Jan G. v. Semple, 011221 CTCA, AC 43794

Docket Nº:AC 43794
Opinion Judge:ALVORD, J.
Party Name:JAN G. v. SCOTT SEMPLE ET AL.[*]
Attorney:Jan G., self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff). Jacob McChesney, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and Clare E. Kindall, solicitor general, for the appellees (defendants).
Judge Panel:Bright, C. J., and Alvord and Oliver, Js.
Case Date:January 12, 2021
Court:Appellate Court of Connecticut

JAN G.

v.

SCOTT SEMPLE ET AL.[*]

No. AC 43794

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

January 12, 2021

Argued October 15, 2020

Procedural History

Action to recover damages for, inter alia, the alleged deprivation of the plaintiff's federal constitutional rights, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, where the court, Abrams, J., granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

Jan G., self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

Jacob McChesney, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, were William Tong, attorney general, and Clare E. Kindall, solicitor general, for the appellees (defendants).

Bright, C. J., and Alvord and Oliver, Js.

OPINION

ALVORD, J.

The self-represented plaintiff, Jan G., appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his action against the defendants, state employees of the Department of Correction (department).1 On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over (1) his claims against the defendants in their individual capacities on the basis of statutory immunity pursuant to General Statutes § 4-165, and (2) his claims against the defendants in their official capacities on the basis of the doctrine of sovereign immunity.2 We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following facts are alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. At all times relevant to this appeal, the plaintiff has been incarcerated at the Cheshire Correctional Institution (Cheshire). Prior to 2015, the court issued a protective order barring the plaintiff's contact with his mother. In February, 2015, the court terminated the protective order against the plaintiff. Following the court's termination of the protective order, the plaintiff and his mother submitted to the department various requests to approve contact visits between them while the plaintiff is incarcerated. The defendant Scott Erfe, then the warden of Cheshire, denied the plaintiff's and his mother's requests.

In response to Erfe's denial of the contact visitation requests, the plaintiff submitted to the department two inmate grievance forms-a May 9, 2018 inmate administrative remedy form (level one grievance), and a June 22, 2018 inmate grievance appeal form (level two grievance). The plaintiff attached as exhibits to his complaint, inter alia, his level one grievance, his level two grievance, and the department's responses to each. In those grievance forms, the plaintiff again requested that the department add his mother to his contact visitation list, and he referenced the court's termination of the protective order against him. On June 21, 2018, the department denied the plaintiff's level one grievance, stating: ‘‘Per Administrative Directive 10.6 [§ 5 (e) (iii), a] visit between an inmate and the inmate's victim shall not be permitted unless approved in writing by the [u]nit [a]dministrator. Your grievance is denied.''3 On August 1, 2018, the department denied the plaintiff's level two grievance, stating: ‘‘You are appealing a level one grievance regarding visiting at [the] Cheshire [Correctional Institution]. The response given by [the department] was appropriate. The removal of the protective order does not negate the fact that [your mother] is a victim of your crime. Your level [two] grievance appeal is denied.''4

On January 2, 2019, the plaintiff commenced this action against the defendants in both their individual and official capacities. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.5 Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants, by denying requests for contact visitation with his mother, violated his right to freedom of association and his right to due process of law as guaranteed by the first and the fourteenth amendments to the United States constitution.6 Additionally, in an ‘‘[i]ntroduction'' to his complaint, the plaintiff alleged ‘‘the torts of denial of visits of elderly infirm (80 year old) mother'' and ‘‘denial of freedom of association.''7 The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages.

On February 25, 2019, the defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's action. With respect to the plaintiff's claims brought against them in their individual capacities, the defendants provided three bases for dismissing the plaintiff's claims. The defendants first argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over them in their individual capacities due to the plaintiff's failure to serve them in that capacity, as required by General Statues § 52-57 (a).8 Second, the defendants argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims brought against them in their individual capacities as they are entitled to statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165.9 Third, the defendants argued that they additionally are entitled to qualified immunity, barring the plaintiff's § 1983 claims brought against them in their individual capacities. With respect to the plaintiff's claims brought against the defendants in their official capacities, the defendants argued that those claims are barred by sovereign immunity.

On April 1, 2019, the plaintiff filed an objection to the defendants' motion to dismiss in which he argued that ‘‘statutory and sovereign immunity does not apply in a § 1983 federal civil rights action filed in state court'' because ‘‘[t]he supremacy clause preempts state statutes and state common law of Connecticut.'' The plaintiff further argued that the defendants are ‘‘not entitled to any qualified immunity.''10

On August 20, 2019, the trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the plaintiff's claims against the defendants in their individual capacities are barred by statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165, and that his claims against the defendants in their official capacities are barred by sovereign immunity.[11]This appeal followed.

We begin by setting forth our standard of review. ‘‘A motion to dismiss . . . properly attacks the jurisdiction of the court, essentially asserting that the plaintiff cannot as a matter of law and fact state a cause of action that should be heard by the court. . . . A motion to dismiss tests, inter alia, whether, on the face of the record, the court is without jurisdiction. . . .

‘‘Claims involving the doctrines of common-law sovereign immunity and statutory immunity, pursuant to § 4-165, implicate the court's subject matter jurisdiction. . . . A determination regarding a trial court's subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law. When . . . the trial court draws conclusions of law, our review is plenary and we must decide whether its conclusions are legally and logically correct and find support in the facts that appear in the record. . . .

‘‘When a . . . court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pretrial motion to dismiss, it must consider the allegations of the complaint in their most favorable light. . . . In this regard, a court must take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint, including those facts necessarily implied from the allegations, construing them in a manner most favorable to the pleader.'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Lawrence v.

Weiner, 154 Conn.App. 592, 596-97, 106 A.3d 963, cert. denied, 315 Conn. 925, 109 A.3d 921 (2015).

I

On appeal, the plaintiff first claims that the trial court improperly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his claims brought against the defendants in their individual capacities on the basis of statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165 (a). The defendants contend that the court properly dismissed the plaintiff's state tort claims brought against them in their individual capacities on the basis of statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165 (a). The defendants concede, however, that there was ‘‘apparent error in [the court's] overbroad application of . . . § 4-165'' to the plaintiff's § 1983 claims brought against them in their individual capaci-ties.12 Consistent with the defendants' arguments set forth in their memorandum of law in support of their motion to dismiss, the defendants provide two alternative bases for affirming the court's dismissal of the plaintiff's § 1983 claims brought against them in their individual capacities: that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims on the basis of the doctrine of qualified immunity, and that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants in their individual capacities.

We agree with the defendants that (A) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state tort claims brought against them in their individual capacities on the basis of statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165 (a), and (B) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's § 1983 claims brought against them in their individual capacities on the basis of the doctrine of qualified immunity. Furthermore, we agree with the defendants that (C) the court lacked personal jurisdiction over them in their individual capacities. Accordingly, we conclude that the court properly dismissed the plaintiff's claims brought against the defendants in their individual capacities.

A

We first address the plaintiff's claim that the court improperly concluded that the defendants are entitled to statutory immunity pursuant to § 4-165 (a). The defendants contend that, to the extent that the plaintiff alleged state tort claims, the court properly dismissed such claims brought against them in their individual capacities on the basis of statutory immunity. We...

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