United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Jeffrey Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
D'e'mon O'dell'bey is a pre-trial detainee in
the custody of the Connecticut Department of
Correction. He ordered certain books to be shipped to
him but prison officials refused to let them into the prison
on the ground that they were written in code.
O'dell'bey has now filed this lawsuit alleging that
defendants violated his constitutional rights. After
conducting an initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, I will allow O'dell'bey's claims to
proceed in part.
has filed this lawsuit against three defendants: William
Mulligan, A. Santiago, and the Media Review Board (MRB). The
following facts as alleged in the amended complaint are
accepted as true only for purposes of this ruling. During the
incidents at issue in the complaint, O'dell'bey was
detained in a special management unit at MacDougall-Walker
Correctional Institution, where defendant William Mulligan
was the unit administrator and warden. Doc. #7 at 3.
Defendant Santiago was the Director of Security.
Ibid. The defendant Media Review Board (MRB) is also
responsible for determining which publications may be
admitted into the facility. Ibid.
in the special management unit do not have access to a
leisure library or legal library, so O'dell'bey could
only access reading material by ordering it from outside
sources. Id. at 4. O'dell'bey ordered two
books that are at issue in his complaint.
January 19, 2019, he ordered a book titled Serious
Cryptography, by Jean-Philippe Aumasson. Ibid.
Mulligan and the MRB rejected the book a month later
(presumably when it arrived at the facility), stating that
“it was written in code, ” but with no further
explanation. On April 16, 2019, however, Santiago
reversed this decision, concluding the book was permissible
as educational in nature. Id. at 5.
meantime, on February 3, 2019, O'dell'bey ordered
another book, The Mathematics of Secrets: Cryptography
from Caesar Ciphers to Digital Encryption, but on March
11, 2019, this was also rejected by Mulligan and the MRB.
Id. at 4. They stated that the book was
“written in code” and “instructed or
encouraged  the commission of criminal activity, ”
but they did not provide more details about why the book was
rejected or specify which sections of the book were
objectionable. Ibid. On April 20, 2019, however,
Santiago disagreed with these grounds for rejecting the book
but concluded in the alternative that the book should be
rejected because “[a]lthough not instructing in the
commission of criminal activity, in a correctional
environment this information could be used for nefarious
purposes.” Id. at 5.
disputes the validity of the defendants' reasoning for
rejecting his requested publications. He also faults Mulligan
and the MRB for failing to advise him of his right to appeal
their adverse determinations. He seeks money damages along
with declaratory and injunctive relief. Ibid.
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 compliant, 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).
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).
of MRB and official capacity and injunctive relief
threshold matter, I will dismiss O'dell'bey's
§ 1983 claims in their entirety against the MRB because
it is a board within a state department that is not itself an
independent legal entity constituting a “person”
subject to suit under § 1983. See Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989);
see also Fowler v. City of Stamford, 2019 WL 188695,
at *2 (D. Conn. 2019) (division within State of Connecticut
agency not a “person” under § 1983);
Petaway v. City of New Haven Police Dep't, 541
F.Supp.2d 504, 510 (D. Conn. 2008) (police department not
“person” under § 1983).
also dismiss O'dell'bey's § 1983 claims for
money damages against Mulligan in his official capacity,
because “state officials sued in their official
capacities under § 1983 are immune from suit for damages
pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment.” Currytto v.
Doe, 2019 WL 2062432, at *4 (D. Conn. 2019) (citing
Pennhurst State Sch. & ...