McLellan v. Chapdelaine et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. Signed by Judge Victor A. Bolden on 1/27/2017. (Williams, C)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CAROL CHAPDELAINE, ET AL.,
Case No. 3:16-cv-2032 (VAB)
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Plaintiff, Ralph Mclellan, is incarcerated at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution in Suffield, Connecticut (“MacDougall-Walker”). He has filed a complaint under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants, Warden Carol Chapdelaine, District Administrator Angel
Quiros, Captain Rivera, Lieutenants Richardson and Roy, Correctional Officers Lagassey,
Gonzalez and Rule, Counselor Landolina, John Doe, John Doe #2, Jane Doe and Jane Doe #2.
For the reasons set forth below, the Complaint is dismissed.
Under 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. Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
requires that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader
is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
Although detailed allegations are not required, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial
plausibility when 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) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). A complaint that includes only
“‘labels and conclusions,’ ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’ or ‘naked
assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement,’” does not meet the facial plausibility
standard. Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). Although
courts still have an obligation to interpret “a pro se complaint liberally,” the complaint must still
include sufficient factual allegations to meet the standard of facial plausibility. See Harris v.
Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).
Mr. Mclellan claims that on June 29, 2016, at MacDougall-Walker, Correctional Officer
Lagassey reviewed telephone calls made by Inmate Rivera to Lyzzenia Colon. After concluding
that Inmate Rivera was using code names to refer to narcotics that he intended to receive during a
visit from Lyzzenia Colon, Officer Lagassey began to investigate Inmate Rivera. Officer
Lagassey allegedly believed that Mr. Mclellan’s fiancée, Tina Seckington, was supplying the
narcotics to Lyzzenia Colon. On June 29, 2016, Officer Lagassey allegedly issued Inmate Rivera
a disciplinary report for conspiracy to convey contraband, and on July 14, 2016, Officer Lagassey
allegedly concluded that Inmate River had been conveying narcotics into the prison through
According to Mr. Mclellan, prison officials initiated an investigation into Inmate Rivera’s
suspected attempts to have Mr. Mclellan’s fiancée deliver narcotics to Lyzzenia Colon to then be
conveyed into the prison facility. On July 14, 2016, prison officials allegedly placed Mr. Mclellan
on administrative detention pending the investigation. Mr. Mclellan alleges that, on July 15, 2016,
based on this investigation, Officer Lagassey issued Mr. Mclellan a disciplinary report for
conspiracy to convey contraband.
Mr. Mclellan states that Lieutenant Roy and Captain Rivera were Officer Lagassey’s
supervisors. He states that he did not understand why he received the disciplinary report, and he
maintains his innocence.
Mr. Mclellan allegedly asked Counselor Landolina to contact Tina Seckington to get a
statement from her regarding her alleged involvement in the attempt to convey narcotics into
MacDougall-Walker. Counselor Landolina allegedly never contacted Tina Seckington or any
other individuals who could have been witnesses in connection with the disciplinary report issued
to Mr. Mclellan.
As of July 26, 2016, Mr. Mclellan was allegedly permitted non-contact visitation with six
individuals, including his fiancée Tina Seckington. At some point after July 26, 2016, and before
August 2, 2016, prison officials allegedly de-activated Tina Seckington from Mr. Mclellan’s
Mr. Mclellan states that, on August 4, 2016, he participated in a hearing regarding his
disciplinary report. Mr. Mclellan contends that Lieutenant Richardson did not provide him with
any documentation in support of the disciplinary charge. He also states that Lieutenant
Richardson denied his requests for a continuance and for a new advocate in order to secure
witnesses. Lieutenant Richardson allegedly found Mr. Mclellan guilty of the charge of conspiracy
to convey contraband and sanctioned him to fifteen days punitive segregation, sixty days loss of
visits, sixty days loss of commissary and fifteen days loss of Risk Reduction Earned Credits.
Mr. Mclellan appealed the guilty finding. On September 9, 2016, District Administrator
Quiros allegedly rejected the appeal because it was untimely and exceeded the number of pages
permitted by the administrative directives.
On November 1, 2016, Mr. Mclellan allegedly wrote a letter to Captain Rivera requesting
that Tina Seckington be re-activated to his list of visitors and alleging that she had been
improperly removed. On November 7, 2016, Captain Rivera allegedly denied the request to reactivate Tina Seckington to Mr. Mclellan’s list of visitors because an investigation had uncovered
her involvement in the introduction of narcotics into MacDougall-Walker.
