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Kelly v. Santiago

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 6, 2019

Joshua Kelly, Plaintiff,
v.
Antonio Santiago, et al., Defendant.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER AND RULING ON MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND MOTION FOR ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE ON PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Joshua Kelly (“Plaintiff”) has sued Director of Security Antonio Santiago, Security Risk Group Coordinator John Aldi, Lieutenant J. Russell, Disciplinary Hearing Officer King, District Administrator Edward Maldonado, and Warden Mulligan (collectively “Defendants”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his First, Fifth, Eight, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and Sections Four, Five, Seven, Eighth, Nine and Twenty of Article First of the Connecticut Constitution because of his security classification and the conditions of his confinement at New Haven Correctional Center. Complaint, ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”).

         Since the filing of this lawsuit, Mr. Kelly has since been moved to the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.

         On February 7, 2019, Mr. Kelly filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a motion for an order to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue, seeking damages, declaratory relief, and a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendants from keeping Mr. Kelly confined in the Security Risk Group.[1]

         For the following reasons, Mr. Kelly's First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims may proceed, however, the Court DISMISSES Mr. Kelly's other federal constitutional claims, DISMISSES Mr. Kelly's official capacity claims for monetary damages, and DECLINES to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state constitutional claims.

         The Court also DENIES Mr. Kelly's motion for a temporary restraining order but GRANTS Mr. Kelly's motion for an order to show cause on the preliminary injunction.

         The Court also ORDERS the defendants to respond to the order to show cause as to why the Court should not grant Mr. Kelly's temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction should by September 13, 2019.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         In 2015, prison officials designated Mr. Kelly to the Security Risk Group and he successfully completed the Security Risk Group program. Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 6.

         On June 11, 2018, Mr. Kelly was incarcerated in New Haven Correctional Center. Id. at ¶ 1.

         On June 20, 2018, prison officials brought Mr. Kelly to the Restrictive Housing Unit (“RHU”), [2] pending an investigation into alleged gang affiliation. Id. at ¶ 2. Prison officials allegedly used Mr. Kelly's social media posts to designate him as a Security Risk Group member, which Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) King allegedly did do. See Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 9, ¶ 4. District Administrator Mr. Maldonado relied on Administrative Directive 6.14 when segregating Mr. Kelly, based on an alleged finding that Mr. Kelly had affiliated with the Security Risk Group, the “Bloods.” Legal Claims, Compl. at ¶ 3.

         Two days later, Mr. Kelly went to a hearing after arriving at the Restrictive Housing Unit, Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 3, but he alleges that he never received a ticket, nor did officials give him an opportunity to make a plea, id. at ¶ 4.

         After Mr. King designated Mr. Kelly to the Security Risk Group, he was sent to the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“Walker”) to complete Phase Two. Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 11. At Walker, Mr. Kelly alleges that he could not take a shower more than three times each week, could have no contact visits, could not eat with others, and could not participate in any religious, educational, or social programming. Mr. Kelly alleges that prison officials limited his activity in other ways, including no hot water, restricting use the phone more than three times a week for fifteen minutes at a time, prohibiting day-room recreational center access during inclement weather, and banning electronic devices. Mr. Kelly alleges that he spends twenty-three to twenty-four hours in a cell each day. Id. at ¶¶ 13-24.

         Additionally, Mr. Kelly alleges that gang members threatened him with death. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27. Mr. Kelly alleges that he is not a gang member, should be with other inmates not affiliated with gangs in general population, and his current placement is dangerous. Id. at ¶ 10.

         B. Procedural History

         On November 2, 2018, Mr. Kelly filed his Complaint against Director of Security Antonio Santiago, Security Risk Group Coordinator John Aldi, Lieutenant J. Russell, DHO King, District Administrator Edward Maldonado, and Warden Mulligan, in their individual and official capacities for security classifications made while at the new Haven Correctional Center. Compl. At the time of the Complaint, Mr. Kelly had been confined at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 4.

         On December 26, 2018, Mr. Kelly notified the Court of his transfer from the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution to the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. Notice, ECF No. 11.

         On February 7, 2019, Mr. Kelly filed a motion for an order to show cause and a motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction. Mot. for Order to Show Cause for TRO and Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 12.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Section 1915 Review

         The Court must “review . . . a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a government entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, ” if the complaint or any of its parts are “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” Id. at § 1915A(b).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a plaintiff plead only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” see Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), to provide the defendant “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” see Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         A plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and assert a cause of action with enough heft to show entitlement to relief and “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570. A claim is facially plausible if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the rules of civil procedure do not require “detailed factual allegations, ” a complaint must offer more than “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-57. Plausibility at the pleading stage is nonetheless distinct from probability, and “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of [the claim] is improbable, and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id. at 556 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Pro se complaints, however, “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)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing the “special solicitude” courts afford pro se litigants).

         B. Preliminary Injunction

         Preliminary injunctive relief “is an extraordinary and drastic remedy . . . that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Moore v. Consol. Edison Co. of N.Y., Inc., 409 F.3d 506, 510 (2d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To show entitlement to a preliminary injunction, the moving party must demonstrate (a) that he or she will suffer “irreparable harm” in the absence of an injunction, and (b) either (1) a “likelihood of success on the merits or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits [of the case] to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting the preliminary relief.” Cacchillo v. Insmed, Inc., 638 F.3d 401, 405-06 (2d Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         For irreparable harm, a plaintiff must show an “injury that is neither remote nor speculative, but actual and imminent.” Grand River Enter. Six Nations, Ltd. v. Pryor, 481 F.3d 60, 66 (2d Cir. 2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also L.A. v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111-12 (1983) (holding that a court cannot find injunctive relief if the claimed injury is speculative or remote). “The relevant [irreparable] harm is the harm that (a) occurs to the parties' legal interests and (b) cannot be remedied after a final adjudication, whether by damages or a permanent injunction . . . . Harm might be irremediable, or irreparable, for many reasons, including that a loss is difficult to replace or difficult to measure, or that it is a loss that one should not be expected to suffer.” Salinger v. Colting, 607 F.3d 68, 81 (2d. Cir. 2010).

