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Schlosser v. Manuel

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 10, 2020

JEFFREY SCHLOSSER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN MANUEL, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Jeffrey Schlosser (“Schlosser”), is confined at New Haven Correctional Center. He has filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., against Commissary Officer Manuel and Correctional Counselor McNeill. He alleges that the defendants deprived him of the privilege of purchasing items from the commissary from April 4, 2019 to June 29, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the complaint is dismissed.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. 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. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘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)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. Facts

         Officer Manuel was in charge of the commissary at New Haven Correctional Center in May and June 2019. Compl. at 2, 4 ¶¶ 1, 4. Schlosser spoke to Commissary Officer Manuel on multiple occasions in May 2019 because he had not been allowed to order items from the commissary. Id. at 4 ¶ 2. Officer Manuel informed Schlosser that there was a red line through his name and that he might be on loss of commissary privileges status. Id. Officer Manuel suggested that Schlosser check with the disciplinary administrator to find out if he had in fact lost commissary privileges. Id. At some point after May 21, 2019, Schlosser learned that he was not on loss of commissary privileges status. Id. ¶ 2; Exs., ECF No. 1-1, at 4. On June 4, 2019, prison officials at New Haven Correctional transferred Schlosser to Hartford Correctional Center (“HCC”). Compl. at 4 ¶ 4.

         Schlosser attempted to order items from the commissary at HCC but only received items from the Loss of Commissary menu. Id. ¶ 5. In response to Schlosser's written request, the commissary officer at HCC informed him that he had been on loss of commissary but “she fixed it for [him].” Id.

         Schlosser filed two grievances because he had been “lied to and deceived.” Id. ¶ 6. On August 6, 2019, Correctional Counselor McNeill returned the first grievance without disposition because prison officials had refunded Schlosser the money that had been deducted from his inmate account for the purchase of items that Schlosser did not receive. Id. ¶ 7; Exs., ECF No. 1-1, at 2. On August 14, 2019, Correctional Counselor McNeill returned the second grievance without disposition because the issue in the grievance had been addressed in response to the first grievance. Exs., ECF No. 1-1, at 1.

         III. Discussion

         Schlosser claims that state officials have lied to and unnecessarily punished him and have excluded him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He seeks monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief.

         As a preliminary matter, it is not clear whether Schlosser was a sentenced inmate or a pretrial detainee at the time of the alleged violations of his rights. The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch records reflect that a judge sentenced Schlosser in two state court cases on September 27, 2012 to ten years of imprisonment, execution suspended after thirty months and followed by ten years of probation. See State v. Schlosser, H12M-CR11-0236734-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 27, 2012); State v. Schlosser, H12M-CR12-0237931-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 27, 2012).[1] Manchester police officers subsequently arrested Schlosser on violation of probation charges. See Id. On April 17, 2017, a judge found Schlosser guilty of violating a condition or conditions of his term of probation in both criminal cases and re-sentenced Schlosser in both cases to ninety months of imprisonment, execution suspended after one year and followed by ten years of probation. See id.

         On October 30, 2018, probation officers arrested Schlosser for violating a condition or conditions of his term of probation in State v. Schlosser, H12M-CR12-0237931-S, and on November 1, 2018, probation officers probation arrested Schlosser for violating a condition or conditions of his term of probation in State v. Schlosser, H12M-CR11-0236734-S.[2] Both violation of probation charges remain pending against Schlosser. See Id. Thus, during the time period from April to June 2019 when Schlosser could not purchase items from the commissary, he was awaiting disposition of the probation charges pursuant to which he was arrested in October and November 2018.

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h), a “prisoner” is defined as “any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). The Second Circuit, however, has not resolved whether a probationer awaiting disposition of a violation of probation charge is considered to be a prisoner or a pretrial detainee. See Hill v. County of Montgomery, 2018 WL 2417839, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. May 29, 2018) (“Whether to classify an individual detained for a suspected probation violation as a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner is an ‘unresolved and difficult question.'”) (quoting Harry v. Suarez, 2012 WL 2053533, at *2 n.3 (S.D.N.Y. June 4, 2012)). In Hill, the district court concluded that the status of an individual confined for a probation or parole violation was “more akin to that of a pretrial detainee, ” at least until after the hearing and determination of guilt of the violation. Id. at *2. Schlosser had not been found guilty of violating the conditions of his term of probation as of the time period during which he could not purchase items from the commissaries at New Haven and Hartford Correctional Centers. Thus, for purposes of the analysis of Schlosser's conditions of confinement claim, I conclude that Schlosser was a pretrial detainee at the time of the alleged constitutional violation and analyze his claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 29 (2017) ("A pretrial detainee's claims of unconstitutional conditions of confinement are governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.").

         A. Fourte ...


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