As a preliminary matter, Mr. Mclellan moves to add two exhibits to the Complaint. These
motions are granted. The Clerk of the Court shall docket the exhibits attached to the motions as
exhibits to the Complaint. The Court will consider the exhibits in conjunction with its review of
the Complaint and attached exhibits.
Claims against Defendants Chapdelaine, Gonzalez, Rule and Doe
Mr. Mclellan does not refer to Warden Chapdelaine, Correctional Officers Rule or
Gonzalez or Correctional Employees John Doe, John Doe #2, Jane Doe or Jane Doe #2 other than
in the caption of the complaint and description of the parties. As such, Mr. Mclellan has not
alleged that they violated his federally or constitutionally protected rights. The claims against
these Defendants are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Fourteenth Amendment – Due Process
Mr. Mclellan alleges that Defendants Lagassey, Rivera, Roy, Richardson, Landolina and
Quiros violated his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights in connection with the
issuance of the disciplinary report for conspiracy to convey contraband into the prison and the
imposition of sanctions after a disciplinary hearing. To state a claim for violation of procedural
due process in connection with sanctions imposed for a disciplinary infraction, an inmate must
show that he had a protected liberty interest and, if he had such an interest, that he was deprived of
that interest without being afforded due process of law. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472
In Sandin, the Supreme Court reexamined “the circumstances under which state prison
regulations afford inmates a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.” Id. at 474. The
Court explained that in the prison setting, liberty interests protected by Due Process will be
“limited to freedom from restraint which . . . imposes atypical and significant hardship on the
inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id. at 484. The Supreme Court held
that the plaintiff’s conditions of confinement in disciplinary/punitive segregation for thirty days
did not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a State might create a liberty
interest. Thus, an inmate has a protected liberty interest only if the disciplinary sanctions caused
him to suffer an “atypical and significant hardship” in comparison to “the ordinary incidents of
prison life.” Id. at 485.
In Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the Supreme Court held that when a state
prisoner seeks damages in a section 1983 action, "the district court must consider whether a
judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction and
sentence and if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate
that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated." Id. at 487. In Edwards v. Balisok,
520 U.S. 641 (1997), the Supreme Court concluded that the holding of Heck applies to a
prisoner’s challenge to the procedures used in a disciplinary proceeding which results in a
change to the prisoner’s sentence, including the loss of accumulated good-time credits. See id. at
648. Thus, a prisoner may not proceed with a section 1983 action challenging sanctions imposed
pursuant to a disciplinary finding that affect the length of his or her sentence “unless he has
shown that the sanction . . . ha[s] been overturned through administrative channels or by a state
or federal court.” Peralta v. Vasquez, 467 F.3d 98, 100 (2d Cir. 2006).
In Peralta, the Second Circuit considered a situation in which prison officials had
subjected a prisoner to sanctions that affected the duration of his confinement as well as
sanctions that affected only his conditions of confinement. The court held that the prisoner could
proceed as to the sanctions that affected his conditions of confinement if he willingly waived any
challenge to the sanctions that affected the duration of his confinement. The Second Circuit
remanded the case to the district court to determine whether the prisoner had formally agreed to
waive all claims challenging the duration of his imprisonment.
Here, Mr. Mclellan received multiple sanctions. The sanctions affected both Mr.
Mclellan’s conditions of confinement as well as the length of his prison sentence.
