United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
A. Dooley United States District Judge
January 18, 2019, the Plaintiff, Douglas George Martin, an
inmate currently confined at Osborn Correctional
Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brought a civil
action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
two unidentified Connecticut Department of Correction
(“DOC”) officials for damages: Correction Officer
A. and Lieutenant/Captain John Doe. Compl. (DE#1). It appears
from his factual allegations that the Plaintiff is suing the
Defendants for subjecting him to inhumane conditions of
confinement, in violation his Eighth Amendment protection
against cruel and unusual punishment, and for violating his
Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. The Plaintiff has
also filed a motion for appointment of counsel (DE#2). On
January 28, 2019, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel
granted the Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. See Order No. 7. For the following
reasons, the motion for appointment of counsel is DENIED. The
complaint is dismissed without prejudice in order to permit
the Plaintiff to properly identify the named defendants.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the 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)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater,
623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules
of solicitude for pro se litigants).
November 6, 2018, at approximately 5:00 a.m., Officer A.
shined his flashlight into the Plaintiff's cell and
placed it on a roll of paper towels. Compl. at 5. When the
Plaintiff exited his cell for breakfast hours later, Officer
A. said, “I hope the light didn't bother
you.” Id. at 8.
next day, at 1:00 a.m., Officer A. again left his flashlight
on a roll of paper towels shining into the Plaintiff's
cell. Compl. at 5, 8. At around 4:30 a.m., Lieutenant/Captain
John Doe noticed the flashlight shining into the
Plaintiff's cell and spoke with Officer A. Id.
at 8. Doe laughed at what he had seen and permitted A. to
leave the light shining into the cell. Id. at 6, 8.
the Plaintiff exited his cell for breakfast that morning,
Officer A. told other inmates in the area that the Plaintiff
was in prison for sodomizing children, which was false.
Compl. at 5, 8. The Plaintiff is in prison for violating his
probation and believes that A.'s statement placed him in
physical danger. Id. at 5. He wrote complaints to
the warden and other high-ranking officials, but no remedial
action was taken. Id. at 8; Administrative Remedy
(DE#1 at 10).
incidents with Officer A. have caused the Plaintiff emotional
and physical distress. Compl. at 8. The Plaintiff has been
evaluated by a psychiatrist for PTSD, depression, anxiety,
and bipolar disorder. Id. at 8-9.
on the facts alleged, it appears that the Plaintiff is suing
the Defendants for subjecting him to inhumane conditions of
confinement, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, by shining
a flashlight into his cell on two occasions for several hours
at a time. He also alleges that Officer A. violated his
constitutional rights by falsely accusing him of sexually
assaulting children in front of other inmates. The Plaintiff
cannot recover damages from the Defendants in their official
capacities. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159,
169 (1985). Thus, the Court will determine whether the
Plaintiff has stated a plausible Eighth Amendment and/or
Fourteenth Amendment claim against the Defendants in their
Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual
punishment includes a prohibition on inhumane conditions of
confinement. Phelps v. Kapnolas, 308 F.3d 180, 185
(2d Cir. 2002) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 828 (1994)). To establish an Eighth Amendment violation
based upon inhumane conditions, the Plaintiff must
demonstrate, that "the prison officials'
transgression" was "'sufficiently
serious.'"' Id. This is an objective
inquiry. Id. Subjectively, the Plaintiff must also
demonstrate that "the officials acted, or omitted to
act, with a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind,'
i.e. with 'deliberate indifference to inmate
health or safety.'" Id. (quoting
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). "Under the objective
element, while the Constitution 'does not mandate
comfortable prisons,' inmates may not be denied 'the
minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.'" Alster v. Goord, 745
F.Supp.2d 317, 335 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). Thus, prison
officials cannot "deprive inmates of their 'basic
human needs-e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and
reasonable safety.'" Id. (quoting
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993)). Prison
officials cannot expose prisoners to conditions that may pose
an unreasonable risk of serious damage to the prisoners'
future health. Id. (citing Phelps, 308 F.3d
liberally, the Plaintiff has stated a plausible Eighth
Amendment claim against the Defendants. He alleges that
Officer A., on two occasions, shined his flashlight into his
cell for several hours during the early morning and that
Lieutenant/Captain Doe permitted A. to engage in such
behavior. Courts in this Circuit have reached different
conclusions on whether this type of action could amount to an
Eighth Amendment deprivation. See Cano v. City of New
York, 44 F.Supp.3d 324, 333 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (deprivation
of sleep one example of sufficiently serious deprivation
under Eighth Amendment); Quick v. Graham, No.
9:12-CV-1717 (DNH/ATB), 2014 WL 4627108, at *8 (N.D.N.Y.
Sept. 11, 2014) (issue of material fact remained whether
continuous bright lights in confinement unit deprived
prisoner of sleep and violated Eighth Amendment); but see
Hernandez v. Sposato, No. 12-CV-2530 (SJF) (WDW), 2014
WL 3489818, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. July 9, 2014) (prisoner's
complaint of excessive lighting in facility from 6:00 a.m. to
1:00 a.m. caused him injuries to his eyes does not constitute
sufficiently serious deprivation under Eighth Amendment). In
this case, the allegations include that the Defendants'
actions were vindictive, and thus, the Court will allow the
Eighth Amendment claim to proceed at this time.
Plaintiff has also stated a plausible Fourteenth Amendment
due process claim based on Officer A.'s false verbal
accusation, made in the presence of other inmates, that the
Plaintiff had sodomized children. The Plaintiff ...