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Paschal-Barros v. Falcone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 14, 2019

HENRY FALCONE, et al., Defendants.


          Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, Kyle Lamar Paschal-Barros, currently confined at Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff primarily claims he was denied due process in connection with a disciplinary charge and classification decision. Plaintiff names sixteen defendants: Henry Falcone, William Mulligan, William Fanefth, Nick Rodriguez, Derrick Molden, Denise Dilworth, Kyle Mitchell, Gregoirio Robles, Thomas Kenny, Anthony Blekis, Anthony Kacprzyski, CS Davis, CS Tugie, Jane Doe, Maige, and John Doe. Plaintiff names all defendants in individual and official capacities.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (2000), 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. Id. This requirement applies both when the Plaintiff pays the filing fee and when he proceeds in forma pauperis. See Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999) (per curiam).

         In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). 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.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “pro 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).

         I. Allegations

         In December 2016, defendants Blekis, Kacprzyski and Kenny accused Plaintiff of assaulting defendants Blekis and Kacprzyski. Defendant Jane Doe presided over the disciplinary hearing. She stated at the hearing that the video footage was inconclusive but found Plaintiff guilty based on employee reports. On February 4, 2017, Plaintiff was charged with offenses stemming from the December 2016 incident.

         The Garner Correctional Institution Interdisciplinary Team, which included defendants Falcone, Dilworth, and Mitchell, recommended to defendant Maige that Plaintiff be classified to Administrative Segregation. The recommendation was based on the severity of the December 2016 assault and other conduct. Defendant Maige assigned defendant Tugie to conduct a classification hearing.

         Because of mental health symptoms, Plaintiff “was not properly able to be present during said hearing.” Doc. #1, ¶ 7. Defendant Tugie found the allegations meritorious and recommended reclassification. Defendant Maige reclassified Plaintiff to Administrative Segregation and transferred him to Northern Correctional Institution (“Northern”), a level 5 correctional facility. Defendant John Doe denied Plaintiff's appeal.

         The Administrative Segregation Program is managed by the Northern Interdisciplinary Team, which includes defendants Davis, Robles, Molden, Rodriguez, Mulligan, and Fanefth. Prior to his transfer, Plaintiff had been exposed to prolonged solitary confinement-like conditions which exacerbated his mental health conditions. During his stay at Northern, he struggled to function.

         Administrative Segregation inmates at Northern are physically isolated. They are confined to their cells for 22-24 hours per day. They are allowed out of their cells for one hour of solitary exercise per weekday. Social contact is dramatically reduced; prisoners can make only one fifteen-minute social call per week. There is little environmental stimulation and constant noise. The program lasts ten months of which inmates are required to be at Northern for 120 days.

         On February 19, 2019, a jury found Plaintiff not guilty of the alleged assaults. Plaintiff informed defendants Robles, Davis, Molden and Rodriguez of the not guilty verdict and asked to be removed from Administrative Segregation. They denied his request, stating that the verdict did not mean that he did not commit the conduct. Since then, Plaintiff's status has been reviewed and continued. Plaintiff's appeal of the review decision was denied.

         Plaintiff remained on Phase 1 of the Program from January 13, 2017, through March 1, 2018, when he was advanced to Phase 2 which had the same conditions with one additional phone call. On October 2, 2018, Plaintiff was regressed to Phase 1 and returned to Northern.

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff states that he brings eleven claims: (1) denial of due process by subjecting him to an atypical and significant hardship, (2) cruel and unusual treatment and punishment, (3) inhumane treatment, (4) degrading treatment, (5) torture, (6) denial of equal protection of the laws, (7) false imprisonment, (8) negligent infliction of emotional distress, (9) abuse of process, (10) deliberate indifference to his rights, and (11) arbitrary detention and punishment in violation of Article first, section 9 of the Connecticut Constitution.

         A. Due Process

         Plaintiff contends that the defendants denied him due process by subjecting him to an atypical and significant hardship. He does not indicate whether his claim relates to the disciplinary hearing or the classification hearing. As Plaintiff includes participants in both hearings as defendants, the Court will consider whether Plaintiff was denied due process in connection with each hearing.

         To state a due process claim, Plaintiff must show that he had a protected liberty interest in remaining free from the conditions imposed and, if he had such an interest, that the defendants deprived him of that interest without affording him due process of law. See Walker v. Fischer, 523 Fed.Appx. 43, 44 (2d Cir. 2013) (citing Giano v. Selsky, 2238 F.2d 223, 225 (2d Cir. 2001)).

         No liberty interest in avoiding more restrictive confinement, such as punitive or administrative segregation, arises under the Constitution itself. Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221-22 (2005). However, such an interest may arise if state “statutes or regulations require, in ‘language of an unmistakably mandatory character,' that a prisoner not suffer a particular deprivation absent specified predicates.” Tellier v. Fields, 280 F.3d 69, 81 (2d Cir.2000) (quoting Welch v. Bartlett, 196 F.3d 389, 392 (2d Cir.1999)) (quotation marks omitted).

         Before a cognizable liberty interest exists, the new placement must “impose[ ] atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Wilkinson, 545 U.S. at 223 (quoting Sandin v. Conner,515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995)). “[T]he duration of [segregated] confinement is a distinct factor bearing on atypicality and must be carefully considered.” Colon v. Howard,215 F.3d 227, 231 (2d Cir. 2000). A very long period of segregation confinement-longer than 305 days-is sufficiently atypical to trigger due process protections. Palmer v. Richards,364 F.3d 60, 65 (2d Cir. 2004). Further, it is not just the duration of confinement but also the restrictions which together determine whether conditions are sufficiently atypical to create a liberty right which an inmate cannot be denied without pre-deprivation ...

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