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St. Louis v. McLain

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 5, 2018

McCLAIN, ET AL. Defendants.



         On September 24, 2018, the plaintiff, Chadwick J. St. Louis, an inmate currently housed at the Garner Correctional Institution (“Garner”) in Newtown, Connecticut, filed a complaint pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against eight Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) and Correctional Managed Health Care officials for violating his constitutional rights. See Compl. [Doc.#1]. The court dismissed his complaint with leave to amend because it improperly joined four unrelated causes of action, in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20. But the court gave the plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint stating one of those four causes of action. See Initial Review Order [Doc.#8]. On November 14, 2018, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Am. Compl. [Doc.#9]. However, as discussed below, the amended complaint fails to state a plausible claim for relief.

         I. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, this court 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. 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 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.” Bell Atlantic, 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 America, 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)).

         II. Factual Allegations

         On February 15, 2018, Correctional Officer McLain issued the plaintiff a disciplinary report (“DR”) for conspiring to convey contraband into MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MWCI”), a Class-A offense, in violation of DOC Administrative Directive 9.5.[1] Am. Compl. ¶ 1; Pl.'s Ex. A [Doc.#9 at 11]. The DR had the wrong date, time, and location of the alleged violation and lacked sufficient evidentiary support. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 8. Moreover, conspiring to convey contraband into a DOC facility is not listed as an offense under Administrative Directive 9.5. Id. at ¶ 8.

         Lieutenant Roy “reviewed and signed off” on the DR, but he “was not impartial” in evaluating the DR because he is the “intelligence/security lieutenant” to whom McLain directly reports. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7. It was Roy's duty to ensure that the DR was supported by sufficient evidence. Id. at 7.

         The plaintiff was placed in segregation shortly after McLain issued the DR. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. He pleaded not guilty to the charge but was told that he would remain in segregation until after his DR hearing. Am. Compl. ¶ 2.

         On March 15, 2018, the plaintiff met with Disciplinary Hearing Officer Prior. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. The plaintiff gave Prior a copy of his written defense to the DR. Id.; Pl.'s Ex. B [Doc.#9 at 12]. He was subsequently found guilty of the DR and received as sanctions fifteen days of punitive segregation, thirty days loss of visitation, and thirty days loss of mail privileges. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. On March 19, 2018, he was transferred from MWCI to Garner. Id.

         The plaintiff appealed the DR finding to District Administrator Angel Quiros, contending that Prior's finding of guilt violated due process. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 9; Pl.'s Ex. C [Doc.#19 at 13]. He attached to his appeal the written defense that he had previously given to Prior. Am. Comp. ¶ 3. Quiros denied the plaintiff's appeal, concluding that Prior's finding of guilt was reasonable based on the evidence presented at the DR hearing, including video surveillance footage, and that no due process violation occurred. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 10; Pl.'s Ex. D [Doc.#9 at 14].

         While at Garner, the plaintiff was informed that, in addition to the sanctions he received at MWCI, his contact visits were suspended for two years because he had been found guilty of a Class-A offense. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. The plaintiff filed an administrative appeal with respect to this decision, but the appeal was denied. Id.; Pl.'s Ex. E [Doc.#9 at 15].

         As a result of the DR finding, the plaintiff spent a total of thirty-three days in segregation. Am. Compl. at 17. While in segregation, he was denied his personal property, including his television, radio, clocks, clothes, mail, and commissary items, church services, phone privileges, recreation, and contact visits. Id. Due to his diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and hypertension, the plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress, “extreme anxiety, ” and “a great loss of quality of life.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         The plaintiff claims that the defendants, McLain, Roy, Prior, and Quiros, violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection of the laws and his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment by placing him in segregation and denying him various privileges based on an unsubstantiated DR. Am. Compl. at 17. He seeks monetary, injunctive, and ...

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