] [former death row] inmate . . . poses to staff and other inmates, ” as well as “an assessment of whether such risk requires the inmate's placement in administrative segregation or protective custody.” See Id. at § 37(b) (codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-10b(b) & (c)). The act required “[t]he commissioner [to] place such inmate in a housing unit for the maximum security population if, after completion of such reclassification process, the commissioner determines such placement is appropriate, ” and to subject the inmate to “conditions of confinement which shall include, but not be limited to, ” the following:

(i) that the inmate's movements be escorted or monitored, (ii) movement of the inmate to a new cell at least every ninety days,
(iii) at least two searches of the inmate's cell each week,
(iv) that no contact be permitted during the inmate's social visits,
(v) that the inmate be assigned to work assignments that are within the assigned housing unit, and (vi) that the inmate be allowed no more than two hours of recreational activity per day.

Id. at § 37(c)(1) (codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-10b(c)(1)). Finally, the statute directed “[t]he commissioner [to] conduct an annual review of such inmate's conditions of confinement within such housing unit, ” and permitted the commissioner “for compelling correctional management or safety reasons” to “modify any condition of confinement.” Id. at § 37(c)(2).

         On August 25, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that “following the enactment of P.A. 12-5, Connecticut's capital punishment scheme no longer comport[ed] with [the] state's contemporary standards of decency” and “no longer serve[d] any legitimate penological goal.” State v. Santiago, 318 Conn. 1, 86, 118 (2015). As a result, capital punishment “offend[ed] the state constitutional prohibition against excessive and disproportionate punishment” and “violate[d] article first, [sections] 8 and 9, of the Connecticut constitution.”[1] Id. at 86, 119. Therefore, the Court held that “the state constitution no longer permit[ted] the execution of individuals sentenced to death for crimes committed prior to the enactment of P.A. 12-5.” Id. at 14-15.

         On the same day that Santiago was issued, Webb and other prisoners sent written requests to former Warden Cournoyer asking to be removed from the restrictive conditions imposed on them as death row inmates. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, at ¶ 9. Former Warden Cournoyer informed Webb that prison officials would reclassify him in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-10b after Webb had been re-sentenced to a term of life without the possibility of release. See Id. at ¶ 10.

         On July 26, 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that the death penalty was unconstitutional as applied to Webb, reversed the judgment of the Superior Court denying Webb's petition for writ of habeas corpus, and remanded the case with instructions to grant the petition and to resentence Webb accordingly. See Webb v. Comm'r of Corr., 322 Conn. 187, 191 (2016) (per curiam). On September 9, 2016, the Superior Court resentenced Webb to a term of life without the possibility of release. See Compl., Doc. No. 1, at ¶ 12.

         On September 22, 2016, former Warden Mulligan informed Webb that there would be no change in his classification and that he would remain on restraint status and subject to the same conditions of confinement to which he had previously been subject as a death row inmate. See Id. at ¶ 15. On December 1, 2016, the Director of Classification and Population Management informed Webb that the reclassification process pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 18-10b was complete, and that he would remain on special circumstances high security status. See Id. at ¶ 18.

         Webb claims that two other former death row inmates were reclassified in August 2015 and transferred out of state to serve their sentences. See Id. at ¶ 11. He contends that the conditions of confinement in the out-of-state prisons are significantly less restrictive. See Id. Webb believes that two more former death row inmates were reclassified in October 2016 and removed from special circumstances status. See Id. at ¶ 16. Under their new classification status, both inmates were permitted to move outside of their cells without restraints. See Id. at ¶ 17.

         On January 21, 2017, Webb wrote to Commissioner Semple and former Warden Mulligan seeking to be removed from special circumstances high security status and, in particular, the restraint requirements of that status. See Id. at ¶ 20. Webb did not receive a response from Commissioner Semple. See id.

         On February 1, 2017, Webb received a copy of his classification review, which indicated that he would remain on special circumstances status because of his prior violent behavior. See Id. at ¶ 21. On February 7, 2017, former Warden Mulligan informed Webb that he was being treated differently from other former death row inmates because of his prior violent behavior. See Id. at ¶ 22.

         Webb has repeatedly submitted grievances challenging his current classification status. See Id. ¶ 74. Webb claims that the defendants have violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to provide him with procedural due process in connection with his initial and continued placement on special circumstances high security status. Webb also alleges that the defendants have violated the Eighth Amendment, by imposing restraint requirements disproportionate to the safety and security risk he poses to inmates and staff, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by treating him differently than other former death row inmates. Webb seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.

         A. Eighth Amendment Claim

         Webb has named as defendants a number of prior Commissioners of the Department of Correction and prior Wardens of Northern, as well as the current Warden of Northern and the current Commissioner of Correction. He generally asserts that the defendants were responsible for housing him at Northern under restrictive conditions of confinement.

         According to the website for the Department of Correction, Leo Arnone was Commissioner of Correction from 2010 to 2013, James Dzurenda was Commissioner from 2013 to 2014, and Scott Semple is the current Commissioner. Angel Quiros was the Warden at Northern from 2009 to 2011, Eduardo Maldonado was the Warden from 2011 to 2014, Anne Cournoyer was the Warden from 2014 to 2016, and Nick Rodriguez is the current Warden. Although Webb identifies Brian Murphy as a former Commissioner of Correction and William Mulligan as a former Warden at Northern, the website does not list either person in those positions. ...

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