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Johnson v. King

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 20, 2018

DAVID JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
KING, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         David Johnson (“Johnson”), currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging a disciplinary proceeding and his classification. The named defendants are Lieutenant King, Correctional Officer Harris, Correctional Officer Tardif, Lieutenant Papoosha, Edward Maldonado, Warden Feliciano, Warden W. Mulligan, Captain John Doe, Director Santiago, Commissioner Scott Semple, Captain Walsh, and C.S. Stanley. Johnson seeks damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. The complaint was received on August 31, 2018, and Johnson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on September 10, 2018.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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 must 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

         On November 18, 2016, Johnson was admitted to Bridgeport Correctional Center (“Bridgeport”) as a pretrial detainee. ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶¶ 2-3. He remained in general population at Bridgeport until January 23, 2017, when defendant Papoosha placed him in segregation on administrative detention status pending investigation into disciplinary charges. Id. at 6-7, ¶¶ 4-8. On January 25, 2017, Johnson received a disciplinary report, signed by defendants Papoosha and Tardif, charging him with Security Risk Group Affiliation. Id. at 7, ¶¶ 12-13 & Ex. 1.

         At no time since his admission, did Johnson provide acknowledgement that correctional staff could listen to and record his personal calls or read his personal correspondence. Id. at 8, ¶ 14. The disciplinary report did not list any witnesses or describe any physical evidence, which prevented Johnson from preparing a defense. Id., ¶¶ 15-16. The report did not cite the language that was considered a gang identifier, describe the letters or item found during the shakedown of Johnson's cell, or indicate the date of the offense. Id. at 9, ¶¶ 18-21.

         Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charge, declined services of an advocate, requested certain inmate witnesses, and requested a copy of all evidence against him. Id. at 10, ¶¶ 23-24. Disciplinary investigator Harris made no record of Johnson's requests, did not interview Johnson's witnesses and did not arrange for the witnesses to appear at the disciplinary hearing. Id., ¶¶ 25-26. Instead, defendant Harris arranged for the hearing to take place beyond the required timeframe, at a time when the witnesses were not available, and failed to provide Johnson the required notice of the date and time of the hearing. Id. at 10-11, ¶¶ 27-29.

         Hearing Officer Lieutenant King denied Johnson a copy of the evidence and denied his requests for witnesses. Id. at 11-12, ¶¶ 31-32. She rejected his argument that the charge was overly broad and vague. Id. at 12, ¶¶ 33-35. Defendant King found Johnson guilty of the charge. Id., ¶ 36. At no time during the hearing did defendant King tell Johnson or provide him any notice that, as a result of this disciplinary finding, he would be designated a Security Risk Group (“SRG”) member. Id. at 13, ¶¶ 39-40.

         On March 5, 2017, Johnson was transferred to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and placed on administrative segregation status as a designated Security Risk Group member. Id., ¶ 41. The conditions of confinement were “quantitatively and qualitatively different” from the conditions in general population. Id. at 14, ¶ 42.

         On February 19, 2017, Johnson appealed the disciplinary finding to Director Maldonado. Id., ¶ 45. The appeal was denied on March 29, 2017, well beyond the period permitted for decision of an appeal. Id. at 15, ¶ 48.

         On March 17, 2017, Johnson posted bail and was released from custody. Id., ¶ 50. He was re-arrested on December 17, 2017, and admitted at New Haven Correctional Center as a pretrial detainee. Id., ¶¶ 51-52. In accordance with Department of Correction policy, he was returned to segregation as a designated SRG member. He was not provided notice or a hearing before the designation. Id. at 15-16, ¶ 53. Defendants Feliciano, Santiago, and Doe formally reassigned Johnson to segregation as an SRG member on December 19, 2017, without notice or a hearing. Id. at 16, ¶ 55. Defendants Semple, Santiago, Walsh, Stanley, Mulligan, Feliciano, and Doe have refused to afford Johnson notice and a hearing regarding his re-assignment to segregation as an SRG member. Id., ¶ 54. On December 29, 2017, Johnson was transferred back to the Walker building at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. Id. at 16-17, ¶ 56.

         II. Analysis

         Johnson asserts three claims in this action: (1) denial of procedural due process in conjunction with the disciplinary hearing; (2) classification as an SRG member without notice and a classification hearing; and (3) return to SRG status upon re-admission into custody without notice or a hearing.

         A. Discip ...


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