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Gulley v. Mulligan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 20, 2018

CHAZ O. GULLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN WILLIAM MULLIGAN, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On May 22, 2018, Chaz O. Gulley, an inmate currently confined at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brought a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden William Mulligan, District Administrator Angel Quiros, Deputy Warden Guadarrama, Correction Officer Cashman, Correction Officer Rodriguez, and Correction Officer Gonzalez, all of whom are employees of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”). Gulley claims that the defendants violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by using excessive force or acting with deliberate indifference to his safety while he was confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut. He is also raising state law claims of assault and battery. He is suing all six defendants in their individual capacities for damages. On June 8, 2018, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted Gulley's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order #8. For the following reasons, I will permit his complaint to proceed, in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         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 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).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Gulley alleges the following facts. On October 20, 2017, approximately one week before the start of Gulley's civil trial in the United States District Court at Hartford, Connecticut, United States District Judge Michael P. Shea sent a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum to Warden Mulligan at MWCI to bring Gulley to the district court in Hartford on October 25, 2017 and November 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, 2017.[1] Compl. [Doc.#1] ¶ 6. Judge Shea also sent a notice to DOC officials stating that inmates were expected to appear on time for their scheduled court proceedings and that the officials needed to take steps to ensure that the inmates appeared on time. See Id. at ¶¶ 10, 17.

         On the morning of November 8, 2017, Gulley asked multiple correction officers at MWCI why they were not preparing him for his scheduled transport to court. Compl. ¶ 7. The officers repeatedly told him that they “had nothing to do with” his situation and that it was Officer Cashman's fault because he oversees court transports for MWCI inmates. Id. at ¶ 8. At 8:20 a.m., twenty-five minutes before his scheduled time to appear in court, Officers Rodriguez and Gonzalez removed Gulley from his cell and brought him to the Admitting and Processing (“A&P”) area for transport. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. Gulley was frustrated because, by the time he arrived at the courthouse, he would not have time to speak with his attorneys before his court proceedings began. Id. at ¶ 10.

         When he arrived at the A&P area, Gulley asked Cashman why DOC officials were deliberately making him late for his court appearances, and the two began arguing about the situation. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. During the argument, Cashman grabbed Gulley's arm and Gulley pulled his arm out of Cashman's grasp. Id. at ¶ 12. At that moment, Cashman, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez starting pushing, pulling, punching and choking Gulley. Id. at ¶ 13. Other correction officers responded and ultimately restrained Gulley in handcuffs and shackles. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. Gulley was then transported to the district court in Hartford. Id. at ¶ 16. Gulley suffered facial bruising, constant pain, fear, anxiety, and emotional distress from the incident. Id. at ¶ 21. He was not issued a disciplinary report for the incident. Id. at ¶ 17.

         At some point, Warden Mulligan and Deputy Warden Guadarrama became aware of the incident. See Compl. ¶ 17. They told Gulley that “they messed up” and that “it won't happen again.” Id. at ¶ 18. Gulley believes that they made those statements because they received a notice from Judge Shea about the failure of DOC officials to ensure that inmates appear on time for scheduled court proceedings. Id. at ¶ 19.

         Gulley filed a grievance regarding the incident with Cashman, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez. Compl. p. 7. When the grievance was denied, he appealed to District Administrator Quiros, but Quiros denied his appeal. Id. at pp. 5, 8. Gulley also wrote a separate letter to Quiros regarding the incident, and Quiros wrote an “inaccurate[]” response months later. Id. at p. 5.

         III. Analysis

         Gulley claims that Mulligan, Quiros, Guadarrama, Cashman, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment either by using excessive force or acting with deliberate indifference to his safety. Compl. ¶ 1. He also brings state law claims of assault and battery. Id. at ¶ 2. I will permit his section 1983 action[2] to proceed against all six defendants at this time.

         A. Excessive Force

         “[T]he use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment [even] when the inmate does not suffer serious injury.” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34 (2010) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 US. 1, 4 (1992)). To establish a claim of excessive force under the Eighth Amendment, the prisoner must satisfy a subjective and objective component. See Sims v. Artuz, 230 F.3d 14, 20-21 (2d Cir. 2000). The subjective component requires a showing that the official's use of physical force was “malicious[] and sadistic[] rather than as part of a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.” Wilkins, 559 U.S. at 40 (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9). The objective component . . . focuses on the harm done in light of contemporary standards of decency, but the amount of harm that must be shown depends on the nature of the claim. Sims, 230 F.3d at 21; Banks v. Cty. of Westchester, 168 F.Supp.3d 682, 688 (S.D.N.Y. 2016). Although some degree of injury ordinarily will be required; Banks, 168 F.Supp.3d at 688; the prisoner does not have to show that he sustained a significant injury in order to prevail on an excessive ...


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