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Milner v. Board of Pardons and Paroles

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 6, 2018

SHAWN MILNER, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Shawn Milner is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Board of Pardons and Paroles, as well as several parole officers and parole hearing officers, including Kendell Howlett, Jason Bedard, Steve Noto, Carleton Giles, and John Does 1, 2, and 3. After an initial review, I will dismiss the complaint.

         Background

         In July of 2015, plaintiff was living in the Maple Street halfway house in Bridgeport, Connecticut. On July 7, 2015, as plaintiff was signing out of the house to go to work, the director of the residence requested that plaintiff report to her office. When plaintiff arrived at the office, he was asked to close the door and sit down. Shortly thereafter, defendant Howlett and several other parole officers entered the office and placed him in handcuffs. Plaintiff asked Howlett why he was being handcuffed, and Howlett responded that plaintiff had “violated program provisions” by receiving phone calls from other inmates. Plaintiff argued that there was no such provision forbidding receiving calls from inmates, but Howlett dismissed his argument and stated that she was taking him back to jail and giving him a ticket. Doc. #1 at 11 (¶¶ 8-11).

         Plaintiff was then placed in a parole vehicle and brought to Bridgeport Correctional Center. After being admitted and processed, plaintiff received an inmate handbook. Soon thereafter, he was interviewed by a disciplinary report officer, who affirmed that there were no rules prohibiting inmates from calling each other. Id. at 11-12 (¶¶ 12-13).

         After a three-week investigation, the report issued by Howlett was dismissed. Plaintiff's family then called defendants Bedard and Noto, Howlett's supervisors, and asked that plaintiff be immediately released from custody. Both defendants refused to release plaintiff despite the dismissal of the disciplinary report. Plaintiff wrote to defendant Giles, the chairperson of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and notified him that he was being falsely detained, but Giles never responded to plaintiff's letter or took any corrective action. Id. at 12 (¶¶ 14-15)

         In September of 2015, defendants Doe 1, 2, and 3-all members of the parole board- held a rescission hearing in plaintiff's case. Plaintiff informed these defendants that the report which caused his re-incarceration had been dismissed because there were no agency rules prohibiting telephone communications between inmates. Plaintiff requested that he be released immediately because the only basis Howlett had for re-incarcerating plaintiff was the dismissed ticket. He requested to present witnesses in support of his position, but defendants refused. Instead, they sentenced plaintiff to four months of incarceration. As a result, plaintiff lost his job and suffered emotional distress. Id. at 13-14 (¶¶ 16-20).

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(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.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         Claims against the Board of Pardons and Paroles

         I will dismiss plaintiff's claim against the Board of Pardons and Paroles because a state agency like the Board of Pardons and Paroles is not a person subject to suit for money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Hannon v. Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, 2015 WL 3849474, at *2 (D. Conn. 2015). Although plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief in the nature of “jail credit for each day he was falsely incarcerated, ” Doc. #1 at 17, this request for injunctive relief from a state agency or official is not cognizable consistent with the Eleventh Amendment absent an allegation of an ongoing constitutional violation. See, e.g., Va. Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 536 U.S. 247, 254 (2011) (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)).

         Claims against Parole Board Members

         The complaint names as defendants three anonymous members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles who conducted plaintiff's rescission hearing in September of 2015. Parole board members have absolute immunity against § 1983 actions when performing the quasi-judicial role of presiding over violation hearings. See Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 760-61 ...


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