United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER
MICHAEL P. SHEA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Gilberto Mendez, is currently living in New
Britain, Connecticut. He initiated this action by filing a
complaint naming Correctional Officers Lis and Garibaldi,
Captains C. Scarmozzino and Costanzo, Captain King, and
Security Risk Group Coordinator John Aldi as defendants.
See Compl., ECF No. 1. At the time the plaintiff
filed the complaint, he was confined at Northern Correctional
Institution. See Id. at 2.
plaintiff alleged that on August 21, 2015, at Manson Youth
Institution, Officer Lis issued him a disciplinary report for
security risk group affiliation and that Captain King, who
presided over the disciplinary hearing held on August 31,
2015, found him guilty of the disciplinary charge. See
Id. at 4-5. The plaintiff claimed that there was
insufficient evidence to support the guilty finding. See
Id. at 5.
November 9, 2018, the court dismissed the Eighth and the
Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement and due
process claims without prejudice See Initial Review
Order (“IRO”), ECF No. 10. The court informed the
plaintiff that he could move to reopen the case and file an
amended complaint if he was able to allege facts describing
how one or more of the defendants violated his Fourteenth
Amendment rights to procedural due process in connection with
the disciplinary hearing held on August 31, 2015, and/or
could allege facts indicating that a defendant was involved
in or aware of a condition or conditions of confinement that
deprived him of a serious human need. See IRO at 10.
On November 15, 2018, the Clerk entered judgment in favor of
the defendants. See ECF No. 11.
response to the dismissal of the complaint, the plaintiff has
filed an amended complaint naming Lieutenant King, Director
of Security Christine Whidden, Warden Erfe, and Counselor
Supervisor John Aldi as defendants. See Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 12. The plaintiff did not, however, file a motion to
reopen the judgment entered on November 15, 2018. Despite the
fact that the plaintiff has not filed a motion to reopen, the
court will liberally construe the amended complaint as
including such a motion and will grant it. For the reasons
set forth below, the case is reopened and the amended
complaint will be dismissed in part.
Standard of Review
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the court must review prisoner
civil complaints against governmental actors and
“dismiss ... any portion of [a] complaint [that] is
frivolous, malicious, or 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.” Id. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure requires that a complaint contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A
claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A
complaint that includes only “‘labels and
conclusions,' ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action' or ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement, '” does not meet the facial
plausibility standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)).
Although courts have an obligation to liberally interpret a
complaint filed by a pro se litigant, the complaint
still must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the
standard of facial plausibility. See Fowlkes v.
Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015)
(“Because Fowlkes appeared pro se before the District
Court, he is entitled to special solicitude, and we will read
his pleadings to raise the strongest arguments that they
suggest. . . . At the same time, a pro se complaint
must allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.”) (internal quotation mark and
plaintiff alleges that he was a convicted prisoner as of
August 21, 2015. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 12, at 4
¶ 2. As indicated by the court in its ruling addressed
to the complaint, however, State of Connecticut Judicial
Branch records reflect that a judge did not sentence the
plaintiff until October 28, 2015. See IRO at 4 n.1.
Thus, the court considers the plaintiff to have been a
pretrial detainee as of August 21, 2015.
date at the Manson Youth Institution, Officer Lis conducted a
search of the plaintiff's cell and discovered a
photograph depicting the plaintiff. See Am. Compl.
at 4 ¶ 2; Ex. 1, ECF No. 12-1, at 1. The plaintiff
alleges that the photograph depicts him displaying a
“4-20 [hand] sign to represent the day the picture was
taken, and the hand sign represent[s] the National Weed
Smokers day of 4-20.” See Id. at 5
¶¶ 9-10. Officer Lis issued the plaintiff a
disciplinary report for security risk group affiliation
because he identified the plaintiff's hand sign in the
photograph as a sign used by the Latin Kings gang. See
Id. ¶¶ 6-8, Ex. 1 at 1. Later that day,
Captain Scarmozzino and Officer Lis removed the plaintiff
from general population and placed him in segregation pending
the outcome of the disciplinary report. See Id. at 4
August 24, 2015, the plaintiff met with Disciplinary
Investigator Garibaldi about the disciplinary report. See
Id. at 6 ¶ 11. The plaintiff denied being a member
of the Latin Kings and stated that the hand sign that he
displayed in the photograph was not a hand sign of the Latin
Kings, but was a hand sign representing “4-20 the day
the photo was taken and the National Weed Smokers Day.”
See Id. at 6 ¶ 12. At this meeting, the
plaintiff made the decision not to utilize advocate services
or present any witnesses at the upcoming hearing. See
Id. ¶ 13.
August 31, 2015, the plaintiff attended a disciplinary
hearing presided over by Lieutenant King. See Id.
¶¶ 14-15. During the hearing, Investigator
Garibaldi read his report into the record. See Id.
¶ 16. The plaintiff attempted to explain that the hand
sign that he displayed in the photograph was not a hand sign
of the Latin Kings gang, but Lieutenant King informed the
plaintiff that she “did not want to hear any of that
garbage.” See Id. at 7 ¶ 18. At one
point, Lieutenant King asked the plaintiff to describe his
race/nationality. See Id. ¶ 19. The plaintiff
stated that he was Puerto Rican and resided in Hartford,
Connecticut. See Id. ¶ 20. Lieutenant King
commented that the plaintiff must be a member of the Latin
Kings because he was a Puerto Rican from Hartford. See
Id. Based on her review of the evidence, including the
incident report, the photograph, and other documentation,
Lieutenant King concluded that the plaintiff was guilty of
the charge of security risk group affiliation. See
Id. ¶ 21. When the plaintiff asked to see the other
documentation that supported Lieutenant King's finding,
she indicated that she was not required to make that evidence
available to him. See Id. at 8 ¶¶ 22-23.
the hearing, the plaintiff received a notice explaining that,
as a result of the August 31, 2015 disciplinary hearing, he
was found to be a verified member of the Latin Kings and
would be placed in the Security Risk Group Administrative
Segregation Program (“SRG Program”). Id.
at 8-9 ¶ 26. The plaintiff did not receive a
separate classification hearing to determine whether
his security risk group affiliation warranted placement in
the SRG Program. Id. at ¶ 28. And at no time
before or during the hearing did Lieutenant King inform the
plaintiff that the hearing would determine his placement in
the SRG Program in addition to adjudicating the
disciplinary issue. See Id. at 8-9 ¶¶ 25,
27. The plaintiff therefore did not receive advance notice
that the August 31, 2015 hearing would serve as both a
disciplinary hearing and a classification hearing.
September 21, 2015, Warden Erfe, Director Whidden, and
Counselor Supervisor Aldi transferred the plaintiff from
Manson Youth Institution to Corrigan Correctional Institution
for placement in the SRG Program. See Id. at 9
¶¶ 29-31. The plaintiff claims that during his
placement in the SRG Program at Corrigan, he was confined in
his cell for twenty-three hours a day, he was deprived of all
out-of-cell recreation time, he could not participate in
educational, vocational or job training programs or mental
health or counseling sessions, and he was not eligible for a
parole hearing or to earn Risk Reduction Earned Credits.
See Id. at 10 ¶¶ 33-34. He states that he
remained designated as a security risk group member until May
31, 2016. Seeid. ¶ 35. During his
confinement in the SRG Program, ...