Stimpson v. Commissioner of Corrections et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. Per my order dated 6/30/2017 (doc. # 37), discovery is due by 10/23/2017 and dispositive motions are due by 11/24/2017. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 9/1/2017. (Schneider, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
MERLE E. STIMPSON, a/k/a
MASON ANDRE MICHAEL RYBEC,
No. 3:16-cv-00520 (SRU)
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION,
RULING AND ORDER
Merle E. Stimpson, incarcerated and pro se, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against the Commissioner of Correction, Warden Carol Chapdelaine, and Captain Hall. See
Compl., Doc. No. 1. Stimpson alleged that the defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. On June 26, 2016, I granted Stimpson’s letter motion seeking to amend the
complaint and gave him thirty days to file an amended complaint.
On October 19, 2016, Stimpson filed an amended complaint listing Warden Chapdelaine,
Captain Hall, and the Commissioner of Correction as defendants. See Am. Compl., Doc. No. 15.
On January 23, 2017, I reviewed both the complaint and the amended complaint. I dismissed the
amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) because it complied neither with the
rules of procedure governing pleadings nor with my orders regarding exhaustion, and also failed to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Ruling & Order, Doc. No. 22. I also reviewed
Stimpson’s original complaint, Doc. No. 1, and dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)
Stimpson’s Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims related to his placement in
administrative detention, and his Fourteenth Amendment failure to protect from harm claim. I also
dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2) Stimpson’s claims against Warden Chapdelaine,
Captain Hall, and the Commissioner of Correction in their official capacities. I allowed to proceed
Stimpson’s Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to harm and failure to protect
from harm against Captain Hall, Warden Chapdelaine and the Commissioner of Correction in their
individual capacities. See Ruling & Order, Doc. No. 22, at 18.
On January 26, 2017, Stimpson filed a letter seeking to file another amended complaint to
add new claims. See Letter, Doc. No. 25. The allegations in the letter related to a written
communication that Stimpson had received from District Administrator Quiros on January 9,
2017, in response to Stimpson’s attempt to appeal a guilty finding at a disciplinary hearing. See
Ex. 1 to id., Doc. No. 25-1. I construed Stimpson’s letter as a motion to amend, and on April 27,
2017, I issued an order granting the motion based on Stimpson’s contentions that the
communication from Administrator Quiros was evidence of continued retaliation against him and
that the retaliatory conduct related to the underlying claims in the complaint. See Order, Doc. No.
30. Because Stimpson had not filed a proposed amended complaint with the letter, I gave him
thirty days to file an amended complaint.
In response to that order, Stimpson has filed a second amended complaint listing
Commissioner of Correction Scott Semple, Wardens Carol Chapdelaine and Scott Erfe, Captain
Peaches Hall, and Counselors Datil and Laone as defendants. See Second Am. Compl., Doc. No.
32. Stimpson has also filed a motion seeking an order that the defendants named in the amended
complaint be served. Doc. No. 39. For the reasons set forth below, I dismiss Stimpson’s second
amended complaint and deny his motion for service.
After the time to amend as of right has passed, “[t]he court should freely” grant leave to
amend “when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). In considering whether to grant a
litigant leave to amend under Rule 15(a), I must consider such factors as “undue delay,” “bad
faith,” “dilatory motive,” “undue prejudice to the opposing party,” and “futility of amendment.”
Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
As indicated above, I construed a letter filed by Stimpson in January 2017 as a motion to
amend, and granted the motion because Stimpson claimed that the new allegations were related to
the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to safety and failure to protect claims that he had
asserted in the original complaint. Those allegations concern an incident that occurred at
MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution (“MacDougall-Walker”) in February 2016.
Contrary to Stimpson’s earlier representation, the second amended complaint does not
include any allegations related to the written communication from District Administrator Quiros
dated January 9, 2017. Instead, it adds completely new allegations about incidents that occurred in
April/May 2017 at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”), involving three individuals who
are employed at Cheshire and who were not named in the original complaint. See Second Am.
