Walker v. Kendricks et al
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth in the attached ruling, the complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Because I conclude that the filing of any amended complaint would be futile in light of the facts already set forth in the initial complaint, this order of dismissal is with prejudice. The Clerk of Court shall close this case. It is so ordered. Signed by Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer on 12/28/2016. (Gruber, Sarah)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
DARYL DEE WALKER,
No. 3:16-cv-274 (JAM)
LINDA P. KENDRICKS, et al.,
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
Pro se plaintiff Daryl Dee Walker brings this complaint against several correctional
officers on grounds that he was wrongly subject to disciplinary segregation, to a transfer between
prison facilities, and to humiliating visual body-cavity searches. He asserts constitutional
violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five defendants: Second Chance Program
Manager Linda P. Kendricks, Captain Pittman, Lieutenant Ayala, and Lieutenants John Doe 1
and John Doe 2. Based on my initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I conclude that
plaintiff has not alleged a violation of any constitutional right for which the defendants would
not have qualified immunity, and therefore I will dismiss the complaint.
The following facts as alleged in the complaint are accepted as true for purposes of this
ruling. On December 16, 2015, at Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution, plaintiff was
“apprehended out[side] of E. Dorm by DOC staff.” Doc. #1, ¶ 1. Lieutenant John Doe 1
handcuffed plaintiff, escorted him to a holding cell in the admitting and processing area, and
performed a visual body-cavity search on him in front of a camera and multiple Department of
Corrections staff. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 1–5. Plaintiff “fear[ed] for [his] life, feeling humiliated and
sexually violated.” Doc. #1, ¶ 8. Staff ordered plaintiff to put on a red jumpsuit, indicating that
he would be sent to segregation. Doc. #1, ¶ 9. Though he twice asked Lieutenant John Doe 1
what he had done to merit a visual body-cavity search, Lieutenant John Doe 1 did not respond.
Doc. #1, ¶¶ 2, 10. When plaintiff asked Second Chance Program Manager Linda P. Kendricks
why he was going to segregation, he received an insulting but not pertinent response. Doc. #1, ¶
11. He asked Captain Pittman and Lieutenant Ayala why he was going to segregation; neither
defendant knew why. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 12, 13.
While plaintiff was in a holding cell in anticipation of his transfer, DOC staff brought
another inmate in who was also to be transferred to segregation. As they were being transferred,
plaintiff asked another correctional officer why he was going to segregation, and the officer
replied that he was being transferred pending the results of a lab test. Doc. #1, ¶ 16. Plaintiff
protested that he had neither been issued a disciplinary report nor undergone a lab test, but
plaintiff was transferred nonetheless. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 17–18. He raised the same protest to Lieutenant
John Doe 2, to no avail. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 21–22.
After he arrived at Osborn Correctional Institution (“Osborn”) to be placed in
segregation, he questioned each officer he encountered why he had been transferred in light of
the fact that he had neither been issued a disciplinary report nor undergone a lab test. One officer
made a phone call to investigate plaintiff’s claim, but the answer was the same: plaintiff was to
be transferred pending the results of a lab test. Doc. #1, ¶¶ 25–27. At Osborn, plaintiff was again
subject to a visual body-cavity search in front of a camera and multiple DOC staff. Doc. #1, ¶ 30.
After plaintiff was placed in his cell, several officers indicated that they would “look into” why
plaintiff had been transferred pending the results of a lab test if he had not, in fact, taken a lab
test. The next day, plaintiff was issued a Restrictive Housing Unit Status Order for
Administrative Detention, though he still had not received a disciplinary report. Doc. #1, ¶ 40.
Plaintiff remained in the restrictive housing unit until December 23, 2015, when staff transferred
him back to general population. According to plaintiff, “I was placed in Osborn CI population
without any due process of law nor any sanctions,” and “[t]hus, clearly violating my clearly
established Eighth Amendment and 14th Amendment [rights].” Doc. #1, ¶ 46. Plaintiff seeks
compensatory and punitive damages.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must review prisoner civil complaints
against governmental actors and “dismiss . . . any portion of [a] 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.” Id. The allegations of a pro se
plaintiff’s 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) (discussing special rules of solicitude
for pro se litigants).
In recent years, the Supreme Court has set forth a threshold “plausibility” pleading
standard for courts to evaluate the adequacy of 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).
Even assuming a prisoner’s complaint alleges facts that plausibly establish a violation of
the prisoner’s constitutional rights, not every violation of the Constitution may justify an award
of money damages against a correctional official. That is because the doctrine of qualified
immunity protects government officials “from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct
does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person
would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982); see also Carroll v.
Carman, 135 S. Ct. 348, 351 (2014). As the Supreme Court has explained, “a defendant cannot
be said to have violated a clearly established right unless the right’s contours were sufficiently
definite that any reasonable official in the defendant’s shoes would have understood that he was
violating it.” Plumhoff v. Richard, 134 S. Ct. 2012, 2023 (2014).
Restrictive Confinement and Transfer to New Prison Facility
Plaintiff alleges that his due process rights were violated when he was subject to
administrative segregation and a transfer to a different prison facility without just cause. The
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that a State shall not “deprive
any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const., Amdt. 14, § 1.
