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Fowler v. Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 4, 2019

JAMARR FOWLER, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jamarr Fowler was a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC) when he brought this action against some 32 correctional officials and the DOC alleging violations of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Fowler alleges that defendants denied him reasonable accommodations for his hearing disability, placed him in restrictive housing, denied him access to various prison amenities, and subjected him to harmful conditions of confinement. See Doc. #11; Fowler v. Dep't of Corr., 2017 WL 3401252 (D. Conn. 2017). The DOC and the remaining individual defendants have now made an unopposed motion for summary judgment, and for the reasons set forth below, I will grant defendants' motion.

         Background

         The following facts are based on the parties' submissions and are viewed in the light most favorable to Fowler as the non-moving party. Fowler became a prisoner of the DOC on November 19, 2015. Doc. #77-4 at 2. Fowler alleges that he has a hearing-related disability. Doc. #1 at 7 (¶ 37). Fowler also alleges the existence of another disability, but is not specific in his complaint. Ibid.

         On December 16, 2015, the DOC's Utilization Review Committee (URC) examined whether Fowler should receive hearing aids. Doc. #78 at 2. The URC considered Fowler's medical records from New York, ibid., and Fowler refused in January 2016 to undergo another hearing test for the hearing aids. Doc. #79 at 2.

         Still, the DOC noted that several accommodations should be implemented to address Fowler's hearing disability, and acknowledged his seizure disorder. Doc. #81 at 2. This included use of a teletype (TTY) phone. Ibid. The TTY phone was provided in his cell, and Fowler's counselor at Osborn Correctional Institution has submitted an affidavit noting that Fowler received access equal to that other prisoners received. Ibid.; Doc. #82 at 2 (¶ 11).

         Osborn officials disciplined Fowler in April of 2016 for misusing the TTY phone and circumventing security measures there. See Doc. #77-9. Fowler declined an advocate to aid him in association with the disciplinary charges, and Fowler then became disruptive and was removed from a hearing on the matter. Doc. #77-7 at 2-3; Doc. #77-10 at 3. The investigator recommended a guilty finding. Doc. #77-7 at 5.

         Fowler again refused to take a hearing test in June of 2016. Doc. #80 at 2. The clinician evaluating Fowler declined to refer him to an Ear Nose & Throat specialist (ENT) if Fowler was unwilling to take a hearing test. Ibid.

         Correctional officials issued another report against Fowler—and placed him in administrative restrictive housing—for tampering with the TTY phone at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in February of 2017. See Doc. #77-8.

         Fowler claims that he was denied adequate accommodations for his disabilities and that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. See Doc. #11 at 11, 14-15. Fowler never made a formal request for a reasonable accommodation under the DOC's directives. Doc. #82 at 2 (¶ 9). Similarly, Fowler underwent numerous visits to medical professionals, Doc. #83 at 3, and though he sometimes claimed a seizure disorder, his seizures were being managed with the medication Keppra. Id. at 1-2 (¶¶ 7-9). A doctor who treated Fowler submitted an affidavit noting that Fowler did not have severe asthma, was receiving medical treatment within the standard of care, and did not require a single cell or special housing for disabled inmates. Id. at 2-4 (¶¶ 10, 14, 16).

         On May 8, 2017, Fowler filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in Connecticut Superior Court. See Doc. #101.00 to Fowler v. Comm'r of Corr., TSR-CV-4008808-S (Conn. Super. 2017). Fowler claimed that the disciplinary hearings for the tickets he received deprived him of his due process rights, that he was subjected to inhumane and dangerous prison conditions, that prison officials violated his rights under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, and that he was placed on an elevated security status in retaliation for filing complaints and grievances against prison staff. See Fowler v. Comm'r of Corr., 2018 WL 2069044, at *1 (Conn. Super. 2018). The Superior Court held a trial on Fowler's claims in October and December of 2017, and issued an order in April 2018 finding that Fowler had failed to establish that his rights had been violated. Ibid.

         In the meantime, Fowler filed this lawsuit on May 22, 2017. Doc. #1. After my initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I allowed Fowler to proceed on a discrimination claim under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, Doc. #11 at 10-11; a retaliation claim under the First Amendment, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act against defendants for punishing Fowler for filing grievances and requesting accommodations by falsifying disciplinary reports, placing Fowler in more restrictive housing, denying him access to the phone, and publicizing his medical records, id. at 12-13; an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim for denying Fowler access to disability accommodations, recreation, hygiene in a way that might medically harm him, id. at 14-15; a procedural due process claim that he was placed in restrictive housing following inadequate hearings, id. at 16-17; and a class-of-one equal protection claim that defendants denied him privileges afforded to any inmates, id. at 19. Now, however, because of the lack of evidence to support Fowler's claims, I will grant defendants' unopposed motion for summary judgment.

         Discussion

         The principles governing the Court's review of a motion for summary judgment are well established. Summary judgment may be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). I must view the facts in the light most favorable to the party who opposes the motion for summary judgment and then decide if those facts would be enough—if eventually proved at trial—to allow a reasonable jury to decide the case in favor of the opposing party. My role at summary judgment is not to judge the credibility of witnesses or to resolve close contested issues but solely to decide if there are ...


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