United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Johnson (“Johnson”), commenced this civil rights
action challenging his designation as a Security Risk Group
(“SRG”) member in February 2017, and his return
to the SRG Program upon re-admission to the custody of the
Department of Correction in December 2017. The defendants
move for summary judgment on the grounds that Johnson failed
to exhaust his administrative remedies, the defendants did
not deny Johnson due process, the defendants are protected by
qualified immunity, and Johnson has not established the
personal involvement of several defendants. For the following
reasons, the defendants' motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff
must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a
properly supported motion for summary judgment).
ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe
the facts of record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all
reasonable inferences against the moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S.
144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent.
Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is
required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). In the
context of cross-motions for summary judgment, the same
standard is applied. See Scholastic, Inc. v. Harris,
259 F.3d 73, 81 (2d Cir. 2001). However, in deciding each
motion, the court must construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.
when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of
the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v.
Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also
Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788
(2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that
is “merely colorable, ” or is not
“significantly probative, ” summary judgment may
be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the
parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact. Regarding materiality, the
substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted. Id. at 247-48. To
present a “genuine” issue of material fact, there
must be contradictory evidence “such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.”
Id. at 248.
nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of his case with respect to which he has
the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is
appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322 (1986). In such a situation, “there can be
‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of
the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord
Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d
14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he
can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential
element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there
is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may
enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
the court is required to read a self-represented
“party's papers liberally and interpret them to
raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, ”
Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir.
2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a
material issue of fact” and do not overcome a properly
supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v.
Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).
January 2017, correctional staff found hand-drawn gang
symbols in Johnson's cell and intercepted two letters
sent by Johnson that contained gang-identifying information.
Doc. No. 36-18. ¶ 1. Department of Correction
Administrative Directive 6.14(7)(A) prohibits possession of
gang-identifying material. Id. ¶ 2. That
material is defined in the Code of Penal Discipline as
“any materials, symbols, colors or pictures of any
identified security risk group, or behaviors uniquely or
clearly associated with a security risk group.”
Id. ¶ 3.
was previously identified as an SRG Crips member and
completed the SRG Program in August 2015. Id. ¶
4. An SRG is defined in Administrative Directive 6.14(3)(H)
as a “group of inmates, designated by the Commissioner,
possessing common characteristics, which serve to distinguish
them from other inmates or groups of inmates and which as a
discrete entity, jeopardizes the safety of the public, staff,
or other inmate(s) and/or the security and order of the
facility.” Id. ¶ 5. SRG members are
inmates affiliated with an SRG. Id. ¶ 6.
inmate is found to be an SRG member following a hearing, he
is placed in the five-phase SRG Program. As inmates pass
through the phases, they can withdraw from gang life and be
re-integrated into the general prison population.
Id. ¶ 7. The Administrative Segregation Program
is intended to segregate an inmate from general population,
usually because the inmate has committed a violent offense.
Id. ¶ 8. Although both programs confine inmates
in restrictive housing, the SRG inmates pose a greater danger
to the overall safety of the facility and the community
because gang activities are interconnected and perpetual.
Id. ¶ 9.
January 25, 2017, Johnson received a disciplinary report.
Id. ¶ 10. The incident report underlying the
disciplinary charge described the gang-related items found in
Johnson's possession. Id. ¶ 11. The two
letters included Crips-identifying language, including the
use of “wats” for “what's” to
show that Johnson had an affinity for the Grape Street Crips,
located in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, and the
elimination of the letters “ck” from words
because the letters represent “Crip Killer” to
any Crips member. Id. ¶ 12. A drawing of a
cluster of grapes with “Dr. Watt” written
underneath, further showing affinity for the Grape Street
Crips was found in Johnson's cell. Id. ¶
Johnson was shown the drawing, he said the grapes were
intended to be drops of blood. Staff, however, found a second
drawing of a bunch of grapes with the word
“grape” written underneath. Id. ¶
14. Johnson told officers that the items belonged to him and
that his nickname was “Dr. Watt.” Id.
¶ 15. Johnson was placed on Administrative Detention
pending an investigation into his involvement or association
with the SRG Crips. Id. ¶ 16.
January 30, 2017, Johnson was issued an SRG Hearing
Notification, which formally notified him that two letters
containing Crips identifiers were intercepted from him and
that other Crips identifiers had been found in his cell.
Id. ¶ 17. The Hearing Notification informed
Johnson that, if he was designated an SRG member, he would be
subject to the sanctions and conditions of confinement listed
in Administrative Directive 6.14 and would be ineligible to
earn Risk Reduction Earned Credit. Id. ¶ 18.
The Hearing Notification also listed factors particular to
Johnson that would be considered at the hearing, including
“information from telephone and/or mail monitoring,
” “security risk group picture, ” and
“possession of security group material.”
Id. ¶ 19. Johnson signed the Hearing
Notification acknowledging receipt of the document.
same day, Disciplinary Investigator defendant Harris met with
Johnson to review the disciplinary investigation report.
Id. ¶ 20. Johnson declined an advocate and
witnesses and said that he would make a statement at the
hearing. Id. ¶ 21. Johnson checked the boxes
and signed the form showing his decision to decline both
assistance of an advocate and the opportunity to call
witnesses. Id. ¶ 22. The hearing afforded
Johnson an opportunity to refute the evidence of SRG
involvement. Id. ¶ 25. At the February 15, 2017
hearing, Johnson was found guilty on the charge of possessing
gang-related materials. Id. ¶ 26.
same day as the hearing, Johnson was informed that he had
been designated an SRG Crips member and was placed in the SRG
Program. Id. ¶ 27. On March 5, 2017, Johnson
was transferred from Bridgeport Correctional Center to
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution to begin the SRG
Program. Id. ¶ 28. Defendant Maldonado denied
Johnson's appeal of his SRG designation. Id.
¶ 29. Twelve days later, Johnson was released from