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Knight v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 30, 2018




         On June 6, 2018, Garland Knight, an inmate currently confined at Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) for violating his constitutional rights. Compl., Doc. No. 1. He seeks damages and injunctive relief against the DOC. Id. at 9. On September 26, 2018, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted Knight's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order, Doc. No. 16. I am dismissing Knight's complaint in this case for two reasons: (1) he cannot sue the DOC for damages under section 1983, and (2) he has alleged the same facts and raised the same claims in another pending civil action in this court, Knight v. Semple, No. 3:18-cv-703.

         I. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to 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

         Knight alleges the following facts. On January 16, 2018, Knight was sentenced in state court to seven years of incarceration, execution suspended after two years, and three years of probation for a controlled substance violation under section 21a-277(a) of the Connecticut General Statutes. Compl., Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 1. He was sent to the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut. Id.

         On January 18, Knight received his Offender Accountability Plan instructing him to obtain a job and referring him to addiction services. Id. at ¶ 2. He also received his Classification Review Sheet showing that his “overall level” was 2. Id.

         On January 25, Knight met with Counselor Supervisor Doran who informed him that a hearing on whether he would receive a sexual treatment score based on non-conviction related information would be held on January 29. Compl., Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 3. At the hearing before the Classification Committee, Knight was asked to comment on a police report from seventeen years ago. Id. at ¶ 4. Knight vehemently denied the allegations in the report. Id. Nevertheless, the Committee assigned Knight a sexual treatment needs score of 3, revised his Offender Accountability Plan, and transferred him to Brooklyn Correctional Institution, a facility specializing in sex offender treatment. Id. at ¶ 5.

         Knight appealed the classification decision on February 3, 2018. Id. at ¶ 6. The appeal was denied on March 2, 2018. Id. at ¶ 9. Meanwhile, he attended orientation at Brooklyn Correctional Institution. Id. at ¶ 7.

         III. Analysis

         Knight is suing the DOC for “17 [plus] years of discrimination” for treating him as a sex offender. See Compl., Doc. No. 1 at 4. He claims that the sexual offender classification policy of the DOC as applied to his incarceration in early 2018 was discriminatory and violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 9.

         The DOC is a state agency and is, therefore, not subject to liability for damages under section 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989) (state agency not a person within meaning of § 1983); see also Santos v. Connecticut Dept. of Corrections, No. 3:04-cv-1562 (JCH) (HBF), 2005 WL 2123543, *3 (D. Conn. Aug. 29, 2005) (DOC not person subject to liability under section 1983). Therefore, Knight cannot obtain damages against the DOC in this action.

         Moreover, Knight has alleged the same facts and asserted the same challenges to his sex offender classification in a previously filed civil action in this court, Knight v. Semple, No. 3:18-cv-703. In that case, Knight raised multiple constitutional claims, including an Eighth Amendment claim and a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim, against several DOC officials for relying on the seventeen-year-old police report to determine his sexual treatment needs score. See Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 22, Knight v. Semple, No. 3:18-cv-703, at 3. I dismissed his complaint in that case for failure to state a claim under section 1915A(b)(1) but permitted Knight an opportunity to amend his complaint by October 26, 2018. Id. at 9. This case appears duplicative of the previously filed complaint and, therefore, is subject to dismissal under the prior pending action doctrine, which states that “where two lawsuits in the same court include the same claims, ‘the first suit [filed] should have priority.'” Webb v. Arnone, No. 3:17-cv-1624 (SRU), 2018 WL 3651333, at *4 (D. Conn. Aug. 1, 2018) (quoting Adam v. Jacobs, 950 F.2d 89, 92 (2d Cir. 1991)).

         “‘In administering its docket, a district court may dismiss a second suit as duplicative of an earlier suit, unless there are special circumstances, not present here, that favor giving priority to the second.'” Id. (quoting Taylor v. Rodriguez, 238 F.3d 188, 197 (2d Cir. 2001)); see also Torrez v. Department of Correction, No. 3:17-cv-1223 (SRU), 2017 WL 3841681, at *3 (D. Conn. Sept. 1, 2017) (“Where two pending actions address the same legal claims and conduct, the court may dismiss the second action as long as the controlling issues in the dismissed action will be ...

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