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Jacques v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 30, 2018

JEAN JACQUES, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, et al., Defendants.

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

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jean Jacques is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”), and he is currently incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution. On February 20, 2018, Jacques filed a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the DOC and several correctional officials for alleged violations of Jacques's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. After my initial review, I concluded that Jacques failed to state a plausible claim for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A against any of the defendants and dismissed the complaint subject to amendment. See Doc. #11 at 6; Jacques v. Dep't of Correction, 2018 WL 2390141 (D. Conn. 2018).

         Jacques has now filed an amended complaint, naming as defendants the DOC, Warden Anthony Santiago, Captain Shabenas, Lieutenant Marston, Lieutenant Conger, and Officers Ayala, Martin, Evans, Sposa, Quesnal, Colby, Montanari, and Reynoso. Doc. #14 at 1 (amended complaint). All of the defendants are being sued in their individual and official capacities for monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief. Ibid. After initial review, I conclude that Jacques has not alleged plausible claims for relief against any of the defendants in their official capacities, nor has Jacques alleged a plausible First Amendment claim for relief against Marston. I will therefore dismiss those claims. However, I conclude that Jacques does allege plausible Eighth Amendment claims against all defendants in their individual capacities except for the Santiago and the DOC, and I will therefore allow those claims to proceed.

         Background

         The following facts are assumed to be true solely for purposes of my initial evaluation of the adequacy of the allegations in the amended complaint. On July 13, 2015, Jacques was incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. Id. at 2, 4 (¶¶ 3, 18). He was suffering from a head injury and was lying on his bed in the medical unit. Id. at 4 (¶ 18). He was scheduled to be in court at 9:30 a.m., and was awoken by a loud banging on his cell door. Ibid. He stood up from his bed and approached the door where he encountered Lieutenant Marston. Ibid. Marston screamed that Jacques was refusing to go to court and told him to “get the hell away from the door.” Ibid. Lieutenants Marston and Conger and Officers Martin, Ayala, Evans, Sposa, Colby, Quesnal, Montanari, and Reynoso then entered Jacques's cell. Ibid. Marston continued to yell at Jacques and sprayed what Jacques describes as a chemical agent or pepper spray all over Jacques's body, causing Jacques to fall to the floor and hit his head. Ibid. Jacques alleges that the officers then kicked and punched him. Ibid.

         While Jacques was on the floor, Evans pressed Jacques's head against the floor and punched him in his right eye. Id. at 5 (¶ 19). Montanari kicked him in the head. Id. (¶ 20). Montanari and Reynoso then stomped on his bare feet with their heavy boots. Id. (¶ 21). Colby, Sposa, Martin, Montanari, Quesnal, and Reynoso put their knees on Jacques's back and told him to stop resisting, even though Jacques had not been resisting any of them. Id. (¶ 22). Jacques tried to open his eyes, but the pain from the chemical agent prevented him from doing so, and the officers refused to let him wash the agent out of his eyes. Id. (¶ 23). The officers then lifted Jacques, placed him in a wheelchair, and escorted him out of the medical unit in preparation for court transport. Id. (¶ 24).

         Montanari and Reynoso brought Jacques to court. Id. (¶ 25). Because of the chemical agent and injuries to his head, Jacques was unable to speak or open his eyes when Judge Strackbein, who was presiding, addressed him, nor was he able to communicate with his attorney or his Haitian interpreter. Ibid. Judge Strackbein noted for the court record that Jacques seemed “unresponsive.” Id. at 6 (¶ 26). During the transport back from the courthouse to Corrigan, Montanari and Reynoso turned up the heat in the transport, causing his skin and eyes to burn. See Id. (¶ 28). Jacques was still suffering from the injuries he suffered from the assault earlier that day. Ibid.

         When he arrived back at Corrigan, Jacques was placed in segregation after a brief time in the mental health unit. Id. (¶ 29). While in segregation, Jacques was denied a shower and adequate hygiene products, including soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper. Ibid. He was also denied his antibiotic and blood pressure medications. Ibid. The denial of these products and services led Jacques to develop an infection in his mouth, which resulted in the loss of two of his teeth. Id. at 6-7 (¶¶ 29-30). At one point, Jacques attempted to communicate with Warden Santiago using hand gestures because he was still unable to speak. Id. at 7 (¶ 30). Santiago told him that if he did not talk, he was “not gonna waste his time” with him. Ibid.

         Other Corrigan officials continued to deny Jacques necessary hygiene products. Ibid. Jacques also alleges that he repeatedly requested a CAT scan, but that officials denied that request as well. Id. (¶ 31). As a result of the assault on July 13 and the denial of adequate care thereafter, Jacques suffered severe physical injuries, bruises to his face and body, migraine headaches, dizziness, and emotional distress. Id. (¶ 32). Jacques names one or more defendants in association with the assault in the medical unit, the transport to and from court, and his time in segregation, but does not name any defendants associated with his treatment in the mental health unit or with the denial of a CAT scan.

         Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), 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).

         Sovereign immunity

         Jacques lists the DOC as a defendant in the caption of his amended complaint. Doc. #14 at 1. As I stated in my prior initial review order, a state agency such as the DOC is not a person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Doc. #11 at 4 (citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of StatePolice, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (state and state agencies not persons within meaning of ยง 1983) and ...


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