Loss of Risk Reduction Earned Credits
Mr. Mclellan alleges that the disciplinary hearing officer imposed a loss of 15 days of
Risk Reduction Earned Credits. The loss of Risk Reduction Earned Credits is a sanction that
affects the duration of the plaintiff’s confinement. See State of Connecticut Department of
Correction Administrative Directive 4.2A(4) (2013), available at
www.ct.gov/dos/LIB/doc/PDF/AD/ad0402a.pdf (“RREC could affect an inmate’s discharge date
by five (5) days a month if in compliance.”). Mr. Mclellan has not alleged that this sanction has
been overturned or vacated. Thus, Mr. Mclellan may not proceed to the extent that he challenges
the sanction resulting in a loss of Risk Reduction Earned Credits. That claim is dismissed
without prejudice. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Loss of Visitation and Commissary Privileges and Punitive
Mr. Mclellen alleges that the disciplinary hearing officer also imposed sanctions of sixty
days loss of commissary privileges, sixty days loss of visitation privileges and confinement in
punitive segregation for fifteen days. The Court finds it unnecessary to reach a decision
regarding whether it should permit Mr. Mclellan to waive all challenges to the sanction affecting
the duration of his imprisonment pursuant to Second Circuit’s instruction in Peralta, because it
determines that the sanctions that affected Mr. Mclellan’s conditions of confinement did not
violate Mr. Mclellan’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Second Circuit has held that confinement in restrictive housing for less than 101 days
does not constitute an atypical or significant hardship sufficient to state a claim under Sandin.
See Borcsok v. Early, 299 Fed.Appx. 76, 78 (2d Cir. 2008) (“Even if we include the eleven days
that [plaintiff] spent in SHU before the disciplinary hearing with the ninety days he received as
part of his penalty, the duration of his confinement was neither atypical nor significant”); Sealey
v. Giltner, 197 F.3d 578, 589 (2d Cir. 1999) (101-day confinement in restrictive housing
unpleasant but not atypical or significant); Lewis v. Sieminski, No. 3:08-CV-728 (JCH), 2010
WL 3827991, at *6 (D. Conn. Sept. 22, 2010) (noting that “decisions in the Second Circuit are
unanimous that keeplock or confinement [in segregated housing] for 30 days or less in New
York prisons is not ‘atypical or significant hardship’ under Sandin”). Mr. Mclellan spent at most
twenty-two days in punitive segregation from July 14, 2016, the date he was placed in
administrative detention, to August 4, 2016, the date of the disciplinary hearing. Such a brief
confinement in restrictive housing does not constitute an atypical and significant hardship.
Although Mr. Mclellan also incurred various other sanctions affecting his conditions of
confinement, the Court concludes that he either has no liberty interest in the privileges that were
suspended or the duration of the suspension of those privileges did not cause him to experience
an atypical or significant hardship. As indicated above, Mr. Mclellan lost commissary and
As a preliminary matter, an inmate has no right to commissary privileges. See Vega v.
Rell, No. 09-CV-0737, 2011 WL 2471295, at *25 (D. Conn. June 21, 2011) (It is well
established that “[i]nmates have no constitutional right to purchase items from the prison
commissary”) (citing cases). Furthermore, a prisoner has no constitutionally protected right to
contact or noncontact visits under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Kentucky Dep’t of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 461 (1989) (holding that”[t]he denial of
prison access to a particular visitor is well within the terms of confinement ordinarily
contemplated by a prison sentence, and therefore is not independently protected by the Due
In addition, courts within this Circuit have held that temporary deprivations of privileges,
such as commissary trips and visitation, do not meet the standard of an atypical and significant
hardship. See Roseboro v. Gillespie, 791 F. Supp. 2d 353, 381-82 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (sanctions
including confinement in restrictive housing unit and loss of visitation, telephone and
commissary privileges for ninety days did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of Eighth Amendment) (collecting cases); Principio v. McGinnis, No. 05-CV0856A(F), 2007 WL 2344872, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2007 (inmate’s sanctions of sixty days
in restrictive housing with loss of telephone and visitation privileges as well as loss of recreation
did not constitute atypical sentence or unusual conditions that rose “above the Sandin
threshold”); Fine v. Gallow, No. 3:97-cv-497 (SRU), 2000 WL 565232, at *9 (D. Conn. Mar. 28,
2000) (sanctions for two disciplinary reports, including thirty days loss of commissary privileges,
did not constitute an atypical and significant hardship). The Court concludes that Mr. Mclellan
has not alleged that the loss of commissary and visitation privileges for sixty days subjected him
to confinement under conditions that constituted significant or atypical hardship.
Because Mr. Mclellan has not alleged that the sanctions imposed pursuant to the guilty
finding caused him to experience atypical or significant hardship or that he otherwise had a
liberty interest in the privileges that were suspended as a result of the sanctions, he has not stated
a claim of a violation of this due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. As such, Mr.
