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Henderson v. Watson

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 5, 2018

MARK ANTHONY HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN JAMES WATSON, Defendant.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge.

         On September 13, 2018, Mark Anthony Henderson, an inmate currently confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”) in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against Captain James Watson for damages. Compl. Doc. No. 1. Henderson claims that Watson retaliated against him, in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, and subjected him to inhumane conditions of confinement, in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment, in the early months of 2018 while he was incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”). Id. at 13-14. On September 21, 2018, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted Henderson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order, Doc. No. 6. For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, 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 defendant 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

         Henderson alleges the following facts. On January 5, 2018, Henderson spoke with Watson, the manager of the East 3 housing unit at Cheshire, about closing the four windows in the shower area because of the extremely cold temperature outside. Compl. ¶ 1. The cold winter air had been blowing into the shower area while Henderson and the other inmates in the unit were bathing. Id. at ¶ 2. Henderson wrote a follow-up request to Watson three days later but received no response. Id. He spoke with Watson again on January 9 during Watson's unit inspection tour and told him that the shower windows were still open. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4.

         On January 30, Henderson became ill with cold and flu symptoms. Compl. ¶ 5. He filed a grievance against Watson and requested medical attention from clinical personnel. Id. On March 20, Henderson received medical treatment for his symptoms. Id. at ¶ 6. His grievance was later returned with a “compromised disposition.” Id. at ¶ 9. On March 20, the first day of Spring, [1] after months of cold temperatures and winter storms, Watson ordered maintenance personnel to close the four windows in the East 3 shower area. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. The next morning, Henderson saw Watson in the East 3 housing unit enter the shower area and leave the unit shortly thereafter. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. A few hours later, an East 3 correction officer instructed Henderson to pack up his property because he was being transferred to the East 2 housing unit. Id. at ¶ 12. When Henderson went to shower in the East 2 unit later that evening, he noticed that the windows in front of the first and second shower stalls were open. Id. at ¶ 13.

         On March 24, 2018, Henderson filed another grievance alleging retaliation against Watson. Compl. ¶ 14. His grievance was initially returned without disposition because Henderson had not submitted and attached a written inmate request per administrative regulations. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. On April 3, Henderson wrote a request to Watson asking why he had been transferred to the East 2 unit, but he received no response. Id. at ¶ 17. He later refiled his grievance against Watson for retaliation. Id. at ¶ 19.

         On April 13, 2018, Henderson was transferred from Cheshire to MWCI. Compl. ¶ 18. After waiting thirty days for a response to his retaliation grievance, Henderson filed a Level 2 appeal, which was ultimately sent back to Cheshire and rejected. Id. at ¶¶ 22-26.

         III. Analysis

         Henderson claims that Watson violated his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment and First Amendment right to free speech by subjecting him to cold temperatures while showering from January to March 2018 and then transferring him to another unit with the same conditions after he complained about the issue. I will permit Henderson's Eighth Amendment claim to proceed against Watson in his individual capacity but dismiss the First Amendment claim.

         A. Claims Against Watson in his Official Capacity

         Henderson does not specify whether he is suing Watson in his individual capacity, his official capacity, or both. Nevertheless, it is well-established that a plaintiff may not sue a defendant in his or her official capacity for money damages. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979). Because Henderson only seeks damages and no equitable relief, I will dismiss any and all claims against Watson in his official capacity. See Watson v. Doe, No. 1:15-CV-1356 (BKS) (DEP), 2016 WL 347339, at *41 n.5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 2016) (dismissing all claims against defendants in official capacities when plaintiff does not seek declaratory or injunctive relief).

         B. Eighth Amendment ...


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