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Brown v. Wehr

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 25, 2019

SHAQILLE BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTION OFFICER WEHR, et al. Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge.

         On April 1, 2019, the Plaintiff, Shaqille Brown, a prisoner currently confined at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two Connecticut Department of Correction (“DOC”) officials for damages: Correction Officer Wehr and Captain Anaya. The Plaintiff is suing the Defendants for subjecting him to excessive force, in violation of his constitutional rights. On April 22, 2019, Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel granted the Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. See Order No. 9. For the following reasons, the case may proceed on the Plaintiff's excessive force claim.

         Standard of Review

         Under 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).

         Allegations

         Upon returning from court on June 25, 2018, the Plaintiff became involved in a verbal altercation with defendant Wehr. Defendant Wehr threatened the Plaintiff as the Plaintiff was entering his cell, stating that has going to come into the cell and “fuck [him] up!” Moments later, defendant Wehr handcuffed the Plaintiff, entered the cell, and locked himself inside with the Plaintiff. Defendant Wehr then physically assaulted the Plaintiff. He grabbed the Plaintiff and “slamm[ed]” him onto the cell bench causing harm to his preexisting back injury. After he was finished assaulting the Plaintiff, defendant Wehr unlocked the cell and brought the Plaintiff to the medical unit for treatment of his injuries.

         Later, defendant Anaya was investigating “the situation.” When Anaya realized that Plaintiff had been assaulted, he forced defendant Wehr to issue a false disciplinary report against the Plaintiff for slipping through his handcuffs to cover up the assault. The report was later dismissed, or so the Court assumes because Brown alleges he “beat” the ticket. Because of the injuries suffered during the assault, the Plaintiff was placed on stronger pain medication.

         Discussion

         The Plaintiff claims that defendant Wehr subjected him to excessive force and defendant Anaya “tried to cover up the true details of th[e] altercation, ” in violation of his constitutional rights.

         The Plaintiff has filed another civil action in this Court alleging that, two other DOC officials, Correction Officers Harrington and Forde, assaulted him on the very same day at Bridgeport Correctional Center (“BCC”). See Brown v. Harrington, No. 3:18-CV-2029 (KAD), DE#7. The Court permitted his excessive force claim in that case to proceed against Harrington and Forde in their individual capacities for damages. Id. at 5. Harrington and Forde answered the complaint on March 5, 2019. Harrington, DE#14. Wehr and Anaya are identified as officers at Northern Correctional Institution so the Court infers that Northern is where the assault occurred.

         As the Court stated in Harrington, the Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of the June 25, 2018 assault. See Harrington, DE#7 at 1 n.1. Thus, the Court analyzed his excessive force claim under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Id. at 3 (quoting Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2d Cir. 2017)). Because the alleged assault in this case occurred on the same day, his constitutional claims against defendants Wehr and Anaya are also governed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

         In order to state an excessive force claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Plaintiff “‘must show … that the force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable.'” Fletcher v. City of New London, No. 3:16-CV-241 (MPS), 2018 WL 4604306, at *10 (D. Conn. Sept. 25, 2018) (quoting Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015)). “‘[O]bjective reasonableness turns on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.'” Id. (quoting Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473). In Kingsley, the United States Supreme Court identified several relevant factors a court may consider in determining the reasonableness or unreasonableness of the force used:

the relationship between the need for the use of force and the amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiff's injury; any effort made by the officer to temper or to limit the amount of force; the severity of the security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively resisting.

Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473. The determination is made “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, including what the officer knew at the time, not with 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. In addition, "supervisory liability may be imposed where an official demonstrates 'gross negligence' or 'deliberate indifference' to the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to act on information indicating that unconstitutional practices are taking place." Wright ...


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