Mclellan has failed to state a claim of denial of due process against Defendants Lagassey,
Rivera, Roy, Richardson, Landolina and Quiros in connection with disposition of the disciplinary
report for contraband and the imposition of sanctions. The Fourteenth Amendment procedural
due process claims related to the sanctions imposed that affected Mr. Mclellan’s conditions of
confinement are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Fourteenth Amendment – Equal Protection
Mr. Mclellan claims that Defendants’ conduct in connection with the issuance and
processing of the disciplinary report and the removal of his fiancée from his list of visitors
violated his “protections to Equal Protection under the Law….” Compl., ECF No. 1 at 7. Mr.
Mclellan asserts no facts in support of this claim.
The Supreme Court has recognized that “[t]he Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment commands that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws,’ which is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should
be treated alike.” City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985) (quoting
Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216 (1982)). In order to prove a violation of the Equal Protection
Clause, a plaintiff must demonstrate evidence of “purposeful discrimination . . . directed at an
identifiable or suspect class.” Giano v. Senkowski, 54 F.3d 1050, 1057 (2d Cir. 1995) (citations
omitted). Thus, to prevail on an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must allege that (1) compared
with others similarly situated he or she was treated differently; and (2) that such different
treatment was based on impermissible considerations such as race, national origin, religion or
some other protected right. See Colantuono v. Hockeborn, 801 F. Supp. 2d 110, 118 (W.D.N.Y.
2011) (citation omitted).
A plaintiff may also state a violation of the Equal Protection Clause under the “class of
one” theory. To succeed on a “class of one” claim, a plaintiff must allege that “she [or he] has
been intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and that there is no rational
basis for the difference in treatment.” Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564
(2000). In the Second Circuit, a class-of-one plaintiff “must show an extremely high degree of
similarity between themselves and the persons to whom they compare themselves.” Clubside v.
Valentin, 468 F.3d 144, 159 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).
Mr. Mclellan does not allege that he was treated differently than other similarly situated
inmates. Nor does Mr. Mclellan allege that Defendants’ decisions were made on the basis of a
protected classification. Thus, Mr. Mclellan has failed to allege facts to support a plausible equal
protection claim against Defendants. The Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claim is
dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
Mr. Mclellan generally asserts that Defendants’ conduct in connection with the issuance
of the disciplinary report, the disciplinary hearing and the de-activation of his fiancée from his
list of visitors violated the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual
punishment. “[A] prison official violates that Eighth Amendment only when two requirements
are met. First, the deprivation must be, objectively, sufficiently serious . . . [Second,] a prison
official must have a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind.’” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834
(quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-98 (1991)). Prison officials are required to provide
for inmates’ basic human needs - e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable
safety.” DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989).
Mr. Mclellan has not alleged facts to suggest that Defendants deprived him of any basic
human needs. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1980) (prisoner must demonstrate
that his conditions of confinement alone or in combination resulted in “‘unquestioned and
serious deprivations of basic human needs . . . or . . . deprive[d] [him or her] of the minimal
civilized measures of life’s necessities” to satisfy objective element of Eighth Amendment
claim); Trammel v. Keane, 338 F.2d 155, 164-65 (2d Cir. 2003) (if condition is not sufficiently
severe or prolonged, it does not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation).
Mr. Mclellan has no Eighth Amendment right to visit and buy items from the commissary
or to have visitors in prison. See Roseboro, 791 F. Supp. 2d at 381-82 (sanctions including
confinement in restrictive housing unit and loss of visitation, telephone and commissary
privileges for ninety days did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Eighth
Amendment) (collecting cases); Griffin v. Cleaver, No. 3:03-cv-1029 (DJS)(TPS), 2005 WL
1200532, at *6 (D. Conn. May 18, 2005)) (inmate had “no constitutional right to telephone use,
social visits and commissary privileges”). The allegations that Defendants violated Mr.
Mclellan’s Eighth Amendment rights fail to state a claim and are dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. §
First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment - Visitation
As noted above, a prisoner has no constitutionally protected right to contact or noncontact
visits under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Thompson, 490 U.S. at
461. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has held that the “withdrawal of visitation privileges for a
limited period as a means of effecting prison discipline … is not a dramatic departure from
accepted standards for conditions of confinement.” Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126, 137
(2003) (two-year ban on non-contact and contact visitation not atypical) (citing Sandin, 515 U.S.
at 485). At the time that Mr. Mclellan filed the Complaint, his fiancée had been de-activated
from his visitors list for approximately five months. The five-month suspension of Mr.
