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Kaminski v. Colon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 19, 2019

JOHN S. KAMINSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
LUIS COLON, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On December 20, 2018, John S. Kaminski, an inmate currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state officials for constitutional and state law violations. Compl., Doc. No. 1. He is suing Captain Luis Colon, Correction Officer Philip Alexander, Warden Edwin Maldonado, Deputy Warden Gary Wright, Deputy Warden Scott Vanoudenhove, Captain Jeanette Maldonado, State's Attorney Matthew Gedansky, Connecticut State Police Sergeant Gershowitz, and Assistant Attorney General DeAnn Varunes in their individual capacities for damages and Commissioner of Correction Scott Semple and Director Karl Lewis in their official capacities for declaratory relief. Id. He appears to be suing the defendants for acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment, depriving him of procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, and spoliation of evidence. Id. at 25, 31-34.

         Kaminski brought this action after both of his state court civil actions against the defendants based on the same claims were dismissed. Compl. at 19; Kaminski v. Alexander, No. HHB-CV15-5016640-S, Judicial District of New Britain (Conn. Super. Ct. Apr. 23, 2018); Kaminski v. Semple, No. HHB-CV17-5018219-S, Judicial District of New Britain (Conn. Super. Ct. Oct. 31, 2018). He contends that the “Connecticut administrative officers and their superiors, along with the [Connecticut] Superior [sic] Court are unable, unwilling to police their own staff and courts, which has forced [him] to seek recourse through the [f]ederal [c]ivil [r]ights [s]ystem available as a [section] 1983 complaint.” Compl. at 19. For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed.

         I. Standard of Review

         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 defendants 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

         Kaminski's complaint sets out the following factual allegations. On November 18, 2014, Kaminski underwent major lumbar spinal surgery at the UConn Health Center. Compl. at 8. A titanium brace was placed on him following the surgery. Id. Two days later, Captain Colon assigned Correction Officer Alexander to transport Kaminski from the UConn Health Center back to his assigned housing unit at Osborn Correctional Institution (“Osborn”). Id. Alexander had not been trained in medical transports and was unable to operate the wheelchair-equipped transport van. Therefore, he opted for a four-door compact sedan to transport Kaminski. Id. When he attempted to enter the backseat of the sedan, Kaminski, who was in full-body restraints, fell onto his back. Id. Alexander then pulled Kaminski by his shirt across his chains into the backseat. Id. When they arrived at Osborn, Alexander instructed Kaminski to walk into the Admitting & Processing area and wait for a wheelchair. Id. Alexander did not provide Kaminski with a foot rest. Id.

         At a follow-up appointment, Kaminski learned that a screw in his titanium brace had broken. Compl. at 8. An attempt to fix the broken screw did not occur until March of 2016, but a determination was made that the screw could not be removed. Id. at 9. The broken screw remains embedded in Kaminski's spine. Id.

         On December 1, 2014, Kaminski attempted to file a complaint with the state police. Compl. at 11. He asked his unit manager, Captain Jeanette Maldonado how to go about filing a criminal complaint with the state police against Alexander, Colon, and Director Lewis for assault, reckless endangerment, and abuse of the elderly. Id. Maldonado responded that Kaminski could write to the state police and request to set up a meeting with them. Id. Kaminski thereafter wrote a complaint to the state police and sent a copy to Warden Edwin Maldonado. Id. at 12. The complaint contended that Alexander and/or other state officials, including Assistant Attorney General Varunes, failed to secure video footage related to the incident on November 20, 2014.[1] See id.

         On January 7, 2015, Kaminski was summoned to Deputy Warden Wright's office and met with Wright and Deputy Warden Vanoudenhove. Compl. at 12. Wright and Vanoudenhove escorted Kaminski to another office where he met with Sergeant Gershowitz from the Connecticut State Police. Id. Gershowitz had Kaminski sign a form indicating that he had “acknowledged his rights” and then listened to his complaint about the medical transport incident on November 20, 2014. Id. at 13. Kaminski was not permitted to file a complaint regarding the incident and was escorted out of the office. Id. As Kaminski was leaving the office, Wright and Vanoudenhove asked Gershowitz if the matter had been settled, to which Gershowitz responded in the negative. Id.

         Later that day, Kaminski filed a complaint with the Chief State's Attorney's Office requesting an investigation into the incident. Compl. at 13. The matter was assigned to State's Attorney Gedansky. Id. In a letter addressed to Kaminski dated February 11, 2015, Gedansky stated that, “after reviewing the material sent to [him] . . . there [was] no violation of criminal law, ” and he urged Kaminski “to pursue any civil remedies available to him to resolve harm done to him.” Id. at 15.

         After concluding that defendants Lewis, Semple, Edwin Maldonado, Jeanette Maldonado, Wright, Vanoudenhove, Gedansky, Gershowitz, and Varunes were “involved in [a] cover-up” by destroying “video evidence, ” Kaminski filed two civil actions in state court. Compl. at 9; Kaminski v. Alexander, No. HHB-CV15-5016640-S; Kaminski v. Semple, No. HHB-CV17-5018219-S. After hearing both motions, the state court dismissed both cases via written decisions on the ground of statutory immunity pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-165.[2]Compl. at 15. Kaminski argues that the state court's decisions mirrored the defendants' motions to dismiss and “wholly ignored” Kaminski's arguments. Id. Kaminski's appeals from both rulings remain pending. Id. at 9; Kaminski v. Alexander, No. AC41694 (Conn.App. May 24, 2018); Kaminski v. Semple, No. AC42288 (Conn.App. Nov. 16, 2018).

         Kaminski takes issue with the state court's dismissal orders, particularly with its conclusion that State's Attorney Gedansky was immune for liability based on his refusal to investigate and/or prosecute the Osborn officials for reckless endangerment and abuse of the elderly. Compl. at 16. After losing both cases in state court, “it became clear [to Kaminski] that [the] Connecticut ...


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