Compl., Doc. No. 32 at 3, 5–6. Those allegations are entirely unrelated to the Eighth Amendment
claims asserted in Stimpson’s original complaint.
The new allegations in Stimpson’s second amended complaint are as follows. In April/May
2017, Stimpson sent a request to be moved from Cheshire to another facility, but Counselor Datil
denied the request. See id. at 5. Stimpson then sent a request to a captain at Cheshire seeking to be
moved to another housing unit within Cheshire, but the captain denied the request. See id. In
response to another request to be transferred either out of Cheshire or to another housing unit
within Cheshire, Counselor Datil threatened to send Stimpson to segregation if he sent any further
transfer requests to the correctional captain. See id. Stimpson claims the response by Counselor
Datil was retaliatory. Stimpson asserts that at some point after May 16, 2017, prison officials
placed his housing block on lockdown. See id. at 6. When he asked Counselor Datil why the
housing unit was on lockdown, Counselor Datil indicated that Stimpson “had started this with
[his] lawsuit” and that the warden was too busy to meet with any inmates. See id.
In June 2013, the Connecticut Superior Court granted Stimpson’s request to change his
name to Mason Andre Michael Rybec. See id. at 16–17. Stimpson claims that in April/May 2017
he asked Counselor Laone to aid him in obtaining copies of his birth certificate, social security
card, and driver’s license in order to submit requests to change his name on those documents.
Stimpson states that he received a copy of his social security card, but has not received a copy of
his birth certificate. See id. at 6. In response to the request (dated May 16, 2017), Counselor Laone
informed Stimpson that there was no record of a prior driver’s license or identification card under
the name of Merle Stimpson on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. See id. at 11.
Stimpson asserts that on May 18, 2017, he asked an assistant attorney general who worked
for the State of Connecticut to stop the retaliatory actions of Department of Correction officers.
See id. at 19. Stimpson alleges that “admin” told him that they are aware that he is a troublemaker,
and that he will be “pacified” if he does not stop his actions pursuant to orders of the warden and
commissioner. See id. at 6.
After reviewing the second amended complaint, I concluded that the complaint is deficient
in a number of ways and must be dismissed. As a preliminary matter, Stimpson’s allegations
relating to his Eighth Amendment claims against Commissioner Semple, Warden Chapdelaine,
and Captain Hall that were asserted in the original complaint are not included in the second
amended complaint. In granting Stimpson leave to amend, I specifically cautioned Stimpson that
an amended complaint completely replaces the original complaint and that the amended complaint
should include facts showing how each defendant was involved in the alleged violation of
Stimpson’s federally or constitutionally protected rights. See Order, Doc. No. 30. Thus, it is
apparent that Stimpson has ignored my instructions regarding the need to include claims against
Commissioner Semple, Warden Chapdelaine, and Captain Hall in the second amended complaint.
Although Stimpson has named Commissioner Semple, Warden Chapdelaine, and Captain
Hall as defendants in the second amended complaint, he has included no allegations against them
regarding the incidents that occurred in February 2016 at MacDougall-Walker. Thus, Stimpson
has abandoned his failure to protect and deliberate indifference to safety claims against
Commissioner Semple, Warden Chapdelaine, and Captain Hall. Because there are no allegations
against those defendants in the second amended complaint, Stimpson has failed to allege that they
violated his federally or constitutionally protected rights. The second amended complaint is
dismissed with respect to Warden Chapdelaine and Captain Hall. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) (court may dismiss “at any time” a claim on which relief may not be granted).
As a secondary matter, I did not grant Stimpson leave to add claims against three new
defendants relating to incidents that had not even occurred at the time that he filed his letter
seeking leave to amend. Moreover, the allegations are unrelated to the claims in the underlying
complaint. Therefore, the second amended complaint was improperly filed and should be
dismissed with respect to all defendants.