Mclellan’s visitation rights with his fiancée does not constitute an atypical or significant hardship
or violate his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The due process claim related to
suspension of visitation privileges with Mr. Mclellan’s fiancée is dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. §
Mr. Mclellan’s allegations may also be construed as a claim that Captain Rivera violated
his First Amendment right to association by suspending his non-contact visitation rights with his
fiancée. The Supreme Court has observed that, “as our cases have established, freedom of
association is among the rights least compatible with incarceration [and] [s]ome curtailment of
that freedom must be expected in the prison context.” Overton, 539 U.S. at 131-37. To state a
claim that a restriction on a visitation privileges violated the First Amendment right to
association, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that the challenged restriction
bears no “rational relation to legitimate penological interests.” Id. at 131-32. In Overton, the
Supreme Court upheld a two-year ban on all types of inmate visitation, other than with attorneys
and the clergy, for inmates with two substance-abuse violations, because the regulation was
rationally related to the legitimate penological interests in deterring drug and alcohol use in
prisons as well as inducing compliance with the rules of inmate behavior. Id. at 134.
The alleged facts show that Mr. Mclellan received the disciplinary report for conspiracy
to convey narcotics into the prison facility. An investigation revealed that Mr. Mclellan’s
fiancée was involved in attempting to assist another inmate’s girlfriend to convey contraband
into the prison facility, and Mr. Mclellan was found guilty of the infraction. The suspension of
non-contact visits with Mr. Mclellan’s fiancée was rationally related to the penological goal of
deterring Mr. Mclellan from attempting to convey contraband into the prison or committing other
violations of prison rules in the future. See id. at 134-35 (indefinite ban on visitation right of
inmates with two substance abuse violations bore “a rational relationship to  legitimate
penological interest[s]”); Marrero v. Weir, No. 3:13-cv-28 (RNC), 2014 WL 4799228, at * 6 (D.
Conn. Sept. 26, 2014) (removal of inmate’s mother from his visitation list for twenty-two
months or more as sanction for finding inmate guilty of conveyance of contraband into prison
facility did not violate First Amendment because sanction was rationally related to legitimate
security concerns); Hernandez v. McGinnis, 272 F. Supp. 2d 223, 227-28 (W.D.N.Y. 2003)
(revocation of inmate’s visitation rights, which lasted roughly three years, served a legitimate
purpose—deterring visit-related misconduct and promoting internal security).
Furthermore, there are no allegations to suggest that Mr. Mclellan was not otherwise able
to communicate with his fiancée by mail or telephone during the time period in question. See
Overton, 539 U.S. at 135 (restriction on non-contact and contact visitation not unreasonable
because inmates had alternative means of communication “with persons outside the prison by
letter and telephone”). Accordingly, Mr. Mclellan has failed to state a claim of a deprivation of
his First Amendment right to association, and that claim is dismissed. See 28 U.S.C. §
The Court enters the following orders:
The Motions to Add Exhibit [ECF Nos. 8 and 9] are GRANTED. The Clerk of
the Court shall docket the exhibits attached to the motions as exhibits to the Complaint.
The Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim related to the loss of Risk Reduction
Earned Credits is DISMISSED without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). All other
claims against Defendants are DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The Motion for
Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order [ECF No. 3] is DENIED as moot.1
The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims against
Defendants. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 715-26 (1966) (holding that,
The Court does not address the motion for injunctive relief because it has dismissed the
Complaint. This motion seeks a court order directing Defendants to permit Mr. Mclellan to
reinstate visits with his fiancée. Even if the Court were to address this motion, the motion does
not assert facts to demonstrate that Mr. Mclellan would suffer imminent harm if the motion was
not granted and he was not permitted to engage in visitation with his fiancée. As indicated
above, Mr. Mclellan has not alleged that he is precluded from contacting his fiancée in writing or
where all federal claims have been dismissed before trial, pendent state claims should be
dismissed without prejudice and left for resolution by the state courts).
The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment for Defendants and close this
SO ORDERED at Bridgeport, Connecticut this 27th day of January, 2017.
/s/ Victor A. Bolden
VICTOR A. BOLDEN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?