Medina v. Watson
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. Discovery due by 8/3/2017. Dispositive Motions due by 9/2/2017. Signed by Judge Victor A. Bolden on 1/5/2017.(Ghosh, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CASE NO. 3:16-cv-2061 (VAB)
JANUARY 5, 2017
INIITAL REVIEW ORDER
Plaintiff, Rogelio Medina, currently incarcerated at the Garner Correctional Center, filed
this Complaint pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Medina’s Complaint was received on
December 15, 2016, and his motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on December 22,
2016. The Defendant is Shirly Watson, Mr. Medina’s Social Worker. Mr. Medina alleges that
Ms. Watson violated his Ninth Amendment right to privacy by disclosing his mental health
diagnosis to custodial staff. He seeks damages from the Defendant in her individual capacity.
Standard of Review
Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the Court must review
prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is “frivolous or malicious,
that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing a pro se
complaint, the Court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to
“raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d
Cir. 2013); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special
rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).
Although detailed allegations are not required, the Complaint must include sufficient
facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based
and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic 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.
On August 23, 2016, Mr. Medina was walking about the tier during the recreation period.
Compl., ECF No. 1, 1. He allegedly overheard the defendants speaking with Correctional
Officer Judkins. Id. Ms. Watson allegedly told Officer Judkins that Mr. Medina suffers from
borderline personality disorder and is constantly paranoid. Id. at 2. Mr. Medina allegedly never
gave the Defendant permission to discuss his diagnosis with custodial staff. Id. at 3.
Other inmates allegedly overheard the conversation as well. Compl., 4. They allegedly
knew who was being discussed because Ms. Watson allegedly referred to him as Medina and
there are no other inmates named Medina in the cell block. Id. After the conversation, other
inmates allegedly have made Mr. Medina paranoid by making him think they are after him. Id.
at 5. The other inmates allegedly “call [Mr. Medina] retard slow dumb and say kill yourself.”
Id. The harassment allegedly has affected Mr. Medina mentally and emotionally because he also
suffers from depression. Id. at 6.
The Second Circuit has recognized a constitutional right to “maintain the confidentiality
of previously undisclosed medical information.” Powell v. Schriver, 175 F.3d 107, 112 (2d Cir.
1999). Accordingly, prison officials can only disclose medical information to the extent that
disclosure relates to a “legitimate penological interest.” Id. “The gratuitous disclosure of an
inmate’s confidential medical information as humor or gossip … is not reasonably related to a
legitimate penological interest,” and therefore “violates the inmate’s constitutional right to
The degree of protection afforded to an inmate’s right to confidentiality regarding a
medical condition varies with the “sensitive” nature of the condition. Powell, 175 F.3d at 111.
To state a claim for violation of this right, Mr. Medina must show that he suffers from an unusual
or sensitive medical condition that, if disclosed, would expose him to ridicule, discrimination or
even violence, particularly when the word of the condition is likely to spread through “humor or
gossip[.]” Id. at 112; see also Rodriguez v. Ames, 287 F. Supp. 2d 213, 220 (W.D.N.Y. 2003)
(dismissing case because plaintiff did not have an “unusual medical problem which, if disclosed
unnecessarily to other inmates, would likely expose plaintiff to discrimination, intolerance, or
potential violence”); Webb v. Goldstein, 117 F. Supp. 2d 289, 298-99 (E.D.N.Y. 2000)
(dismissing a Fourteenth Amendment claim because the prisoner “has not alleged that his prison
records contained the sort of sensitive medical information at issue in ... Powell”).
Mr. Medina alleges that Ms. Watson improperly disclosed information about his mental
health. The Second Circuit has held that an allegation of public disclosure of mental health
issues is sufficient to state a privacy claim. Hunnicutt v. Armstrong, 152 F. App’x 34, 35-36 (2d
Cir. 2005) (reversing dismissal because plaintiff’s allegations that the defendants “discussed [his]
private/personal mental health issues on the tier” and “in front of other prisoners and D.O.C.
employees” gave “adequate notice of a right to privacy claim based on the public discussion of
[plainiff’s] mental health issues”).
Accordingly, Mr. Medina’s claim will proceed forward at this time.
In accordance with the foregoing analysis, the court enters the following orders:
The Clerk shall verify the current work address for defendant Watson with the
Department of Correction Office of Legal Affairs, mail a waiver of service of
process request packet to her at the confirmed address within twenty-one (21)
days of this Order, and report to the court on the status of the waiver request on
the thirty-fifth (35) day after mailing. If the defendant fails to return the waiver
request, the Clerk shall make arrangements for in-person service by the U.S.
Marshals Service on the defendant in her individual capacity and the defendant
shall be required to pay the costs of such service in accordance with Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 4(d).
The Clerk shall send written notice to plaintiff of the status of this action, along
with a copy of this Order.
The Clerk shall send a courtesy copy of the Complaint and this Ruling and Order
to the Connecticut Attorney General and the Department of Correction Office of
Defendant shall file her response to the complaint, either an answer or motion to
dismiss, within sixty (60) days from the date the waiver form is sent. If she
chooses to file an answer, she shall admit or deny the allegations and respond to
the cognizable claim recited above. She also may include any and all additional
defenses permitted by the Federal Rules.
Discovery, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 through 37, shall be
completed within seven months (210 days) from the date of this order.
Discovery requests need not be filed with the court.
All motions for summary judgment shall be filed within eight months (240 days)
from the date of this order.
Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(a), a nonmoving party must respond to a
dispositive motion within twenty-one (21) days of the date the motion was filed.
If no response is filed, or the response is not timely, the dispositive motion can be
granted absent objection.
If Mr. Medina changes his address at any time during the litigation of this case,
Local Court Rule 83.1(c)2 provides that he MUST notify the court. Failure to do
so can result in the dismissal of this case. Mr. Medina must give notice of a new
address even if he is incarcerated. Mr. Medina should write PLEASE NOTE MY
NEW ADDRESS on the notice. It is not enough to just put the new address on a
letter without indicating that it is a new address. If Mr. Medina has more than one
pending case, he should indicate all of the case numbers in the notification of
change of address. Mr. Medina should also notify the defendant or the attorney
for the defendant of his new address.
Mr. Medina shall utilize the Prisoner E-filing Program when filing documents
with the court.
SO ORDERED at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 5th day of January 2017.
/s/ Victor A. Bolden
Victor A. Bolden
United States District Judge
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