The second amended complaint also is subject to dismissal because the allegations were
not exhausted prior to its filing. On June 29, 2016, August 11, 2016 and January 23, 2017, I made
Stimpson aware that he was required to exhaust all available administrative remedies with respect
to each claim before filing a civil rights complaint or amended complaint in federal court. See
Docs. Nos. 12, 14, & 22. In addition, in my order granting leave to amend on April 24, 2017, I
clearly informed Stimpson that he must assert any attempts to exhaust his administrative remedies
with respect to each claim before filing the amended complaint. See Order, Doc. No. 30.
Actions brought by prison inmates are governed by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Section 1997e(a)
provides: “No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this
title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional
facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” This subsection applies
to “all inmate suits about prison life,” including the use of excessive force by prison staff. See
Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
Exhaustion of all available administrative remedies must occur regardless of whether the
administrative procedures provide the relief that the inmate seeks. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S.
731, 741 (2001). Furthermore, prisoners must comply with all procedural rules regarding the
grievance process prior to commencing an action in federal court. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S.
81, 83–85 (2006). Thus, completion of the exhaustion process after a federal action has been filed
does not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. See Neal v. Goord, 267 F.3d 116, 122 (2d Cir. 2001)
(“[G]rievances must . . . be fully pursued prior to filing a complaint in federal court.”).
With regard to Stimpson’s allegations that he submitted requests to Counselor Datil to be
moved to another facility or another housing unit within Cheshire, and that Datil denied his
request and threatened to have him transferred to segregation if he submitted additional transfer
requests, Stimpson did not fully exhaust these claims. He asserts that in April or early May 2017,
he filed a grievance regarding Counselor Datil’s conduct. On May 5, 2017, he received a receipt
for filing the grievance. Stimpson claims that as of the date he submitted the second amended
complaint to be filed with the court, he had not received any response to the grievance.
Stimpson also characterizes as retaliatory the statement of an unknown administrative
official that he was a known troublemaker and that he would be “pacified” pursuant to orders of
Warden Erfe and Commissioner Semple if he continued making trouble. Even if that allegation
could be construed to raise a retaliation claim against Warden Erfe and Commissioner Semple,
Stimpson does not allege that he attempted to exhaust that claim prior to filing the second
Stimpson claims that Counselor Laone failed to assist him in retrieving copies or originals
of various documents. The allegations against Counselor Laone do not state a claim for a violation
of Stimpson’s constitutionally or federally protected rights. The attachments to the amended
complaint reflect that Counselor Laone did assist Stimpson in seeking records, including his
driver’s license and birth certificate. See Second Am. Compl., Doc. No. 32 at 11, 22. Furthermore,
Stimpson does not allege that he exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to any claims
he might have against Counselor Laone.
The administrative remedies for the Connecticut Department of Correction are set forth in
Administrative Directive 9.6 (the “Administrative Directive”), and may be found at
http://www.ct.gov/doc/LIB/doc/PDF/AD/ad0906.pdf. For all matters relating to any aspect of a
prisoner’s confinement that are subject to the Commissioner’s authority (and that are not
specifically identified in Sections 4(B) through 4(I) of the Administrative Directive), the
applicable remedy is the Inmate Grievance Procedure. Claims regarding conditions of confinement
are subject to the Inmate Grievance Procedure.
Stimpson claims that he filed a grievance regarding the conduct of Counselor Datil that
was received by the grievance coordinator on May 5, 2017. Under the Administrative Directive,
the unit administrator has thirty business days to process/review a grievance, see id. at 9.6(6)(I),
i.e., until June 19, 2017. Stimpson states that he had not received a response to the grievance at the
time he filed the second amended complaint. Because the second amended complaint is dated May
18, 2017 and was filed on May 23, 2017, it is apparent from the timing of the second amended
complaint alone that Stimpson did not fully exhaust his remedies with respect to Counselor Datil.
Stimpson does not claim that he made any attempt to exhaust his remedies with respect to Warden
Erfe, Commissioner Semple, or Counselor Laone prior to filing the second amended complaint.
Thus, it is apparent from the face of the second amended complaint and its exhibits that Stimpson
did not fully exhaust his available administrative remedies. Accordingly, the second amended
complaint does not comply with 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.
