Brandt v. Cirillo

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
PartiesJOHN BRANDT, Plaintiff, v. GUY CIRILLO, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCiv. 22-3752 (KM) (JRA)
Decision Date10 January 2023

JOHN BRANDT, Plaintiff,

GUY CIRILLO, et al., Defendants.

Civ. No. 22-3752 (KM) (JRA)

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 10, 2023


KEVIN MCNULTY, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff John Brandt, a pretrial detainee at Hudson County Correctional Facility (“HCCF”), filed a complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq, related to his “max custody” security classification and resulting “general population on the max unit” housing assignment while he was a pretrial detainee at Essex County Correctional Facility (“ECCF”). DE 7. He asserts claims against the following defendants: (1) Guy Cirillo, ECCF warden; (2) Tony Brown, ECCF assistant warden; (3) Antonio Pires, ECCF associate warden, (4) Alfaro Ortiz, Jr., ECCF security director; (5) Lionel Anicette, ECCF medical director (collectively, with Cirillo, Brown, Pires, and Ortiz, the “Administrative Defendants”); (6) Officer Bivona, Jr., who oversees inmate classification at ECCF; and (7) Lt. Crawford,[1]who also oversees inmate classification at ECCF.[2]

In a previous order (DE 5), I denied Brandt's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP) (DE 1-1) and dismissed his complaint (DE 1) without prejudice because the IFP application and


complaint were not submitted on the appropriate forms. Brandt has now submitted his IFP application and complaint on the proper forms. DE 7, 7-1. For the reasons below, Brandt's motion to proceed IFP is granted, and his complaint is dismissed without prejudice.


A prisoner seeking to file a civil action IFP must submit (a) an affidavit, including a statement of all assets, stating that the prisoner is unable to pay the fee, and (2) a certified copy of his inmate trust fund account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1) & (2). Brandt has complied with these requirements. DE 7-1. Accordingly, Brandt's IFP motion is granted. I nonetheless must screen the complaint, as further explained below. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

II. The Complaint

The complaint contains the following factual allegations, which, for screening purposes, I accept as true.

A. Factual Background

1. Pretrial Detention from July 8, 2021, through September 28, 2021

Brandt was confined at ECCF on July 8, 2021, on what he describes as a “non-violent” third-degree burglary charge. DE 7 at 10. He was “transferred to a max custody status unit, that were mostly homicide charges and violent offenders.” Id. He requested a transfer to a less restrictive ECCF-managed facility called Delaney Hall.[3]Id. at 11. “The custody officer or person responding to the request by the inmate tablet indicated that [Brandt] was not eligible due to his


max custody status and criminal history.” Id. at 11. Brandt filed a grievance, arguing that he was not properly classified and his “criminal background alone” could not be used to deny him placement at Delaney Hall. Id. He was released from detention on September 28, 2021, having been detained for less than three months. Id. at 10.

2. Pretrial Detention from February 24, 2022, through August 16, 2022[4]

Brandt was re-detained at ECCF about five months later, on February 24, 2022, as a pretrial detainee on another third-degree burglary charge. DE 7 at 10. He was not screened upon initial intake and was placed in a holding area with 20 to 30 inmates who had also not been screened. Id. He was then quarantined for approximately two weeks. Id. at 12. “Based on his criminal background, which included a not guilty by reason of insanity” (“NGRI”), Brandt was placed on “max custody” “in general population on the max unit.” Id. at 12. The Administrative Defendants were “required to review [Brandt's] custody level every 30 days”; however, he was not “seen by anyone.” Id. at 11. He requested a minimum or medium custody classification and transfer to Delaney Hall, but the Administrative Defendants denied his “review and custody status and transfer request and grievance by way of the inmate tablet.” Id. at 12.

a. Classification Policy and Brandt's Max Custody Status

Brandt alleges that the Administrative Defendants have “an obligation to create, implement, train, and oversee that there . . . is a classification policy and procedures at ECCF that are adequate and in accordance with law.” Id. They “have failed to do [this] . . . and have


actual knowledge and personal involvement of said failures,” as evidenced by Brandt's “numerous request[s] and grievances.” Id. at 13. Brandt was “informed by his regular unit officer, that he is unaware of any classification committee or if ECCF actually has one....No one is aware of a classification committee or staff members at ECCF that classify inmates.” Id.

