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Harnage v. S. Barrone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 19, 2018

JAMES A. HARNAGE, Plaintiff,
S. BARRONE, et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, James A. Harnage, commenced this civil rights action pro se, but is now represented by counsel. The remaining defendants are: Deputy Wardens S. Barrone and S. Frey; Warden Chapdelaine; former Warden Peter Murphy; Captains VanOudenhave and Hall; Lieutenants Roy, Kitt, Allison and Houston; and Correctional Officers Maloid, Anderson, Nolan, Taylor, Brito, Gonzalez, Vamos (younger), Vamos (older), McCormack, Boyd, Tyburski, Griffith and Scott. The only remaining claims are a Fourth Amendment privacy challenge to the policy prohibiting use of a privacy sheet, and a parallel claim under the Connecticut Constitution. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is being granted as to the federal claim, and the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claim under the Connecticut Constitution.


         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues of material fact in dispute and, based on those undisputed facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; In re Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 151 (2d Cir. 2009). The moving party may satisfy his burden “by showing-that is pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). To defeat the motion for summary judgment, he must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). The nonmoving party “must offer some hard evidence showing that its version is not wholly fanciful.” D'Amico v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir. 1998).

         II. FACTS[1]

         Between April 2007 and January 2014, defendant Peter Murphy was the warden at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). As warden, defendant Murphy was responsible for overseeing the operations of the facility. Safety and security are paramount considerations in running a correctional facility. Thus, the Department of Correction and the individual correctional facilities have many rules to ensure the safety and security of inmates, staff and the public.

         To ensure safety and security, inmates are prohibited from obstructing a clear view into their cells. Many rules addressing this issue are found in the MacDougall Handbook. One rule provides: “You are not permitted to cover light fixtures, to hang drapery over the front of your cell door or window, or to obstruct an open view into your cell.” Defs.' Mem. Ex. 1, Murphy Aff., ¶6, ECF No. 126-3 & Attach. 1, MacDougall Handbook, at 11, ¶¶9, 10, ECF No. 126-3 at 19. Another rule provides: “You are not permitted to cover your bed in a tent fashion. Nothing may be affixed to any part of the bunk.” Id.

         MacDougall issued notices to all inmates emphasizing these rules. The relevant notice provides:

Cell Obstructions. Inmates are not allowed to cover their cell window or have any type of obstruction blocking staff view into their cells. This includes having a sheet up while their cell partner is using the bathroom. Inmates who block their window or hang sheets are to receive a Class ‘A' disciplinary report for Interfering with Safety and Security.

Id. ¶7 & Attach. 2, Notice to Population, ECF No. 126-4 at 74.

         The plaintiff uses a privacy sheet, fashioned from a bed sheet, to shield himself from view by his cellmate while using the toilet. Defendant Murphy has determined that privacy sheets interfere with correctional staff's clear and unobstructed view into the cells.

         If the view into a cell is obstructed, an inmate could be engaging in activity that would endanger safety and security of staff or other inmates, and staff would not be able to detect the activity.

         There are two types of cells at MacDougall. One has the toilet attached to the front wall, the other has it attached to the back wall. The doors to all of the cells are located to one side of the cell. Defendant Murphy states that any sheet hanging in either type of cell would obstruct the view of some portion of the cell because of the angle of the correctional officer's view. During his deposition the plaintiff conceded that a privacy sheet would obstruct a correctional officer's view of the interior of the cell in both types of cells. ...

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