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Granger v. Santiago

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 16, 2019

WARDEN SANTIAGO, et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Dustin Granger, is incarcerated at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution in Uncasville, Connecticut (“Corrigan”). He has filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warden Santiago, Lieutenants Conger and Tosses, and Correctional Officer Evans. The plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Tosses and Correctional Officer Evans subjected him to excessive force and an unreasonable strip search on August 26, 2016 at Corrigan. For the reasons set forth below, the court will dismiss the complaint in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         Pursuant 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).

         Although 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 still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally, ” the complaint must include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

         II. Facts

         Upon the plaintiff's arrival at Corrigan on August 26, 2016, he learned that he would have to undergo a strip search. See Compl., at 4 ¶ 1. Correctional Officer Evans ordered the plaintiff to bend at the waist and to spread his buttocks. See Id. ¶ 2. The plaintiff refused to follow this order because he preferred “the normal [strip search] procedure” which only required him to “squat and cough.” See Id. The plaintiff felt that the procedure requiring him to bend at the waist and to spread his buttocks was “derogatory and excessive and unsettling.” See Id. Correctional Officer Evans threatened to “take [his] bare hands and dig up inside of [the plaintiff] forcefully” if the plaintiff did not comply with his order. See id.

         The plaintiff then admitted that he had swallowed drugs and asked to be placed in a dry cell “rather than be molested by” Officer Evans. See Id. ¶¶ 4-5. The plaintiff stated that he was “ready to discharge through bowel movements.” See Id. ¶5.

         Correctional Officer Evans called a code due to the plaintiff's refusal to submit to a strip search. See Id. at 5 ¶ 8. In response to the code, Correctional officers and Lieutenant Tosses slammed the plaintiff to the floor and chipped the plaintiff's tooth. See Id. The plaintiff again admitted that he had swallowed drugs. See Id. ¶ 7. Lieutenant Tosses and Correctional Officer Evans and another officer grabbed the plaintiff, kneed the plaintiff in his thighs, and dropped him to the floor. See Id. Lieutenant Tosses “placed a glove on his hand and forcefully entered [the plaintiff's] rectum.” See Id. ¶ 8. The plaintiff could hear another officer in the background state: “Why didn't we just put the dude in a dry cell.” See Id. The plaintiff begged and pleaded with Lieutenant Tosses to stop the search. See Id. ¶ 9. The plaintiff could see the face of Lieutenant Tosses as he performed the search and noticed that he was smirking. See id.

         As soon as Lieutenant Tosses completed the search, the plaintiff asked to be transferred or transported to a “medical emergency unit” and to call the Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) unit and the Inmates Legal Aid Program (“ILAP”). See Id. ¶ 10. All requests were denied. See Id. Since undergoing the body cavity search, the plaintiff has been impotent. See id.

         III. Discussion

         The plaintiff does not identify the basis for his claims against the defendants. At the time of the incidents on August 26, 2016, the plaintiff was a pretrial detainee.[1] In DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189 (1989), the Supreme Court made clear that “when the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being.” Id. at 199-200.

         With regard to conditions of confinement, the Eighth Amendment protects the rights of a convicted prisoner while the Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of a pretrial detainee. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 n.16 (1979) (in contrast to a sentenced prisoner, whose conditions of confinement are analyzed under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment, “the proper inquiry [for a pretrial detainee] is whether conditions [of confinement] amount to punishment of the detainee” under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment); Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017) (acknowledging that the claim of deliberate indifference to conditions of confinement, including health and safety, that is asserted by a pretrial detainee in state custody is “evaluated under the Due Process Clause [of the Fourteenth Amendment] because pretrial detainees have not been convicted of a crime and thus may not be punished in any manner-neither cruelly and unusually nor otherwise.”) (internal brackets, quotation marks and citations omitted). The Fourteenth Amendment also protects a detainee against deliberate indifference to his or her medical needs and the use of excessive force by prison officials. See Edrei v. Maguire, 892 F.3d 525, 533 (2d Cir. 2018) (“pretrial detainees . . . rely on the [Fourteenth Amendment's] constitutional guarantee of “due process” as the source of an excessive force claim); Darnell, 849 F.3d at 33 n.9 (“deliberate indifference means the same thing for each type of claim under the Fourteenth Amendment”). Walker v. Wright, No. 3:17-CV-425 (JCH), 2018 WL 2225009, at *5 (D. Conn. May 15, 2018) (noting that “District courts in this Circuit have therefore applied . . . [the] objective “mens rea” prong [described in Darnell] to claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs under the Fourteenth Amendment”) (collecting cases).

         Accordingly, the court liberally construes the plaintiff's allegations as asserting Fourteenth Amendment excessive force and sexual abuse claims against Lieutenant Tosses and Correctional Officer Evans and a Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim against Lieutenant Tosses and Correctional Officer Evans. The court will also address the allegations regarding the plaintiff's requests to contact the PREA unit and ILAP and his request to be transferred to a medical unit. Compl. at 5.

         A. Official Capacity Claims

         The plaintiff sues the defendants in their individual and official capacities. For relief, the plaintiff seeks 1.8 million dollars. To the extent that the plaintiff sues the defendants in their official capacities for monetary damages, that claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159 (1985) (Eleventh Amendment, which protects the state from suits for monetary relief, also protects state officials sued for damages in their official capacity); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342 (1979) (Section 1983 does not override a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity). The claim for 1.8 million dollars from the defendants in their official capacities is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

         B. Warden Santiago and Lieutenant Conger

         The plaintiff does not mention Warden Santiago or Lieutenant Conger other than in the caption and the description of the parties. Thus, he has not alleged that either defendant violated his federally or constitutionally protected rights. The claims against Lieutenant Conger and Warden Conger are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).

         C. Fourth Amendment - Search

         The plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Tosses and Correctional Officer Evans performed an unreasonable manual body cavity search of his rectum on August 26, 2016. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “[t]he right of the people in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. In the prison context, the Fourth Amendment proscribes unreasonable searches of both pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates. See Bell, 441 U.S. at 558.

         The Supreme Court has recognized that “correctional officials must be permitted to devise reasonable search policies to detect and deter the possession of contraband in their facilities.” Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders,566 U.S. 318, 328 (2012) (citation omitted). Furthermore, correctional officials possess the professional expertise and experience to undertake “[t]he task of determining whether a policy is reasonably related to legitimate security interests.” Id. (citation omitted). Thus, “courts should ordinarily defer to” the professional expertise of correctional officials in matters involving legitimate security concerns unless ...

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