         C. Temporary Restraining Order

         In the Second Circuit, “[t]he same standards used to review a request for a preliminary injunction govern consideration of an application for a temporary restraining order.” Stagliano v. Herkimer Cent. Sch. Dist., 151 F.Supp.3d 264 (N.D.N.Y. 2015); Local 1814 Int'l Longshoreman's Ass'n v. N.Y. Shipping Assoc., Inc., 965 F.2d 1224, 1228 (2d Cir. 1992) (recognizing that the standard for a temporary restraining order is the same as preliminary injunction standard). Irreparable harm is the “most significant condition which must be present to support the granting of a temporary injunction.” Capital City Gas Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 373 F.2d 128, 131 (2d Cir. 1967) (citation omitted); Reuters Ltd. v. United Press Int'l., Inc., 903 F.2d 904, 907 (2d Cir. 1990) (“the moving party must first demonstrate that [irreparable] injury is likely before the other requirements for the issuance of an injunction will be considered”). As with a request for preliminary injunctive relief, the moving party must show irreparable harm that is “not remote or speculative but actual and imminent.” Jackson Dairy, Inc. v. H.P. Hood & Sons, Inc., 596 F.2d 70, 72 (2d Cir. 1979) (internal citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Kelly alleges that Defendants violated his First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In addition, Mr. Kelly alleges several Connecticut Constitution violations and seeks a temporary restraining order.

         As a result, the Court will address the federal constitutional claims, state-law claims, and temporary restraining order in turn.

         A. Eleventh Amendment

         A claim against an individual in his official capacity, “generally represents[s] only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). “[A] plaintiff seeking to recover on a damages judgment in an official-capacity suit must look to the government entity itself.” Id. at 166. Absent consent from a state, the Eleventh Amendment bars damages claims against it or entities constituted under its authority. See Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 240 (1979) (“[t]here can be no doubt, however, that suit against the State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [State] has consented to the filing of such a suit.”).

         As an initial matter, Mr. Kelly alleges that Defendants are Connecticut Department of Correction employees. To the extent that Mr. Kelly seeks monetary damages from Defendants in their official capacities, the Eleventh Amendment bars those claims. See Graham, 473 U.S. at 165-66; Quern, 440 U.S. at 342.

         Moreover, Section 1915 requires the Court to dismiss all claims seeking monetary damages against defendants in their official capacities. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b)(2) (“[o]n review, the court shall . . . dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint . . . seeks monetary relief from the defendant who is immune from such relied.”).

         Accordingly, the Court dismisses Mr. Kelly's claims against the Defendants for monetary damages in their official capacities.

         B. Federal Constitutional Claims

         “Section 1983 permits an individual deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law to seek compensation in federal court.” Wimmer v. Suffolk Cty. Police Dep't, 176 F.3d 125, 136 (2d Cir. 1999); see also Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399, 403 (1997). To prevail in a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff “must prove that the challenged conduct was attributable at least in part to a person acting under color of state law” and “that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Wimmer, 176 F.3d at 136.

         As a threshold inquiry for Section 1983 claims, the Court should precisely identify the constitutional violation alleged. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979) (“before the relationship between the defendant's state of mind and his liability under § 1983 can be meaningfully explored, it is necessary to isolate the precise constitutional violation with which he is charged.”).

         Here, Mr. Kelly claims that defendants violated his First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

         1. First Amendment

         “To state a First Amendment retaliation claim sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege ‘(1) that the speech or conduct at issue was protected, (2) that the defendant took adverse action against the plaintiff, and (3) that there was a causal connection between the protected speech and the adverse action.'” Dolan v. Connolly, 794 F.3d 290, 294 (2d Cir. 2015) (citing Espinal v. Goord, 558 F.3d 119, 128 (2d Cir. 2009)).

         Mr. Kelly claims that Mr. Russell violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression by punishing him for portrayals made on his social media when Russell placed him in the Restrictive Housing Unit while an investigation for his Security Risk Group placement was pending. Legal Claims, Compl. at ¶ 1. Mr. Kelly also argues that DHO King violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression by placing Mr. Kelly in the Security Risk Group based on his social media posts. Statement of Case, Compl. at ¶ 5.

         Mr. Kelly further alleges that Mr. Maldonado violated his First Amendment right to free expression because he denied Mr. Kelly's appeal based on his Facebook posts, which allegedly indicate that Mr. Kelly was affiliated with Security Risk Group bloods. Legal Claims, Compl. at ¶ 3.

         In addition, Mr. Kelly argues that Aldi and Santiago, as the supervisors of Russell, King, and Maldonado, have violated his rights because they were aware of the alleged misconduct, encouraged it, and failed to correct the misconduct that Defendants Russel, King, and Maldonado demonstrated. Id. at ¶ 4.

         Finally, Mr. Kelly argues that Mr. Mulligan violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression by housing him in the Security Risk Group based on Mr. ...


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