The “standard analysis” for a claim of a violation of procedural due process “proceeds in two
steps: We first ask whether there exists a liberty or property interest of which a person has been
deprived, and if so we ask whether the procedures followed by the State were constitutionally
sufficient.” Swarthout v. Cooke, 562 U.S. 216, 219 (2011) (per curiam).1
Of course, the Due Process Clause protects both a right to “substantive” due process and “procedural” due
process. A substantive due process claim requires a plaintiff to show that government officials have deprived
plaintiff of a fundamental constitutional right and that they have done so under circumstances that are no less than
“arbitrary” and “outrageous,” typically as demonstrated by conduct that “shocks the conscience.” See, e.g., United
States v. Medunjanin, 752 F.3d 576, 590 (2d Cir. 2014) (substantive due process has generally protected “matters
relating to marriage, family, procreation, and the right to bodily integrity”); Natale v. Town of Ridgefield, 170 F.3d
258, 262–63 (2d Cir. 1999) (substantive due process standards violated “only by conduct that is so outrageously
arbitrary as to constitute a gross abuse of governmental authority”); Velez v. Levy, 401 F.3d 75, 93–94 (2d Cir. 2005)
(describing the “shocks the conscience” standard). Because the essence of plaintiff’s claim is that he should not have
In the prison context (involving someone whose liberty interests have already been
severely restricted because of his or her confinement in a prison), a prisoner plaintiff must show
that he was subject to an “atypical and significant hardship . . . in relation to the ordinary
incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). In Sandin, the Supreme
Court concluded that a prisoner who was subject to a disciplinary term of 30 days confinement in
restrictive housing did not sustain a deprivation of a liberty interest that was subject to protection
under the Due Process Clause. Id. at 486.
Following Sandin, the Second Circuit has explained that the “factors relevant to
determining whether the plaintiff endured an atypical and significant hardship include the extent
to which the conditions of the disciplinary segregation differ from other routine prison conditions
and the duration of the disciplinary segregation imposed compared to discretionary
confinement.” Palmer v. Richards, 364 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir. 2004). The Second Circuit has
further stated that “we have affirmed dismissal of due process claims only in cases where the
period of time spent in SHU [special housing unit] was exceedingly short—less than the 30 days
that the Sandin plaintiff spent in SHU—and there was no indication that the plaintiff endured
unusual SHU conditions.” Id. at 65–66 (citing cases); see also Prins v. Coughlin, 76 F.3d 504,
507 (2d Cir. 1996) (“a prisoner generally has no due process right to challenge a transfer from
one facility to another”).
In light of this framework, it is clear that each of the defendants is entitled at the least to
qualified immunity from plaintiff’s claim for money damages. Plaintiff was subject to a far less
been subject to transfer and restrictive confinement without procedures that allowed him to challenge the basis
therefor, I do not understand the complaint to allege a violation of substantive due process distinct from a violation
of procedural due process.
lengthy term of restrictive confinement (about eight days) than the plaintiff in Sandin, and
plaintiff has not alleged anything about either the nature of his short confinement or his transfer
to a new prison facility that would support a conclusion that these actions caused him an atypical
or significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Accordingly, even
assuming that plaintiff was mistakenly subject to restrictive confinement and transfer, no
objectively reasonable correctional official would have believed that these measures deprived
plaintiff of a constitutionally protected liberty interest.
The complaint also alleges a violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights when he was
subject to two body-cavity searches in front of a camera and in the presence of multiple prison
personnel. Numerous courts have concluded that—absent allegations of a strip-search done for
invidious reasons of intimidation, harassment, or embarrassment—it does not violate the
Constitution for an inmate to be subject to a strip search within the view of other correctional
officers or inmates who are not themselves involved in the search. See, e.g., Walker v. Ponte,
2016 WL 4411415, at *4–5 (S.D.N.Y. 2016); Smith v. City of New York, 2015 WL 3929621, at
*2–3 (S.D.N.Y. 2015); see also King v. McCarty, 781 F.3d 889, 897, 901 (7th Cir. 2015) (per
curiam) (concluding that “[a] prisoner states a claim under the Eighth Amendment when he
plausibly alleges that the strip-search in question was motivated by a desire to harass or
humiliate rather than by a legitimate justification, such as the need for order and security in
prisons” but that “we do not believe we should expand the scope of Fourth Amendment
protection to strip-searches of convicted prisoners to create an Eighth-Amendment-light standard
in which the subjective purposes of prison officials would not be relevant.”).
Here, plaintiff does not allege any malicious or invidious reason for the searches; rather,
the complaint states that the searches took place in connection with disciplinary and transfer
actions, and the complaint acknowledges paperwork consulted by defendants reflecting that he
was subject to discipline pending lab results. Although plaintiff challenges the factual basis for
disciplinary actions taken against him, he does not allege that any of the defendants personally
instigated or initiated the discipline taken against him, much less that they did so for malicious or
In light of these allegations and precedent, it cannot be said that plaintiff’s constitutional
right to be free from the strip searches he experienced was clearly established and sufficient to
overcome defendants’ entitlement to qualified immunity. See Dixon v. Santiago, 2015 WL
9582729, at *3 (D. Conn. 2015) (granting qualified immunity on claim by prisoner that strip
searches “were done in a manner that allowed him to be viewed by a video camera, viewed by
other inmates, and viewed by correctional officers who were not involved with the strip search
process”). Because I have concluded that plaintiff has failed to allege any constitutional claim for
which relief may be granted, I need not consider whether plaintiff has otherwise adequately
alleged the personal and culpable involvement of each defendant in the alleged constitutional
For the reasons set forth above, the complaint is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Because I conclude that the filing of any amended complaint would be futile in light of
the facts already set forth in the initial complaint, this order of dismissal is with prejudice. The
Clerk of Court shall close this case.
It is so ordered.
Dated at New Haven, Connecticut this 28th day of December, 2016.
/s/ Jeffrey Alker Meyer
Jeffrey Alker Meyer
United States District Judge
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