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Dehaney v. Chagnon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 25, 2019

ERROL DEHANEY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMY CHAGNON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Errol DeHaney is a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He filed this lawsuit alleging that he was removed from his job as a tutor at the prison school and given an unfavorable work evaluation report that has prevented him from returning to work as a tutor. DeHaney contends that these actions were in retaliation for complaints he lodged about the teacher for whom he worked. He has filed this lawsuit against the teacher-defendant Amy Chagnon-and the prison school's principal-defendant Maria Pirro Simmons-alleging claims for retaliation against his right to free speech under the First Amendment and for violation of his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. I will grant their motion in large part and deny it in part. A trial shall proceed solely as to DeHaney's First Amendment retaliation claim to the extent that it is based on issuance of an unfavorable work evaluation report and only to the extent that DeHaney seeks expungement of the report or any other appropriate declaratory or injunctive relief for which he has standing.

         Background

         The following facts are based on the parties' submissions and are viewed in the light most favorable to DeHaney. At all relevant times, DeHaney was incarcerated at MacDougall- Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall”). On March 13, 2015, he was assigned to work as a tutor in the classroom of defendant Amy Chagnon at the prison school. At that time, Chagnon regularly taught two groups of students in morning classes. DeHaney regularly tutored students during those timeframes. In the afternoons, Chagnon regularly taught only one student, and DeHaney performed miscellaneous duties during that time. Doc. #49-1 at 2.

         DeHaney's briefing includes extensive allegations that he perceived Chagnon to be flirtatious and sexually suggestive with her students. He also claims that she had an inappropriate sexual relationship with one particular student. Id. at 2-9. Because I am required at this stage to view the facts in the light most favorable to DeHaney, I assume these allegations solely for purposes of this ruling.

         During October 2015 and until November 12, 2015, defendant Maria Pirro (a.k.a Maria Pirro Simmons) served as the principal of the prison school. Doc. #41-2 at 2. At some point prior to October 23, 2015, DeHaney became aware that Pirro was leaving her position and would soon be replaced by a new principal. Doc. #49-1 at 10.

         On October 23, 2015, Chagnon told DeHaney that she no longer required his services as a tutor. DeHaney speculated that the reason for Chagnon's decision was that she feared that, if she continued to use a tutor, the incoming principal to replace Pirro would require Chagnon to teach afternoon classes. DeHaney then wrote a letter to another teacher requesting to serve as her classroom tutor. Id. at 9-10.

         On October 26, 2015, DeHaney told Counselor Grant, his housing unit counselor, that Chagnon had informed him three days before that he was no longer needed as a tutor. He explained to Grant that he believed this was due to Chagnon's desire to avoid teaching afternoon classes. On October 27, DeHaney repeated these claims to Captain Black, his housing unit manager. Doc. #41-3 at 7-11.

         In the meantime, according to Chagnon, she met with Deputy Warden Guardarrama on October 26 or October 27 to discuss DeHaney. At that meeting, Chagnon requested that DeHaney be reclassified so that he would not work with her or be in the school where she worked. Guardarrama explained to Chagnon that she would have to prepare a work report explaining the reason for this reassignment. Doc. #41-1 at 4.

         Chagnon then provided Guardarrama with a copy of a draft work report she had prepared. In the report, she rated DeHaney as excellent in three categories (attendance, initiative, and productivity), and as fair in two categories (attitude, overall). Doc. #41-4 at 3, 6. The report stated that DeHaney was removed for other purposes. Guardarrama told Chagnon that this draft work report did not reflect the reason for the reassignment and told her to add additional language explaining the reason for reassignment. Doc. #41-1 at 4-5, Doc. #41-4 at 2.

         Guardarrama asked Chagnon why she wanted DeHaney to be reassigned, and she explained that she felt very uncomfortable around him. She told Guardarrama that she believed that DeHaney had become infatuated with her and had sexualized their working relationship, leading him to make inappropriate comments. Doc. #41-4 at 2-3. Guardarrama then researched DeHaney's criminal history background. See State v. Dehaney, 261 Conn. 336, 340-43 (2002) (describing evidence of DeHaney's triple murder of his wife and two young children for which he claimed insanity and extreme emotional disturbance). In light of this background and DeHaney's inappropriate comments, Guardarrama determined that DeHaney should not continue to work with Chagnon. Doc. #41-4 at 3.

         Guardarrama then recommended that Chagnon include the following language in her report “Engaging in conduct that constitutes, or gives rise to, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Reclassify without malice.” Chagnon incorporated this change with substantially similar language into her work report. Id. at 2-3. On November 3, 2015, Chagnon entered the date on the revised work report and provided a copy to Pirro who in turn signed the report as well. Doc. #41-1 at 5-6; Doc. #41-2 at 3.

         On the morning of November 4, 2015, DeHaney spoke again to Captain Black about Chagnon and his claims that she was inappropriate with student inmates. Doc. #41-3 at 11. Later that day, Chagnon met DeHaney outside her classroom with a correctional officer present. She presented the revised work report to him and asked him to sign it. He refused. DeHaney believes that he was given this negative work report in ...


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