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Martin v. Mejias

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 31, 2019

JEFFERY MEJIAS, et al., Defendants.



         Preliminary Statement

         Plaintiff, Douglas George Martin (“Martin”), filed this complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Martin contends that, when his sentence concluded, he was sent to the Sierra Pretrial Program instead of being released. By this action. the defendants violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights. Martin names three defendants, Supervisor of Probations Jeffery Mejias, Commissioner of Corrections John Doe[1], and Tony Connection Inc. He seeks an order releasing him from the Sierra Pretrial Program and $1, 000 for each day he was in the program. The complaint was received on July 17, 2019, and Martin's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on July 25, 2019.

         Standard of Review

          Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, 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. 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). see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants). 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.


         Martin was serving a sentence of one year and four days. Doc. No. 1 at 5. Martin's sentence concluded on April 5, 2019. He was not released. Instead, he was sent to a pretrial program run by the Department of Correction. Id. at 4. Miriam Mendoza works at Sierra Pretrial Program. Defendant Jeffery Mejias is her supervisor. He instructed staff to open Martin's incoming and outgoing mail. Id. Martin cannot go outdoors without a supervisor. Id. at 4-5. Mendoza has instructed staff to open Martin's incoming and outgoing mail and threatened to put a bracelet on Martin if he continued to complain. Id. at 5.


         Habeas Relief

         As an initial matter, the Court cannot entertain Martin's request that the court order his release, as such relief is only available through a habeas corpus petition. Generally, habeas corpus is used to challenge the fact or duration of confinement while a civil rights action is used to challenge the conditions of that confinement. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 & 499 n.14 (1973) (challenge to fact or duration of confinement must be made in petition for writ of habeas corpus, but challenge to conditions of confinement could be simultaneously litigated in section 1983 action). Martin alleges that he is being confined beyond the expiration of his sentence in a facility operated by the Department of Correction and at the direction of the Department of Correction. The relief he seeks, Court ordered release, is directed to this allegedly unconstitutional confinement. Assuming Martin's allegation that his confinement is by order of the Department of Correction is true, Martin's request for release must be asserted in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. It is not cognizable in a section 1983 action. Accord Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 176 (2001) (habeas corpus used to challenge state court order of civil commitment or state court order of civil contempt); Pollack v. Holanchock, No. 10 CV 2402(RPP), 2011 WL 4867558, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2011) (acknowledging ability of persons in facility operated by New York State Office of Mental Health to file habeas petition challenging detention in that facility). Martin's request for release is dismissed.

         Request for Damages

         Martin also seeks damages in the amount of $1, 000.00 per day for each day he was held at the Sierra Center beyond the end of his sentence. The Court considers this a claim for false imprisonment. “There is no privilege in a jailer to keep a prisoner in jail beyond the period of his lawful sentence * * * The fact that the jailer is without personal knowledge that the prisoner is held unlawfully does not constitute a defense to an action for false imprisonment.” Sostre v. Rockefeller, 312 F.Supp. 863, 888 (S.D.N.Y. 1970) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds sub nom. Sostre v. McGinnis, 442 F.2d 178 (2d Cir. 1971).

         The Supreme Court has held that, if a determination favorable to the plaintiff in a section 1983 action “would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence, ” the plaintiff must show that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal or declared invalid before he can recover damages for false imprisonment under section 1983. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). Martin alleges that he fully served his sentence.[2] Thus, this claim, based on actions occurring after the conclusion of the sentence, does not implicate the validity of Martin's conviction or sentence. Martin's claim for damages may proceed. See Lawhorn v. Algarin, No. 16-CV-6336-FPG, 2018 WL 1046794, at *5 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 26, 2018) (determining that Heck did not bar claim for unlawful detention prior to arrest).

         Defendant Tony ...

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