White v. Chapdelaine et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the defendants and close the case. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 10/16/2017. (Jamieson, K)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
No. 3:17-cv-00716 (SRU)
CAROL CHAPDELAINE, et al.,
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Michael White—a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Corrigan-Radgowski
Correctional Institution—has filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Warden Carol Chapdelaine, Maintenance Supervisor Clifford, and Lieutenant Rivera.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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.” 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). “[C]onclusory” 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).
On July 14, 2014, at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, White was playing
basketball during his recreation period. He claims that he severely injured his left ankle due to a
hole in the cement in the recreation yard. Officers transported White to the medical department
in a wheelchair. White claims that defendants Chapdelaine, Clifford and Rivera failed to
maintain the recreation yard and created a risk of injury to him in violation of the Eighth
Amendment. He also asserts that the conduct of the defendants constituted the tort of negligence
under state law.
A. Official Capacity Eighth Amendment Claims
White requests compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory relief. To the extent
that White seeks monetary damages from the defendants in their official capacities, that claim is
barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165–67 (1985)
(Eleventh Amendment, which protects the state from suits for monetary relief, also protects state
officials sued for damages in their official capacities); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 342
(1979) (Section 1983 does not override a state’s Eleventh Amendment immunity). I dismiss the
Eighth Amendment claim for monetary damages against the defendants in their official
capacities pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2).
White asks the court to declare that the conduct of the defendants violated his Eighth
Amendment rights. The purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act is “to enable parties to
adjudicate disputes before either side suffers great damage.” In re Combustion Equip. Assocs.,
838 F.2d 35, 37 (2d Cir. 1988). In Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the Supreme Court held
that an exception to the Eleventh Amendment’s grant of sovereign immunity from suit existed to
permit a plaintiff to sue a state official acting in his or her official capacity for prospective
injunctive relief for continuing violations of federal law. Id. at 155–56. The exception to
Eleventh Amendment immunity, however, “does not permit judgments against state officers
declaring that they violated federal law in the past.” See P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf
& Eddy, 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993) (emphasis added); Green v. Mansour, 474 U.S. 64, 68 (1985)
(“We have refused to extend the reasoning of Young . . . to claims for retrospective relief.”);
Ward v. Thomas, 207 F.3d 114, 119–20 (2d Cir. 2000) (Eleventh Amendment barred
retrospective relief in form of declaration that Connecticut violated federal law in the past).
White’s request for a declaration that, in July 2014 at MacDougall-Walker Correctional
Institution, the defendants violated his federal constitutional rights cannot be properly
characterized as “prospective” because White does not allege how such relief would remedy a
future constitutional violation by the defendants. Cf. Green, 474 U.S. at 68. Thus, White’s
request for declaratory relief relating to his Eighth Amendment claim does not meet the
exception to the Eleventh Amendment immunity set forth in Ex parte Young. See id.
Absent any request for prospective relief to remedy ongoing violations of federal law, a
declaration that the defendants violated White’s constitutional rights in the past is barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. See id. at 73 (if there is “no claimed continuing violation of federal law,”
then “the issuance of a declaratory judgment . . . [is] prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment”);
Jackson v. Battaglia, 63 F. Supp. 3d 214, 220–21 (N.D.N.Y. 2014) (dismissing requests for relief
seeking an “injunction precluding any ‘unlawful conduct alleged within this [c]omplaint at any
time in the future’ and a declaration that defendants ‘have violated’ federal law” because they
“cannot be properly characterized as ‘prospective’” requests for relief). Accordingly, I dismiss
White’s request for declaratory relief relating to the Eighth Amendment claim. See 28 U.S.C. §
B. Eighth Amendment Individual Capacity Claim
White claims that he injured his ankle as a result of the defendants’ failure to maintain the
recreation yard in a safe condition. He argues that the conduct of the defendants violated his right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
The Supreme Court has held that an inmate’s conditions of confinement must meet
“minimal civilized measures of life’s necessities.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991).
This means that prison officials must “provide for [inmates’] basic human needs—e.g., food,
clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety.” DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of
Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 200 (1989). To state an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement
claims, an inmate must meet both an objective and subjective requirement. See Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). First, the deprivation of a “basic human need,” such as
“food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety” must be “sufficiently serious.” Id.;
DeShaney, 489 at 200. Second, the official must have exhibited a “sufficiently culpable state of
mind” by acting with “‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834. Allegations constituting “mere negligence,” however, are not cognizable under section
1983. See Hayes v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Corrs., 84 F.3d 614, 620 (2d Cir. 1996).
White’s allegations regarding the defendants’ failure to maintain the recreation yard and
fix the hole in the cement is a claim of negligent conduct. He makes no allegations of deliberate
indifference sufficient to show a culpable state a mind on the part of the defendants. Such a claim
of negligent conduct is not cognizable in a section 1983 action. See Davidson v. Cannon, 474
U.S. 344, 347–48 (1986) (“[L]ack of care simply does not approach the sort of abusive
government conduct that the Due Process Clause was designed to prevent.”); Poe v. Leonard,
282 F.3d 123, 145 (2d Cir. 2001) (“[M]ere negligence is insufficient as a matter of law to state a
claim under section 1983.”). Therefore, I dismiss the Eighth Amendment claims against the
defendants in their individual capacities for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
C. State Law Negligence Claim
White also contends that the conduct of the defendants constituted negligence under
Connecticut law. Because I have dismissed White’s federal claim, I decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over any state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Kolari v. N.Y.–
Presbyterian Hosp., 455 F.3d 118, 122 (2d Cir. 2006) (“[I]n the usual case in which all federallaw claims are eliminated before trial, the balance of factors . . . will point toward declining to
exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.”) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v.
Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988)). If White wishes to pursue his negligence claim, then he
must do so in state court.
I hereby order that:
White’s Eighth Amendment claim for monetary damages against the defendants
in their official capacities is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2); White’s Eighth
Amendment claim for declaratory relief against the defendants in their official capacities and his
Eighth Amendment claim for monetary damages against the defendants in their individual
capacities are DISMISSED pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). I decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over any remaining state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3);
Kolari, 455 F.3d at 122.
If White chooses to appeal this decision, he may not do so in forma pauperis, because
such an appeal would not be taken in good faith. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3).
The Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the defendants and close the case.
Dated at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 16th day of October 2017.
/s/ STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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