White v. Eberle et al
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER dismissing complaint without prejudice. The Clerk shall close the case. Signed by Judge Stefan R. Underhill on 6/13/2017. (Landman, M)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
EBERLE, et al.,
No. 3:17-cv-717 (SRU)
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
Michael White, currently confined at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in
Uncasville, Connecticut, filed this case pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. White alleges that the
defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. White names as defendants
Lieutenant Eberle, Correctional Officer Cossette, Captain Watson and District Administrator
Peter Murphy. All defendants are named in their individual capacities only. The complaint was
filed on May 1, 2017. White’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted on May 3,
Under section 1915A of Title 28 of the United States Code, I 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 that seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. 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 plausible 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. 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 October 4, 2013, while confined at Cheshire Correctional Institution, White received
a disciplinary report for security risk group affiliation. On October 23, 2013, he attended a
disciplinary hearing at which he was found guilty of the charge. Lieutenant Eberle was the
hearing officer and Correctional Officer Cossette was the disciplinary investigator for the
hearing. Following the hearing, Lieutenant Eberle failed to follow established procedures. She
did not complete the disciplinary process summary report and send copies to the disciplinary
investigator and district administrator within twenty-four hours and did not send a copy to White
within two business days.
On January 27, 2014, White submitted a Freedom of Information (“F.O.I.”) request to
obtain the report. After receiving the report in March 2014, White filed a state habeas action. In
November 2016, the state judge found that White had never received the form and afforded him
a chance to appeal the disciplinary finding. He did so on February 2, 2017. District
Administrator Murphy denied the appeal on February 23, 2017.
White contends that Eberle, Cossette and Watson denied him due process when they
failed to provide him with the disciplinary process summary report. He also challenges
Murphy’s decision upholding the disciplinary finding. He seeks a declaration that the defendants
violated his due process rights, an injunction expunging the disciplinary finding and restoring ten
days of risk reduction earned credit, and damages.
White asks the court to declare that the defendants violated his right to due process.
Declaratory relief serves to “settle legal rights and remove uncertainty and insecurity from legal
relationships without awaiting a violation of the rights or a disturbance of the relationships.”
Colabella v. American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2011 WL 4532132, at *22
(E.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2011) (citations omitted). Declaratory relief operates prospectively to
enable parties to adjudicate claims before either side suffers great damages. See In re
Combustion Equip. Assocs., Inc., 838 F.2d 35, 37 (2d Cir. 1988). The complaint concerns only
past actions. The plaintiff has not identified any legal relationships or issues that require
resolution via declaratory relief. See Camofi Master LDC v. College P’ship, Inc., 452 F. Supp.
2d 462, 480 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (concluding that claim for declaratory relief that is duplicative of
adjudicative claim underlying action serves no purpose). If White were to prevail on his
substantive claims, the court necessarily would determine that the defendants had violated his
right to due process. Thus, a separate award of declaratory relief is dismissed as unnecessary.
White seeks injunctive relief in the form of orders expunging the disciplinary finding and
restoring forfeited risk reduction earned credit. “‘Injunctive relief against a state official may be
recovered only in an official capacity suit’ . . . because ‘[a] victory in a personal-capacity action
is a victory against the individual defendant, rather than against the entity that employs him.’”
Marsh v. Kirschner, 31 F. Supp. 2d 79, 80 (D. Conn. 1998) (quoting Hill v. Shelander, 924 F.2d
1370, 1374 (7th Cir. 1999), and Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167–68 (1985)) (alterations
in original). Because White specifically states that he names the defendants only in their
individual capacities, his request for injunctive relief is dismissed.
Risk Reduction Earned Credit
I decline to construe the complaint as seeking restoration of risk reduction earned credit
in a claim asserted against the defendants in their official capacities. Any challenge to a
conviction or the duration of a sentence must be made by a petition for writ of habeas corpus,
rather than by means of an action under the civil rights laws such as section 1983. See Nelson v.
Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004) (“[Section] 1983 must yield to the more specific federal
habeas statute, with its attendant procedural and exhaustion requirements, where an inmate seeks
injunctive relief challenging the fact of his conviction or the duration of his sentence.”) (citing
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 489 (1973)).
White alleges that the defendants denied him due process when they adjudicated him
guilty of affiliating with a security risk group and then failed to adhere to the proper procedures
that would have allowed White to appeal that finding. Specifically, White alleges that the
defendants failed to provide him a copy of the disciplinary process summary report, which
inhibited his ability to challenge the hearing officer’s determination.
The Supreme Court has held that, if a determination favorable to the plaintiff in a section
1983 action “would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence,” the plaintiff
must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal or declared invalid
before he can recover damages under section 1983. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486–87
(1994). This prohibition has been extended to prison disciplinary proceedings that affect the
duration of confinement. See Edwards v. Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 648 (1997). Thus, “a state
prisoner’s § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation)—no matter the relief sought
(damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit (state conduct leading to
conviction or internal prison proceedings)—if success in that action would necessarily
demonstrate the invalidity of confinement or its duration.” Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74,
81–82 (2005) (emphasis in original).
The Second Circuit provided clarification of this rule in Peralta v. Vasquez, 467 F.3d 98
(2d Cir. 2006). The Second Circuit held that, where an inmate received mixed sanctions, some
affecting the duration of his sentence and others affecting only the conditions of his confinement,
the inmate “can proceed separately, under § 1983, with a challenge to the sanctions affecting the
conditions of his confinement without satisfying the favorable termination rule, but  he can
only do so if he is willing to forgo once and for all any challenge to any sanctions that affect the
duration of his confinement.” Id. at 104.
To state a claim for denial of due process, White must show that he had a protected
liberty interest and that the defendants deprived him of the interest without affording him due
process of law. See Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). The plaintiff has a protected liberty
interest only if the state created such an interest in a statute or regulation and the deprivation of
that interest caused him to suffer an atypical and significant hardship. See Tellier v. Fields, 280
F.3d 69, 81 (2d Cir. 2000).
White provides no information about the sanctions he received as a result of the
disciplinary finding of guilty. Absent such information, he does not state a plausible claim for
denial of his right to due process and I need not ascertain whether White accepts the waiver set
forth in Peralta. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice. White may move to
reopen this action and file an amended complaint if he can demonstrate that the sanctions he
received constituted an atypical and significant hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of
prison life. If he decides to pursue a damages claim regarding the sanctions he received that
affected only the conditions of his confinement, he will waive the right to pursue a damages
claim for the denial of risk reduction earned credit.
The complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). If
White chooses to move to reopen to pursue a due process claim under Sandin before he has
invalidated the forfeiture of risk reduction earned credit, he does so with the understanding that
he will not be able to pursue any claim for damages relating to the forfeiture.
White shall utilize the Prisoner Efiling Program when filing any document with the
SO ORDERED this 13th day of June 2017 at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
/s/STEFAN R. UNDERHILL
Stefan R. Underhill
United States District Judge
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