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Parkman v. O'Connor

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 6, 2019

WILLIAM O'CONNOR, et al. Defendants.



         On August 13, 2018, the plaintiff, Robert Parkman, an inmate currently confined at the Brooklyn Correctional Institution in Brooklyn, Connecticut, brought a civil action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Attorney William O'Connor, Probation Officer Justin Quick, and an unidentified supervisory official in the state's Office of Adult Probation. Compl. (ECF No. 1). He seeks “mental and emotional relief.” Id. at 6. On October 9, 2018, this Court granted the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 12). For the following reasons, the complaint is dismissed.

         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 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).

         Factual Allegations

         On April 21, 2015, the plaintiff was charged with sexual assault in the first degree[1] and unlawful restraint in the first degree.[2] Compl. at 5. He ultimately pleaded guilty on March 8, 2016 to the unlawful restraint charge and was sentenced to five years of imprisonment, execution suspended after one year, and three years of probation. Id.; Case Detail, State v. Parkman, No. HHD-CR15-0679258-T (Conn. Super. Ct. Mar. 8, 2016), (“Case Detail”).[3] Despite pleading guilty only to the unlawful restraint charge, the plaintiff was placed in a “special unit” for sexual offenders. Compl. at 5.

         The plaintiff was released on probation on April 18, 2016 but was rearrested on August 1, 2016 after he refused to comply with Probation Officer Quick's order that he “sign[] some papers . . . mak[ing] [him] a sex offender.” Compl. at 5. Quick did not show the plaintiff a copy of the arrest warrant or present him before a judge. Id. The plaintiff was returned to the custody of the Department of Correction. Id.

         The state charged the plaintiff with violating the terms of his probation.[4] Compl. at 6. Attorney O'Connor was appointed to represent him. Compl. at 6. O'Connor told the plaintiff that, if he pleaded guilty to the violation of probation charge, he would be “s[e]t free.” Id. The plaintiff thereafter pleaded guilty to the charge, and the judge continued his probation. Id. The judge also ordered that the plaintiff return to the sex offender “special unit.” Id.

         On August 23, 2017, the plaintiff pleaded guilty to violating his probation a second time. Case Detail. This time, the court sentenced him to three years imprisonment. Id. His maximum release date is December 28, 2019. Inmate Information, Connecticut State Department of Correction,[5] At no time did the sentencing court inform the plaintiff of the consequences of pleading guilty to the violation of probation charge, and Attorney O'Connor coerced the plaintiff into pleading guilty. Compl. at 6.

         The plaintiff's incarceration as a result of the violation of probation proceedings have caused him mental and emotional distress. Compl. at 6.


         Although it is not clear, it appears that the plaintiff is suing Officer Quick for placing him in sex offender treatment, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process, and arresting him without showing him a copy of the arrest warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See Compl. at 5. The plaintiff is suing Attorney O'Connor for coercing him into pleading guilty to the violation of probation charge, in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and/or his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. See Id. at 6. He claims that the actions of these defendants “ultimately cost [him] [his] freedom.” Id. The plaintiff does not allege any facts against the third unidentified defendant.

         The only plausible claim the plaintiff states in this complaint is the due process claim against Officer Quick and perhaps Supervisor Doe for placing him in sex offender treatment following his unlawful restraint conviction. The Second Circuit has held that the improper classification of an inmate as a sex offender may have a stigmatizing effect which implicates a liberty interest for purposes of due process. Vega v. Lantz, 596 F.3d 77, 81-82 (2d Cir. 2010). In Vega, an inmate claimed that prison officials wrongfully assigned him a level-3 sexual treatment needs score even though he had not been convicted of a sexual offense. Id. The Second Circuit considered Vega's claim as one of defamation but held that, although typically a state-law claim, defamation may, under certain circumstances, rise to constitutional dimension. Id. at 81.

         In order to state a constitutional claim, the plaintiff must “demonstrate a stigmatizing statement plus a deprivation of a tangible interest.” Vega, 596 F.3d at 81 (quoting Algarin v. Town o Wallkill, 421 F.3d 137, 138 (2d Cir. 2005)); see also Moore v. Chapdelaine, No. 3:15-CV-775 (VAB), 2018 WL 638995, at *6 (D. Conn. Jan. 31, 2018). This claim as two components. “First, the plaintiff must establish the ‘stigma' by demonstrating ‘the utterance of a statement sufficiently derogatory to injure his or her reputation that is capable of being proved false, and that he or she claims is false.'” Moore, 2018 WL 638995, at *6 (quoting Vega, 596 F.3d at 81). “Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate the ‘plus,' ‘a material state-imposed burden or state-imposed alteration of the plaintiff's status or rights.'” Id. (quoting Vega, 596 F.3d at 81). “The ‘plus' must be something ‘in addition to the stigmatizing statement.'” ...

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