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Awad v. Sierra Pre-Trial

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 11, 2019

OMAR AWAD, Plaintiff,
SIERRA PRE-TRIAL et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Omar Awad was a prisoner in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction at the time that he filed the complaint in this action. He alleges that a state court ordered him to reside at a private treatment facility where he was subject to loathsome living conditions. Because I conclude that Awad has failed to allege that any of the defendants he has named were state actors, I conclude that he has not alleged plausible grounds for relief under federal law, and therefore I will dismiss his complaint.


         Awad was a prisoner at Garner Correctional Institution at the time that he filed this lawsuit, and he has since been released and lives elsewhere in Connecticut. His complaint names several defendants. The first named defendant is “Sierra Pre-Trial Program, ” which Awad describes as an “inpatient/residential, drug and mental health program” located at an address of 48 Howe Street in New Haven, Connecticut. The second and third named defendants are “Gail Sanches, ” who is alleged to have been the Sierra program director, and someone named “Stanly” who is alleged to have been the Sierra program manager. The complaint also lists numerous John and Jane Doe defendants with very little description of anything they allegedly did.

         The following facts as alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true solely for purposes of my initial evaluation of the complaint. On November 20, 2015, a court ordered Awad to receive inpatient rehabilitation and mental health treatment at the Sierra Pre-Trial Program for 90 days. See Doc. #1 at 6 (¶ 1). He remained at the Sierra Pre-Trial Program facility for seventy-seven days. Ibid. (¶ 2).

         The Sierra Pre-Trial Program facility was infested with bed bugs, roaches, and parasites. Ibid. (¶ 3). At night, Awad had difficulty sleeping because of bed bug bites that caused his body to itch. Id. at 7 (¶ 4). He could not sleep without taking medication. Ibid. Awad informed Sanches and Stanly about the insect infestation, but they ridiculed him and ignored his complaints. Id. at 7-8 (¶¶ 5-16).

         Awad also alleges that the portions of food he received each day were small and did not fill him up. Id. at 8-9 (¶¶ 17-18). Sanches and Stanly would not permit Awad or any other residents at the facility to buy food from outside vendors to store in the facility or to order takeout meals. Id. at 9 (¶ 18).

         At one point while still residing at the facility, Awad had a catering job to earn money. Ibid. (¶¶ 19-20). But Sanches got him fired from this job because of her refusal to timely sign passes for him to leave the program when he needed to be at work. Id. at 9-10 (¶¶ 21-24). Sanches subsequently “violated” Awad for “writ[]ing her up” regarding the sanitation and job issues. Id. at 10 (¶ 25).

         On February 5, 2016, a judge sentenced Awad to 3 years of imprisonment. Ibid. (¶ 25).[1]After his sentencing, Awad asked family members to go to the Sierra Pre-Trial Program facility to retrieve $600 worth of personal property and cash that he had left in his room. Doc. #1 at 10 (¶¶ 26-27). But Sanches would not let Awad's family into the facility and would not return Awad's personal property to his family members. Ibid. (¶ 26). Awad eventually filed this federal court complaint about two and a half years later on September 7, 2018. Doc. #1.


         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).

         Although Awad is no longer a prisoner, I need not decide for purposes of this ruling whether the initial review requirement of § 1915A extends to a plaintiff who was imprisoned at the time that he filed his complaint but who no longer remains in prison. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c) (defining the term “prisoner”); Johnson v. Hill, 965 F.Supp. 1487, 1488 n.2 (E.D. Va. 1997). Because Awad is proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is alternatively subject to review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Narcisse v. Dalphine, 2016 WL 6963024, at *1 n.1 (D. Conn. 2016).

         In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of allegations in federal court complaints. A complaint must allege enough facts-as distinct from legal conclusions-that give rise to plausible grounds for relief. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Notwithstanding the rule of liberal interpretation of a pro se complaint, a pro se complaint may not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g., Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387 (2d Cir. 2015).

         Awad's complaint alleges liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This civil rights statute allows a plaintiff to seek relief against a person who acts under color of state law to violate a plaintiff's federal constitutional rights. A prerequisite for any claim under § 1983 is that the defendant have acted in a governmental capacity-that is, that the defendant was a “state actor” for purposes of the conduct that a plaintiff claims the defendant should be liable. Put differently, a plaintiff may not maintain an action under § 1983 against a private party unless the plaintiff shows that the ...

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