Brandt “was not classified by any subjective criteria . . . other than his criminal background and that is antiquated.” Id. at 15. He “was not reviewed by classification committee personally, by notice, or any other meaningful way to respond.” Id. He “received no explanation, hearing, or respond [sic] to any allegations or review.” Id. “There was no subjective inquiry into the mental state of the defendants in order to make a valid discretionary decision.” Id. at 16. There “was no subjective evaluation” of Brandt “in order to make a valid determination of prediction of future behavior and no opportunity to present his views personally at each review.” Id. at 16-17. The Administrative Defendants “have failed to provide [Brandt] with any process to address his placement on max custody status.” Id. at 17.

“The only difference between [Brandt's] criminal background; which is minor in comparison to some inmates at Delaney Hall, is he has been found [NGRI] for a burglary offense due to his disability. The defendants are aware of this fact . . . because it is in his criminal background that they keep saying makes him ineligible.” Id. at 18.

b. ECCF Conditions

Brandt was “a role model inmate,” yet he was “locked in a jail cell at a minimum of 23 hours a day on average” and “as the result of too many inmates,” he only had access to the recreation area “maybe every other day for about 30 minutes.” Id. at 19-20. The defendants do not classify inmates and screen them for a propensity for violence. Id. at 20. This resulted in Brandt being locked down and isolated for weeks at a time. Id. The defendants' “way of


managing the facility was lock the facility down, rather than screen and classify dangerous individuals as the result of mental health problems or propensity for violence.” Id.

Because Brandt has been “diagnosed with a mental health condition,” he “should not have been placed on lock down for prolonged periods with no mental health treatment . . . as it fosters mental health problems and violence.” Id. at 20. Due to this “denial of treatment and extreme isolation,” Brandt suffers from “serious mental anguish, psychological and emotional distress, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, severe emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life,” “which is permanent.” Id. at 21.

Brandt was released from ECCF on August 16, 2022, “while on max custody status with no opportunity to rehabilitate and progress, but with every opportunity and propensity for recidivism.” Id. at 22. He was again arrested about six weeks later, on September 29, 2022, and detained at HCCF. DE 7 at 22.

3. Pretrial Detention from September 29, 2022, through Present

Brandt's September 2022 arrest was “once again for a non-violent [third-degree] burglary offense.” DE 7 at 22. He was “ordered detained at [HCCF], where he was “screened within an hour by a nurse, placed on a medical unit within two hours for detox; and about a week later was classified by the Hudson County administrators” and “placed on minimum custody status.” Id. Brandt “then requested to be placed in the integrity program within the HCCF, which is in the least restrictive setting and conditions of confinement.” Id. His request was approved and he “was transferred and is participating in such services and programming.” Id.

B. The Claims

Brandt asserts (1) due process claims against the Administrative Defendants in their individual and official capacities for their alleged failure to classify Brandt properly (Count I)


(DE 7 at 9-10, 23) and for causing Brandt to suffer excessive isolation (Count IV) (id. at 25); (2) due process claims against all defendants for failing to consider less restrictive conditions of confinement (Count V) (id. at 26); (3) due process claims against Bivona and Crawford for failing to exercise administrative discretion (Count II) (id. at 24); (4) equal protection claims against Bivona and Crawford for failing to afford him the same rights as similarly situated detainees (Count II) (id. at 24); and (5) ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against all defendants for discriminating against Brandt based on his “disability” (Count III) (id. at 25). Brandt does not specify what disability he claims to have, but elsewhere in the complaint, see, e.g., id. at 8, he explains that he had been found NGRI “as a result of a disability,” thus presumably he refers to an unspecified mental condition. Brandt seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, and compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 27.

III. Discussion

A. Screening Standard

District courts are required to review prisoners' civil complaints, see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), and to dismiss any case that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b) & 1915(e)(2)(B). “The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing...

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