Green v. Martin

Decision Date14 December 2016
Docket Number3:15–CV–1553 (CSH)
Citation224 F.Supp.3d 154
Parties Courtney GREEN, Plaintiff, v. Antonio Santiago Robert MARTIN John Doe 1/LT. Bellamere John Doe 2/ C.O. Ayote John Doe 3/ C.O. Streeter Jane Doe/ A.R.C. King Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

Courtney Green, Suffield, CT, Pro Se.

INITIAL REVIEW ORDER AND RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S SUPPLEMENTAL PLEADING

HAIGHT, Senior District Judge:

Plaintiff Courtney Green ("Green"), incarcerated in a Connecticut prison and appearing pro se , has filed a Complaint [Doc. 1], an Amended Complaint [Doc. 7], and a Supplemental Pleading [Doc. 8]. These submissions contain a number of allegations by Green which assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state prison officials.

The Defendants identified by the initial Complaint are Warden Antonio Santiago; Deputy Warden Robert Martin; Lieutenant Bellamere, also identified as John Doe # 1; Correctional Officer Ayote, also identified as John Doe # 2; Correctional Officer Streeter, also identified as John Doe # 3; and Administrative Remedies Coordinator Michelle King, also identified as Jane Doe.

The Amended Complaint adds as Defendants Correctional Officer Cooley, also identified as John Doe # 4; Correctional Officer Murphy, also identified as John Doe # 5; Correctional Officer Donolfio, also identified as John Doe # 6; and Deputy Commissioner Monica Rinaldi.

The Supplemental Pleading seeks to add Counselor Supervisor Vazquez; Administrative Remedies Coordinator Kimberly Daly; and District Administrator Peter Murphy as Defendants.

All Defendants are named in their individual and official capacities and were employed at Corrigan–Radgowski Correctional Institution ("CCI") where Green was previously an inmate at the time of the allegations.

This Ruling begins with, and consists principally of, the Court's sua sponte review of Green's pleadings, a review mandated by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

I. INITIAL REVIEW OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

28 U.S.C. § 1915A directs federal district courts to consider all prisoner civil complaints against governmental actors, 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." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1),(2).

A district court's sua sponte dismissal of a prisoner's complaint under § 1915A is reviewed de novo by the court of appeals. Larkin v. Savage , 318 F.3d 138, 139 (2d Cir. 2003). Where the district court has dismissed for failure to state a claim, the Second Circuit has said that "we accept all of plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw inferences from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. We must reverse a district court's dismissal pursuant to § 1915A whenever a liberal reading of the complaint gives any indication that a valid claim might be stated." Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

At the district court level, the district judge's § 1915A review of whether a complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" is guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as interpreted by Supreme Court and Second Circuit decisions whose principles have become familiar. A pro se complaint is adequately pled if its allegations, liberally construed, could "conceivably give rise to a viable claim." Phillips v. Girdich , 408 F.3d 124, 130 (2d Cir. 2005). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded and non-conclusory factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations " ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " See, e.g. , Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp. , 770 F.3d 170, 177 (2d Cir. 2014) (same). 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). And in Larkin , in the § 1915A context, the Second Circuit took care to cite approvingly and quote from Desiderio v. Nat'l Ass'n of Sec. Dealers, Inc. , 191 F.3d 198, 202 (2d Cir. 1999) that: "We will not affirm the dismissal of a complaint unless it appears beyond doubt, even when the complaint is liberally construed, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief." Larkin , 318 F.3d at 139.

The Court will apply these standards in conducting its initial review of any claims asserted by Green. The Court begins with a recitation of the factual allegations contained in these pleadings.

A. Factual Allegations

Green's Amended Complaint [Doc. 7], filed on January 22, 2016, is the operative Complaint considered by this Initial Review Order.1 The factual allegations contained in this pleading are recounted herein, recited in the light most favorable to Green. They describe four separate strip searches conducted by officers of CCI when Green was incarcerated there.

1. Count One—August 2015 Search

On August 27, 2015, during an "institutional facility shakedown," Green was ordered to the gym with the other inmates in his housing unit, specifically the top tier of that unit. Am. Cmplt., Count One ¶ 1. Green was initially ordered to step out of his cell and was "pat searched," id. then directed to the lower sallyport, aligned with other inmates by cell number, and moved to the gym escorted by Captain Griffin. The inmates were informed that their cooperation was expected as there was a facility emergency and that inmates who did not cooperate would be sent to the restrictive housing unit. Defendant Bellamere supervised the inmates and the subsequent searches.

Two correctional officers began to strip search the inmates two at a time in two bathroom stalls. This process was slow and to expedite the process, Defendant Ayote ordered Green and two other inmates into an adjacent room with windows and a wall-mounted camera to be strip searched. The windows and lack of dividers permitted other inmates and officers to view the search. Green complained about the arrangement to Defendant Streeter, who told Green that he would be sent to restrictive housing if he failed to comply with the search. Green noted that another inmate in the room only a few feet away and several inmates seated on the bleachers in the gym looked at his buttocks and genitals. Defendant Bellamere was standing at the entrance of the gym and fully aware of the actions of Defendants Ayote and Streeter, and Defendant Bellamere failed to supervise the searches conducted by Defendants Ayote and Streeter.

After the searches were completed, Green and the other inmates were seated on the bleachers when Defendant Martin and Captain Williams came into the gym. Inmates then asked about their ability to take showers. At this time, Green complained about the manner in which the search was conducted to Defendant Martin, who initially responded with indifference, stating that when he was in the military he had to shower with and in front of other men. He later agreed with Green and assured the Green that these searches would not happen again.

The following day, Green wrote to Defendant Santiago about the search. He did not receive a response and considered that to violate Administrative Directive 9.6. Green then filed a grievance, which was returned to Green signed by Defendant King, with the designation "compromised," signifying that the complaint had sufficient merit to warrant the modification of an existing decision. Green did not participate in the modification of any search procedures, and the search caused him a great deal of emotional distress, given the facts that other inmates witnessed it and it was recorded on camera. Green alleges that Defendant Santiago did not comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act and failed to prevent these types of incidents from occurring.

2. Count Two—October 2015 Search

On October 22, 2015 at 3:45 a.m., Green alleges that he was notified by the unit officer that he had to report to the admitting and processing area for a court transfer. He proceeded to the area and arrived there around 4:00 a.m. Defendant Cooley then requested that he enter the strip room, but a noise from outside disrupted the strip search. Defendant Cooley instructed Green not to strip, went to check on the noise and returned with three other inmates who were also going to court. Defendant Cooley requested that they also enter the strip room and be searched at the same time as Green. Green expressed his displeasure to Defendant Cooley at being exposed to a room of strangers within an arms length distance of each other in a "very confined room, designed to strip one individual at a time." Am. Cmplt., Count Two ¶ 5. Defendant Cooley ordered Green to strip in front of the three other inmates. After the incident, Green wrote to Defendant Martin and never received a response from Defendant Martin. Green exhausted his administrative remedies and received a returned grievance from Defendant King on December 4, 2015, which expressed that the disposition was "compromised," again meaning that some modification of the existing decision regarding the search was warranted.

3. Count Three—November 2015 Search

On November 5, 2015, Green returned to CCI at about 8:00 p.m. from a court transfer and was placed in a holding cell with seven other inmates who were waiting to be readmitted and processed. Defendant Murphy requested that four inmates, including Green, follow him to the strip room. Once there D...

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