It would be futile to permit Stimpson to proceed with regard to the unexhausted claims
against Commissioner Semple, Warden Erfe, Counselor Datil, and Counselor Laone. See Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 214–15 (2007) (complaint may be dismissed sua sponte for failure “when an
affirmative defense . . . appears on its face”) (quoting Leveto v. Lapina, 258 F.3d 156, 161 (3d Cir.
2001); Williams v. Priatno, 829 F.3d 118, 122 (2d Cir. 2016) (noting that “inmates are not
required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaints,” but that “a district court
still may dismiss a complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies if it is clear on the face
of the complaint that the plaintiff did not satisfy the PLRA exhaustion requirement”) (quoting
Jones, 549 U.S. at 216; Lumetrics, Inc. v. Bristol Instruments, 101 F. Supp. 3d 264, 268
(W.D.N.Y. 2015) (“An amendment is futile if the proposed amended pleading would be subject to
immediate dismissal for failure to state a claim or on some other ground.”) (internal quotation
marks and brackets omitted). Furthermore, service of the second amended complaint on the new
defendants would likely delay the litigation of the case. See Burch v. Pioneer Credit Recovery, 551
F.3d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 2008) (although “leave to amend should be granted ‘when justice so
requires,’ motions to amend should generally be denied in instances of futility, undue delay, bad
faith or dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed,
or undue prejudice to the non-moving party”) (quoting Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). Pursuant to Rule
15(a)(2), the interests of justice do not require me to permit Stimpson to proceed with regard to the
unexhausted and unrelated claims in the second amended complaint.
Accordingly, I dismiss Stimpson’s second amended complaint for failure to meet the
requirements of Rule 15(a)(2), because I did not grant Stimpson leave to add new defendants and
claims that were unrelated to the claims in the original complaint. I also dismiss pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) all claims against Warden Chapdelaine and Captain Hall, and dismiss
without prejudice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e all claims against Commissioner Semple, Warden
Erfe, Counselor Laone, and Counselor Datil for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Because I have dismissed the second amended complaint, Stimpson’s motion seeking that the
complaint be served on the new defendants and new litigation deadlines set is denied as moot.
Stimpson’s Second Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 32, is DISMISSED for failure to meet
the requirements of Rule 15(a)(2) for filing an amended complaint. The Second Amended
Complaint is also DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) with regard to the
claims against Warden Chapdelaine and Captain Hall, and DISMISSED without prejudice
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e with regard to the claims against Commissioner Semple, Warden
Erfe, Counselor Laone, and Counselor Datil. Should Stimpson wish to pursue the claims in the
second amended complaint, he may file a new, separate action after he exhausts his
administrative remedies as to those claims.
I conclude that I need not permit Stimpson yet another attempt to amend his complaint
because I cannot discern how the allegations in the January 26, 2017 letter relate to the claims in
the underlying complaint, nor has Stimpson explained how the statements in the letter motion
might relate the allegations in the complaint.
Stimpson’s Motion for Order, Doc. No. 39—in which he seeks review of the Second
Amended Complaint, an order directing the clerk to serve it on the new defendants, and an order
setting new deadlines for completing discovery and filing summary judgment motions—is
DENIED AS MOOT.
The case will proceed only with regard to the claims asserted against Captain Hall,
Warden Chapdelaine, and Commissioner Semple in the Complaint, Doc. No. 1, and as
reviewed in my Initial Review Order, Doc. No. 22. Those claims are as follows. In February
2016, Captain Hall, Warden Chapdelaine, and the Commissioner of Correction, in their individual
capacities, were deliberately indifferent to Stimpson’s safety and failed to protect him from harm.
Those claims arose from incidents involving sexual advances and assaults made by Inmate Adino
against Stimpson. Per my order of June 30, 2017, the deadline for completion of discovery is
October 23, 2017, and the deadline for filing summary judgment motions is November 24, 2017.
I hereby give Stimpson notice that I will not entertain any additional motions to
amend the complaint at the present stage of the litigation.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 1st day of September 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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